We celebrated with a take-away on the family silver: The illegitimate son of an aristocrat who inherited his £50million stately home tells how it feels to find yourself Lord of the Manor, and shares his thoughts about the father he never got to know
The dinner party held in Penrose Manor’s imposing dining room one evening in March this year was undoubtedly like no other the grand old ancestral pile had seen before. White tie and evening dress were definitely not required.
The new squire, Jordan Adlard Rogers, 31, preferred a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, while his pregnant girlfriend Katie — who was due to give birth to his heir the following month — squeezed herself into a comfortable maternity frock.
Dinner came courtesy of the Chinese takeaway.
Tin foil boxes littered the grand, 20ft varnished dining table and there was no seating plan for the 18 assembled guests.
Jordan and Katie couldn’t help sharing a wry smile as everyone sat down and started tucking in, forking noodles and dumplings onto porcelain plates with silver cutlery, all bearing the Rogers family crest.
‘For the first time ever, we didn’t have to scramble around to find extra chairs and no one had to sit on the floor,’ Jordan laughs.
The dinner party was to celebrate an incredible turn of fortunes for Jordan, the new incumbent of the £50 million, 1,536-acre estate near Helston, Cornwall.
He inherited the estate after the presiding Lord of the Manor, Charles — who’d had a fling with his mother in the past — died without an heir and a posthumous DNA test revealed him to be Jordan’s father.
The former care worker and delivery van driver’s move to the Grade II listed building dating back to the 18th century, could not have been a more stark contrast to the life he had always known.
He was raised in impoverished and often chaotic circumstances by his free-spirited single mother.
He even spent five years living with a traveller community, was denied a basic education and lived without proper sanitation as a series of frequently violent father-figures flitted through his life.
He had suspected for years that Charles Rogers, a 62-year-old drug addict, and last in line of an illustrious family, was his natural father — his mother Julie Adlard had confessed all when he was ten.
But attempts to get his suspicions confirmed had been thwarted. Then a phone call last August from the Penrose estate manager, Philip Care, took this story down a very different path.
It would ultimately lead to a dramatic race against time to secure a DNA sample from his father’s body and legal wrangles with distant cousins, who knew nothing of his existence, and who would have expected to inherit.
At first, Jordan felt too paralysed to act. ‘I didn’t want to rush to do anything. It seemed disrespectful.
But Philip stressed I had to move urgently. He also had power of attorney for my nan Angela and felt it was in her interests, too, for it to be clarified who was the rightful heir — even if she was too ill to understand the implications.
‘I knew I needed to do it for me and for my baby who had a right to know his family.’
Philip Care offered to approach Charles’s cousins for permission to take DNA from the dead man’s body. It was a delicate business.
Shocked, but with extraordinary good grace, the two sisters who, as Charles’s cousins through his father’s side, were next in line, agreed.
Sally Shaw, 60, a privately educated medical secretary, and mother-of-two Julie Baines, 57, an NHS manager, both live in Watford with their families.
Julie explains: ‘Sally and I were stunned. But once we talked to Philip and learnt of Jordan’s long standing claim and that Charles had once agreed to give DNA but it had just never happened, we agreed.
‘We weren’t going to stand in the way of a rightful heir.’
However, Angela’s other relatives saw things slightly differently and another cousin withheld permission. ‘I understood their reasons and don’t bear any grudge but it was gutting,’ says Jordan, who hopes that all sides of the family will be close from now on.
‘Worst of all, they said they wanted their cousin — my dad — to be cremated as quickly as possible.’
With the clock ticking, Philip could do no more. So Jordan found himself ringing an array of local solicitors for advice on how to proceed. No one could help. Finally, he turned to the internet.
He discovered he could apply for a Parental Declaration to get permission to take a sample from Charles’s body. ‘I was so stressed I couldn’t sleep,’ he says.
‘I was working double shifts. I wanted to concentrate on Katie and the pregnancy but all I could think about was the tests.’
And then — almost two weeks after Charles died — his mother, Angela (Jordan’s paternal grandmother) also died, aged 92.
Her relatives demanded that both mother and son should be cremated urgently. ‘Philip rang to tell me they had even set a date for the cremation,’ Jordan recalls. ‘My last chance of discovering the truth was slipping away.’
With just days to spare, a sample was taken. Four days later, in late September, the sampling company rang with the news Jordan had waited over 20 years to hear.
‘The sample proved 100 per cent I was Charles’s son,’ he says.
‘It was such a relief but also incredibly sad,’ says Jordan. ‘I had gained and lost my dad and my nan.’
And so it was that Jordan finally walked through the door of his new home with Philip.
To say it was a far cry from the three bedroom semi he and Katie, 30, had been renting in Porthleven while saving for their ‘dream home’ — a £200,000 two bedroom new build — would be a huge understatement.
‘I wandered around in a daze,’ he says. ‘It was mindblowing.’
