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

Yesterday, 09:00
Claire Meir part of a charity raising money for books for Syrian refugees in Turkey. Photo: Nigel Sutton

A mother was inspired to fundraise to buy books for Syrian children in Turkey after imagining what it would be like if her son was fleeing devastating civil war.

Yesterday, 09:00
The primary school pupils enjoyed a range of workshops. Photo: Jacqui Sinnatt

Camden and Islington primary school children enjoyed a taste of creativity away from the classroom at the Primary Careers Fair held at the British Library.

Fri, 17:03
Ray Davies is returning to Hornsey Town Hall

Ray Davies performed one of his first gigs at the iconic venue when he was still at school, before going on to form The Kinks

Fri, 15:37
The coffin arrives for the funeral of David Gest arriving at Golders Green Crematorium in north London.

Mourners have remembered music producer and TV star David Gest at a funeral service in Golders Green.

Fri, 13:34
PC Shane Moulds has been dismissed for misconduct

A Camden police constable has been sacked for punching a member of the public he was arresting and hurling abuse at him, calling him a ‘posh twat’

Fri, 13:33
Big Green Bookshop is raising money for Haringey schools.  Joint owner Tim West  pictured. Photo: Nigel Sutton

Two book owners was sickened when an opportunistic thief stole £600, but their customers were “unbelievably” supportive and in a “tsunami of loveliness” helped them raise more than nine times the amount in donations.

Fri, 12:39
Found dead: David Gest (Picture: Ian West/PA Wire)

The funeral of David Gest is set to take place this afternoon at Golders Green crematorium, according to reports.

Thu, 15:57
The case will be heard at the Court of Appeal

A man convicted of murdering a reclusive author in his Hampstead home will have his case heard at the Court of Appeal because of alleged police failings.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

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

Kindle 7 inch tablet

Are you looking for a brand new gadget to help you stay connected on the go and make that long journey home a bit more entertaining? Look no further. MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Kindle Fire 7” Display Tablets! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Yummy traditional afternoon teas for two

MyOffers is giving you the chance to win 1 of 50 Traditional Afternoon Teas for two at a location of your choice! That’s 50 times more chances to win, so hurry up and enter our competition today and you could be one of our lucky winners!

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe