Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Georgian house that played host to Muhammad Ali and family

BOXING fans will be knocked out by the latest property to come to the market as it played host to

BOXING fans will be knocked out by the latest property to come to the market as it played host to the greatest boxer of all time — Muhammad Ali.

Residents in Wargrave will be suprised to learn that many years ago Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay, stayed in the Thames-side village for six weeks when he was visiting the UK — and now the property where he stayed is on the market with Savills.

Chris “Monty” Cornford bought the imposing Georgian property 32 years ago, seduced by its elegant proportions, natural light and its quiet location, tucked away just behind the High Street.

In 1992 Chris was working for a company that was involved in charity work for Ali. After fellow boxer Michael Watson was injured during a bout against Chris Eubank, Ali wanted to come over to the UK and visit Watson, but he hated the prospect of staying in a hotel.

So Chris offered his home to Ali, who accepted.

Chris said: “He arrived with his twin daughters, his wife and an entourage including two American police officers who accompanied him everywhere. He was completely charmed by the house and the village.”

Chris has pictures of himself and Ali standing in front of his swimming pool with Dracula actor Christopher Lee. And a biography chronicling Ali’s life features a shot of the boxer in Chris’s dining room.

A pair of boxing gloves, signed by both Ali and Henry Cooper, also takes pride of place in a display case in the elegant drawing room.

During his stay at the property, Chris took Ali into the village in the evening. He wanted to remain incognito and they managed to visit the local watering hole, the Greyhound, without the star being recognised. Nevertheless, Ali did not partake of the British beers on offer, being a strict Muslim.

Chris added: “I was very honoured to be able to spend time with Ali. He is the nicest, most humble man you could ever wish to meet.”

Built in 1790, the property was split in two in 1900, creating Wargrave Lodge which faces the High Street.

When Chris moved in as a bachelor, it required a lot of work which took place during two phases. It was gutted in the Eighties with ceilings replaced and a very sophisticated plumbing and wiring system put in.

Some eight years ago the property was again updated with new lead-work to the roof and luxury bathrooms installed.

Chris said: “It is a real haven — very peaceful but a two-minute walk to the village and I can be in London by train within 34 minutes.

“The house is spacious without feeling too vast and while the garden is relatively small in comparison, it is a tranquil sun trap oasis.

“I have had a fantastic time here over the years with some crazy parties held here, but it also feels nice and homely.”

Chris got married recently to Rachel who works for currency exchange company Sat Worldwide, based in Newtown Road, Henley.

As she is Jersey-born, the couple with their two cats Bumble and Pebbles are planning to spend more time on the island while keeping a smaller property in Wargrave, a village they are both very fond of.

The Garden House is approached by a private gravel driveway offering ample parking, set back from a quiet, no through road, within the heart of the village centre.

The property is a magnificent Georgian five-double bedroom residence, the major portion of a splendid mansion. It is a prestigious home of great style and character reminiscent of a bygone era.

A step inside this eye-catching property reveals a stylish home, elegant reception rooms with high ceilings, original period features including bay windows with shutters and oak parquet flooring and benefits from extensive renovations with a new kitchen and bathrooms and redecorations throughout. It will appeal to those of a discerning taste, style and class.

Accommodation includes a magnificent drawing room, an elegant sitting/family room, a large dining room and a well-fitted kitchen/breakfast room with a glass atrium.

There is a full-height basement area/games room, five bedrooms, three of which benefit from ensuite bathrooms, as well as a utility room, sauna, shower and cloakroom, a garage and a workshop with storage space above.

Outside you will find yourself enjoying a mature garden with flowering borders and a patio area surrounding the swimming pool.

The screened, private garden provides a peaceful setting for entertaining or losing oneself in a good book.

The property is available through Savills for a guide price of £1,450,000.

For more details, call (01491) 843000.

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