THE owner of a listed country home said he was left “fuming” after thieves stole £50,000-worth of lead from its roof.
Clement Somerset, who owns historic Castle Goring on the A27 at Worthing, believed the thieves must have had inside knowledge about the building because of how easily they accessed the roof.
The theft happened overnight on January 10 at the home, which has been in the Somerset family since the 1820s.
Mr Somerset said: “I was absolutely fuming, especially knowing it had to be a local, inside job.
“They broke in through a downstairs window, breaking a shutter, and they knew their way straight through the house and up onto the roof.
“They knew exactly where to go, but we’ve had people here doing work for days who still get lost, so it must have been people with inside knowledge.”
He went on to say: “When they were up on the roof they pulled up the lead, ripping off felt and slate without a care in the world. Then, they threw it to the ground – they trashed it. I realised what had happened when I got there the next day and saw signs of lead on the ground outside and scuff marks where they had chucked it off the roof and dragged it. I then saw they’d tried to force a door and had left a hammer behind.”
Mr Somerset does not live at Castle Goring, but added tenants who had been living in the property for 50 years had moved out on the day of the theft.
Following the theft, the property, which is Grade I listed, has been left exposed to the elements, and without insurance, Mr Somerset said all he can do is get the roof patched up as best he can.
He also said Castle Goring had become a financial drain on the family, describing it as a “white elephant”, and said he hoped to sell it within the year.
The Somerset family will move back into Castle Goring in the meantime, where they will live in the caretaker’s apartment, until it can be sold.
l Castle Goring was designed by John Rebecca for Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Baronet. His son, Sir Timothy Shelley, preferred to live elsewhere, so it was intended his son, Percy Bysshe Shelley, would live at Castle Goring. However, the poet drowned in Italy aged 29, so he never took possession.
In 1825, Sir Timothy Shelley let the building to Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Sir George Brooke-Pechell, 4th Baronet of Paglesham. Then in 1845, Mary Shelley, who inherited the building as Sir Timothy’s widow, sold it to Brooke-Pechell.
Brooke-Pechell’s daughter Adelaide married Sir Alfred FC Somerset, who was Deputy Lieutenant for Middlesex and Justice of the Peace for Middlesex. Then, their daughter Gwendoline married her cousin, Arthur W Fitzroy Somerset, who held the same offices for Sussex.
Aside from a period in the 1870s and 1880s when the property was let to the Burrell family, the property has remained with the Somerset family since then.