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The Sussex mansion that inspired Cluedo

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One morning last week I boarded a train in London, more than a little nervous about the contents of my luggage, which included a rope, candlestick, lead piping, wrench and a hypodermic needle.

How, I wondered, would I explain their presence if I were apprehended by a police officer en route? All I could hope was that the representative of Her Majesty’s constabulary would be familiar with Cluedo and its murder weapons, and would chuckle as I explained — and let me on my way.

For I was heading to No. 4, Tudor Close, in the village of Rottingdean, near Brighton, East Sussex, a mock-Tudor pile that inspired the classic whodunnit board game that, since its invention more than 70 years ago, has sold in its millions worldwide.

Tudor Close, the home that inspired the classic boardgame Cluedo, has gone on the market for 'offers above £1million

Tudor Close, the home that inspired the classic boardgame Cluedo, has gone on the market for ‘offers above £1million

The first edition of the iconic board game was even named Murder at Tudor Close after the former hotel before it sold millions of copies around the world

The first edition of the iconic board game was even named Murder at Tudor Close after the former hotel before it sold millions of copies around the world

A historic home that inspired Cluedo and once hosted Hollywood icons including Cary Grant, Bette Davis and Errol Flynn has gone up for sale. (Pictured, Cary Grant, left, and Sir Laurence Olivier, right)

A historic home that inspired Cluedo and once hosted Hollywood icons including Cary Grant, Bette Davis and Errol Flynn has gone up for sale. (Pictured, Cary Grant, left, and Sir Laurence Olivier, right)

Anthony Pratt and his wife Elva, in the early 1940s, around the time they devised their mystery game

Anthony Pratt and his wife Elva, in the early 1940s, around the time they devised their mystery game

There are several weapons plus locations (billiard room, ballroom, conservatory etc) where the dastardly deed is done and players move around the board, collecting clues to identify the perpetrator

 There are several weapons plus locations (billiard room, ballroom, conservatory etc) where the dastardly deed is done and players move around the board, collecting clues to identify the perpetrator

The Grade II building became the inspiration for the murder mystery classic after a 1937 refurbishment introduced a billiards room, ball room, ladies bar and restaurant

The Grade II building became the inspiration for the murder mystery classic after a 1937 refurbishment introduced a billiards room, ball room, ladies bar and restaurant

And my collection of ‘weapons’? Props for my own murder-mystery experience.

Many years ago, the property — which has just gone on the market for ‘over £1 million’ — was part of a cosy hotel where the guests were first thrilled with those weapons, blood-curdling screams and ‘dead’ bodies on murder-mystery evenings.

And they weren’t just any old guests. They were the cream of A-list Hollywood, ranging from Cary Grant and Errol Flynn, to Bette Davis and Merle Oberon, to Laurence Olivier and Randolph Scott.

The Tudor Close Hotel shut in 1952 and reverted to individual homes. Today, No. 4, which formed its entrance, foyer and lounge, is a charming four-bedroom house where Denise and Trevor Hopper have lived for a decade.

‘Professor Plum did it, in the library, with the lead piping!’ I say to Denise as she opens the door. She rolls her eyes having heard it all before — and introduces me to Trevor.

The couple, who are in their 70s, are perfect ambassadors for homicidal board games, beautiful architecture and kindly hospitality.

‘Before the pandemic, we hosted a murder mystery night of our own,’ says Denise, a retired art teacher. ‘I gave everybody a script and a character and told them what costumes to wear. They were all wonderful.

‘Trevor played the butler and I the maid. And while people were having a drink in the bar, I had to scream at the top of my voice and everyone ran in to find me with the body. Though, it was just fake legs sticking out of a box.’

Tudor Close was built in 1929 from a derelict set of farm buildings by the developer Charles W. Neville. It was intended to be seven self-contained dwellings but once the Great Depression hit, they didn’t sell and so Neville combined them into a hotel.

‘It is a mix of mock Tudor and Elizabethan architecture, which was all the rage then,’ says Trevor, a retired professor who used to teach business and accounting. ‘They called the style “Tudorbethan”. The hotel was luxurious, with tennis courts, an outdoor pool, a bar and billiard room.’

It became so successful with American film stars of the 1930s and 1940s that Neville quipped he was attracting more business from Hollywood than Britain.

