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Past Residents of the Royal Crescent

Charles Fabian Ware

The fuzz call on a rave up in the Royal Crescent

BY any standards it was a remarkable party. By Bath standards it was an incredible party. Police looked in twice as deafening pop music echoed throughout the Royal Crescent, of all places, in the early hours. A chunk of ceiling collapsed as people danced non stop on a first floor lit only by strobe lighting from Juicy Lucy and a pop group from New York.

Charles Ware, a 35 year old art teacher turned London property developer, invited his friends, and their friends, to an all night rave up at 10, Royal Crescent, which he owns. More than 500 turned up.

Mr Ware didn't bat an eyelid. He had laid on 600 glasses and wine by the case. He won't know how many bottles were drunk until he gets the bill. He thinks they got through more than 300. "It quietened down after 3.30 am," he said next day, "but quite a few people stayed on. There's a very scruffy bloke still kipping in my kitchen. 1 had to have breakfast around him."

Bath party goers including the trendier architects and solicitors were outnumbered by Mr Ware's London friends who came down in force. The scene was straight out of swinging King's Road, Chelsea. There was a man wearing hot pants and knee socks and another in an Oz trial T shirt. There was a girl dressed for some reason as a drum majorette, a lone Hell's angel, a lot of hippies and about 20 gatecrashers. In the attic a team of baby sitters sat with a team of babies.

There was no trouble. "The police called as a formality," said Mr Ware. "I'd notified them 1 was having a party and we did try to keep the noise down after their visits. They were quite happy about it." He tried to forestall complaints from neighbours by inviting them from all the other 29 houses in Royal Crescent. He had also removed the furniture and carpets. Apart from part of that ceiling the only damage was to quite a few of those 600 glasses. The party overflowed into the garden. "At dawn the garden looked like a scene from Fellini's Satyricon," said Mr Ware. "The sun was shining on a sea of broken crystal."

Mr Ware bought the house five years ago when he was a part time teacher at Bath Academy of Art and uses it for weekend visits. When he was doing it up he got a lot of fun out of rich American tourists who asked if they could see inside and gave him a tip. They thought he was a workman. July, 1971.

Charles Ware went bankrupt buying Georgian properties and the Theatre Royal but soon bounced back

The rise and fall of Charles Fabian Ware

N this season of goodwill to all men spare a thought for Charles Fabian Ware, the beguiling, Bohemian, amiable, enigmatic Walter Mitty of the property world who was well on the way to becoming a paper millionaire. He's broke.

He faces the possibility of bankruptcy. He needs a job. And the man who appeared to be buying up Bath is looking for a rented flat as the bank steps in to sell his house in Royal Crescent. "I owe more than 150,000," he said today.

Although fortune no longer smiles on him Mr Ware smiles on misfortune. He is philosophical, full of optimism and cheerfully adjusting his life style. Now it's Guinness instead of champagne and the Hat and Feather rather than the Hole in the Wall. "I'm making a living selling bits of our furniture and buying and selling old bangers," he said. His Mercedes was reclaimed and he now drives a 1964 Ford whose wheel bearings sound overdue for examination. His Chevrolet is up for sale. This month he was fined 200 for not licensing it. "The magistrates piled it on because they think I'm a rich property developer," he said.

The furnishings have been stripped from the Bath office he launched on a tide of champagne for his firm Parkway Designs. The financiers who put up the money for Battlefields another of his big local projects are due to sell the crumbling house and its 55 acres. The financiers sold off his Cleveland Hotel but are claiming interest outstanding on their loans, which explains his debts. This year Mr Ware sold his 75 per cent stake in Bath's Theatre Royal and another company took over his restoration scheme in Kingsmead Square.

What went wrong? Why didn't he get out of property in time? And why didn't he put some cash away for hard times?

"What went wrong," he says, "is simply that property values went down, interest rates went up and 1 have had virtually no money coming in for the last 18 months. 1 don't think any property developer believed that this situation could arise. We thought there would be a decline but nobody believed the whole structure would collapse. 1 could have sold out and become rich, but 1 get emotionally involved with my projects.

"I still believed 1 could do what 1 promised high quality restoration schemes in Bath. 1 am tot a classic businessman. 1 am a high flier, an entrepreneur with a passionate love of old buildings. My business instincts told me to move out but my creative interests overruled that. 1 did not put money away because 1 have always believed that a wrong thing in capitalism is the way

people can go bankrupt and still live in style. I would stress that 90 per cent of my debts are to banks. No widows and orphans are going to suffer".

Mr Ware believes in smiling through and if his head is in the clouds it is to look for the silver lining. He knows there are people in Bath who will derive a smug satisfaction from the news that the man who talked in thousands is penniless but he speaks as one who has found freedom and happiness. He's all set for a good Christmas even if he's not sure of a prosperous New Year.

"From being rich to being poor within 12 months means you have to be philosophical and make sure of enough bread and butter for the family," he says. 'I don't intend to be a second hand car salesman all my life."

December, 1974.

Charles Fabian Ware was soon back in business as a second hand car salesman.

Mr Ware builds up a new empire

CHARLES WARE, who went bankrupt cornering the property market in Bath, is now earning a living cornering the market in Morris Minors. Bulbous nose to bustle tail, there are 60 of them crammed on a site in Lower Bristol Road labelled the Morris Minor Centre. As an undischarged bankrupt the 41 year old former tycoon is not allowed to carry on a business. So he is employed as manager by a firm owned by Robin Buchanan and a London builders' merchant. His wife Bunny is a director.

