- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 2, 2009

LONDON (AP) - Sir Sacheverell Reresby Sitwell, who restored the stately home of his famously eccentric family to its former glory, has died at age 81.

Sitwell died in a London hospital on Tuesday following a short illness, his family said.

He had been in poor health since suffering a stroke in 2005, Robert Innes-Smith, a longtime friend, told the Derbyshire Evening Telegraph.

In 1965, Reresby Sitwell inherited Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire, the family seat since 1625.

At the time, the rambling three-story, battlemented house near Chesterfield had neither central heating nor electricity, and Sitwell and his wife Penelope were said to retreat to the warmth of their car after breakfast.

The couple restored the house as well as the Italianate garden laid out by his grandfather in 1895. The garden’s attractions now include the National Collection of Yuccas, the succulent genus native to the southwestern United States. Renishaw also boasts a vineyard, planted in 1972, which until 1986 was certified as the most northerly in the world.

“His greatest legacy would be the revival of Renishaw Hall, where he resurrected the estate to the former glories of the Georgian era,” said Timothy Morgan Owen, who supervises exhibitions at the house.

Sitwell was the elder son of Sacheverell Sitwell, who with his brother Osbert and sister Edith were famed for their literary talent and their quirks.

The trio’s oddity no doubt was influenced by their father, George _ Reresby’s grandfather _ who delighted in telling guests: “I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me or differ from me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of my gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”

George Sitwell dined alone, in full evening dress, exclusively on a diet of roast chicken; he invented a revolver for shooting wasps, and wrote a book on “The History of the Fork.”

Despite his undistinguished achievements at Eton, Reresby Sitwell won a scholarship to study medieval history at King’s College, Cambridge. He soon changed his field of study economics, then modern languages, then English literature and left without a degree.

He met his future wife when both were working in the antiques department of Fortnum & Mason in London.

They married in 1952 despite the opposition of Sitwell’s mother, Georgia, who discouraged friends from sending wedding presents or inviting the couple into their homes.

Reresby Sitwell’s interests included his collection of odd memorabilia from World War II, put on display at Renishaw two years ago. It included Field Marshal Montgomery’s pajamas, Benito Mussolini’s cigarette case, Adolf Hitler’s pocket diary and Eva Braun’s nightdress, embroidered with tiny swastikas.

Sitwell is survived by his wife and their daughter, Alexandra.

A funeral service was planned for April 20 at St. Peter and St. Paul Parish Church, in Eckington, near Renishaw Hall.

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