Squatters' £1.75m pad

Squatters have moved into a multimillion-pound Regency home once owned by royalty.

Up to a dozen people have moved into the Grade I listed six-bedroom home one of the most expensive houses in Brighton and Hove.

The four-storey home is fitted out with priceless paintings, fixtures and fittings, including a King's toilet installed for the visit of Edward VII.

People living close to Fife House in Lewes Crescent, Kemp Town, have demanded the freeloaders leave.

Neighbour Dr Aileen Hopkins said: "I am horrified to find that this lovely Regency building is now occupied by squatters.

"The Duke of Devonshire, the Prince of Wales and other royalty and notables used this house as their base in the 19th century when visiting Brighton."

Another neighbour, Joan Green, said: "I cannot believe these freeloaders think they have a right to live in this stunning house.

"I am just praying they respect it inside and don t throw wild parties because it is a huge part of Brighton's history."

Fife House which boasts stunning sea views was bought in 2002 for 2.85 million by businessman Patrick Naughton.

Strutt and Parker estate agents, which dealt with the property, said it has since been repossessed although it did not say who from, and that it had recently sold the property for 1.75 million.

The identity of the current owner is unknown. The property has regularly featured in property lists as one of the country s most desirable coastal homes.

The squatters, who would not let Argus into the building and communicated only through a letterbox, said they had received a summons to appear in the county court.

The owner must now prove in court that he or she has a right to live in the property and that the squatters do not.

The squatters have displayed a section 6 notice in the porch window, saying they have a legal right to live there.

A squatter, speaking on behalf of the group but who refused to be named, said: "No criminal offence has been committed.

"We understand the listed status of the building and are thus extremely careful to ensure no damage will come to it.

"We have temporarily found ourselves with nowhere to live in the present economic climate.

"We would like to put our neighbour s minds at ease by assuring them that we are not damaging the property, having parties or causing any antisocial behaviour."

The lavishly decorated house also boasts a Portland stone staircase, four reception rooms, an opulent drawing room, dining room, sitting room, kitchen, belvedere balcony, two wine cellars and even a servant s staircase.

The ceiling and wall paintings of snakes, goats and angels were covered under heavy wallpaper and only recently discovered.

The sixth Duke of Devonshire bought the house in 1829 and had it fitted out by the architect Thomas Cubitt, who joined it to a house the duke already owned round the corner at 14 Chichester Terrace.

The Duke of Devonshire redecorated the property in 1848, using the architects that had worked for the Prince Regent at the Royal Pavilion.

After the duke s death, Princess Louise and her husband, the Duke of Fife, bought the house and were regularly visited by her father Edward VII.

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "We have been alerted to the fact that there are squatters in this place but we have not had cause to visit at the moment.

"Legal proceedings have to be undertaken by the property owners. It is a civil matter."

andy.whelan@theargus.co.uk

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