The £5m estate left in limbo by its heir

Daily Mail – 22/02/07


Set in the midst of a 1,000-acre country estate, it was once a magnificent house befitting its surroundings. But Fir Hill Manor has fallen into rack and ruin after lying empty for 40 years because the owner refuses to claim his inheritance.

The heir to the £5million Cornish estate lives in America, apparently penniless and in illhealth, and is blocking the land and house from being claimed by anyone else.
So the 19th century manor house remains in limbo, administered by the Official Solicitor of the High Court.
The property was bequeathed to John Paget Figg-Hoblyn, 81, in 1965. known to have lived in a Santa Barbara trailer park with his sister Margaret.

The pair were briefly found in 1994 when a documentary was made about the family, but have disappeared back into obscurity.

A spokesman for the Official Solicitor has said: 'We have tried through the years to get John Paget Figg-Hoblyn to sign papers which would enable us to hand over the estate to him. He will not comply. We don't know why.'
Second in line to the estate is

The former Californian lecturer is last The glory days: Fir Hill Manor, near Newquay, pictured around 1936 Decaying grandeur: Nature is reclaiming the estate

his cousin John Westropp Figg-Hoblyn, 71, who is keen to hand it on to his four sons, but nothing can be done without John Paget Figg-Hoblyn's agreement.

John Westropp's wife Geraldine said: 'Maybe he does not want to pay death, inheritance or any other kind of taxes, or to supply any documents required by British law.'

The tangle dates back almost to the first days of the estate when its founder, Squire William Hoblyn, made a settlement deed in the 1880s. It stipulated that the estate could pass only to the eldest male Figg-Hoblyn.

Current heir John Paget is the grandchild of Rosalind Figg-Hoblyn, one of Squire Hoblyn's daughters.
She disgraced her family by running off to South Africa with a married coachman aged just 20 in 1881.

When the affair ended she married a merchant called Thomas Figg and emigrated with him to British Columbia.
After her alcoholic brother died without children, Rosalind changed her surname to Figg-Hoblyn so that her children could inherit.

Her son Francis, John Paget's father, never officially accepted his inheritance, which some speculate was because he was wanted for selling bogus gold shares.
His widow Zoe and children John Paget and Margaret Figg-Hoblyn initially moved to claim the estate, but were also reluctant to prove title. Now John Westropp Figg-Hoblyn and his wife fear John Paget could die without them knowing, leaving the estate unresolved.

Geraldine Figg-Hoblyn said: 'I try periodically to search the California death records, but it is becoming more and more difficult.

'What happens if John Paget dies and no one knows about it? Could there be another 100 years without a legal owner actually in charge of the estate?'

© 2007 Associated Newspapers. All rights reserved
Date: 22/02/2007
Publication: Daily Mail