One of Sooke’s finest old homes – Deerlepe – has been all but destroyed by vandals who have broken the leaded glass windows, smashed walls, and plumbing fixtures, and spray painted every surface within the English-style country estate.
It’s a situation that has at least one neighbour angry and a previous tenant of the property wondering what sort of people would perpetrate such wanton, mindless damage on what was once a stately home.
The mansion was built in 1926 when Capt. P.W. de P. Taylor and his socialite wife Margaret made Sooke their home. It had 12 rooms (most with fireplaces), servants quarters (and a servant’s staircase), and an elevator.
Frédérique Philip, the owner of the Sooke Harbour House, told the Sooke News Mirror how her family had rented the home from 1995 to 1998 and how she still has fond memories of the rambling mansion.
“It was all very English with a lot of bedrooms, a separate staircase for the servants and beautiful woodwork,” recalled Philip.
“We put some electric heaters in to warm it up a little, but it was a very large, very nice house.”
At the time, the home was owned by the Manning family but was sold to film director John Lee Thompson and his wife Penny in 1998.
“We left there soon after, but we had so many good times in that house. It’s so sad to see what people have done to this wonderful home.”
Steve Christensen, who owns a home on an adjacent property walks his dogs through the Deerlepe grounds and is appalled at the mindless damage done to the house.
“There had been some damage done in the past, but it really has increased over the past year. I’ve chased people out of there and it’s not just kids. That’s what I can’t understand,” said Christensen. “Some of these guys are, like, 35. They know the difference between right and wrong. How bored do you have to be with your life to go into a house and destroy it for nothing?”
Although the property had been looked after by Sooke resident Pat Forest while it was owned by the Thompson family (who lived in California), the house and extensive, 30-acre oceanfront property was sold in 2008 to unknown off-shore buyers and has been unsupervised since.
“What people have done to the place since then is criminal. The police should be aware of this and do something,” he said.
Christensen said he’s certain police are aware of the situation as he’s seen them out “a hundred times” when people have called to complain, but nothing they’ve done seems to deter the vandals.
“Everyone knows that this is happening, and no one is doing anything about it,” he said.
The RCMP were unavailable for comment.
Staff from the Sooke News Mirror accompanied Philip to survey the house first hand.
Standing in the middle of what was once her daughter’s bedroom, Philips shook her head sadly as she examined the smashed windows and walls and the beer can strewn floor.
“This was a beautiful home. Why would anyone do this?” she asked.