"I'm very happy," says Mr Ware. "It's nice to be working at a level where one is not continuously worried about money." He was on the dole before getting a job with an open air second hand car business. "That's when 1 discovered a big demand for Morris Minors. They've come into their own because of inflation, the price of petrol and the fact that the Morris Minor was the most reliable car ever produced in England."

Mr Ware buys about five not so reliable models a week to add to the firm's stock. They can date from 1948, when production began, to 1971, when it finished. Many look as if they're on their way to the scrapyard rather than the showroom. "A customer picks one from the hideous heap and we restore it to the customer's requirements," he says. "It's a good investment. Every year these Morris Minors are appreciating in value more than any other car. We're buying in old bangers and turning them into cars, not tarted up bangers. We're trying to keep a tradition alive and buck the idea that any car under 1,000 is not worth bothering about."

He works on the cars himself, assisted by an old friend and two mechanics. How does it feel after wheeling, if not dealing, in property? "One is in the same sort of business," says Mr Ware. "Restoring Kingsmead Square is the same as restoring a Morris Minor. It's the same process of recycling and rebuilding. 1 have always enjoyed turning something that looks horrible into something that looks nice. 1 don't view this as a second hand car business because that has connotations that are totally unacceptable, just as 1 never regarded myself as a property developer."

He adds, "One is looking for a quiet life. When one goes bankrupt one takes a big knocking. Now my whole concern is to build up an efficient and friendly specialist car business on a small national scale." November, 1976.

By the following year Charles Ware owned the Morris Minor Centre, which became an international success.

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But what's going on at Fawlty Towers?

BATH'S Royal Crescent Hotel is up for sale again. Or is it? "In a way it is," says John Probyn, one of the three owners who bought the place two years ago, "And in a way it isn't." His comment is characteristic. He and his partners, Frank Mead and Mary Collier, display an eccentric charm and a taste for badinage from which guests are not immune.

Mrs Collier surprised one who said he was Australian by observing, "That's your bad luck." And Mr Mead disarms American visitors by telling them how much he dislikes American visitors while managing to make it sound like a compliment. It's one of the reasons that to some regulars the hotel is affectionately known as Bath's FawIty Towers.

Another funny thing is that strictly speaking, apart from residents, nobody can eat in its elegant restaurant unless they are members of the AA or RAC. This rare restriction was imposed by the city's planners to safeguard the Crescent from commercialism. And while residents could drink with their meals, AA and RAC members could not, until the owners obtained a restaurant licence in 1974.

In spite of this handicap, trade is said to have increased by 50 per cent since they bought the place from John Newman, who started it by combining two houses as a genteel guest house 25 years ago. So why are they selling if they are selling?

"Good question, old chap," says the enigmatic Dr Probyn, a retired GP with roguish eyes and handlebar moustache. "Hmmm," says Mr Mead, formerly in the motor trade, studying the ornate plasterwork of the ceiling as if for the first time. "Don't ask me," says Mrs Collier, who used to own an hotel in Rye. "I haven't a clue."

The hotel is in fact on the market at 150,000 through agents who say, "The hotel is still run very quietly to suit the present owners' convenience and the opportunity which their intended retirement now presents to continue its development and exploit its true potential will be evident on inspection."

Back to Dr Probyn. "We'll probably withdraw it," he says. "The decision to sell was not unanimous. It only happened because the wine flowed rather freely at dinner one night. It's all a bit of a joke, really." In the hotel business it's important to see the funny side.

February, 1977.

The threesome sold to John Tham. Spotting that evident opportunity to exploit its true potential he transformed it into a luxury hotel. 43

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Miss Amabel prepares to defend her front door

MY front door is not yellow," said Amabel Edmunda Wellesley Colley. "People who say it is a terrible colour are criticising a colour made by God. 1 mixed the paint myself and matched it with a real primrose."

She spoke out in defence of her front door in Royal Crescent and the window blinds she describes as daffodil, which Bath planners will this week order her to repaint and remove. In Miss Wellesley Colley, a not too distant relative of the Duke of Wellington, the planners may meet their Waterloo.

She has some secret tactics up her sleeve which could call their bluff The planners are relying on a 1968 law which says people must not alter the appearance of listed buildings such as Royal Crescent without permission.

Miss Wellesley Colley, who will appeal to the Minister for the Environment against the council's ruling, said, "I object to being hounded in my own property. 1 want blinds to protect my antique furniture and antique carpets from being ruined by the sun. As for the front door, for all we know it could have been primrose when the Royal Crescent was built. Besides, you have to have individual front doors or you might as well be living in a row of council houses."

She is prepared to ask Sir Edward Brown, Bath's MP, to raise the issue in the House of Commons and is looking up the addresses of the Ombudsman and the National Council for Civil Liberties. "We are the only country in the world that enjoys freedom for the individual and apparently there is some danger of losing it," she said.

But Miss Wellesley Colley, a devout Catholic and believer in missionary work in under developed countries, is not thinking of taking her fight to the House of Lords. "It would be quite wrong to squander thousands of pounds for the sake of a coat of paint when the money could be used to help people in the world who haven't even got a roof, let alone a front door," she said.

June, 1971.

Miss Wellesley Colley won her appeal, but it cost her several thousand pounds. Her front door at No 22 became one of the landmarks pointed out by tourist guides.