The parents of Julie Andrews worked at the hotel in its heyday and the Mary Poppins’ star is said to have kick-started her singing career there as a child performer.

Estate agents over-use the word ‘stunning’ — but Grade II-listed Tudor Close is nothing short of this, with ancient ships’ timbers, parquet floors, stone fireplaces, carvings and leadlight windows.

In 1943 Pratt devised a board game for two to six players who take on the role of suspects — Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard and Mrs Peacock et al

In 1943 Pratt devised a board game for two to six players who take on the role of suspects — Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard and Mrs Peacock et al

The current owners say they have continued the tradition and hosted popular Cluedo themed parties over the years there

The current owners say they have continued the tradition and hosted popular Cluedo themed parties over the years there

In 1953, the company offered to buy the rights to Cluedo from the couple for what turned out to be almost a pittance

 In 1953, the company offered to buy the rights to Cluedo from the couple for what turned out to be almost a pittance

The Hoppers will be sad to leave, but their home has a shared garden — once the site of the hotel pool — and they are moving to a nearby property with a private garden where their grandchildren can play without disturbing the neighbours.

So how did Cluedo come about? It was while working as hotel entertainments manager that pianist Anthony Pratt and wife Elva began their murder-mystery evenings.

In 1943 Pratt devised a board game for two to six players who take on the role of suspects — Miss Scarlett, Colonel Mustard and Mrs Peacock et al. There are several weapons plus locations (billiard room, ballroom, conservatory etc) where the dastardly deed is done and players move around the board, collecting clues to identify the perpetrator.

The first version of the game was called Murder At Tudor Close. Manufacturer John Waddington Ltd began producing it for the mass market in 1949.

Jonathan Foster, in his 2013 book The Story Of Cluedo, claimed Waddingtons was less than fair with Anthony and Elva when it came to sharing the profits from the game. In 1953, the company offered to buy the rights to Cluedo from the couple for what turned out to be almost a pittance.

‘Waddingtons told Anthony that the game wasn’t selling very well, particularly in America,’ Foster wrote. ‘And they offered him a deal: sign over the international rights to Cluedo for a one-off payment of £5,000. The deal would mean that he would still get the royalties from Cluedo sales in the UK.’

The Hoppers will be sad to leave, but their home has a shared garden — once the site of the hotel pool — and they are moving to a nearby property with a private garden where their grandchildren can play without disturbing the neighbours

The Hoppers will be sad to leave, but their home has a shared garden — once the site of the hotel pool — and they are moving to a nearby property with a private garden where their grandchildren can play without disturbing the neighbours

Over the years, more characters and new weapons have been added (and removed) as the game has been updated, and it has inspired books, TV series and films

Over the years, more characters and new weapons have been added (and removed) as the game has been updated, and it has inspired books, TV series and films

The Tudor Close Hotel shut in 1952 and reverted to individual homes. Today, No. 4, which formed its entrance, foyer and lounge, is a charming four-bedroom house where Denise and Trevor Hopper have lived for a decade

The Tudor Close Hotel shut in 1952 and reverted to individual homes. Today, No. 4, which formed its entrance, foyer and lounge, is a charming four-bedroom house where Denise and Trevor Hopper have lived for a decade

That £5,000 is worth about £143,000 today and was no small sum — until you consider that 150 million Cluedo sets have been sold in 40 countries.

‘Anthony could have negotiated a much better deal had he known just how important Cluedo was to Waddingtons and Parker Brothers [holder of U.S. rights] — and indeed that it was actually selling well in America,’ concludes Foster.

In 1990, inventor Anthony claimed not to have been bothered by the riches that failed to come his way.

‘A great deal of fun went into it,’ he said, ‘so why grumble?’ He died four years later, aged 90.

Over the years, more characters and new weapons have been added (and removed) as the game has been updated, and it has inspired books, TV series and films. Today it is owned by the U.S. company Hasbro.

Back at No.4, the Hoppers seem slightly unnerved when I remove a wrench and a magnifying glass from my bag. But they are good sports and Trevor agrees to play our murder victim.

‘It was Denise, with the candlestick, in the lounge!’ I shout.

It was then that the Hoppers decided they had indulged me enough and my personal murder-mystery experience concluded. And I still don’t know whodunnit!

