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As I approach this tall and handsome period house, a man both tall and handsome – and undoubtedly used to roles in period films, ushers me in. Even for Wimbledon Village, a place boasting its fair share of celebrities, James Fox has presence.
But it may be an aura the area will have to do without. ‘Don’t forget I’ve lived here for 34 years,’ James exclaims. ‘It’s a flipping long time!’ He arrived in south-west London after a spell in Leeds working as a Christian social worker to get away from acting after the film Performance (1970). ‘I’m not pretending it’s easy to leave, though. All my children grew up here. Our roots are deep and it’s never easy to tear them up.’
The fact that some of those roots have upped-and-offed of their own volition to other parts of the kingdom is half the reason James wants to move on. ‘Some of the family have gone south-east, you see.’ I nod in agreement, and bring up the merits of seaside life. ‘No, south-east London!’ he corrects me, with a laugh, adding: ‘East Dulwich to be precise.’
He’s not leaving the house in the same way he found it, however. Cataloguing the changes, he includes a kitchen extension, an en-suite addition, new shower rooms and an improved garden, among other things. ‘There have been many modifications to the house. There haven’t been quite so many to Wimbledon, though,’ James smiles. He is, of course, referring to the fact that much of the land the house sits on is part of a conservation area. ‘I think it has protected our skyline and kept much of the natural beauty in the area unspoilt, which is marvellous,’ he continues.
‘Although we are in this fantastic village, it only takes me 15 minutes to get into central London when a film beckons,’ he informs me, clearly pleased with his soon-to-be-ex home’s proximity to the capital. I ask what projects he’s working on these days. ‘Two are coming out soon.’ He speeds up excitedly. ‘First, Emma Thompson’s Effie – it’s about a love triangle between the artists John Ruskin, John Everett Millais and Effie Gray – I play Sir Charles Eastlake. The second, again historical, is called 1864 and I play Britain’s foreign secretary Lord Palmerston. It’s a drama about how Denmark lost Schleswig-Holstein to Germany in that year.’
I reflect on how his living room must have seen some very fine soliloquies. ‘Oh yes,’ he answers. ‘I love the atmosphere of the house. It’s such a welcoming space; it feels cosy when there’s just two of you but can accommodate great crowds of people, too.
‘Talking of crowds of people, the area has a great variety of communities. There’s the golf crowd, the Kings College School alumni, the tennis lot. There is so much going on.’
I touch upon James’ faith but he explains that he doesn’t attend a church in the area. ‘I’m not trying to separate myself from the body of the Church; it’s just that we do our own thing with our friends. Instead of getting in with the Sunday school crowd, my kids had to grow up with mad thespian sorts coming in and out’.
But now he’s the one going out, and he’s not coming back. And he knew instinctively who to reach for when it came to facilitating such a huge move. ‘I was only acquainted with Robert Holmes slightly socially, but everybody knows that the local knowledge of him and his team is second-to-none. He loves the place, doesn’t he? He’s so involved! His was the only agency I ever considered.’ n
£3,800,000 freehold. For viewings, contact Robert Holmes & Co, Willow House, 35 High Street, Wimbledon Village, SW19 5BY, 020 8947 9833