Behind the gate at Battersea House
Words by Alan Russell
A rare look around a French manor house hidden in the middle of London
The Old Warehouse
If you leave Battersea Park by the south-west corner, passing a row of red-brick houses and mansion blocks marking the west end of the Prince of Wales Drive, you reach Surrey Lane. Midway down the lane, between a pair of typical London terraces, stands a discreet set of gates. For those lucky enough to step through the gates, what lies behind is a wonderful surprise: one of the most unusual properties in London.
This site was originally occupied by a scaffolding warehouse. However, because it was surrounded on all sides by houses, it offered an unusually private location. In the 1990s, the land was purchased for development, and a pair of unique houses were built to occupy this secluded space. One of those properties is still lived in by the original developer, but the second is now for sale.
Given the unusual setting, the house was designed to make full use of the space. Unlike the tall and narrow terraces found in much of south-west London, Battersea House is a long property spread out over two floors. What’s more, with its mansard windows and French doors lining the long sides, what it resembles most is a manoir in Normandy.
Step through the front door and you find an impressive entrance hall with marble floors and a self-supporting staircase, as well as an overhead dome filling the space with light. The entrance is uncommonly grand for a London house, while the high ceilings, windows and doors of the ground floor give a lofty sense of space to the main rooms.
On one side of the hall is a drawing room, while the formal dining rooms on the other side leads through to an exceptionally well-proportioned kitchen. The French doors opening off each room ensure that the garden is always close, and because the majority face west or south, the interiors are filled with light.
The Royal Decorator
These interiors were decorated by Robert Kime, who sadly died last year. During his distinguished career, he was the favoured decorator to King Charles III, responsible for the renovations of Clarence House, as well as working for various aristocrats, pop stars and heads of state. In this case, the rooms blend a sense of grandeur with the informality of a family home.
Upstairs, the ceilings are lower and the rooms smaller, giving more intimacy to the domestic part of the property. Here you find a principal bedroom with a generous ensuite and a walk-in wardrobe, which taken together form a private bedroom suite. This side of the house also contains a second dressing room, which could easily be adapted into a study.
A pair of children’s bedrooms open off the central corridor, while a third children’s bedroom could be adapted into a playroom. Two more bedrooms and bathrooms can be found at the far end of the house, providing options for staff or guests. Finally, a second set of stairs lead directly to the back door, ensuring convenient circulation round the house.
London's Best Kept Secret
The garden was also designed to take full advantage of the size of the plot with reoccurring plants and flowers (including roses, alliums and daffodils). Italian evergreen oaks have been planted round the perimeter for added privacy, and the wisteria running up the side of the building flowers several times a year, filling the garden with colour and scent. Finally, the outdoor swimming pool has an inbuilt turbine, providing more resistance than a conventional jet current.
At the top of the drive is a cottage, added by the current owner in the same style as the main building. This provides a garage with parking space for a pair of Range Rovers, as well as an adaptable set of rooms upstairs. Presently used as a gym with bathroom and home office, they could also be repurposed as a guest bedroom or staff flat.
Walking round the property on a bright afternoon in June feels like visiting a secluded country house. And, with the generous garden, the spacious layout, and the sunshine pouring in from outside, this unique property is surely one of London’s best-kept secrets.
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