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Hampstead Garden Suburb home of former Labour prime minister on the market in time for the election

PUBLISHED: 12:05 07 May 2015

Southway, Hampstead Garden Suburb, N2

Southway, Hampstead Garden Suburb, N2

Piotr Gozdek

It's rare that property comes on the market with quite such neat timing as this Hampstead Garden Suburb house.

Harold Wilson, with his wife and their three-year old son Giles strolling near SouthwayHarold Wilson, with his wife and their three-year old son Giles strolling near Southway

But the fact that this home on Southway, NW11 is on the market for the first time in 59 years during a general election could not be more fitting.

Whether or not there is an element of foreshadowing in the home’s 1948 takeover by Labour MP and future prime minister Harold Wilson from Conservative politician Joseph Gurney Braithwaite, it is still too early to tell at the time of writing.

But the house’s leafy suburban location belies the heavyweight political history of the Finchley and Golders Green seat, where Margaret Thatcher was MP between 1959 and 1992.

Wilson lived in the property with his wife Mary and their two sons between 1948 and 1956 when he was a member of the Labour Cabinet holding the position of President of the Board of Trade and later Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In 1956 he sold the house and moved next door to number 12 (which bears a blue plaque), before moving to 10 Downing Street on his election to prime minister in 1964.

The living room todayThe living room today

A corner of the studio (now the living room) in 1912A corner of the studio (now the living room) in 1912

Philip Green, director of Goldschmidt & Howland, who are marketing the house, says: “It’s unique because most of the houses in the Suburb aren’t listed; they’re protected by the conservation area of the Suburb but they’re not listed. It means that parts of the house have been protected whereas a lot of the others have been changed extensively.”

Having had only one owner since Wilson moved next door, it also means that the house is likely to retain many of the features that would have been there when he called the property home.

The house’s political heritage is only one aspect of its fascinating history and the grade II-listed building packs a heavy architectural and artistic punch too.

It was one of the first to be completed in the Suburb in 1909-10 by Parker & Unwin’s architectural practice and is one of the few to be designed by young architect Geoffrey Lewis.

An Australian painter, Tom Roberts, commissioned the house and its distinctive layout may be thanks to this collaboration.

Tom Roberts in the garden of the house, 1912Tom Roberts in the garden of the house, 1912

The garden todayThe garden today

Nigel Walker, whose parents, Robert and Betty, bought the house from Wilson and who is now overseeing the sale, explains: “It was conceived as a perfect cube, with a central chimney stack and a very large north-facing room, which served mainly as the artist’s studio.”

The house remains configured almost exactly as it was when first built although Walker’s parents made some improvements and the artist’s studio now functions as a family living room.

“My mother and father knocked through the wall between the kitchen and the studio, which Mr Roberts evidently had built so that he would not be disturbed by the domestic staff! Not having the wall made the house much more convenient to live in,” says Walker.

While not particularly well known in Britain, Tom Roberts is regarded as an icon of Australian art history, credited with introducing Impressionism and plein air painting to Australia.

His most famous work is Shearing the Rams from 1890, a oversize oil painting depicting Australia’s main national industry at the time and believed to have been painted on site at a shearing station in New South Wales.

A view of the house from the gardenA view of the house from the garden

So highly esteemed is he in his adopted country that Australian visitors have been known to pass by to see the house he lived in.

On top of its historic appeal, the house is also an ideal family home with four bedrooms, a large south-facing garden and a garage, which could be converted into additional living space subject to necessary planning consent.

“It’s also very near Henrietta Barnett School, which is one of the best girls’ schools in London and it’s a state school,” says Green. “If you’ve got school-age daughters this is the house for you.”

The house on Southway, NW11 is on the market at £1,700,000 through Goldschmidt & Howland

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