For the past three weeks, around a dozen people have been living in Fife House, a six-bedroom property in the city's Regency Square, which was home to the sixth Duke of Devonshire from 1828 until 1858.
The £2 million property was designed by Thomas Cubitt and later refurbished in 1848 by the architects who worked on Brighton’s Royal Pavilion for the Prince Regent. It has variously been occupied by Princess Louise and her husband the Duke of Fife, and, in 1908, King Edward VII himself.
The assets of the building, such as its Portland stone staircase, two wine cellars and belvedere balcony are not lost on its new occupants. To prove their respect for its heritage, they have fixed a sign to the door stating: ‘We did not break anything when we entered and we have not damaged anything since.’
A Sussex Police spokesman said: ‘We have been alerted to the fact that there are squatters in this place, but we have not had cause to visit at the moment. Legal proceedings have to be undertaken by the property owners. It is a civil matter.’
Speaking of the squatters, a neighbour said they looked scruffy but were in fact very polite and well-spoken: ‘They seem like your typical middle-class dropouts. Their parents are probably doctors and architects.’