She was dubbed ‘Baroness Thrift’ after sharing her tips on how to run her stately home on a budget.
But Baroness Patricia Rawlings is now battling to hold on to the country estate after her former lover launched a legal bid to force the sale of the £7 million property they once shared.
Lady Rawlings, 78, lived with millionaire financier Paul Zuckerman, 72, in their North Norfolk mansion Burnham Westgate Hall – not far from the Royal estate at Sandringham – until they separated in 2009.
Lady Rawlings is locked in a legal battle with her former lover over the North Norfolk estate
The former Government whip continued to live in the 13-bedroom, Grade II listed Georgian mansion, dividing her time between there and her other home in Westminster, London. But now Dr Zuckerman has lodged a claim in the High Court, demanding that the house is sold so he can receive a share of the equity in the property he and Lady Rawlings jointly own after buying it in 1991.
He is also asking the court to order Lady Rawlings to provide him with a key fob allowing access to the property in Burnham Market, known as Chelsea-on-Sea due to its large number of well-heeled second-home owners.
Lady Rawlings, who is understood to be resisting the claim, was criticised for being out of touch in 2013 when she called for the Government to promote the use of electric blankets on beds as a way of reducing family fuel bills. She revealed more tips for thrifty living in 2014, telling Tatler magazine that discarded crusts from melba toast could be used as boiled egg soldiers.
Lady Rawlings and Dr Zuckerman bought the property in 1991 and are in an equity dispute
Burnham Westgate Hall, which has 15,870 square feet of living space and stands in 38 acres, was put up for sale with a guide price of £7 million by Lady Rawlings in 2011. The house – originally designed by the great Georgian architect Sir John Soane – was later taken off the market.
Lady Rawlings and Dr Zuckerman bought the property in 1991. The couple carried out extensive renovations by unblocking fireplaces, ripping up lino and restoring period features.
Dr Zuckerman wants the estate sold so he can take a share of the equity
Lady Rawlings was House of Lords spokesperson for media, culture and sport from 2010 to 2012 and was previously a Shadow Foreign Affairs and International Development spokesman. She was also Conservative MEP for South West Essex from 1989 to 1994 and has campaign posters from her time in the European Parliament hanging in one of her lavatories. Her five-year marriage to businessman David Wolfson, the former chairman of Great Universal Stores who is now Baron Wolfson of Sunningdale, ended in 1967 and she never married again.
She made the headlines in 1971 when her former fiance, American oil tycoon Ralph Stokin, broke off their relationship and demanded the return of diamonds and rubies worth £250,000 he had given her. He took her to the High Court but the case was settled out of court. Dr Zuckerman, who is the son of the late zoologist Lord Zuckerman, sits on the boards of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia in Norwich and the CGIAR campaign group, which promotes agricultural science to reduce global poverty.
Inside Westgate Hall, which the former lovers are now engaged in a legal battle over
He is seeking a court order to force Lady Rawlings out of the house so it can go on the market as a ‘vacant’ property and for a trustee to be appointed so the sale can proceed ‘without further hindrance’.
The legal claim also demands that she pay ‘occupation rent’ to Dr Zuckerman after living in the property for the past eight years.
A spokesman for Dr Zuckerman’s lawyers said Lady Rawlings was due to file her response ‘in the next week or so’. Lady Rawlings did not respond to requests for comment.
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