Beechwood House, Highgate

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Beechwood House
The open courtyard of a four-story manor house-style brick building with trees to the left and right
Beechwood House shown in an Estate Agent's photograph from 1966.
General information
Status Grade II Listed
Type Mansion House
Location Highgate, North London
Country United Kingdom
Coordinates Coordinates: 51°34′16.16″N 0°9′17.35″W / 51.5711556°N 0.1548194°W / 51.5711556; -0.1548194
Current tenants Alisher Usmanov
Completed 1840
Owner Alisher Usmanov
Technical details
Floor area 3018 m
Grounds 11 Acres
Design and construction
Architect George Basevi

Beechwood House is a Grade II listed large detached house in 11 acres (4.5 hectares) of grounds on Hampstead Lane in Highgate, North West London, N6. It was built in 1840 in the grounds of the former Fitzroy House by the architect and developer George Basevi for his brother Nathaniel, a barrister. It has been owned by several prominent personalities including politicians Lewis McIver and Oswald Lewis, King Khalid of Saudi Arabia, and the Qatari sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. It is owned at present by the Uzbek businessman Alisher Usmanov.

Design

The London: North edition of the Pevsner Architectural Guides describes Beechwood as "An uneventful two-storeyed stucco house, with two canted bays on the garden side, altered and added to".[1] The 2010 edition of The London Encyclopedia described the interior as remodeled in an "early Georgian style" by W. B. Simpson of Wimperis, Simpson and Guthrie.[2] The grounds of Beechwood are 11 acres in size, situated in Metropolitan Open Land and contain several other buildings including "extensive garaging" and "guest and staff cottages, a squash court and gatehouses".[3] Beechwood was Grade II listed on the National Heritage List for England for its architectural merit in May 1974.[4] In 2008 the main house at Beechwood was described as having a drawing room, two dining rooms, and eight bedroom suites. Other buildings on the estate included a three bedroom guest bungalow, eight room staff quarters and a six-room pool house. The total habitable area of the property came to 3,018.2 square metres (32,488 sq ft)[5]

History

Beechwood was the home of the Liberal Party politician and financier Lewis McIver. He died at the property in 1920.[6] Following McIver's death Beechwood was advertised for sale by the estate agents Prickett and Ellis in 1921 and described in an advertisement as possessing 13 bed and dressing rooms with three bathrooms and "charming old-world gardens" and that "no expense has been spared to make the place a perfect gentleman's home with every up-to-date convenience".[7] In the early 1920s Kenwood had still not been acquired for the nation, and there were plans to build houses on its estate. The Times wrote in July 1921 that when properties such as Beechwood are put up for sale "... much is made of the fact that they overlook Kenwood" and that "Presumably the scheme for the partial covering of Kenwood will soon be proceeded with, unless more vigorous action is taken in securing it for the public".[8] Beechwood was eventually sold at auction on 30 September 1921 for £16,000.[9]

The Conservative politician and industrialist Oswald Lewis bought Beechwood in 1929. Lewis was the son of John Lewis, founder of the eponymous department store. Lewis planned to build an outdoor pool, though it was not completed until 1951 due to the Great Depression and the Second World War.[3] The gardens of Beechwood were open to visitors in May 1960 for 2 shillings each as part of the National Gardens Scheme when they were described as containing "Fine forest trees, azaleas, rhododendrons. Stream garden & swimming pool".[10] Lewis wrote to The Times in 1955 on the subject of urban foxes, to respond to previous correspondents who had claimed that foxes cannot eat rabbits they must eat pheasants or sheep. Lewis stated that he would be "sorry if they disappeared altogether" and that they "... help keep down the rats and eat the mice that would otherwise eat my crocus bulbs" and that "no doubt they vary their diet with an occasional fat beetle or French frog from my water garden".[11]

In September 1966 members of the Highgate Society wrote to The Times to warn of the "imminent threat of speculative development" that hung over the "slopes of the Beechwood estate". The writers hoped that "there are still individuals and authorities far sighted enough to secure a further addition to the Heath for public enjoyment".[12] Beechwood was owned by the property developer John Hines in the 1960s, who sold it to the King of Saudi Arabia, Khalid, for £1.9 million in March 1977. Development work costing £400,000 started on Beechwood without necessary planning permission in September 1977, to build a 'royal bedroom suite,' a kitchen extension and a covered walkway called the "Queen's entrance".[13]

