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Grand restoration plans revealed for Hampstead’s Athlone House

A grand plan has been unveiled to return one of north London’s most important private houses to its former glory. Print PDF...

A grand plan has been unveiled to return one of north London’s most important private houses to its former glory.

Athlone House

The once impressive Athlone House has been the subject of all kinds of speculation in recent years, but locals have been given a look at some new designs for the derelict Victorian mansion. Built as a showstopping family home in 1871 to a design by Edward Salomons, it played a key role as a secret RAF intelligence base during the Second World War and went on to become an NHS hospital.

Athlone's new owner Mikhail Fridman

Athlone’s new owner Mikhail Fridman

The building has lain empty since the NHS vacated in 2003, but its new owner, businessman and industrialist Mikhail Fridman, wants to turn it back into a six-bedroom family home and has hired SHH Architecture & Interior Design to draw up something a bit special.

Original drawings and photographs of the property have been pored over by the team to understand details like the Dutch gables, castellations on the tower and heraldic beasts. They’ve also looked at how to refurbish the stone and brick with similar patterns to ensure the external “envelope” of the two-storey house could be returned to its original form.

The proposals involve two key sections; a major renovation of the existing building, and an extension, designed as a “modern replacement” for what was once the walled garden and glass conservatory. If approved, the combined result would cover some 29,000 square feet, which is just under the original size of the house.   

Athlone House

Sadly there’s not much left of the original ornate interiors after years of institutional use; the few surviving pieces – former ceilings, timber panels and an oak staircase with stain glass windows will all be refurbished. The designers say they’ll be creating interiors “using the original architectural language to ensure a cohesive look that will feel restored rather than ‘new’”.

The original chimneys will be reinstated to modern standards and some of the “lost” features – like the striking spire and weather vane on top of the cupola roof – will be rebuilt and put back in their rightful places. Internally, the existing courtyard will be turned into a semi-glazed space, introducing double-height volumes and creating a “clever juxtaposition” at the centre of the house.

The extension will house a pool area, state-of-the-art kitchen, storage and services, and has been inspired by the original walled garden and conservatory. The design team have taken their cue from the existing building, but made sure the house is still very much the principal structure. Two internal glass courtyards will open to the sky with views of the gardens.

There’s a couple of other buildings at the entrance to the property, which are due to be turned into a guesthouse and accommodation for staff and security, and the listed grounds – all seven acres of them, viewable from Hampstead Heath – are to be restored to a design by JFA Landscape (plans for this went down well with local residents and have already been approved by the Council). 

The Ukrainian-born Fridman is Chairman of LetterOne, an international investment business, Alfa Group, a privately owned investment company that owns Russia’s second-largest closely held bank, and X5, Russia’s second-biggest food retailer.

Here’s how the mansion looked just after it was built…

And in 1900…

First two images: SHH Architecture & Interior Design

Third image from a book entitled “A series of picturesque views of seats of the noblemen and gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland” 1880, pp. 36-37 (CC-BY-PD)

Fourth image from “London leaders: Historic Families, Ancestral Estates” 1907 (CC-BY-PD)

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