Today it is a venue for chic weddings, but the 12th century Notley Abbey, near Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire was once home to Britain’s most glamorous and enigmatic film couple.
Vivien Leigh, star of Gone With The Wind, and her husband, Laurence Olivier, had bought the Augustinian pile during the war, after a bombing raid on their home in the city. They stayed until 1960, when a Canadian couple made the cash-strapped Sir Laurence a favourable offer.
But this weekend, it has been eerily recreated, almost as they left it, by an antiquarian who snapped up around 40 items of furniture, fine art and personal effects passed down through the family and eventually auctioned.
Tony Haynes has built a film-like set to display the ephemera at the Northern Antiques Fair, which runs at Harrogate’s Convention Centre until Sunday.
The items will then return to the 18th century manor house in Oxfordshire that is his home.
Among them is a drawing in the style of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, made for Miss Leigh in 1953 by an artist friend, John Klimo, and the thank you note she sent him by return.
“How could you know that this is my favourite Lautrec poster?” she asked him. “I have a copy at home and have always thought what fun it would be if and when Sir Laurence and I go to a fancy dress Ball we should appear as these two characters.”
It is the first time the collection, valued at £350,000, has gone on public view, but despite the commercial nature of this weekend’s event, Mr Haynes says it is not for sale.
“I bought it to stop the items from being scattered across the world,” he said. “ I couldn’t bear to see them all split up.”
The collection masks the turbulence of the Oliviers’ relationship during their time at Notley.
“Vivien was a very different character from Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind,” Mr Haynes said. “All brilliant artists live on the edge.
“When she died, Laurence just sat there and watched her movies, and cried.”