It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the Great Train Robbery and the Surrey house where the fugitives hid is on the market, says Cheryl Markosky.
You’d have to be off the rails to consider digging up the beautiful gardens surrounding a £950,000 four-bedroom, seventeenth-century cottage near the quintessentially English village of Ockley.
However, as the detached residence was reputedly once home to the Great Train Robbers back in 1963, and where some of the missing £2.6m (worth £40m today) is believed to be buried, it might nudge you towards becoming rather handy with a shovel.
Ben Busby, from the Cranleigh office of estate agents Gascoigne-Pees, says it’s believed the infamous robbers stayed at the property after the heist. For those wanting hard proof, there’s a plaque on the back of the house and £100,000 of stolen notes was found buried in Coldharbour Woods, a few miles away.
If you’re still not convinced, a photograph of the robbers standing in front of the house is hung in The Punchbowl pub just up the road.
With the recent death of Ronnie Biggs, the Great Train Robbery’s been revisited in the news. Can a tale of train robbers burying money (the bulk of which was never recovered) on Leith Hill lure potential purchasers to this infamous spot?
Yes, it can, as interesting information from the past can help sell a property, Busby suggests. "People always like a backstory. When guests come round you can entertain them with the details. Some might be more interested in history than others, but quite often a bit of colour grabs a viewer’s interest."
Despite its criminal past, the trainspotting house that’s situated in the heart of the village is surprisingly peaceful, with wisteria twining round the front, inviting open fires and beamed ceilings.
"It’s a real roses-round-the-door property that’s ideal for weekenders or families," adds Busby. You’re close to a good state infants’ school in Ockley, and Belmont, a private prep school. For commuters, there’s a small station at Ockley, where trains take about 50 minutes to run into London Victoria or Waterloo from Dorking, only 15 minutes away.
If associations with The Crime of the Century don’t appeal, then buyers might want to focus on the fact that legendary BBC commentator Rex Alson from the Fifties and Sixties (best known for co-presenting the Corporation’s coverage of the Coronation) also once owned the house.
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