TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular peer whose family home became known to millions of TV viewers across the UK.

Lord Normanton, who has died aged 73, was just 23 when he inherited the 7,000-acre Somerley Estate, near Ringwood, following his father’s death in 1967.

Faced with annual running costs of about £1.5m he embarked on a quest to raise the estate’s profile and thus improve its finances.

Somerley began to host commercial events and was also used as a location by TV production companies.

Historic Somerley House appeared in the Hamble-based series Howard’s Way and became Gossington Hall in an adaptation of the Miss Marple mystery The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, starring Joan Hickson as Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth.

It also featured in the 2004 BBC documentary series Country House, which showed Lord Normanton’s day-to-day duties.

The estate has also hosted music festivals, charity events and the annual Ellingham Show.

Show chairman Stephen Thompson said: “Lord Normanton will be greatly missed by everybody who has ever been involved in our event. With his old-fashioned charm he personified the gentleness and warmth of a great gentleman.”

Lord Normanton entered the world of powerboat racing in the 1960s and was almost killed in a crash in 1970.

He suffered severe injuries and was paralysed for two months but battled his way back to health, returning to the sport and later becoming the first chairman of the British Powerboat Racing Club after its inception in 2001.

The Eton-educated former Household Cavalry officer was married three times.

He and his first wife Victoria were divorced in 2000 after 30 years of marriage and his second wife Rosalind died of cancer aged 56 in 2011. Most recently he married Diana de Uphaugh after getting engaged in 2016.

In 2007 the peer passed control of the estate to his son and heir, Viscount Somerton.