The 40th anniversary of the establishment of a stately home’s preservation trust has been celebrated.
Lamport Hall was in a state of disrepair when Sir Gyles Isham started restoration work on his ancestral home.
And Sir Gyles, an actor who starred in films including Anna Karenina alongside Greta Garbo, set up the Lamport Hall Preservation Trust in 1974.
The trust took over the running of the hall after Sir Gyles’s death two years later.
The guest of honour at the event on Tuesday, June 3, was broadcaster and former MP Gyles Brandreth, who was named after Isham.
Brandreth said: “Since I was born I have been conscious of this man Gyles Isham, who was famous in the 1920s. He was a famous Oxford figure then became a West End star then he went to Hollywood to make movies.
“After the war he came back here and decided to give up acting and take up politics.”
Brandreth’s father was in Oxford in the 1920s, when Isham was a star because of his role as president of the Oxford Union and of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, as well as editor of the university magazine.
“I have been aware of his story all my life,” Brandreth said. “About 30 years ago I became friends with his successor, Sir Ian Isham, by which time the trust had been established.
“The reason I am here is that I owe my name and the trajectory of my career to Sir Gyles Isham. I am also here to salute the achivements of the trust, who have basically transformed this place which was, when I first came here, a bit down at heel. It’s been wonderfully restored.
“It’s stupendous. I am blown away. I am channeling Sir Gyles and he approves. It’s a great achievement. The trustees have raised all the money. It’s a model of how these things can be done.”
Brandreth, a former Conservative MP who has since starred on TV and radio programmes such as Just A Minute, Have I Got News For You and Countdown, says he has always been fascinated by garden gnomes – and the world’s oldest, Lampy, lives at Lamport Hall.
He said people were “quite snobbish about garden gnomes, but said he was pleased to have seen the Lampy.
Brandreth added: “It was brought here in the mid-1800s by Sir Charles Isham from Germany.”
George Drye, the trust’s executive director, said: “To have finally seen the place – not just the house but the content – restored, all put back into first-class order, has been amazing, almost surreal.
“I have been here 30 years. After that period of time you forget what it was like at the beginning. We have to remind ourselves where we have come from.
“When the trustees took this over from Sir Gyles in the 1970s its future was still in jeopardy. Now it should be restored forever for the benefit of the people locally.”
Mr Drye also said visitors to the hall for the 40th anniversary celebration had been “enchanted” by Brandreth’s humorous and informative address.