STEPHEN LEWIS finds out about the magpie Edwardian who restored a magnificent house in his own image.

Next time you go to Treasurer’s House, make sure you don’t move any of the furniture. Because if you do, you could find yourself being haunted by a vengeful ghost.

It will be nothing to do with the ghostly Roman legion said to march through the cellars. No, the phantom haunting you would be much more scary: the ghost of Frank Green, the irascible old eccentric whose gift to the National Trust this wonderful house was.

Walk around Treasurer’s House and you might notice, if you look carefully, that in certain rooms there are studs placed into the floor.

They were put there by Mr Green to mark exactly where each piece of furniture was to stand.

Once he had given the house to the National Trust in 1930, Mr Green moved to live at Dulverton, in Somerset. But he was determined Treasurer’s House would remain exactly as he had left it. Which is where the ghostly warning comes in.

On April 15, 1943, a decade after Mr Green had left Treasurer’s House, country house expert James Lees-Milne visited him in Somerset. He had come to talk about another house altogether, but talk soon turned to Treasurer’s.

There is a great account of what happened next in Mr Lees-Milne’s diaries.

“The old tyrant lay in a large four poster, wearing a striped dressing gown and a woollen night cap with a bobble on the end of a string,” Lees-Milne wrote. “The bobble bounced up and down his nose as he spoke. He … concentrated on the Treasurer’s House, York. Was he to understand that someone had dared, dared to shift the furniture in one of the rooms? Did I not realise that he had put studs in the floor to mark the precise spot where every single piece of furniture in the house was to stand? He looked me full in the eyes in an accusatory manner …’Mark my words,’ he went on. ‘I am an old man. I may not have very long to live. But I warn you that, if ever you so much as move one chair leg again, I will haunt you till your dying day.’”

It does make Mr Green sound a bit scary, almost like Ebenezer Scrooge, laughs Lisa Holden, the visitor services manager at Treasurer’s House. But she doesn’t believe he was, really. He was eccentric, certainly. Fussy, undoubtedly. And bad tempered, quite possibly. He also clearly liked to have his own way. But he could be generous too.

When he moved down to Somerset, for example, he left his Rolls Royce to his chauffeur, Mr Harvey – who operated it as York’s first black cab. Then there was that remarkable gift of Treasurer’s House itself, to the National Trust… In many ways, Lisa says, the story of Treasurer’s House, at least in its modern incarnation, is the story of Mr Green himself.

The second son of a wealthy Yorkshire family of industrialists, Mr Green bought the house in 1897 to indulge his passion for collecting. It was in a pretty sorry state.

Most of the present-day house dates from Elizabethan times. The Young family rebuilt it in the early 17th century, creating the familiar exterior we have today.

By 1897, however, it had fallen on hard times. “Sir George Young’s original mansion was divided into at least five separate properties, occupied by a medley of genteel spinsters and widows, a doctor, a music teacher, and Edwin Gray, a York solicitor,” notes the official guidebook.

Mr Green bought part of the house, leaving the remainder in the hands of the Gray family to become Gray’s Court.

He was in his mid-thirties at the time, an eccentric bachelor, dandy, traveller and avid collector of furniture and paintings, who was also chairman of the family business – the Green’s Economiser Works in Wakefield.

Over the next 20 years, he set about restoring the house – designing each room to fit around furniture of a different period.

He was a bit of a magpie in his collecting, Lisa admits – but it is that very quality which makes the house so unique today.

There is the Great Hall, a recreation of how Mr Green thought a medieval hall should look; and the regency-style Blue Drawing Room, where he was said to have entertained guests such as the actress Lily Langtry and King Edward VII (though at the time of his visit, he was still the Prince of Wales). He named three of the sumptuous bedrooms upstairs the King’s Room, the Queen’s Room and Princess Victoria’s Room, after Edward VII, his wife Alexandra, and daughter Victoria, who stayed in them. There is a wood-panelled tapestry room, and a great “William and Mary Staircase”, hung with family portraits. Sadly, the portraits aren’t of Mr Green’s own family – it wasn’t old enough or aristocratic enough for that. “They were bought from a stately home,” Lisa says.

Everywhere you go in Treasurer’s House, you will be struck by Mr Green’s love for pattern. It is in the adzed floors of the Queen’s Bedroom; the wood grain on the doors; the patterned wallpaper; the tapestries. Then there are the oddities – such as the bone model of an old ship-of-the-line, made by French prisoners of war during the time of the Napoleonic wars, which sits on a table at the centre of the Court Room; and the witches ball, a silver globe which hangs above the window of the same room.

“He bought things just because he liked them,” Lisa says.

Being from “new money”, Mr Green was not really an accepted part of the gentry. But he compensated by being more aristocratic than the aristocrats, Lisa says – cultivating friendships with the great and the good, hosting lavish entertainments, becoming a keen huntsman.

And he lived to the manner born, with a large staff of servants to look after him.

Not much is known about his private life – he never married, and while there were rumours of a liaison with Lady Diana Manners, he seems essentially to have been a shy, private person with not much need for intimate company, Lisa says.

But anecdotes about him are legion.

A dandy famous for his fussy dressing, he insisted at all times that the servants who looked after him got things just right.

He left curt little notices dotted about the house – notices which are still there to this day. “All workmen are requested to wear slippers when working in this House. By order Frank Green,” says one.

He was equally fussy over his creature comforts. His groceries were sent up to York from London, and he imported a French chef to cook for him.. He was said to sleep in fresh Jaeger linen sheets every day – and sent his laundry to London every week by train.

He was not even above checking up on the cleanliness and tidiness of his staff. One former kitchen maid remembered that he used to come down at night to inspect the kitchen, and turn out drawers he did not consider tidy enough. He was said to have told his staff to wrap all the pieces of coal in the house individually in newspaper, because he could not stand the sound of them rattling.

Then there were his caravans.

A keen traveller, he had a fleet of caravans made to ensure he could travel in comfort. He took them to the south coast ready to embark for the continent. “And the ferryman said they were too big!” Lisa says.

Rather than pay the fee demanded for the crossing, Mr Green packed them all back up to Yorkshire again – with a request that they be used by “impoverished members of the family.”

He died in 1954, at the age of 93, having left Treasurer’s House to the National Trust more than 20 years earlier. He was, Lisa says, an “Edwardian who had long outlived his time.” But his legacy lives on in the unique house that he restored in his own image.

• Treasurer’s House is open daily from 11am to 4.30pm, except for Fridays, when it is closed. Entry is £6.30 adults, £3.10 children, £15.70 family ticket, free to National Trust members.