elderly residents are facing an uncertain future after the company running their stately home retirement accommodation in Pythouse, near Tisbury, went into liquidation and served notice on them.

The 20 residents, who are all aged between 85 and 95, have been told they must find somewhere else to live before the end of next June.

The grade II listed building dates back to 1725.

It has been run by the Country Houses' Association since 1959, but is to be sold off because of the increasing losses of the subsidiary company that owns the apartments.

As well as paying a weekly charge, all the residents paid deposits to secure the accommodation.

The believed that they would be able to live there for the rest of their lives.

The residents have been told that they will get their money back, but the nature of the housing market over the past few years means the money some residents receive will now be worth much less in real terms.

The CHA said it has been forced to close because of falling demand for its apartments, the increasing age-profile of residents and the increased regulation surrounding the business.

The organisation is a friendly society with charitable status, but the trustees have been told they cannot use charity funds to support loss-making businesses with no future prospects.

They have brought in liquidators, who will now seek purchasers for the CHA's eight properties across southern England, including Pythouse.

However, Peter Thurston, of liquidating company Deloitte, believes there is some hope residents will be able to stay.

He said: "We have already had contact with some people interested in purchasing the properties and some have indicated that they would be willing to allow residents to remain where they are.

"We are still very much in the early days and the enquiries have been quite unspecific, but we will certainly be giving priority to any bid that would mean people could stay where they are," he said.

In the meantime, the CHA said it would make every effort to support residents in finding alternative accommodation. Pythouse staff members were not available for comment.