For sale: Des res where a bear was born and a star grew up

Jeremy Clarkson's mother Shirley with her original Paddington Bear
Jeremy Clarkson's mother Shirley with her original Paddington Bear
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IT is a Yorkshire farmhouse which has been awarded a grade two listing for its architectural features – but it should also boast two blue plaques.

The historic property, in the pretty village of Burghwallis, was the childhood home of Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and the birthplace of Britain’s best-loved Paddington Bear toy.

Jeremy Clarkson's childhood home at Burghwallis near Doncaster

Jeremy Clarkson's childhood home at Burghwallis near Doncaster

It is now for sale for £650,000 through Jackson Stops and Staff and there is no extra charge for the contemporary claims to fame, which are both thanks to Jeremy’s parents Eddie and Shirley.

They bought the house in 1963 when Jeremy was four and he grew up there, leaving to forge a career in journalism before becoming a TV star.

His motoring obsession was apparent from an early age in Burghwallis, where he got his very first vehicle, a miniature blue metal car that he used to pedal furiously round his parents garden.

The self-confessed petrol head eventually worked his way up to speeds of over 200mph road testing Bughattis and Ferraris for the BBC series that made him famous.

His entrepreneurial parents, meanwhile, were busy renovating the semi-derelict farmhouse and dreaming up ideas for a new business.

The Eureka moment came in 1972 after Shirley made two Paddington Bears complete with little wellington boots, duffel coats and suitcases for his favourite marmalade sandwiches. Inspired by the Michael Bond books, they were presents for Jeremy and his sister Joanna but were so widely admired that she decided to manufacture and sell them.

The home-based business, producing the bears under the Gabrielle Designs label, boomed as Paddington’s endearing furry features and exquisite quality made him one of the most sought-after toys in the country. Production stopped in the late 1990s shortly after Shirley retired.

Alistair Owens, who bought Home Farm from the Clarksons in 1987 and is now selling to downsize , said: “The house was best-known for Paddington when we bought it and we certainly had one or two people knocking at the door asking to meet him when we first moved in.

“I know Eddie used to make marmalade sandwiches for any children who visited.”

Mr Owens and his family fell in love with the property and its location in the conservation village, near Doncaster.

“When we came here we knew it was the right house for us. Burghwallis is quite an oasis and the house had a magical feel. Shirley and Eddie had also done a very good job of the restoration. It took them four years to do. When they bought the property it needed a lot of work. When they moved here they immediately put Jeremy’s name down for a private school not knowing whether they would be able to afford the fees. Their Paddington bears took off just in time.”

Jeremy went to Repton but was expelled for “drinking, smoking and generally making a nuisance of himself” although he called it “voluntary redundancy”. Villagers remember him more fondly as a high spirited character.

“I think he enjoyed growing up here. It is a wonderful place to bring up children. Shirley came back to do a documentary on her book Bearly Believeable and she said then she had very happy memories of the house,” said Mr Owens.

The property, which is in the heart of Burghwallis, has an entrance hall, two reception rooms, a large kitchen, utility room and cellar. Upstairs, there are four double bedrooms over two floors, one en-suite shower room and a house bathroom plus a large second floor office/playroom. Outside, there is a garage, driveway and gardens with rural views.

“We’ve updated it over the years with new bathrooms, kitchens and central heating but all the original features that Eddie and Shirley preserved are still here,” said Mr Owens.

The Clarksons’ other legacies also endure.

Jeremy is the world’ s most famous motoring writer and presenter. He is also well-known for his opinionated views, his love of jeans and the band Genesis.

His mother’s original Paddington Bear toys were much copied but hers are still recognised and are highly collectable, especially those that still have a label attached to the toggle on their coat reading: “Please look after this bear. Thank you.”

For more details on Home Farm, Burghwallis, contact: Jackson Stops and Staff, tel: 01904 625033, www.jackson-stops.co.uk