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He recalls seeing the pair of imposing Game of Thrones-style dark wood chairs in the flagged entrance lobby.
The sets of antlers above the deep set stone fireplace in one of the three drawing rooms. The portraits of each of his 17 ancestors hanging in the dining room . . .
But all these emotions paled into insignificance when he saw a portrait of his father as a young man. ‘It was upsetting,’ he says quietly. ‘I looked at that and thought: “Dad, how could you not have seen I’m your son?” ’
However, maybe partly because of the deeply troubling scenes that occurred during his childhood, Jordan is determined not to look back or feel any bitterness towards the family who rejected him.
He insisted on being pall bearer at both his grandmother’s church funeral and his father’s cremation held on the same day last October.
‘It was painful — I felt I was losing part of my family all over again,’ says Jordan. ‘But I was brought up to be tough, so I didn’t cry until afterwards.’
It was at the wake — held in a local hotel — that Jordan met his relatives for the first time. He is quick to stress that the meeting was largely friendly. Julie Baines happily confirms this.
‘Jordan is a terrific guy who will make a success of his new home,’ she says. ‘He’s caring and hardworking and had been saving hard to try to make something of himself before all this happened.’
Julie and her sister were so delighted to meet Jordan they promptly invited him to spend the weekend with them in Watford. ‘Sadly we could only offer him rather reduced circumstances,’ jokes Julie of her four-bedroom £825,000 home.
Sally and Julie are thrilled to have been invited to be godmothers to Jordan’s son Joshua.
Penrose Manor was donated to the National Trust by Jordan’s grandparents in exchange for a 1,000-year lease for the family to live there. He and Katie moved in in March and Jordan receives a trust fund of about £100,000 a year.
‘At first it was simply overwhelming,’ admits Katie. ‘It felt like walking around a museum. But we are making gradual changes. I insisted Jordan decorate one of the bedrooms as a nursery for Joshua in modern greys and blues. And we’re updating the kitchen. It doesn’t even have a dishwasher.’
As well as the 65in TV they brought with them (now installed in the games room Jordan has created), the few items of Ikea-style furniture they moved in with look incongruous among the heavily polished chests and sideboards.
Still, Jordan is adamant he won’t make too many changes. He has sold a small selection of furniture and paintings — netting £90,000 and, instead of old Victorian landscapes, the walls are now alive with happy family photos and ‘Congratulations’ cards.
And, naturally, he is planning to have his portrait painted to hang beside those of his ancestors.
Poignantly, as he gradually works through his new found possessions, Jordan is discovering details of the family he never knew. His grandmother, as he has discovered, was passionate about jigsaws. Several completed puzzles scatter the drawing room.
‘I’m framing them,’ he says firmly. ‘They are a link with her. Her hands touched them. It’s the closest I’m going to get to her, so it just has to be enough.’
There are photos of his father as a child and letters from him sent from Northern Ireland.
‘He talks about the Troubles kicking off. He sounds scared,’ says Jordan. He was also thrilled to discover Charles’s childhood telescope and learn from photos and letters of his passion for motorbikes and the rock band Jethro Tull.
Struggling for the right words, he says: ‘The whole house is a treasure trove — and I don’t mean on a monetary level. The door I’ve been kicking against for so long has been thrown open.
‘I love this house and feel totally connected to my family. I want to be able to tell Joshua about his family and show him the things that belonged to his grandfather.’
However hard his upbringing may have been, Jordan remains devoted to his mum Julie Adlard, 51, who lives nearby, and half sister, Queenie, 24. ‘Mum and all my other relatives visit us a lot. They were bewildered at first by the surroundings but they are getting used to it now,’ he says.
‘The first time Mum came to the house she cried. She said she felt so guilty that she hadn’t done more to ensure I was recognised by my father earlier.’
So what next for Jordan? Well, he gave up his job in March. He freely admits that he never needs to work again. However, he is wary of letting his unexpected inheritance go to his head.
‘I’m grateful I’ve got Joshua and Katie to think about. If I’d been younger and single, things could have got out of hand.’
He plans to return to work one or two days a week and is still in touch with the two men he looked after as a carer. He hopes to use his salary from the estate to set up a small charity to help disadvantaged locals. ‘I know what it’s like to grow up with very little,’ he says. ‘Things like funding gym sessions for unemployed lads would make a big difference.’
Most of all he is delighted that his windfall takes the pressure off the need to work the punishing double shifts he endured.
‘I want to spend time with Joshua and do all the dad stuff — playing football and fishing which no one ever did with me. He’ll be the kid who’s sick of the sight of his dad!’
Katie, who plans to return to her job as a radiographer in Treliske Hospital when her 12-month maternity leave expires, would like more children. ‘This house cries out for a big family,’ she laughs.
Even without the terrible hand fate dealt him in childhood, no one could begrudge Jordan his new found happiness. The only sadness is that his father never took the chance to love his son. He would have been so proud.
Additional reporting: BARBARA DAVIES