Could this be the ultimate “Hampstead Socialist” home?
- Credit: Archant
A Hampstead house, which belonged to the first Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and was visited by Charlie Chaplin, Katherine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman has come on the market.
The seven-bedroom property on prestigious Frognal was built in 1745 and was lived in by MacDonald from 1925, after his first short stint as Prime Minister, until his death in 1937 (with two further stints in Downing Street at the same time).
The first UK prime minister from a working-class background, and one of only very few without a university degree, MacDonald lived in the house in an era before the phrase “Hampstead Socialism” became a brush to tar north London’s left-wing intellectuals with.
Indeed, his former housemaid Margaret Sutherland recounted how MacDonald took up residence at 10 Downing Street only reluctantly: the living quarters were unfurnished and the widower, who was not wealthy, furnished the apartment by begging, borrowing and thrifting.
Maggie (as Sutherland was known) was from MacDonald’s home village of Lossiemouth and had worked for him in Hampstead. Knowing prime ministers were expected to pay their own expenses at Number 10, the thrifty Labour leader asked Maggie if she would move with two of her friends (who became known as the “Lossiemouth lassies”) to work for him.
The house’s left-wing links continued well into the 20th century when Hollywood screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart moved in in the 1950s.
Stewart won an Oscar in 1940 for The Philadelphia Story but became a member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and declared that he was a member of the Communist Party USA at one of its meetings. He was blacklisted during the Second Red Scare – the period between 1950 and 1956 of heightened political repression and fear-mongering against Communists – in 1950 and emigrated to London the following year.
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A member of New York’s celebrated Algonquin Round Table in the 1920s, Stewart was friends with Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway, who based the character of Bill Gorton in The Sun Also Rises on him. Hollywood legends including W.E.B Dubois, Charlie Chaplin, Ingrid Bergman and Katherine Hepburn visited him at the property when he lived there between 1953 and 1980.
Set back from the road behind a private driveway, the Grade II-listed house is on the market for £7.95 million through Marcus Parfitt.
“It’s got quite a literary past,” says Parfitt. “You’d never know the house was there because it’s set back from the road. It’s very private, very quiet and it has the most idyllic garden. It has a real country feel, yet I walked from Church Row to the house in three minutes, so it’s right in the centre of Hampstead Village.
“It’s my ideal home, I’m playing the lottery this weekend!”