Witanhurst is a property that has boasted opulence and decadence since it was built. The property housed parties for the rich and famous at the turn of the century, even attracting royalty, supposedly even Queen Elizabeth II has attended one of these soirees. As standards go, the bar is set pretty high.
Built by Arthur Crossfield, wealthy soap magnate, in 1913. The property was believed to be the largest privately owned property in London, with the only residential property larger being Buckingham Palace. Reputedly boasting a 14 acre plot, with 32 bedrooms, and a ballroom measuring 70ft long. But enough of the metrics, why has this property fallen into a somewhat mythical status?
The people of Highgate have been in turmoil within recent years; the owner of Witanhurst House was held a secret for years, until New Yorkers’ investigative journalist Ed Caesar broke the code. The property was reputedly bought in 2008 by a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, no further information about the buyer was available for years. It is now believed that the house was bought by a Russian oligarch for £50 million.
In June 2010, the local council accepted planning permission for a very ambitious project. A complete revamp of the mansion was underway, the service wing was demolished and replaced with a three storey Georgian Villa, the grounds were maintained and brought back to life. A breath of fresh air breathed through the mansion that was long overdue.
Except the planning permission also allowed for something else that was relatively unseen by the locals of Highgate.
The owner of Witanhurst had planning permission accepted by the council for a massive basement. Including a 70-foot swimming pool, sauna, hairdressing salon, massage parlour and a massive two-storey cinema suite.
Understandably, the people of Highgate were not all too happy about this underground fiasco. Although, it seemed that nobody could find an appropriate way to argue against the councils accepting of the plans, it certainly wasn’t going to affect the skyline. The owners new neighbours include Kate Moss, Jamie Oliver, and Jude Law, it seems they didn’t have much to say about the matter either.
In 2013, planning permission allowed plans to go ahead for a second basement to go ahead, which will link the new basement to the new Georgian Villa.
Under London, there are layers upon layers of history: in recent years there have been a Neolithic Axe found in Olympic Park, a Nomadic Hunters Camp under Three Ways Wharf, and a Mesolithic Timber Structure under Embankment.
If you travel to Highgate, and start doing some digging, you may find a Russian billionaire in his new basement. Not quite an archaeological miracle, but equally as interesting.