In June 1975, Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative Party, delivered a speech at a cocktail party at Beechwood in which she called on Prime Minister Harold Wilson to take "action on spending, on wages, on taxation and on nationalisation" and declared that "If this Government and this Prime Minister cannot act now, we are ready to battle against inflation — the great destroyer. It will be our task to save the free society which has taken so many generations to build".[14][15]

The Emir of Qatar, Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, bought Beechwood from the Saudi royal family in the late 1970s.[5] The Emir was sued by a builder for £476,000 in September 1986, the balance of more than £2.8 million of building works that had taken place at the house.[16]

Beechwood was listed for sale at £65 million in 2007 making it London's most expensive property at the time.[17] It was sold by the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, to the billionaire Uzbek businessman Alisher Usmanov for £48 million in 2008. [5][18]

In 2010 a planning application was filed by a company registered in the tax haven of the Isle of Man for a "Roman-style bathing complex" in the grounds of the property that would include a new indoor swimming pool, sauna, and gym. The plans were opposed by the Highgate Society who said that they "seem[s] to be very large and may well be overdevelopment ...Any development which detracts from its setting would be unacceptable, and we will be alert to see if it is one of these ghastly mock-classical designs which seem all the rage around the Heath with people who seem to believe that big money automatically means good design sense."[3] In 2011 further redevelopment work was planned with a "super basement" that would increase the size of the property by a third.[18]

See also

References

  1. ^ Bridget Cherry; Nikolaus Pevsner (January 1998). London: North. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-09653-8. 
  2. ^ Christopher Hibbert; Ben Weinreb; Julia Keay (23 March 2010). The London Encyclopaedia. Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-4050-4925-2. 
  3. ^ a b c "Oligarch Alisher Usmanov 'wants to expand empire'". Camden New Journal. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 10 March 2016. 
  4. ^ Historic England, "Beechwood (1078354)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 10 March 2016 
  5. ^ a b c Helen Davies (18 May 2008). "A League of His Own". Sunday Times. 
  6. ^ "Sir Lewis McIver". The Times (42486). 11 August 1920. p. 13. Retrieved 11 March 2016 – via The Times Digital Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ "Highgate". The Times (42779). 22 July 1921. p. 20. Retrieved 11 March 2016 – via The Times Digital Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ "The Estate Market". The Times (42780). 23 July 1921. p. 8. Retrieved 11 March 2016 – via The Times Digital Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  9. ^ "The Estate Market". The Times (42839). 30 September 1921. p. 6. Retrieved 11 March 2016 – via The Times Digital Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ The Gardens of England and Wales. National Gardens Scheme. 1960. 
  11. ^ "OSWALD LEWIS. Beechwood, Hampstead Lane, Highgate, N.6. "Fox Or Pheasant?"". The Times (53190). 15 March 1955. p. 9. Retrieved 11 March 2016 – via The Times Digital Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  12. ^ "ESHER. G. JELLICOE. PETER SHEPHEARD. ILFORD. JOHN LACEY. The Highgate Society, Amenity and Planning Committee, 37 Hampstead Lane, N.6, Sept. 12. "Beechwood Estate."". The Times (56737). 15 September 1966. p. 13. Retrieved 11 March 2016 – via The Times Digital Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ "Work on king's mansion starts without consent". The Times (60045). 2 July 1977. p. 13. Retrieved 11 March 2016 – via The Times Digital Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  14. ^ "Speech in Beechwood". Margaret Thatcher Foundation: Speeches, Interviews, & Other Statements. Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Retrieved 10 March 2016. 
  15. ^ "Speech given by MT at a Conservative cocktail party, Beechwood, Hampstead Lane, London, 21 June 1975". The Papers of Baroness Thatcher LG., OM., FRS. Cambridge University. Retrieved 10 March 2016. 
  16. ^ "Gulf ruler sued for £476,000". The Times (62569). 22 September 1986. p. 2. Retrieved 11 March 2016 – via The Times Digital Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  17. ^ Bob Sherwood (22 June 2007). "Kensington and Chelsea top rich list". The Financial Times. Retrieved 10 March 2016. 
  18. ^ a b "Tycoon's basement plans labelled 'blot under the landscape' by furious neighbours". The Evening Standard. 31 May 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2016. 

External links

  • Country Life advert, 1966.
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