ECCENTRIC Somerset aristocrat Sir Benjamin Slade has offered his stately home outside Taunton up as a test centre for Covid-19.

Sir Benjamin made the offer after the venue, which hosts weddings, exhibitions and other event, saw mass cancellations amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Now, he has written to the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to offer Woodlands Castle in Ruishton, set in 12 acres with “good parking”, to become a national test centre for Covid-19.

“Woodlands Castle has had all of its bookings cancelled and is therefore empty,” he wrote.

“I would like to offer it to the authorities as an HQ for where they could do testing for the Covid-19 virus or for emergency coordination teams.

"We have a very good pavilion of approx 4,000 sq ft, which would be good for training, and the place could be run by doctors who have been tested and are virus-free. Alternatively, it could be sanitised by doctors, sealed and could become an emergency hospital.”

This is The West Country:

COUNTRY HOUSE: Woodlands Castle at Ruishton, outside Taunton

Sir Ben has also written to the secretary of his St James’s club in the hope that London-based members might take up his invitation to relocate their clubland lifestyle to another of his properties, Maunsel House, near Bridgwater.

“Everyone I know is getting out of London,” Sir Ben added.

“I am hoping to find some similar, like-minded people who can come and stay for a minimal amount.

"I’m looking for people who enjoy bridge, ballroom dancing, walking around the gardens and lakes, and enjoy fine wine and good food.”