The Times Home of the Week: Hans Place
- By Adam Foster
- 04 December 2015
Stand today on the corner of Hans Place in Knightsbridge and you will struggle to imagine that this smart location with its elegant townhouses was once rolling fields. There may be plenty of fresh produce on sale near by, but only if you take a two-minute stroll to the food hall at Harrods. The bucolic gave way to the urbane in the 1770s when the developers arrived, led by Henry Holland, an architect who was also responsible for the original Marine Pavilion in Brighton (the later exotic exterior was actually the work of John Nash).
Holland turned almost 90 acres of rural Knightsbridge into a new town, putting up a home for himself in Hans Place; the octagonal shape of this square, arranged around a garden, was influenced by the layout of Place Vendôme in Paris. Holland’s connections meant that the neighbourhood soon became smart; by 1815 the residents included Henry Austen, one of Jane Austen’s brothers. The author often stayed at Hans Place and these visits are commemorated by a blue plaque.
Only the most prolific best-selling authors could today stretch to a whole house on Hans Place. The asking price for a six-storey, 5,455 sq ft property currently for sale on the square is £14.5 million, although you can rent the place for £6,950 a week, or £361,400 a year. For this money you will reside in one of the handsome grade II listed houses designed by Henry Holland, but extended in 1904 by the order of yet another Henry — Henry Howard, the 19th Earl of Suffolk. His addition was a red-brick wing in a style totally different from that of the house; the resulting architectural mismatch is either charmingly eclectic or eccentric, depending on your view. The house has lots of space for entertaining, including a first-floor drawing room with views over the square garden, a library and ample accommodation for a large family: there are six bedrooms, and a staff flat on the lower ground floor where you will also find a gym.
Jake Simpson, of Russell Simpson, joint agent to the property with Harrods Estates, suspects that the buyers are likely to be foreign, but whatever their nationality they are almost certain to inquire whether the seller will pay all or some of the £1,653,750 of stamp duty due on the purchase. Such requests are now routine in central London, where property values have been affected by the chancellor’s tax increases of December 2014 and are set to be further suppressed by the second homes stamp duty rises unveiled last week. However, the next owner of the Hans Place house will be acquiring a property with the mix of history and location that, in the long term, will always have an appeal.