Search

Inside ‘derelict’ Athlone House: Photos reveal fading grandeur of at-risk mansion

08:00 25 August 2014

Athlone House in 2002. Picture: Michael Hammerson

Athlone House in 2002. Picture: Michael Hammerson

Archant

Panelled wooden ceilings, tall lattice windows and a grand, sweeping staircase – these photos reveal for the first time the lavish interior of a “derelict” Victorian mansion that more than 5,000 people are trying to save from demolition.

The grand staircase inside Athlone House, taken in 2007. Picture: Michael HammersonThe grand staircase inside Athlone House, taken in 2007. Picture: Michael Hammerson

Despite lying empty on the edge of Hampstead Heath for well over a decade, the understated grandeur of Athlone House, with its vast rooms and ornate stone pillars, remains fully intact.

Its historic original features are covered in a thick sheet of dust, but it is still easy to picture nurses moving up and down the corridors during the years it served as a hospital, and military spies working at desks while it was used as an RAF intelligence base.

Campaigners fighting to protect the Highgate mansion released these images this week to bolster their renewed attack on Camden Council, which is accused of failing to seriously resist plans for its demolition.

The Athlone House Working Group faces an upcoming legal battle as developers appeal against the council’s decision last month to refuse planning permission for a new eight-bedroom family mansion, described by objectors as an “Arabian nightmare”.

A domed roof, part of Athlone House, taken in 2007. Picture: Michael HammersonA domed roof, part of Athlone House, taken in 2007. Picture: Michael Hammerson

But the planners stopped short of blocking demolition of the historic building, saying the council’s hands were tied by a planning inspector’s report three years ago.

The inspector said that Athlone House could theoretically be replaced, but campaigners believe the council could have taken a stronger stand against this decision, alongside English Heritage.

‘Unforgivable’

Athlone House Working Group chairman Michael Hammerson – who took the pictures seven years ago but has only now made them public – said: “The photos show that there is tremendous detail and original structure left in the house and what needs to be restored can be restored, without too much trouble.

“When I took the photos, the house was in fairly good condition and now it’s covered in pigeon droppings. It’s unforgiveable and unacceptable.

“I think even we would concede that it needs radical upgrading, but there is a lot of scope for sensitive 
renovation.”

The council has argued that it is legally powerless to prevent demolition after a government planning inspector ruled in 2011 that the unlisted building made a limited contribution to the Heathside Conversation Area and that a high-quality replacement building could be acceptable.

The council also says it is unable to enforce a historic agreement requiring developers to restore the house to its former glory while a planning application is being considered.

However, the working group insists that the council has been “misadvised” on both of these issues, and has consequently “unjustifiably surrendered” the house’s demolition to developers.

Cllr Phil Jones, Camden’s cabinet member for planning, said: “The council has resisted demolition all along and the council has turned down the latest application. We’ve gone as far as we can go but, unfortunately, the planning inspector is above us in the hierarchy of decision-making.

“We have done everything we can to see renovation. I think that the developer has behaved disgracefully.”

A spokesman for developers Athlone House Ltd declined to comment.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

Fri, 14:06
Yasmin Farah

Police are appealing for the public’s help to find two sixteen-year-old girls who have gone missing from Camden.

Fri, 09:07
Mary Langan with her 23-year-old son, James

Carers of adults with demential and disabilities are demanding change after a report revealed there is a “breakdown of trust” on the Haringey boards designed to represent them.

Thu, 17:14
Nina Martynchyk with her foster mother, Nina B

A young woman who overcame anorexia is organising a conference with the Royal Free Hospital to draw attention to how the condition affects children and teenagers

Thu, 16:01
Highgate School

Students and staff at Highgate school were reflecting on a very impressive set of GCSE results today, with 88.2 percent of exams receiving a grade of A* or A.

Thu, 12:41
Hampstead School is in Westbere Road (Pic credit: Google streetview)

The Hampstead School has once again seen its GCSE results improve today, with nearly a quarter of all grades receiving an A* or A grade.

Thu, 11:53
Hornsey School for Girls

Girls at Hornsey School for Girls were today collecting some stellar GCSE results.

Thu, 11:44
Sam White has praised William Ellis pupils

The headteacher of William Ellis school, Sam White, was full of praise for his students today after a promising set of GCSE results.

Thu, 10:56
UCS school

University College School was today celebrating the second best set of GCSE results in its history, with a remarkable 88.6 percent of exams achieving either an A* or A grade.

PROMOTED CONTENT

The showroom is located in Hayes

After 25 years as a trade-only business, family-run door manufacturers Composite Door Master are set to open their first public showroom in Hayes this weekend.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

You could win £15,000 to spend on either their mortgage or a deposit towards the home of their dreams

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a period of time when you simply don’t have to worry about finding the money each month to pay your mortgage? When you don’t have to put money aside from your monthly income, or worry about having to afford other essential outgoings?

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now