This $132 Million ‘Palace’ in London Has a View Protected by Law
The cost of a priceless view: around $132 million.
A historic London mansion that looks out on the only view in England that is protected by an act of Parliament hit the market on Monday for 100 million pounds ($132 million)—more than six times what part of the property listed for five years ago.
Still, for that price you get more than an iconic Thames vista, an acre of gardens, and a couple of upgraded bedrooms.
“This is a castle in central London,” says Kam Babaee, chief executive of K10 Group Ltd., the estate’s developers. “This is a palace.”
Once owned by Britain’s’s third-richest man, 19th century clothing merchant Francis Cook, the mansion has a two-story, skylit, 125-foot-long neoclassical gallery, which Cook adorned with Roman-era mosaic floors and swirling pillars brought from Pompeii. The estate totals 38,000 square feet, with 10 bedrooms, 48 chandeliers, a dining room that fits 200 guests, a spa, a car museum, and a bowling alley—that is, when it’s complete.
Doughty House needs a complete overhaul, which is scheduled to start at the beginning of 2018. The listed price includes all necessary work, which K10 estimates as a $39.6 million investment in itself.
The main, four-story brick mansion was built in 1769 for Sir William Richardson and later bought by heiress Elizabeth Doughty. Cook purchased it in 1849, adding that gallery wing to show off his astounding collection of art, which included works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and Velázquez.
In the early 20th century, Doughty House played a small part in Britain’s abdication crisis. The story goes that the Cook family discussed offering it to King Edward VIII as a place to live after he relinquished the crown. But Cook’s heirs fell on hard times, and in 1949 the estate was sold to a developer who hoped to turn it into a hotel and apartments. That scheme failed, and it changed hands again.
From 2013 to 2014, K10’s Babaee set out to acquire the full Doughty House property that is now on offer. It had been divided into three parcels: the main house, the gallery addition, and between them, a smaller building known as the Dower House.
“It was already rundown,” he says. “[The owner] was living in a small part of the house, but the upkeep was quite heavy. He had no heirs or anything.” (Babaee declines to name the owner.) Photos posted to an urban exploration discussion board in April show a house in near-ruin, with missing floorboards, badly damaged walls, crumbling ceilings, and overgrown gardens. The mosaic floors and the ionic, closed-column, stone facade of the gallery wing were blessedly intact.
K10 spent more than two years on planning and permits; Doughty House is a Grade II building, which means it’s considered of national importance and is specially protected.
The residence is located at the crest of Richmond Hill, with views over the River Thames that directly inspired painters Turner and Reynolds. The 2,500-acre Richmond Park, where deer roam wild, is near. Despite the bucolic feel, London’s Waterloo station is less than 20 minutes distant by train.
When it’s complete at the end of 2019, according to current floor plans and design notes, there will be six family suites in the main house, a formal dining room, music room, drawing room, and grand entrance hall, plus two guest suites in the Dower House. The Victorian era conservatory is being turned into an informal, split-level, family living space that includes kitchen and breakfast areas.
In addition to staff quarters, lower levels will house a bowling alley and a car complex inspired by a repair shop in which the Cook family’s Rolls-Royces were maintained. Technicians would work on the cars from a brick-lined well underneath; in the first stages of restoration, K10 discovered the repair depot hidden under flooring. The new version will feature a car elevator and a turntable, affording space for seven cars.
The developer—whose other projects include the former Knightsbridge home of dancer Margot Fonteyn, available for 75 million pounds, and a pedigreed carriage house in Mayfair priced at 35 million pounds—intends to divide the lower level of the gallery wing into a spa, gym, and pool complex. The upper level will be a winter garden that could function as a grand reception room or ballroom/art gallery. There’ll also be an 18-seat private cinema, bar, and wine room.
The buyer who moves fast can customize the plans to his or her liking.