Lady C and the Castle
Castle Goring in Sussex went on the market in 2013 for offers over £500,000, and despite being a ruin, Lady Colin Campbell thought she could bag a bargain, but now has the enormous task of transforming the dilapidated castle into a house fit for a Lady.
Restoring the Grade One listed castle wasn’t going to come cheap, and so to raise the money needed for a new roof, Lady C decided to sign up to be a contestant on last year’s I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!
As Lady C says: “It has to be said, I have always done a certain number of things that I would much rather have not had to do…let’s put it this way, I’m whoring for Goring.”
She adds: “Well when I bought the house it was a complete wreck. The ground floor was completely destroyed…I came down with a friend of mine who is an architect and he said don’t touch it. He said it’s the worst thing you could ever do if you buy that property. He said you need at least three million, maybe five, maybe even six or seven.”
Though in true Lady C style she ignored the advice and bought the derelict money-pit, though remains tight-lipped about what she paid for the property.
Built in 1797 for the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, the new owner’s plans are very simple: “I want to turn it into a weddings, events and conference centre…Houses like this were built to be celebratory. This is life, I embrace it, I love it.”
For two years Lady C has been overseeing the work to keep her 50-room castle from falling down. Now her priority is to get the place ready for the launch of her new business in 10-weeks’ time.
She says: “We have a deadline of the 18th of June because that’s when we’re having the housewarming ball and pretty much everything will be ready by then. I would be very surprised if it’s not. Believe me when I’m very surprised I ball and squawk. I don’t believe in suffering silently. Everyone will be suffering along with me.”
Lady Colin Campbell was born into a wealthy Jamaican family in 1949 but due to a genital deformity she was registered as a boy and christened George William. Then, aged 21, George had surgery to correct nature’s mistake and became Georgie, but she couldn’t have children of her own.
Lady C says: “I’ve always been maternal and I always wanted children…So I went to Russia, adopted my boys and brought my boys back here.”
Her two boys, Dima and Misha, live at Castle Goring with their mother.
With preparations well underway for the launch, one priority job is to level out the sloping garden ready for the marquee, but Lady C isn’t confident that the laser level is accurate and puts in an urgent call to her events team.
She says: “Hi Dan, it’s Lady C, I really need to speak to you urgently. You’re in Devon, how dare people in Devon eat when your presence is required here…what are the dimensions of the marquee?”
When Lady C was in her 20s she worked as a model in New York, where she met Lord Colin Campbell, the queen’s cousin. After a whirlwind romance they married, and Georgie officially became a lady.
However, the marriage only lasted nine months, which hopefully won’t be a bad omen for the couples booked in to marry at the castle.
To raise additional funds for the renovations, Lady C is making the most of her 15-minutes of fame, and while work on her castle continues she heads off to her London residence to rehearse a one-woman show she’s going to perform at the Edinburgh Festival.
Lady C says: “I will be taking this old bod up to Edinburgh and flogging my wares. To keep this greedy monster Castle Goring fed.”
With now only six weeks to go before the big launch party, the clock is ticking and there’s a mountain of work still to do, which includes Lady C climbing onto the castle’s roof to inspect the recent repair work. And then with her feet back on terra firma, Lady C turns her attention to carpeting the castle. Though it soon becomes apparent that her and son Dima have differing tastes in home furnishings.
After finding time to squeeze in a few social engagements, including a lunch at Sotheby’s and a book launch at the Royal Academy, there’s trouble at the castle after a falling branch causes damage to the building’s exterior.
A stressed Lady C says: “Well the latest unwelcome excitement is that I have come back from London to discover that yesterday this branch from this tree fell off and has damaged this. Which had been redone and now has to be redone again. Quite frankly I’m heartily sick to death of this sort of thing happening.”
With the interiors of the castle nearing completion, Lady C needs to drum up business, and Raj Somaiya, a wedding and events producer, comes to check out the castle as a possible venue for his clients. If he’s impressed by what he sees he could bring a lot of bookings Lady C’s way.
Now, with the deadline fast approaching, it’s all hands on deck to ensure the castle is ready on time. There’s a lot riding on the opening ball, designed to impress some special guests. But after some heavy rainfall, there’s an unexpected crisis lying in wait.
With some quick thinking and some cling film, preparations resume and, with just 24-hours until the first guests arrive, time has to be found to get in some last minute supplies.
Back at the castle the final decorative touches are applied, but in the privacy of her bedroom, Lady C has a medical matter to attend to, and the drama soon escalates when Lady C notices that the tarpaulin she ordered to cover the leaking dome has not been put on.
She fumes: “Let me see just go down and see what the f***ing damage is…One piece of sh*t to cope with after the other. Because what’s supposed to be done is never f***ing done when it’s supposed to be.”
The morning of the ball finally arrives, and it’s a chance to show off the castle as an exclusive wedding venue, with 140 guests for the dinner and an additional 100 for the music and dancing.
Lady C says: “I mean, there’s an awful lot riding on this and I’m mindful of my responsibilities.”
At seven o’clock the guests start arriving, and as well as friends and business associates, there are barons and baronesses, lords and ladies, princes and princesses. However, one person not in attendance is Lady C’s project manager Carlyle, who has opted to stay at home in case anything should go wrong!
After sitting down for dinner over an hour late, the guests dance the night away, and at two o’clock in the morning a very tired chef serves a breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
Lady C reflects: “Well I would say that there are times in life when you realise that if you put in the graft you get the reward. Effort requires effort.”