They talk, in passing about some of the famous people in history who have been to their home in the way others might talk about Aunt Ethel and Uncle George’s last visit.
‘Elisabeth I was here,’ says Robin Gibb. ‘So was Henry VIII. George III had some exiles from the French Revolution stay here, about 50 of them, and
The list goes on and on.
The £4 million medieval property set in 20 lush and leafy acres on the edge of Thame, in Oxfordshire, and the former home of the last member of the Rolls Royce family, is that sort of place.
It comes complete with its own chapel, refectory and heated swimming pool.
The property, which the Gibbs share with their 10-year-old son Robin-John, Robin’s assistant ( Dwina’s cousin): Ken, their macrobiotic chef and a gardener, was built in the 13th. century by the great English theologian Robert Grosseteste.
For 500 years The Prebendal , as it is called, maintained a strictly ecclesiastical role.
It was here that priests trained to become bishops.
Robin and Dwina have spent a great deal of time and money putting back what previous owners have taken out.
It was here, nine years ago, that the millionaire Bee Gees rock star and Irish artist-writer Dwina Murphy made a home together.
They had been together on and off for four years, they had had a son together and they had no marriage plans.
When they met, Robin who has two children from his first marriage, Spencer and Melissa, was going through a painful divorce, while Dwina, one of three children from a deeply religious Protestant Northern Irish family, had been living in London as an artist and beanbag manufacturer.
Marriage had never seemed an obvious option for her.
Robin and Dwina
But then she’s not your obvious rock star’s wife.
She is a accomplished artist whose pen-and-ink drawings based on mythological themes are much sought after.
She is also a talented writer whose novels are best sellers: the second part of her Irish trilogy: Cormac, The King Making, will be published by Pan in January.
She is a lifelong devotee of all things mystical, magical and spiritual who last year became Patroness of the ancient religious order of the Druids.
‘I know I am not what people expect of a pop star’s wife, ‘ she says, ‘but then I have never been a conformist.’
‘Neither have I’, adds Robin, the 43-year old twin of Bee Gee Maurice and older brother of Barry.
( Fourth brother Andy, beset with drugs problems, died in 1988).
The couple finally got married on July 31st, 1985, on the eve of Lughnased – a Druid festival and the turning point of the year.
Dwina, 40, begins to tell the story of how they met.
She recalls coming home from school and seeing the Bee Gees on television.
Her sister said: ‘If you could marry one of them which would you choose?’
She says: ‘I remember looking in the mirror and thinking:
‘None of them would marry me.’
Robin and Dwina in the Coronation Room, where at one o`clock every morning there is the ghostly sound of a clock being wound up.
‘I watched them, and Robin would give a cheeky wink and a grin, and I remember thinking:
‘He’s the one who’s got the really good sense of humour.’
I said to my sister, ‘I’d have him because he’s cheeky-looking.’
It was many years later, in 1980, having forgotten her childhood tv ‘encounter’ with the shyest of the Gibb brothers – ‘my sister was the one who reminded me of it’ - when their paths eventually crossed.
It was straight out of the sort of slushy romances she doesn’t write: famous rock star’s marriage has broken up and needs a minder, someone to drive him around, and recruits a genial bear of a man called Ken Graydon.
The minder tells the rock star he’s meeting the cousin, and would the boss mind if he took time off?
The rock star says, ’maybe I’ll come with you.’
The attractive cousin, Dwina, has earlier given the minder some of her drawings that are lying in the huge yellow Rolls Royce.
The fabulously rich rock star sees them, likes them, and commissions some from her.
Two weeks later the artist and the rock star go house hunting together and fall in love.
They have a baby; they move into the haunted mansion, they get married.
Robin, whose latest Bee Gees album: Size Isn’t Everything, is rising in the charts, vividly remembers that first meeting with Dwina:
‘The day we met she told me her birthday was on December 22nd, which happens to be the same as mine.
What did you say I was – a warlock?’
‘Something like that .
I thought he was just playing around, giving me a chat-up line.
But it was true and, what’s more, it’s the date of the winter solstice.
With my interest in Druidism I thought that was a good omen`.
Until the Bee Gees walked into her life Dwina had always shied away from marriage.
But she liked the idea of having a child with Robin, having recognised his creative spirit, his gentleness, the poet in him.
She liked the fact that they had a shared love of history, mythology, old churches and ancient buildings.
Robin was captivated by the realisation that they were so similar: both were creative, argumentative, stubborn, incapable of holding grudges.
He saw a lot of himself in her.
For a while they lived together in Robin’s house in Barnes, Southwest London, but it wasn’t until 1984 that, with a one- year- old son in their life, they felt a need for some sort of commitment.
That was when fate took them to The Prebendal.
As Dwina remembers: `we came to the arches of the gatehouse and stepped into paradise.
It was just what we were looking for`.
What they were looking for was the sort of country pile, which would befit one of the world’s richest rock stars.
In a 25- year career the Bee Gees have written more than 1000 published songs and their albums sell in phenomenal numbers.
Their soundtrack album for the disco movie Saturday Night Fever sold in excess of 30 million and broke sales records word wide.
Dwina, Robin-John, Melissa and Robin sitting on a 13th-century chest in the refectory
The place had to possess the spiritual and historical undercurrents which both of them, especially Dwina, could plug into.
The Prebendal fitted the bill on all counts and so the Gibbs set to work on restoring it to its former glory.
They’ve scoured the country in their search for medieval doors and wood panelling and furnishings and even managed to find a suit of armour for the vast living room.
Dwina has hand painted the ceilings in delicate blue with gold stars, copied from Ryecote Chapel.
The estate’s chapel, too, has been transformed with great precision and devotion from a crumbling structure to a spiritual shrine.
`We had a lovely service here when Andy died`, Dwina recalls softly.
It all adds up to a very expensive undertaking, but it’s been worth it`, Robin enthuses.
`You don’t really own a property like this.
You’re merely custodians for the next generation.
But we love what we’re doing, love the ambience of the place and we even love the ghosts!`.
`When we first moved here`, explains Dwina, `the house wouldn’t accept anything new.
Washing machines would break down, televisions, video machines, telephone systems, they wouldn’t function properly.
An engineer from BT came out and said that it wasn’t us but the house`.
A piscine bowl in the prayer room periodically fills up with ice- cold water.
Dwina in the bedroom
`We just bless ourselves with it every time it appears`, grins Dwina.
At one o’clock every morning there is a sound of a clock being wound up in the Coronation Room, and from time to time John the gardener, who worked on the estate in the 1600s`, walks through the wall from the dining room into the living room.
`Ken’s seen hem`, says Robin.
`He’s always dressed in sackcloth`.
Adds Dwina: `a psychic woman from Wales, who’d never been here before and knew nothing of the history of the place, visited us one Christmas with some mutual friends.
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