From family homes redolent with history to elegant new turnkey apartments, the capital is coming back to life
London’s race for space shows promise, says Penny Churchill
IN a year that saw higher taxes and political and economic uncertainty suppress prime London residential values by 4.9% overall, a report from Savills Residential Research suggests that the very top end of the market was more active in 2016 than in the previous year, with £1.43 billion being spent on properties worth more than £20 million in the 11 months to the end of November 2016, compared with £1.07 billion for the whole of 2015.
Realistic price adjustments, coupled with the currency play for international buyers, appear to have triggered greater buyer commitment and prime London sales volumes picked up significantly from September 2016 onwards, Savills say. In a marketplace increasingly split between overseas buyers looking for secure, service-driven, turnkey developments and discerning home-grown or Uk-based buyers, who will wait for as long as it takes to get their hands on one of those special family houses that sit tucked away in quiet, leafy corners of the capital, it looks as if vendors and buyers are ready to move.
For James Gow of Strutt & Parker’s Kensington office (020–7938 3666),
28, Hyde Park Gate, SW7 (Fig 1), is one of those ‘very special’ houses and came to the market in September 2016, at a guide price of £23m. The London home of Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Spencer-churchill from 1945 until his death in January 1965 (as its prominent Blue Plaque testifies), this impressive and exceptionally wide, seven-bedroom family house boasts some 5,760sq ft of cleverly arranged living space on four floors, including a large drawing room (Fig 2) with doors leading onto the wonderfully private, 55ft-long, west-facing garden.
For the past 20-odd years, the landmark, mid-19th-century, brick-built house, listed Grade Ii—incorporating neighbouring 27, Hyde Park Gate, which served as office accommodation for Churchill’s staff—has been the family home of its present, lowprofile owner, who carried out a major refurbishment in the early years of her tenure. Ideally located within a short walk of the beautifully kept grounds of Kensington Gardens, the house, according to its listing, has been ‘considerably altered’ internally since it was offered for sale by Knight Frank & Rutley in October 1965, although, externally, it still exudes the spirit of ‘old Kensington’.
‘Five years ago, the Kensington market was crying out for high-end, new-build developments with large lateral apartments to satisfy demand not only from international buyers looking to acquire a hassle-free London base with “all the bells and whistles”, plus full security and concierge services, but also from owners of large Kensington houses looking to downsize. We now have four worldclass new developments within the Royal Borough: Vicarage Gate House, W8; One Kensington Gardens, W8; Holland Green Place, W8; and—one of last year’s major success stories— Holland Park Villas, W8,’ reveals Sami Robertson of Knight Frank’s Kensington office.
Vicarage Gate House is a prestigious scheme of 13 superb apartments, built by Vicarage Gate Ltd and wellknown London developer Northacre, and perfectly situated between High Street Kensington and fashionable Notting Hill, alongside the mansions of Kensington Palace Gardens. The selling agents are Hamptons International Kensington (020–7937 9371).
One Kensington Gardens (Fig 5) is an exclusive development of 97 spacious apartments designed by the architect David Chipperfield and located opposite Kensington Palace and Gardens. Residents enjoy access to a 24hour concierge service, valet parking, a health spa, a 25m (82ft) indoor pool and a private health and fitness centre, in addition to private treatment rooms. Knight Frank (020–7938 4311) and Strutt & Parker (020–7318 4677) are joint selling agents.
Holland Green Place is a state-ofthe-art new development built around the new London Design Museum on the site of the former Commonwealth Institute, on the southern edge of Holland Park. It comprises three residential buildings—62 flats in all— and offers a wealth of facilities, including a secure barrier entrance, 24-hour concierge service, secure underground parking with lift access to each building, a 20m (65ft) swimming pool, sauna and steam room, a gym, massage and treatment rooms, a private cinema, a golf simulator, a children’s playroom and a business suite.
Knight Frank quote a guide price of £16.5m for the resale of 51, Holland
‘UK buyers want one of those special family houses’
Green—a spectacular 4,370sq ft, lateral, sixth-floor apartment with vast entertaining space, ceiling heights of 10ft, floor-to-ceiling windows, four bedrooms, four bathrooms and far-reaching views to the west, south and east.
Finally, Holland Park Villas is an exclusive development of 72 private apartments on a two-acre site purchased from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in January 2010, in a joint venture between Native Land and Grosvenor. The scheme will also include 96 affordable homes to be built on three separate sites across the Royal Borough. Due for completion in March 2017, the development is intended to set a new benchmark for ultra-prime properties in central London.
In stark contrast to the current building frenzy in stately Kensington, the scene around elegant Archway House (Fig 3) on the north side of verdant Clapham Common has changed little since it was built, between 1714 and 1720, by carpenter John Hutt as part of a terrace of fine, early-18thcentury houses. Unusual in scale, being seven bays wide with 7,433sq ft of living space, the interior of the house is remarkable for the pristine state of its original architectural features, fireplaces, sash windows, panelling and staircase. The garden to the rear is an impressive 103ft in length and the formal garden to the front is set behind delicate period railings.
A large drawing room with a splendid Queen Anne fireplace occupies the full depth of the house and has views of both front and rear gardens. Two more panelled rooms complete the ground floor. The lower-ground floor consists of a kitchen-cum-family dining room with access to both gardens, a charming formal dining room, a larder/ wine cellar and utility rooms.
The first floor houses a grand reception room with antique parquet flooring, two more elegantly panelled rooms and an antique fitted library. The second floor has a master bedroom suite and two further bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. The third floor, accessed by a ‘Chinese Chippendale’ staircase, has two spacious bedroom/sitting rooms, one leading to a roof terrace, with both having en-suite shower rooms.
Currently for sale through Savills (020–3430 6900) at a guide price of £8.5m, Archway House has been the cherished family home of the accomplished keyboard player Linda Nicholson for the past 30 years, providing a showcase for her extensive collection of period musical instruments (Fig
4) and a stage for her regular recitals, which draw audiences south of the river from far and wide.
Back across the Thames, Trevor Abramsohn of north London agents Glentree International is whistling a happy tune for the first time in many moons. ‘Activity in the marketplace was surprisingly brisk before the Christmas recess, with three or four homes being sold between £3m and £4m in a single day. If the present level of activity is anything to go by, it looks as if prospective purchasers may actually come out to play, even at this early time of the year.’
He adds: ‘We’re “nursing” an enquiry from Asia for a £50m mansion set in grounds, yet there is surprisingly little out there to buy, even for this humongous figure. Added to that, a UK buyer who’s been on our books for 10 years has just decided to make a bid on a £20m new house in Kenwood. It makes you wonder why this interest has remained dormant for so long.’
‘Prospective purchasers may come out to play
Fig 1: The spirit of ‘old Kensington’: the ‘very special’ former home of Sir Winston Churchill at 28, Hyde Park Gate, SW7. £23m
Fig 2: The large drawing room leads onto the wonderfully private 55ft-long garden
Fig 4: Linda Nicholson has made the house a showcase for her collection of period musical instruments
Fig 3: Charming Archway House sits on the verdant north side of Clapham Common, SW4. £8.5m
Fig 5: One Kensington Gardens is an exclusive development of 97 spacious apartments located opposite Kensington Palace, W8