VILLAGERS are demanding answers after a council sold its freehold on a historic Grade I listed home for just £300,000.
The Manor House in Stoke Poges, where Charles I reportedly stayed on route to execution, was bought by a property developer and has since put up for sale for £13.5 million.
The developer had already purchased a 99-year lease on the property, hence the huge difference in the freehold price, but residents still believe South Bucks District Council got a raw deal.
They feel the Park Road property should never have been sold, as it was gifted to the council for safekeeping in 1971, by a former Lord of the Manor.
They also regret the loss of a famous marble relief by neo-classical sculptor John Deare, which was housed at the property but has now been sold to a London museum.
The council did not receive any of the proceeds of this sale, as the rare artwork was part of the lease.
SBDC originally sold the 99-year leasehold for The Manor House for £445,000 in 1982, which permitted either office or residential use.
After changing hands twice the lease was acquired by developer Robert Camping in 2008, who then used his legal right to buy the freehold under the Leasehold Enfranchisement Act.
He has carried out extensive renovation work before putting the property up for sale for £13.5 million.
Diana le Clercq, who lives in Stoke Poges, said: "To hear the council only got £300,000 for the freehold is a travesty. How can it be they got so little?
"We are just appalled that the council handled the whole affair so badly. The house should never have been sold because it was given to them by the Mobbs Memorial Trust for safekeeping."
SBDC said the £445,000 received in 1982 was invested and the interest used to fund services.
A council spokesman added: "We took independent expert advice...The leaseholder was entitled by statute to acquire the freehold. The council had no discretion in the matter. How the Manor House came into the council’s ownership originally could not affect this outcome.
"The council did not want to sell the freehold of the Manor House but we were subject to the statutory enfranchisement provisions."
A spokesman for Mr Camping said: "At the time [Mr Camping] served his notice to buy the freehold his existing lease of the Manor House (which he bought from another party in the open market) had over 70 years left to run.
"The price, as determined by the Leasehold Reform Act, therefore had to take into account that the council could not obtain vacant possession of the Manor House for more than 70 years."
The John Deare sculpture, titled Caesar Invading Britain, was sold to the Victoria & Albert Museum, through art dealer Daniel Katz.
The V&A refused to disclose how much it paid, while Mr Camping did not respond to this question.
According to an article on the Auction Atrium website, the piece could be worth up to £5 million on the open market, but was sold for a fraction of its value.
SBDC said: "The sculpture formed part of the lease demise and therefore was subject to the enfranchisement; however, the council’s independent advisor took this in to consideration when agreeing the freehold value of the property."
A MANOR house at Stoke Poges has been in existence since before the Norman Conquest and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
In the 16th century a fortified house was replaced with a large Tudor brick building, with numerous chimneys and gables.
In 1599 it was acquired by Sir Edward Coke, who is said to have entertained Queen Elizabeth I there in 1601.
Charles I also stayed at the house on route to his execution, and he is rumoured to have drawn a coat of arms above a fireplace.
Sir Thomas Gray’s poem 'A Long Story' describes the house and its occupants. Later the Manor came into the ownership of Thomas Penn, son of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, and remained in the family for several generations.
Prior to the current refurbishment, the last comprehensive refit was carried out in 1911. This created the Great Hall, introduced the bay windows and a new grand staircase.
Caesar Invading Britain (1796) is a large, rectangular marble relief depicting a scene of invading Roman soldiers being repelled by heroic British forces on the shore. It was commissioned by John Penn.