Nicolas Cage joins Britain's castle-owning classes

By Martin Hodgson

Published: 30 July 2007

He once owned a fake-antique mansion in the Hollywood Hills, decorated in a style he described as "hot-rod Gothic". Now Nicolas Cage has bought something closer to the real thing, spending nearly £5m on a spectacular 18th-century castle shaped like the ace of clubs.

Midford Castle near Bath is the latest addition to Cage's personal property empire spanning five countries, which is worth an estimated £33m and includes a private island in the Bahamas.

The Oscar-winning actor and his family are expected to move into the castle in September, joining a growing list of Hollywood stars who have set up a home in the UK. Dustin Hoffman, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Gillian Anderson and Gwyneth Paltrow have all settled in Britain.

With its turrets, battlements and ruined chapel, Midford Castle could easily serve as the setting for one of Cage's more swashbuckling movies, but what particularly attracted the actor was its setting in the Cotswolds area of outstanding natural beauty, the current owner, Isabel Briggs, told The Independent.

"There is a bit of fantasy about the castle, but what appealed to [Cage] is the rather romantic landscape - we have a beautiful valley with its own woods. When he visited in May he walked all the way around the estate and decided that this was the place for him," she said.

An estate agent's prospectus hints at another key attraction for a paparazzi-averse celebrity: with nearly 60 acres of woods and rolling parkland, the estate offers "a high degree of seclusion and privacy," it says. Viewed from above, the castle resembles the trefoil design of the ace of clubs - a reference, it is said, to the card with which Henry Disney Roebuck won the fortune that funded the building of the castle in 1775.

The estate includes an orangery, a former priory, two cottages, a ruined chapel and 11 acres of woodland. Inside, the castle is still decorated with the original 18th century plasterwork and protected by Grade I listed status, but the star of Leaving Las Vegas and Captain Correlli's Mandolin had no plans for a Hollywood-style makeover, said Mrs Briggs.

"I don't think he wanted to rip out the interior and replace it with leopard-skin wallpaper. He likes it just as it is," she said.

Cage, who earns an estimated $20m (£10m)per movie, is reported to already own 14 homes, including a beach-front house in California which once belonged to John Wayne. Last year he bought a crumbling 28-room medieval fortress in Bavaria for the knock-down price of £1.2m.

Cage - who put in his own offer to the London estate agents who handled the deal - negotiated a final price of £4.75m - £250,000 less than the original guide price. Mrs Briggs and her husband bought the castle in 1961 for just £15,000.

They have exchanged contracts with Mr Cage, who is expected to take possession of the castle on 31 August. He was first spotted house-hunting around Glastonbury last year while in Britain to film the sequel to National Treasure, his biggest-grossing film.

Johnny Depp, a friend of Cage, is also rumoured to be looking for a home in the West Country: last year he and his wife, the French singer Vanessa Paradis, tried to buy a Regency period country house in nearby Timsbury.

Star buys

* MADONNA

Owns a £7m townhouse in London, where she lives.

* GWYNETH PALTROW

and husband Chris Martin bought a £3.2m house in Belsize Park in 2004.

* GILLIAN ANDERSON

Bought a £1.4m flat in Portobello Road in 1998.

* MICHAEL DOUGLAS AND CATHERINE ZETA-JONES

Built a four-bedroom mansion for £2.4m in south Wales in 2002.

DUSTIN HOFFMAN

Owns a £3m townhouse in South Kensington.

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