From wartime heroes - both real and staged - to Hammer House of Horror and a famous TV odd couple, one of the most unusual buildings in Sussex has seen it all.

And fairytale-looking Wykehurst Park House in Bolney is quite a sight in itself.

The 105-room, 130-year-old mansion combines the splendour and stylings of a French chateau, a German schloss and a Gothic house of horror.

Its former owners have possessed ambitions as grand as the mansion's rising turrets and marble pillars, richly ornate rooms and 180 acres of surrounding parkland.

Controversial antiques dealer James Doyle, who died in 1995, can be thanked for saving Wykehurst from demolition and restoring it in the Seventies - even if his racist views won him few friends elsewhere.

Wykehurst has been home to Canadian soldiers preparing to join the D-Day landings and pretend British Expeditionary Force soldiers filming Richard Attenborough's 1969 film Oh! What A Lovely War.

Not surprisingly, its eerie, imposing architecture has also attracted the Hammer horror movie makers, who filmed shots for three movies here.

Wykehurst also appeared in the Michael Caine and Donald Pleasance Second World War epic The Eagle Has Landed in 1976 and Kirk Douglas' Holocaust 2000 the following year.

The many adverts filmed there included part of the Cinzano campaign combining bumbling sitcom star Leonard Rossiter with glamorous Hollywood actress Joan Collins.

The present owners prefer a much quieter life and have put an end to the screen roles since buying the property 20 years ago.

They did allow The Argus in, however, for a rare tour of the property, which is tucked away a mere mile from the busy A23, but seems to exist in a world of its own.

Ian Nairn and Nikolaus Pevsner, in their influential series The Buildings Of England, called Wykehurst "that epitome of high Victorian showiness and licence".

This was an inevitable result of the collaboration between elaborate architect Edward Middleton Barry and the extravagant German banker who hired him, Henry Huth.

Huth, who was also an obsessive rare book collector, paid £35,000 for Barry to build his dream country home, after buying 144 acres of parkland at Bolney.

Barry's father, Sir Charles Barry, was responsible for the Houses of Parliament.

The three-year building work began in 1871, carried out by William Cubitt, who also constructed Osborn House on the Isle of Wight for Queen Victoria.

Barry made the most of some of the most recent technical breakthroughs, including cavity walls, fireproof floors of iron and concrete and hot water supplying all three floors.

Each bedroom had ensuite bathrooms - a rare luxury for the day - as well as their own balconies, private sitting rooms and drawing rooms arranged in suites.

It was also one of the first to have all the main rooms heated by warm air.

Today there are obvious 21st Century touches.

Modern motors are parked in the gravel drive, a stylishly-fitted kitchen gleams behind a door, a handsome box of Lindt chocolates rests on the table of the baronial entrance hall.

But there can be no escaping the power of the past as it breathes out of the oak staircase, the Venetian-style chandeliers or the Arabian-influenced arches.

The dining room is dominated by richly-dark Italian walnut wall panellings, originally carved in 1550 on the orders of Catherine de Medici, who wanted them for the Cardinal's palace in Florence.

Huth installed them at Wykehurst in 1874 and they remain today, although Mr Doyle had to have them partly-restored after vandals damaged them.

Huth had travelled widely and became fluent in Persian, Arabic and Hindustani - eastern influences which can be seen in the entrance hall.

But he also indulged in the Victorian taste for exhibiting his wealth through a mix-and-match variety of foreign decor.

Next door to the Italianate dining room is the French, Louis XV-style drawing room, stretching 40ft by 18ft, with eyes invariably drawn to an impressive marble chimney piece.

The library is furnished in Adam style, named after the late-18th Century Edinburgh-born neo-classicist architect Robert Adam.

The house remained with father-of-six Huth's family after his death in 1878, but by the Thirties it had become the Wykehurst Park Hotel.

During the Second World War Canadian forces were billeted there waiting to join Allied troops for the D-Day invasion.

Wykehurst then remained empty for 26 post-war years, until Mr Doyle arrived in 1971, paying £250,000 for the mansion and 180 acres of parkland.

He told The Argus in 1981: "I remember it was being sold by a Canadian general who was living in Mexico City at the time.

"I got on the phone to him and told him he had six hours to accept my offer. He accepted and I bought it for a song."

He claimed he had been trying to buy the place every year since 1956 - save for two years he spent in Maidstone jail in the Sixties for receiving stolen goods.

He later blamed the crime on his need for £100,000 to launch the British Independent, a newspaper for his own Brighton-based Racial Preservation Society.

The RPS called for repatriation of ethnic minorities and printed pamphlets which were denounced in Parliament as "racist filth".

Wykehurst was almost derelict when he took over, after being looted by vandals and still bearing scars from the soldiers' wartime stay.

Describing the day his family moved in, he recalled: "Everywhere was dripping with water, the hall was covered in hay and cattle droppings because it had been used as a stable."

The building had actually been threatened with demolition but he managed to get a preservation order.

Then the real work began, involving three-and-a-half years of "solid slog", one-and-a-half acres of new flooring and 9,000 gallons of fungicide and preservatives.

He installed a modern central heating system, electronically-controlled curtains, closed-circuit television and reinforced ceilings.

The restoration cost him £200,000 but won him an award from the Civic Trust in Architectural Heritage Year 1975.

He won planning permission for a 200-bedroom hotel and a golf course in the grounds.

But in August 1975 he put the house on the market for £285,000, saying it was time to move on to somewhere smaller.

After wrangles with the Inland Revenue he was declared bankrupt in 1984, the same year the present owners of Wykehurst moved in and adopted a more private policy.

Disney were recently rumoured to be scouting the property but the owners insist they would turn down any approach - as they would any offers to buy.

They own 30 acres of the parkland now, after the estate was gradually split up and divided between owners of the east and west lodge homes, the old coach-house and a modern addition.

Standing in the sun, looking out from the symmetrical, sandstone garden front of Wykehurst one has a spectacular view across the Sussex countryside, which is what most tempted the current owners.

One said: "When you approach from the back it seems a bit laughable but then at the front, there's this wonderful view. It's beautiful."

And the house itself doesn't look too bad either.