Frugal baroness to auction items from her Norfolk mansion

Baroness Rawlings. Pic: Ian Nicholson, PA.

Baroness Rawlings. Pic: Ian Nicholson, PA.

'Baroness Thrift' Patricia Rawlings is living up to her nickname by downsizing from her 13-bedroom Norfolk mansion and selling off the contents.

The contents of Westgate Hall, Burnham Market are to be auctioned. Pic: submitted.

The contents of Westgate Hall, Burnham Market are to be auctioned. Pic: submitted.

Baroness Patricia Rawlings has lived at Westgate Hall in Burnham Market, north Norfolk, since 1992 after falling in love with the "real magic" of the Sir John Soane designed residence.

But now the 80-year-old has decided to move into something smaller - and seemingly won't be taking much of her furniture with her.

Baroness Rawlings became known as Baroness Thrift after offering countless tips, often within the pages of society magazine Tatler, about how people could save money.

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They included using the discarded crusts from one's Melba toast into soldiers for breakfast's boiled egg, asking guests to use the same linen napkin for both breakfast and lunch and buying socks from the Pope's tailor because their superior quality mean darning will be required less frequently.

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The stunning house, which dates to the 1750s, hit the headlines when it went up for sale in 2011 for £7m and later was thought to have been snapped up by Hollywood movie star Johnny Depp.

But that sale fell through and Baroness Rawlings kept it on as her palatial country retreat - but it is now being emptied and will eventually go on the market again.

Claire Hayter, from Sworders auction house, said: "The reason she is selling is that the property has always been her country retreat. She is very fond of north Norfolk and has found a smaller property nearby. She spends her weekdays in London and recharges her batteries at the weekend in Norfolk."

The baroness caught what Sworders described as a "tantalising glimpse" of the mansion once when driving past. The house is unusual in that for such a large, grand property, it's situated in the centre of the village, backing on to the Hoste Arms.

In a statement, a Sworders spokesman added: "Patricia breathed new life into Burnham Westgate Hall by reinstating its architectural integrity and filling it with an informal mix of modern and traditional art."

It is not yet known the exact list of items being auctioned with the catalogue currently being finalised.

Baroness Rawlings is a Conservative politician and former frontbencher in the House of Lords. She was also a Member of the European Parliament.

In the 1950s, she often graced the covers of magazines including Tatler but came under fire in 2013 when she urged the government to promote electric blankets as a means of reducing household energy bills and was branded out-of-touch by some.

Westgate Hall was in institutional use since the 1930s, first by the Royal British Legion, then as a home for the elderly run by Norfolk County Council.

"Baroness Rawlings was bowled over by her first sight of the imperial staircase put in by Sir John Soane" said a Sworders spokesman. "She could see, with her well trained architectural eye, the qualities of the grand rooms which she filled with treasures and slowly collected art and furniture to bring it back to life."

The house was built by Matthew Brettingham for a rich merchant MP called Pinkney Wilkinson, whose daughter Anne took on the house after her marriage to Thomas Pitt (the first Lord Camelford) in 1783.

Soane made alterations so that the house was a grand enough neighbour to Houghton and Holkham for politicians to visit. The bedrooms are furnished with a mixture of antiques from local shops and auctions and oriental objects acquired from travels abroad.

The sale by Sworders fine art auctioneers of Stansted Mountfitchet is on September 10-11.