The Watkins, a cash-strapped family from Luton, Bedfordshire, announced they are to follow in the footsteps of the aristocracy by throwing open their home to the paying public and offering guided tours.
‘My wife Belinda, who was recently made redundant, has always loved a good snoop around a stately home,’ explained Brian Watkins, ‘and now, just as many earls and barons have found that maintaining their traditional lifestyle has meant charging tourists to view their countryside manors and acres of manicured gardens, so are we offering unrivalled access to never before seen areas of our 1960s semi, to make sure the bailiffs don’t come around for the plasma.’
The whole Watkins house is to open to the public, with just a few delicate areas — such as Brian’s mother’s favourite chair that no-one else is allowed to sit on — cordoned off behind a velvet rope. The comprehensive guided tour will cover sights including the laundry-strewn home multi-gym, known as The Watkins Folly, and feature commentary on significant historical events linked to each room. A highlight is the legendary local story of the two weeks Brian spent sleeping on the fold-out bed on display in the spare room, following The Battle of ‘Do I still fit these trousers OK?’.
The family are also generating additional revenue through retail sales, and are selling souvenir pens and shopping bags from the collection in the kitchen drawer, while an early big-selling item has been the Watkins Heritage Artisan Jam at GBP4.95 a jar. ‘It’s just the stuff we get from Aldi, but we’ve stuck a coat of arms I downloaded off the internet on it’ admitted Brian, ‘oh, and if anyone asks, yes, it’s organic’.
The Watkins are confident that with many people holidaying at home in the UK this year, business will be brisk. Early bookings have been promising, with many of their neighbours pre-ordering their tickets online for the first opportunity to get a good look around the Watkins residence.
‘My wife is particularly interested in historic interiors, and she’s heard they’ve still got the same mouldy old bedroom carpet that the previous owner old Mr Smith had when he died in there,’ said neighbour Jim Bascombe, ‘Whereas I’m more interested in the tours of the gardens. Mainly to see if I can spot the hover mower I lent Brian six years ago.’