England?s Ashes victory has sparked a new enthusiasm for the country?s national game. And just as London?s successful bid for the 2012 Olympics already has property developers in the East End rubbing their hands in glee, why shouldn?t houses with cricketing connections in the West End of London also benefit from the general euphoria?
For 50 years or more, until his death in 2001 at the age of 93, Wandsworth House on East Hill, SW18, was the home of cricketing legend Alf Gover who ran an indoor cricketing school from an industrial shed behind the house. West Indies cricketers Viv Richards, Ian Bishop, Andy Roberts, Gary Sobers and Brian Lara were among many international stars who honed their skills under Mr Gover?s watchful eye.
But the years took their toll on his rambling, Grade II*-listed Georgian house, and it was in poor condition when, in the early Nineties, it caught the eye of developer Robert Lance-Hughes, an architect by training, who finds himself drawn to ?sad places with a hidden quality?.
The oldest part of Wandsworth House dates from about 1680, and its design, reminiscent of the Huguenot houses of Spitalfields, suggests that it may have been built for a Huguenot merchant. It was substantially enlarged in about 1735, with a large bay window added at the back in the 1780s. In the late 18th century, it was a boarding school for ?17 young ladies of good repute?.
The recently completed five-year restoration programme supervised by English Heritage has been a ?totally uneconomic project?, Mr Lance-Hughes admits cheerfully, but he is happy that the setting of this historic building has finally been restored.
Currently used as a location for period films and television commercials, Wandsworth House has three reception rooms, a study, a kitchen, seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, further rooms and a vaulted wine cellar on the lower ground floor, plus loads of ?won-derful wasted space?. It is on the market through Douglas & Gordon (020?7924 2000) at a guide price of £2.295 million for the freehold.
This article was originally published in Country Life magazine, November 3, 2005. To subscribe click here.