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VGP acquires French logistics development

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VGP NV and VALGO signed an agreement to purchase 32 hectares of land that housed the former Petroplus refining units in Petit-Couronne, near Rouen. This brownfield rehabilitation project is fully in line with VGP’s core expertise and strategy. Thanks to the six years ownership of the site by VALGO and its expertise in asbestos removal, soil and water table decontamination, in-situ waste treatment and development, this area has now become a suitable site for the development of new industries and business activities.

 

On the banks of the river Seine and close to the A13 highway, the 32-hectare area of land offers its future users a highly strategic location. Following the extensive depollution work carried out by VALGO, the site is now ready for redevelopment. VGP expanded into France only a few months ago and is delighted to start its French business activities in the dynamic Rouen Normandy metropolis area, via this major project. In total, around 150,000m² of land are set to be redeveloped to accommodate industrial and logistics projects, with work due to begin in 2023.

 

Jan Van Geet, CEO VGP, said: “VGP is delighted to begin its business activities in France on a site as exceptional as this one, with strong economic and environmental ambitions that are shared by both our partner, VALGO, and the local authorities. As the rehabilitation of brownfield sites is at the heart of our business, this project is a great opportunity for us to deploy our industrial and logistical know-how. The uncertain geopolitical situation and the rise in transport prices mean that companies are increasingly looking for local support to start their business. In this context, we strongly believe in the relevance of our integrated model with a long-term vision. We are now eager to get to work and bring all the expertise of the Group to the project.”

 

Francois Bouche, CEO VALGO, commented: “We are delighted that this huge piece of land has been sold to a major investor with experience in redeveloping brownfields in Europe. However, I would first like to celebrate the work of the men and women who worked so hard to make this colossal project a success. It took more than 1 million hours and over €60m in investment by VALGO to turn the page on over 80 years of refining on this site, which already employs 600 people.”

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Selling your home? Here’s how to make sure it has kerb appeal by sprucing up outside space

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As anyone who has indulged in the brutal ‘swipe left’ culture of internet dating will testify, you don’t often get a second chance to make a first impression. And the same is true when trying to sell your property.

That’s why what lies at the front of your house — be it lawn, gravel or flagstones — can play a major role in making a sale.

Indeed, having a pleasing ‘shop front’ to snag potential buyers scrolling through listings or even walking past outside can offer leverage to boost the asking price, says Colby Short, CEO of estate agent comparison site getagent.co.uk.

Dress to impress: Colourful flower beds transform the look of a cottage in East Lothian, Scotland

Dress to impress: Colourful flower beds transform the look of a cottage in East Lothian, Scotland

‘Homes that offer a front garden carry a 4 per cent property price premium versus those without, and that equates to more than £11,000 in the current market,’ he says.

So what changes can you make to the patch in front of your house to help improve the saleability of the property?

Some alterations are simple, entry-level innovations. For example, even the smallest swatch of grass should be mown and rubbish-free. 

In fact, bins and recycling boxes are often the first thing you see in a front garden, as well as the detritus left by squirrels who have curated bits of dinner from your bags of rubbish. But it’s easy to hide bins away in a box unit.

‘If you’re trying to hide ugly bins, how about building a bin store with a planter on the top, then you can have some gorgeous outdoor succulents and flowering alpines?’ says QVC UK’s gardening expert Michael Perry. 

You can also buy wooden bin stores from outdoor furniture suppliers such as Wayfair (from £125.99).

Meanwhile, hanging baskets outside your front door help to break up a harsh brick wall, says Sean Lade, of Easy Garden Irrigation.

‘Hanging baskets are an excellent choice for adding colour and scent to your front garden and soften the front of your house. They should be installed at eye level —about 5 ft off the ground.’

Hanging baskets add colour and scent to a front garden and soften the front of a house

Hanging baskets add colour and scent to a front garden and soften the front of a house

And think about replacing tired fencing or dilapidated brick walls with natural borders, such as Boxwood hedging, which will add visual interest and is also easy to prune throughout the year.

‘If you prefer a cottage garden appearance, then why not train climbing plants to create natural archways around your front door, porch or gate?’ says Deborah Cobb, product manager at builders’ merchants MKM.

‘Raised flower beds are also a clever way to add some natural foliage. If you fill them with evergreen shrubs, then they are an easy-to-look-after and low-maintenance option that will look good all year round.’

In terms of what plants to go for, Nicola Bird, founder of seed subscription service The Floral Project, suggests some annual flowers are perfect for planting at the front of your house if you’re looking to sell. 

