A SELF-made millionaire spent 20 years renovating a luxury 500-acre country estate then married a farmer's daughter next door - in a real-life 'To The Manor Born' love story.

Wealthy Chris Vincent, 69, bought the sprawling Orchardleigh Estate near Frome, complete with golf course, manor house and even an on-site castle, in 1999.

Chris, who started his career selling logs for £4.50 a ton in the 1960s, worked on the 'derelict' site for years, and it now boasts a 500-acre estate including his Rolls-Royce, Bentley and even an airstrip - for his helicopter.

But to top it off he has now married Heather White - whose family spent years living as tenant farmers on land at Orchardleigh Estate.

Their love story has echoes of hit 80s BBC sitcom 'To The Manor Born' - where self made millionaire Peter Bowles moves into a massive estate, also in Somerset, and filmed at Cricket St Thomas.

He then marries Penelope Keith as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton who has historic links to the country pile.

Heather, 54, has now moved into the home that always shadowed her families'.

Chris said: "Heather has as much right to Orchardleigh as I've got - probably more."

Heather spent her childhood in the grounds of the estate in Frome, where she married Chris on August 19.

Heather's father, Norman White, was a tenant of one of the estate's farmhouses for 45 years, when Orchardleigh was owned by the wealthy Duckworth family.

Heather was christened in the church which is still part of the estate, and still to this day owns her late father's former farmhouse, Brookover Farm, the land which used to be part of Orchardleigh.

She now manages a B&B and equestrian school at Brookover Farm, which her father bought after Arthur Duckworth's four children sold Orchardleigh Estate in 1988.

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HOME: Brookover Farm was Heather's childhood home

And mum-of-two Heather said: "I'm absolutely blown away to be living at Orchardleigh.

"This has always been a most wonderful house. I've known it all my life. I know every wet spot, damp spot, crack and cranny of the estate.

"I could never have imagined I would be living here, and even more unimaginable to be living with the man of my dreams.

"To have the two things together is just amazing. We're just in awe of being here and living here together."

The couple met four years ago at a party - and said it was "love at first sight".

Chris, a grandfather-of-three, said: "It's a beautiful relationship. We're very compatible. We've never had a cross word, and I don't think we ever would.

"We often say we've got what everyone is looking for."

And Heather added: "I can remember on the first official evening that Chris and I had together, we'd had a lovely dinner at a nice restaurant, and I just knew then that I'd found the man of my dreams.

"It was lovely. I knew in the first week of us being together that I'd love to be by the side of this man for the rest of my life - married or not."

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BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE: Orchardleigh House

But for Heather, falling in love and marrying Chris has been doubly special - as she has seen him bring back to life the country house she knew so well growing up.

When Chris, originally from Romsey, Hants, bought the now-grand Orchardleigh House in 1999, it was "absolutely derelict", and was on the English Heritage 'At Risk' register.

Heather, who grew up in a farmhouse on the estate's then-300 acres, said: "It was awful to see its decline after it was so well cared for by the Duckworth family.

"Arthur Duckworth, who was the last Duckworth to live here, was such a traditional gentleman, and never wanted anything touched.

"He kept everything exactly as his father had it, and his father before him - right down to all the trees.

"He died in 1986, and his four children sold off the estate, and it began to fall into disrepair.

"It was very sad. A lot of the locals here have known Orchardleigh for so long, and loved the place, and there was nothing we could do about it.

"It was just falling apart before our eyes."

Heather added that the house was built in 1856 and took just two years to build, at a cost of £12,000.

But Chris said he has "no clue" how much he has spent on the place over the last 20 years of renovations.

Chris purchased Orchardleigh in 1999, having previously worked as an airline pilot for ten years, and then run two farms over a 23-year period - an 81-acre farm in Salisbury, Wilts., followed by a 340-acre farm in Andover, Hants.

He began renovating Orchardleigh estate in 2001, and opened the hotel there in 2003, whilst renovations were still ongoing.

He said: "We opened in 2003 with only eight rooms completed, on the ground floor.

"We just sectioned off parts of the house and carried on working while we had guests in. It was all fine."

READ MORE: Somerset TV manor marks 40 years since To The Manor Born

Chris also spent two years just getting the grounds back to their original state - after all the paths were planted over with grass in the early 1990s to try and turn the estate into a championship golf course.

"It would have been the Gleneagles of the south," he said.

"The paths disappeared. It was just grass. It seems so obvious now where to put them, but it's not when it's all grass.

"Part of the Agatha Christie film 4:50 From Paddington was filmed here, and we had to watch that film over and over again to work out where to put the paths."

And then 1987 Agatha Christie TV film is not the only thing to have been filmed at Orchardleigh.

Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne visited the estate for the 2008 TV mini-series of Tess Of The D'Urbervilles.

And Brendon Gleeson portrayed World War II Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Orchardleigh for the filming of 2008 historical drama, Into The Storm.

The estate now boasts 90 rooms, with 42 in the main house, and others in the castle, the boathouse, and 20 cottages in a mini-village next to the main house.

Chris and Heather keep 80 members of staff, including six groundsmen.

And last year, Chris popped the question to Heather - on the plot of land that used to belong to Heather's farm.

Heather said: "We always have a lovely big New Year's Eve party here, in the orangery.

"Last year, just as the fireworks were about to start, Chris said, let's go up on the top down and watch the fireworks from there.

"It was a lovely clear night and it was very romantic and lo and behold, he asked me to marry him. I definitely accepted - he's the love of my life."

She added: "The view from up on that spot is lovely.

"I can remember in the first week of Chris and I being together, we went up there at sunset, and I said to him that dreams may fade, but fairytales last forever - and this is our fairytale.

"Chris is just such a generous person, especially with all his staff. He's not just somebody who runs a wedding venue, he is a really good man.

"If anybody wants anything, or any advice, he's always there. And that's why all the staff have been here for the last 20 years.

"That's what makes Orchardleigh so special, the sense of family.

"And that's why we love doing the wedding show-round," Heather said.

"The couple are not just a Mr and Mrs getting married - they are very special people and they have chosen this very special place to unite together."

Chris added: "Orchardleigh has given me the best 20 years of my life. To see this house, which was so sad, come back to life, has been amazing."

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