House & Garden | Wry Society

The downstairs loo

For one banker, the ‘smallest room’ is also the most important in the house – but will his work on the refurb go down the pan?

May 10 2011
Adam Edwards

Three Mile Farm was a wreck when it was bought by banker Robin Wadham and his wife Lotte. It had not been touched for the best part of 30 years and it needed to be gutted, extended, reroofed, rebuilt and reinvented.

Robin was the unpaid project manager for the makeover of the building’s exterior, while Lotte was the brains behind the interior. It was she who created the huge farmhouse kitchen with a pair of armchairs, a dining table that could seat 18 and a large open fire.

It was her idea to turn the old pantry into a walk-in fridge and the adjacent barn into a children’s den. Robin was barred from the interiors loop. However, he was allowed a voice on two small matters – a walk-in drinks cabinet and the downstairs loo.

Robin and Lotte’s London home had a tiny drawing room with a small drinks tray that the financier dryly observed was too small to refresh a cocktail party for one. Booze needed space. It needed its own racks, fridge and shelves of mixers encased in, at the very least, a stand-up closet. But even more important was the matter of the downstairs lavatory, which Robin thought should be a “throne room”. Ablution was part of its function, but it was also a retreat for the contemplation of life, a place for a little light reading plus four walls to house amusing nostalgia and all the awards that he was far too modest to display elsewhere.

For Three Mile Farm, Robin had sourced from the local reclamation yard a porcelain toilet with a clear glass cistern that had been retrieved from the Connaught Hotel during its £70m makeover a couple of years ago. The toilet bowl was housed in a bespoke mahogany box that was fed by polished brass pipes from the old-fashioned, head-height transparent cistern, which had been adapted especially so that Robin could keep a pair of goldfish in it. About 10 years ago, he’d been captivated by the live goldfish in the cisterns in the loos at a restaurant in Devon, and he also knew of a chichi couple in Kensington who had the same.

Robin’s fish – which he named Jagger and Richards – seemed content enough, though whenever the chain was pulled and the water drained, they temporarily stared death in the face. However, as he (wrongly) thought it had been proven that fish only had a 15-second memory, he assumed his didn’t fear a flushing.

On the wall behind the loo hung Robin’s Harrow School photograph, the one in which his chum David Satchell had sprinted along the back of the 600 or so pupils, while the camera was panning along the front, thereby managing to appear in the final picture twice. And below that was the photo of Robin in bat and pads fronting Elmfield House Cricket XI, of which he had been vice-captain.

On the wall to the right (when sitting on the loo) was a One Inch to the Mile Ordnance Survey map with Three Mile Farm at its centre and the 25-acre estate outlined in black. Opposite were several framed snaps of Lotte, mostly taken during her brief modelling career for the Boden catalogue, plus a large collage of cutout photographs of the Wadhams and their many chums skiing and drinking at Verbier, swimming and drinking in Corfu and playing the fool and drinking at various birthday parties. Other knick-knacks included back copies of The Week and Tatler and a small bookshelf with an old Schott’s Miscellany, The Best of Matt, The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill and 101 Uses for a Useless Banker. There was Jo Malone soap and a spray bottle of Floris Jasmine and Rose room fragrance on the marble shelf behind the basin.

And it was to this luxurious small room that an inebriated David Satchell repaired during the Wadhams’ “restored-house-warming” party and who pulled the loo chain so hard that the lever stuck down and the cistern refused to refill. Seeing the fish in peril, Satchell made a beeline for the drinks cabinet, grabbed a couple of bottles of water from a dark shelf and poured them into the cistern.

“How was I supposed to know eau de vie was alcoholic?”, he complained to his irate host the next morning after being informed that Jagger and Richards, in true rock’n’roll style, were now floating in their own mini swimming pool, stone dead from toxic poisoning.