SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: Vandals trashed Prince Charles' childhood train

SEBASTIAN SHAKESPEARE: How wedding day vandals trashed Prince Charles’ precious childhood train

Don’t let the bells rings out! Lady McAlpine is refusing to allow weddings to take place at her sprawling 200-acre estate Fawley Hall near Henley-on-Thames, built by her late husband and railway enthusiast Sir William McAlpine.

While she previously hired out the venue for weddings and corporate events she tells me she has issued the ban after guests wrecked two priceless carriages last year — namely Prince Charles and Princess Anne’s nursery coach from the Royal Train and an historic GE1 coach (Great Eastern No. 1) which was the Great Eastern director’s saloon.

Fawley Hill is peppered with railway memorabilia that Sir William, best known for saving the steam engine Flying Scotsman, collected before he died aged 82 two years ago.

It includes a restored Victorian station, the steepest standard gauge railway track in the world, a 1920s steam engine and several diesel locomotives which include the Queen’s carriage, built in the 1950s.

Fawley Hill includes a restored Victorian station, the steepest standard gauge railway track in the world, a 1920s steam engine and several diesel locomotives which include the Queen’s carriage, built in the 1950s

Lady McAlpine is refusing to allow weddings to take place at her sprawling 200-acre estate Fawley Hall near Henley-on-Thames, built by her late husband and railway enthusiast Sir William McAlpine

Sir William and Lady McAlpine were married in the station in 2004. 

‘I was married here, my daughter was married here, but last year wedding guests trashed two valuable coaches and put concrete blocks on the railway line,’ the distressed chatelaine tells me.

‘They made a mess of everything and even though weddings have been a very good income stream for the past 15 years I am not taking any more bookings.’

While weddings with up to 30 guests can now take place following the end of lockdown Lady McAlpine is standing firm. 

‘Enough is enough,’ she declares. ‘The carriages are redeemable but are in a terrible mess.’ 

While weddings with up to 30 guests can now take place following the end of lockdown Lady McAlpine is standing firm

Fawley Hill is peppered with railway memorabilia that Sir William, best known for saving the steam engine Flying Scotsman, collected before he died aged 82 two years ago

The nursery carriage from the Royal Train comprises a sitting room furnished in dark red and four single bed compartments with en-suite bathrooms.

Beds with cot-sides were installed for the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne. The sides could be dismantled so the beds could be used as the children grew older.

Sir William acquired the coaches fully furnished including Royal Train bedlinen, notepaper and blotter (the latter was stolen last year).

TV hunk Norton makes a splash… 

The Grantchester, War & Peace and McMafia star shared this photograph online of him leaping into the water in the Lake District

Norton has been keen to play down speculation that he could be the next James Bond, insisting: ‘Leading roles aren’t necessarily the most interesting.’

Tipped to succeed Daniel Craig as 007, James Norton is keen to prove he’s an action man.

The Grantchester, War & Peace and McMafia star shared this photograph online of him leaping into the water in the Lake District.

Tourism chiefs, who are desperate to encourage holidaymakers to take ‘staycations’ in this country rather than fly to the Med, will be delighted with the publicity.

Norton, who lives in South London with his actress girlfriend Imogen Poots, is camping in Cumbria.

He’s been keen to play down speculation that he could be the next James Bond, insisting: ‘Leading roles aren’t necessarily the most interesting.’

Tory MP Giles Watling welcomed an admission by ITV boss Dame Carolyn McCall that viewers can expect a deluge of repeats this summer. 

‘I’ve no problem with seeing great works once again,’ he told colleagues on the culture select committee. 

At least the former actor, who appeared in Upstairs, Downstairs as well as sitcoms How’s Your Father? and Bread, coughed up that he is an ‘occasional’ receiver of repeat fees from the broadcaster.

Demelza shows off scrummy new man

Poldark star Eleanor Tomlinson couldn’t help putting on a show of her own when she celebrated the ending of lockdown with her new boyfriend, rugby player Will Owen 

Eleanor, 28, posted a picture online of herself planting a kiss on his cheek as the 26-year-old bore a massive grin

Poldark star Eleanor Tomlinson couldn’t help putting on a show of her own when she celebrated the ending of lockdown with her new boyfriend, rugby player Will Owen.

The couple, who have been living together with his family in Coventry during the pandemic, looked besotted with one another as they dined on pizza at her favourite Italian restaurant, Sergio’s, in Bristol.

Eleanor, 28, posted a picture online of herself planting a kiss on his cheek as the 26-year-old bore a massive grin.

‘We had such a gorgeous night’, she says.

Mystic Trollope’s spooky message

He made his predictions 500 years ago, but Nostradamus hit the spot when it came to the pandemic, suggests Joanna Trollope.

‘There’s a prophecy that the astrologer Nostradamus made in the 16th century that goes something like, “When humankind reaches a point of complete decadence, there will be a great closing of something in the world”,’ she says.

‘With everything that’s happened recently, perhaps his prophecy has come true.

‘Coronavirus has made us stop and think about the way we live our lives. Like it or not, life will never be the same as it was before. But I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.

‘Society had got to a point where it was all about instant gratification — the “l want it and I want it now!” way of thinking, convenience, and having every impulse immediately satisfied.’

Neeson’s not so snappy chat-up line 

Photographer Kim Haughton recalls the awkward moment she met Liam Neeson to snap him for her Portrait Of Ireland exhibition

Tough guy actor Liam Neeson might want to brush up on his people skills. 

Photographer Kim Haughton recalls the awkward moment she met him to snap him for her Portrait Of Ireland exhibition.

‘I arrived early at his apartment and then he joined me and I was setting things up,’ says Kim. 

‘There was that silence and then he said to me, “Have we met before?”

‘I said we hadn’t and he said, with those piercing eyes of his, “Are you sure we haven’t? I can’t seem to remember. Did we sleep together?” 

‘And I said, “Liam if we had slept together, you’d remember . . .”.’

Downton Abbey star Geraldine James is doing her bit to help freelance artistes. 

The actress has signed up to OneVoice, a campaign set up by London-based choral director Sam Evans to highlight the plight of those in the dramatic and musical arts under lockdown. 

‘So many freelance musicians and actors are in a desperate situation,’ she tells me. 

‘If this had happened to me when I was young I’m not sure if I would have been able to pursue a career as an actor.’

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