Queen Anne house with Peter Cook connection is classic Hampstead
- Credit: Archant
Imagine an archetypal Hampstead village townhouse and chances are something along the lines of the terraced properties on Church Row, described by Victorian architectural historian Niklaus Pevsner as “the best street in Hampstead”, will spring to mind.
The Queen Anne properties on the south side of the street were built at the start of the eighteenth century, when Hampstead was a rural village and the houses were used as summer retreats by Londoners.
Chances to buy these handsome slices of history don’t come up often; with ample space to cater for expanding households these are true family homes and people tend to move in and stay put once they get their hands on one.
The house currently on the market through Savills has only changed hands twice in the last 60 years and it is only reluctantly that Elizabeth Shields and her husband Frank have decided to sell after nearly four decades.
“We’re trying to be sensible about the future and downsize,” says Shields. “We moved in on the 1st of April 1975, we lived across the road and moved most of our things on foot and I remember it snowed that day.
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“Our three children all grew up here, it’s a real family home.”
A rear extension was added in the nineteenth century providing unusual curved rooms at the back of the house. According to an article from a 1924 issue of Country Life magazine, the extension replaces the original powder closet, a dedicated area for fashionable Georgian ladies to have their wigs powdered.
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“If you look up at the back of the street from Frognal Way, each of the houses is different at the back,” says Shields.
There is also a row of mews houses at the bottom of the gardens of the main houses, and like the rear architecture, each house has a different arrangement over garden sharing with its back neighbours.
Peter Cook, whose first home in Hampstead was at 17 Church Row, served as this building’s rear neighbour from the early 1970s until his death in 1995. His widow, Lin, lives in the coach house, officially on Perrins Walk, still.
Norman Evill, an architect who lived in the property in the early twentieth century, owned both the main house and the mews cottage and he is responsible for the layout of the garden, as well as various features of the interior.
Much of the house has remained unchanged for tens, if not hundreds, of years and Country Life describes the entrance hall we still see today with “panelling on the far wall, disposed around the fireplace with just that mixture of fancy which prevents monotony, making one feel sure that whoever was the designer in the old days, he enjoyed his work.”
This entrance is unusual as the hallway was knocked through at some point, meaning that the house opens directly onto this room, which is currently home to a piano, a cosy reading chair, the panelled wall mentioned above and a pretty, tiled fireplace.
“When we moved in we were told by Miss Homfray, the previous owner, that the room had been knocked through as the owner would be carried in on a sedan chair by servants,” says Shields.
The room leads through to a large, party-ready dining room, with tall windows in the canted bay overlooking the garden and curved walls at either end.
Downstairs in the basement everything gets a little Downtown Abbey, with a flagged stone floor conjuring up images of scurrying scullery maids and bossy cooks, but it’s the upper floors, with their sweeping views over London, that give the house its particular atmosphere of light, space and air.
It’s difficult to imagine getting anything done from the top floor when looking out of the window provides such spectacular distractions in this true Hampstead classic.