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Reymerston Hall, former home of British flying legend and James Bond stunt man Ken Wallis, goes up for auction

PUBLISHED: 14:35 24 July 2017 | UPDATED: 17:23 24 July 2017

Reymerston Hall. Photo: Supplied.

Reymerston Hall. Photo: Supplied.

Reymerston Hall, once the home of British flying legend and James Bond stunt man Wing Commander Ken Wallis, is to go under the hammer.

Wing Commander Ken Wallis taking off in one of his collection of autogyros at Reymerston. Photo: Bill Smith Wing Commander Ken Wallis taking off in one of his collection of autogyros at Reymerston. Photo: Bill Smith

The Georgian property, which is situated between Dereham and Hingham, was famously where he kept and flew his collection of autogyros, including Little Nellie, which he designed himself and flew in You Only Live Twice.

The legendary airman lived at Reymerston Hall for more than 60 years and continued to fly there until a year before his death aged 97.

“He was a fascinating man, with a lifelong interest in flying. He flew all around the world in various airshows and was famously Sean Connery’s stunt double in those well-known scenes in You Only Live Twice,” said auctioneer Bryan Baxter.

Wing Commander Ken Wallis's home at Reymerston Hall. Photo: Bill Smith Wing Commander Ken Wallis's home at Reymerston Hall. Photo: Bill Smith

The main seven-bedroom house and 11.5 acres of land have a guide price of £600,000 to £700,000 with Auction House.

A further 11.8 acres of agricultural land has a guide price of £60,000 to £80,000 and a three-acre piece of mature woodland makes a third lot at £10,000 to £20,000.

“There will be a sale of goods and chattels at a later date,” Mr Baxter said.

Wing Commander Ken Wallis. Photo: EDP Library Wing Commander Ken Wallis. Photo: EDP Library

Wing Cdr Wallis, who died in 2013, was born into the world of aviation. In the early 1900s, his father and uncle built a flying machine at their home in Cambridge, and the Walbro Monoplane, which flew in 1910, used technology well in advance of its contemporaries.

Despite poor sight in one eye, Wing Cdr Wallis gained his private pilot’s licence in 1937 without an eye test, and made his first solo flight in a de Havilland Gipsy Moth.

He was summoned to RAF Uxbridge at the outbreak of the Second World War, and started flying Westland Lysanders after cheating in an eye test.

Ken Wallis in his Bond invention, Little Nellie Ken Wallis in his Bond invention, Little Nellie

His wartime exploits include surviving mid-air explosions and crash landings, and completing 24 missions over northern Europe.

He then spent 20 years as a scientist and pilot working in armament and weapon research, examining and testing captured enemy equipment during the war.

After leaving the RAF in 1964, autogyros became his passion and he was credited with a key innovation which made them more reliable.

Between 1968 and 2002, Wing Cdr Wallis set 34 world records, including the 3km speed record for autogyros, which he set at 207.7kph.

He had never seen a James Bond film when he was asked to pilot the autogyro in You Only Live Twice and said it took 85 flights and 46 hours in the air to make just seven minutes of on-screen action.

Wing Cdr Wallis thought of the autogyro, which is able to hover without the pilot touching the controls, as a tool for crime investigations and search and rescues, and he scanned the Sussex Downs looking for Lord Lucan, and took part in a 1970 search for the Loch Ness monster.

He was also an inventor of some repute, creating a 16mm spy camera which could be worn as a wristwatch, miniature working pistols and the world’s first electric slot-car race track, pre-dating the earliest Scalextric by 15 years.

He received the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators’ Award of Honour and a Bomber Command medal and was made an MBE – and even features on the Reymerston village sign, which shows a carving of him in his flying machine in the sky.

“Reymerston Hall is believed to date back to the late 1700s,” said Mr Baxter. “It has been empty for four years and does require refurbishment and renovation to restore it to its former glory, but it could become a wonderful home again.

“Although we are marketing it as having seven bedrooms, it could easily be arranged with more as there are various dressing rooms and anterooms.”

There are four main reception rooms: a drawing room, dining room, study and billiards room. There are also self-contained staff quarters. Original doors, windows and a central staircase remain.

“In addition to the house, there is a substantial, two-storey brick and tile barn, as well as the hangar and workshop where the autogyros were kept and worked on,” he said. “The grounds are very mature but are in need of some attention.”

Mr Baxter said there has already been significant interest in the property and a lively auction is expected.

“It has been priced at a very competitive level,” he said. “This is a well-proportioned Georgian House, which is set in delightful rural surroundings that offer peace and quiet, privacy and seclusion, and, of course, its history as the home of Wing Cdr Wallis makes it all the more interesting.”

Reymerston Hall will go under the hammer at the auction taking place from 11am on Wednesday, August 18 at Dunston Hall Hotel near Norwich.

For more information call 01603 505100.

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