An eccentric English aristocrat went searching for the heir to his 13th Century mansion in Somerset, someone who shares the same ancestor as him - it turns out the heir is an American, the leader singer of rock band The Fray......

The eccentric English aristocrat with no heir and the American rock star in line to inherit £7.5m mansion

By Luke Salkeld
31st May 2007
Daily Mail

One is a 60-year-old English aristocrat, complete with eccentricities and an echoing 13th century family mansion.

The other is a 26-year-old rock singer making his name in an up-and-coming American band.

But Baronet Sir Benjamin Slade and The Fray's frontman Isaac Slade could soon share more than a family name.

That's my boy: Sir Benjamin Slade with the Fray singer, American Isaac Slade, outside Maunsel House in Somerset. Sir Benjamin hopes Isaac will take on the Grade-II listed house

The young singer has emerged as the frontrunner to take over Maunsel House, the £7.5million family seat in Somerset, after Sir Benjamin's worldwide search for an heir.

Sir Benjamin, who has no children, has been desperate to leave his mansion in safe family hands after tiring of the responsibility (and expense) of running it.

With no interest from British relatives, he started looking for family members overseas, attracting 15,000 responses.

Shared ancestor: Sir Henry Slade and the family crest

Isaac Slade, born in Denver, Colorado, and understood to be a very distant relative, was among them.

Yesterday the singer visited Maunsel House with his 23-year-old wife Anna and described the Grade II listed estate as "absolutely out of this world".

He said: "When we drove up the driveway I just thought, 'Oh my God - this is amazing'. There's so much here and everything is beautiful - it is difficult to take it all in."

Maunsel House boasts nine bedrooms, a ballroom, library, bar and five reception rooms, and stands in 1,500 acres, with six cottages and three lakes.

Apart from Sir Benjamin and his partner, Kirsten Hughes, it is home to 430 cattle, 13 peacocks, four labradors and six pigs.

American rockers The Fray will be able to use the 13th Century Somerset mansion once their lead singer becomes its new owner

It also has a high-tech central heating system which costs £1,000 a month to run, holds around 25 weddings a year and is protected by strict English Heritage rules.

"I'm just over the moon to have found Isaac - what an exciting discovery," said Sir Benjamin. "Aside from the fact he's a mega star, he is a thoroughly great chap with so much going for him.

"He isn't your typical rocker. He doesn't do drugs, he dresses and speaks respectfully and, most importantly, he says he wants to start up a family - which is what this ghastly quiet place needs."

He added: "He and his wife are going to stay with us for two nights so they can get a feel for the place.

"We're pulling out all the stops - the champagne will flow all night. I want him to fall in love with my house so I can jump ship.'

Sir Benjamin has been desperate to get rid of the mansion because the upkeep is so costly.

His quest to find an heir led to a TV show called I'm Really A Royal, which was broadcast on the Discovery Channel last year.

He was swamped by applications from 15,000 apparent relatives declaring an interest in the property. But he is convinced Isaac Slade is the real thing.

Isaac said he first heard of the baronet's quest for an heir at the end of last year while on tour in Las Vegas and phoned him to discuss their shared roots.

The Slade family - motto "Fidax Et Audax" meaning "Faithful and Bold" - dates back to a William Slade in Devon in 1120.

In 1485, following the War of the Roses, many family members moved to Berkshire. Others braved the New World and Sir Benjamin claims to have around 5,000 relatives in the US.

His blossoming friendship with Isaac has seen Sir Benjamin watch The Fray in concert in London. The band is also due to play at the V Festival in August.

The title track from The Fray's debut album, How To Save A Life, sold over five million copies in the US. and reached number four in the British charts.

Although their exact relationship has yet to be fully established, it will be discussed over the next couple of days - as will the details of whether a handover actually takes place.

"The sheer volume of culture and heritage is pretty daunting for me," Isaac said.

"Over in the States if a building is from the 1840s they stick a plaque on it as if it is ancient.

I would love to live here but for now it's just great to see the house and grounds and spend some time with this crazy guy.

"We'd love to have a place over here now that the band is taking off in Europe. This would be perfect.

"I grew up on a ranch in a rural setting - my grandfather was a cowboy - there were always lots of horses and livestock, so I'm used to working outdoors and have an affinity with that way of life."

Last edited by Blackleaf; Jun 2nd, 2007 at 05:33 AM..