Historic recording studio up for sale as school awaits planning decision

Lilian Baylis House exterior showing English National Opera sign in West Hampstead

The former home of the recording facility Decca Studios is up for sale. David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and The Moody Blues have recorded music there. - Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell

The former Decca Studios recording facility in West Hampstead is up for sale, while a decision is awaited on whether it can be used as a school.

North Bridge House school submitted a "certificate for lawfulness" application in October to Camden Council to convert the Grade-II listed Lilian Baylis House into a site for 300 pupils aged 13-18. 

The property is owned by the English National Opera (ENO) and since February 7 has been marketed by Lambert Smith Hampton.

In October, the ENO told this newspaper that it could yet keep the venue, saying the site wasn’t “formally on the market” – rendering the planning application “entirely speculative”

Lilian Baylis House in West Hampstead used to be home to Decca Records. 

"In an ideal world, it would be kept as the recording studio or something similar, which would preserve its heritage." - Credit: Nick Awde

A decision on the school's planning application is due by March 21. 

Some residents objected to the proposals on the basis that the already busy road – Broadhurst Gardens – could not accommodate an additional 300 pupils.

One local resident, Theo Morgan, who has campaigned to preserve nearby Maida Vale Studios, is concerned about the possible loss of Lilian Baylis House as a heritage site. It was given Grade-II status in August but that is under review.

Blue plaque on red bricked recording studio

Anthony James Donegan, the "King of Skiffle", recorded the song Rock Island Line at Decca Studios. - Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell

Theo said: "It's a really unique example of a pre-war recording studio from the British music industry. And there are probably very few examples of that surviving. And I think it's really important for our local heritage to keep those things alive in some way.

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"In an ideal world, it would be kept as the recording studio or something similar, which would preserve its heritage."

The rear of Lilian Baylis House in early 2021. 

The rear of Lilian Baylis House in early 2021. - Credit: Nick Awde

While the building is protected by its Grade II listing, in August the ENO asked for the listing to be reviewed so that it only applies to the recording studios within the building, in order to make the premises "more accessible".

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the case is "under review".

ENO chief executive Stuart Murphy said: “The ENO has been a proud part of Lilian Baylis House’s musical legacy for a number of years and we will be sad to leave the premises.

"However, as we look ahead to the ENO’s plans in the future, our requirements for a rehearsal and community engagement space are such that the building now no longer fulfils our needs. We are excited about the potential of the building and look forward to seeing what the next owners do with it.”