‘They include varieties such as cosmos, phlox, zinnias and sweet peas — not only to bring a bright splash of colour to your front garden, but also serve as a great conversation starter with your potential buyers.’

Even if you don’t have a patch of grass in front of your home, there are other fundamentals which will help with the sale, says Jonathan Rolande, professional property buyer at housebuyfast.co.uk.

This includes jet-washing your path. And just before a visit from potential buyers, remove any vehicles, where possible, to help to create an impression of space.

‘Clean the windows, frames and front doors — and clean the house number,’ he says. ‘If the garden is mostly given over to parking, soften the look with pots and planters filled with bright flowers and attractive shrubs.’

 You may think your garden gnomes are cute, but to a prospective buyer, they can be just plain creepy

He adds that if you don’t have a lawn, terracotta planters on the front sills look great with fragrant plants such as lavender and rosemary appealing to the sense of smell, too.

If your front garden is really small, use decorative gravel such as pea shingle or slate chippings, suggests Thomas Goodman, property expert at homeowner and tradesman connection website myjobquote.co.uk.

‘This will give you an attractive, low-maintenance base for topping with a few nice plant pots.

‘Fix anything that’s broken, including gates, fences and walls. These detract from any nice planting and give the impression of a home that’s not properly maintained and is going to need work.’

Colby Short says some items in your garden should be permanently jettisoned to improve the chances of a sale.

‘You may think your garden gnomes are cute, but to a prospective buyer, they can be just plain creepy. The same goes for any large statues or display items, particularly if they are of a political, religious or risque nature.

‘When it comes to potential buyers, you want to present a blank canvas. But that doesn’t mean this canvas can’t look good and add appeal in its own right.’

On the market… with kerb appeal 

Buckinghamshire: This four bedroom semi-detached cottage is on the edge of Denham Village. The bedrooms are spacious overlooking front and rear gardens. Struttandparker.com, 01753 481 781, £800,000

Buckinghamshire: This four bedroom semi-detached cottage is on the edge of Denham Village. The bedrooms are spacious overlooking front and rear gardens. Struttandparker.com, 01753 481 781, £800,000

Suffolk: There are four bedrooms in this detached house in Old Newton. The property dates from the 16th century and has a thatched roof and mature gardens. Fineandcountry.com, 01379 646 020. £1.2m

Suffolk: There are four bedrooms in this detached house in Old Newton. The property dates from the 16th century and has a thatched roof and mature gardens. Fineandcountry.com, 01379 646 020. £1.2m

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Elephant Park expands its retail offer (GB)

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Lendlease has announced the openings of two new spaces at Elephant Park: all-day kitchen and bar RAREBIT; and community garden store The Nunhead Gardener.

 

RAREBIT – the all-day kitchen and evening dining, bar, and grocery store – has opened its first brick-and-mortar location on Elephant Park’s casual dining hub, Sayer Street. The brand-new concept has a menu focusing on British favorites including the Welsh ‘rarebit’, and its grocery stocks a range of independent wines, craft beers, and coffee from East London coffee shop, Climpson & Sons. This selection is complemented by cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy, charcuterie from London Smoke & Cure, and produce from Natoora.

 

The Nunhead Gardener is the latest brand to move from one of Lendlease’s meanwhile units into a permanent space at Elephant Park, following the likes of Dima Beautiful, Beza Ethiopian Vegan, and bar and bottle shop The Tap In. The 900ft² unit on Sayer Street stocks a selection of indoor and outdoor plants, as well as specialty gardening tools, seeds, and seasonal scented candles.

 

Guy Thomas, Head of Place Assets at Lendlease, commented: “Both of these openings speak to our core values at Elephant Park, with a commitment to providing our local community with uses that are independent, sustainability-oriented, and unique. The arrival of RAREBIT adds a new cuisine to casual dining hub Sayer Street, and The Nunhead Gardener’s revamped permanent space has created a plant haven that we know local people will love.”

 

Mark Angell and Will Nias, Co-Founders of RAREBIT, said: “RAREBIT is about bringing a modern, fresh concept to people who want top-quality food and drink. Whether that be for grocery shopping or sit-down dining, we are so excited to be welcoming customers through our doors at Elephant Park. It is such a buzzing area, and we are proud to introduce RAREBIT to this diverse and vibrant environment.”

 

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