Having made a fortune in the tanneries of Kidderpore in India, in the 1840s leather trader John Teil returned to England in search of a home.
After years of heat and dust, Teil was looking for a green and pleasant retreat. He commissioned a grand “country” house a mile from Hampstead Heath. Built in 1843, he called it Kidderpore Hall.
Teil spared no expense on his huge Greek Revival mansion, with its grand colonnaded entrance. The magnificent central staircase, with wrought-iron balustrade and hardwood handrail, was lit from above by a glass rooflight with elaborate floral etchings. The house was a thing of beauty — as were the timeless views across the Heath and towards the city.
THE RAVAGES OF TIME
Unfortunately, the years were not kind to Teil’s London retreat. The trader died in 1857, and in 1889 Kidderpore Hall was bought by the founders of Westfield College, a pioneering women-only botany college that’s now part of Queen Mary University of London. New red-brick buildings were added and ugly fluorescent lights were drilled into the delicate ceilings. Students were based there until 2014.
The columns are still standing but the central staircase is collapsing. Floorboards are sinking underfoot, while the lime plasterwork bears the blush of damp and sections of paper hang from the walls. Magnificent cornicing is all but hidden under many coats of paint, as fine curved sash windows rot in their frames.
£17 MILLION FAMILY HOME
Builder Mount Anvil bought the hall as part of a three-acre estate in 2015. By the end of next year 156 new homes will have been built around it, called Hampstead Manor. Grade II listing means 11,000sq ft Kidderpore Hall itself cannot be carved up into flats, so Mount Anvil wants to sell it either as a whole property to one buyer for about £17 million, or possibly to two buyers interested in splitting it into two very large duplex apartments priced at about £9 million apiece.
In either case, the hefty price tag includes about £10 million of restoration work — £5 million for each duplex — which has already been approved, but is not a job Mount Anvil is keen to do itself.
“It would be amazing to find somebody who wants to use it as a family home,” says Jon Hall, the developer’s sales director. “We are after someone who is going to appreciate the building with its beautiful curved window panes and fabulous cornicing.
“It does not take much imagination to see that this could be a beautiful four-storey, seven-bedroom home, on a very grand scale.”
ULTIMATE RENOVATION PROJECT
Ground-floor rooms have ceilings more than 11ft high, the doors are 7ft 6in tall, while the half moon-shaped bay windows are works of art. There will be the chance to get involved with the fun elements of this kind of project, choosing flooring and finishings, colour schemes and room layouts, the latter subject to the correct planning consent.
“From the top the roof needs to be re-insulated and repaired, the windows need to come out and be refurbished because a lot of them are warped, and the same goes for the original shutters,” says Andrew Blacklock, senior technical manager, whose job it is to oversee the renovations.
“The cornicing and architraves have years and years of overpainting and a lot of the detail has been lost. The existing staircase is in need of stiffening, there is some rot and water damage and balustrades need to be repaired.”
SNIFFING OUT THE DAMP
Precisely how long the work will take is not possible to say with asbestos removal, rewiring, plumbing, and the countless other fixes required.
Surveys have been done and a sniffer dog was brought in to pinpoint areas of damp, in a more gentle technique than gouging holes in delicate plasterwork.
Old houses can throw up endless problems hidden beneath their rotting floorboards — but it’s a challenge someone with deep pockets might just relish.