The most interesting house I've ever been in is on the market. If a

sympathetic buyer does not step forward with #1.5m then this Victorian

time capsule is doomed.

More House, Tite Street, Chelsea, is a rambling, red brick palazzo.

Its six floors incorporate an elegant drawing room, huge Gothic-looking

studio, dining room, knife room, boot room, and a labyrinth of

corridors, cubbyholes, and bookery nooks.

There are 13 bedrooms and the chapel houses Catholic and Jacobite

relics. The number of antediluvian bathrooms and of servants have borne

more or less inverse proportion to one another. When there were eight

servants, there was one bathroom. Now that there are no servants, there

are seven bathrooms.

Massively furnished and delightfully cluttered, More House gives the

impression of hardly having been dusted, far less redecorated since the

Hopes (later Hope-Nicholson) moved in in 1892. The fourth and fifth

generation of the family, plus assorted lodgers, live there now.

Marie-Jaqueline Lancaster of the third generation is at present

cataloguing and writing about the archives. Lucinda Lambton adores the

place and the BBC has asked to feature it. They had better hurry because

death duties look set to break the house up.

It was through Peggy Belbin of North Berwick that I first visited More

House. In 1902 Peggy's mother, Dorcas Mackinnon, went into service

there. The Hopes of More House were a kindly clan. As children Peggy,

Hugh, and Laura Mackinnon were invited to the parties of young Lauretta,

Felix, and Marie-Jaqueline Hope-Nicholson.

It was in March 1987 that I interviewed Felix Hope-Nicholson at home.

A tall, imposing figure known as the Squire of Chelsea, he was a man

obsessed with his family tree. After Eton, Oxford, and the war he had

dedicated his life to the greater glory of his ancestors, in particular

the Linlithgow family and the Hopes of Hopetoun House.

The house in Tite Street is like some over-stocked portrait gallery.

The walls of every room, staircase, and corridor are covered in oils and

pastels, prints and cartoons, silhouettes and miniatures of maternal

Hopes and grand-maternal Troubridges. So authentically Victorian is the

interior that it has been used as a setting for films and TV plays

including Old Flames and Portrait of a Marriage.

I had turned up at 11.30am to interview Felix and 9pm found us down in

the ancient kitchen dining with his cousin, the doyenne of More House,

83-year-old Miss Margaret Hope. By this time it was Felix who was busy

interviewing me about his kith and kin north of the Border.

Felix was back in the realms of Scottish weddings and Hopes of Moray

Place and Luffness and the North Berwick chap who married the girl

Henderson of the salad restaurant. No, I don't know Lady Hermione, but I

know a man who does. Yes, I was in Brownies with Felix's cousin's


Margaret asked to be remembered to Lord James Douglas Hamilton. Though

I happen to live near him, I'm afraid I don't actually hob knob.

On the kitchen dresser the ornate clock chimes half-past-nine. Down

into this cavern with its candelabra, paintings, and huge gas range,

Dorcas Mackinnon herself could have walked to take over where she left

off over 60 years ago, among sculleries, alcoves, wine cellars, dishes,

and Hopes. Above the clock is a fractured rainbow with the family motto,

''But hope is not broken.'' Today's hope is for #1.5m to save this gem

of a house.