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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 July, 2004, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
War poet's birthplace up for sale
The house is said to be haunted by the ghost of the poet's mother
The birthplace of one of Kent's most famous poets, Siegfried Sassoon, is up for sale.

Weirleigh, a neo-gothic mansion on the outskirts of the village of Matfield, is on the market for 800,000.

The war poet was born there in 1886 and lived and wrote in the house after returning from service in World War I.

Current owner Charles Wheeler said the poet's fans and biographers have visited during his 35 years at the address.

The tall, narrow house, built in 1866, has a staircase with 92 steps which featured in Sassoon's poetry, linked to memories of childhood.

'Unmitigated hell'

In one poem, he describes creeping down the staircase on tiptoe, before escaping into the garden to see the dawn.

He became a critic of the war and what he called the unmitigated hell of the spring offensive, but he also wrote about his rural upbringing and the house itself, which he described as "the background to all his dreams".

Mr Wheeler said: "It was certainly a very important aspect of his life.

The staircase - with 92 steps - features in Sassoon's work

"The people that have written biographies of him have stressed how important it was - they spent a lot of time here getting the atmosphere."

His wife Lisbet Wheeler has quashed local stories that the house is haunted by the ghost of the poet's mother.

She said: "Mrs Sassoon had eczema. She excluded everybody and people were intrigued.

"She had cream to put on her skin and people saw her white face when she grew old."

During the years in the house, the Wheelers have kept a white African mask at one of the windows to perpetuate the legend.



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