Historic Hampstead anti-slavery mansion may no longer become flats

The Heath and Hampstead Society successfully campaigned for scaffolding to protect the facade of the

The Heath and Hampstead Society successfully campaigned for scaffolding to protect the facade of the derelict building - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A Hampstead mansion at the centre of the abolition of slavery movement could be saved, as developers have withdrawn their application to carve it into flats

Heath House, which was home to Quaker banker Samuel Hoare, one of the twelve founding members of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1790, has been empty and derelict for around 40 years.

The developer hoped to turn the Grade II* listed mansion into a block of flats, but conservationists from the Heath and Hampstead Society felt this was inappropriate.

The illustrious building, located behind the Hampstead War Memorial on Whitestone Pond, marks the start of Hampstead, along with Jack Straw’s Castle.

Under the plans, which have now been withdrawn, the mansion would have been converted into six luxury flats with a lift.

There would have been a new three-storey west wing with a basement, a conservatory extension and the front forecourt would have been excavated for a basement car park.

Developer Consero did not respond to a request for comment as to why they withdrew their planning application, but conservationists fear new plans will be modified and submitted.

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In 2008, Camden Council granted permission for the building to be restored as a family house, but it has been left empty, with Historic England warning of dry rot.

In their withdrawn planning application for flats, Consero argued that they wanted to build six flats because a single house “is not viable in the context of the current market.”

The developers said their plans were drafted after meetings with Camden Council, adding: “The proposed new building forms part of a considered scheme for improvement of the site as a whole.”

Heath and Hampstead Society vice chairman David Castle said this latest development was in some ways a victory, but they were on their guard for a new planning application from the developer.

He said: “We are very pleased, but prepared that this might just be round one.”

He is concerned that much of the historic interior of the mansion has been weathered and damaged over years of neglect – the fire places have gone and there are just bleak bare walls and rafters.

The Society and more than 40 of its members lodged objections to the planning application on Camden Council’s website, which may have persuaded the developer that the plans would not have passed in their current form.

The Heath and Hampstead Society persuaded Historic England and Camden Council to place scaffolding over the front in recent years, to protect the facade.

In the eighteenth century, the mansion was host to leading social reformers, including William Wilberforce and Elizabeth Fry.