There’s not much repeat business for estate agents in Totteridge N20, says local agent Nick Staton, who’s been selling top-notch houses in the leafy north London enclave for the past 27 years. But that’s not because the village’s well-heeled community of bankers, City businessmen, pop stars and footballers (Arsenal’s long-serving manager, Arsene Wenger, lives in Totteridge) tend to relocate at the drop of a hat, but because, once settled in this sylvan suburb, they tend to stay.
A rare oasis of rural tranquility within the Borough of Barnet, Totteridge, as its name suggests, sits on a ridge between the valleys of the Dollis Brook and Folly Brook, where, in past centuries, the surrounding meadowlands provided rich grazing for local livestock and the hay to feed London’s horses. Gentleman farmers grew wealthy providing for London’s needs and created some notable estates, with elegant manors set in rolling parkland.
The coming of the railway in 1872 saw graceful Victorian and Edwardian mansions being built around the old village and, in 1940, the London Underground reached Totteridge, linking the country to the heart of the City in about 30 minutes.
Fortunately for postwar generations, Totteridge’s rural charm was preserved by the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which created the green belt to prevent London’s urban expansion from overflowing into the surrounding countryside. Today, Totteridge Common is a heavily protected conservation area surrounded by meadows and woodland, bounded by the Totteridge Fields Nature Reserve and, to the east, the village green, St Andrew’s Church and the popular Orange Tree pub; cricket, tennis and golf clubs complete the picture of the quintessential English village.
But there also is progress, as Octagon Developments celebrates the launch onto the market of the impressive 48, Totteridge Common, a landmark new mansion house set in three acres of landscaped gardens and grounds.
Built on the site-and in the footprint- of the former St Edward’s College, run by the missionary White Fathers of Africa from 1958 until its closure in 2006, the spectacular three-storey house is for sale through Statons (020-8445 3694) at a guide price of £18 million. ‘We’ve waited many years for a finished property of this calibre to come to the market in Totteridge; most houses are sold in need of refurbishment and it’s left to the new owners to complete the project,’ says Mr Staton.
Octagon’s regional director, Richard Galland, who has overseen the entire construction since the purchase of the site in 2009, explains: ‘The original unlisted building was a fairly ordinary, Italianate Victorian house, built in the 1850s and extended over the years by the various owners with little or no coherent planning. But we liked the Italianate style and, with architect Richard Smith, set out to create an elegant but practical family house with the style and grandeur of a Victorian mansion. In fact, from the outside, it’s hard to believe that this is a totally new building, where the lower half of the entrance ‘tower’ is all that remains of the original structure.’
The interior is 21st-century without the ‘glitz’, but with Octagon’s trademark high ceilings, great living spaces and inspirational use of the finest natural materials. Yet there are shades of the building’s monastic background in the grand entrance hall with its sweeping staircase, the whole flooded with natural light through tall, south-facing windows.
The ground-floor reception rooms- family room, drawing room, formal dining room and library-are spacious and well-proportioned, several linked by discreetly folding doors that open to create an enfilade of impressive rooms for formal entertaining.
In summer or winter, the eye is drawn to the reposeful green space of the gardens, protected from public view by towering mature trees. The five bedroom suites on the first floor are predictably sumptuous, especially the master suite, with its huge bathroom lined with carefully matched Italian marble.
High achievers may take on the challenge of the splendid ground-floor leisure facilities, which include a swimming pool, steam room, gym and games room, or chill out on the floor below in the state-of-the-art cinema, the cocktail bar or the splendidly equipped wine cellar. But, for those who really can’t remember how their day went, the second-floor study will provide the perfect bolthole in which to gather their thoughts.
Thanks to its policy of buying ‘the best plots in the best parts of the best areas’, Octagon has managed to carry on building throughout the recession, whereas some others operating in this high-risk sector of the market have preferred to batten down the hatches and ride out the financial storm.
This has been the case in the gilded, ultra-secure enclave of St George’s Hill, Weybridge, Surrey, says Tim Garbett of Knight Frank (01372 464496), who, during his 30 years on The Hill, has counted most of its 428 houses out and many back in again. ‘It takes up to two-and-a-half years to build a new house on St George’s Hill and many people who want to live there can’t afford to wait that long. Last year, 38 plots and houses were sold here at prices ranging from £1.4m to £15.5m: this year, we’re waiting on a range of new builds currently under construction at between £8m and £25m.’
A masterpiece of modern family design: Centurion House at St George’s
Hill, Surrey, boasts a splendid entrance hall, wine cellar and swimming
pool complex. Knight Frank, £11.75m.
The pick of Mr Garbett’s current portfolio is the imposing, 11,278sq ft Centurion House in West Road, St George’s Hill, which stands in a prime position close to the estate’s tennis and golf clubs. Built on three floors to its current owners’ own exacting standards, the house is a masterpiece of modern family design, with a splendid entrance hall, stylish reception rooms, six first-floor bedroom suites, a magnificent wine cellar and a double-height indoor swimming-pool complex.
A rising driveway leads up to the house, creating a real sense of arrival and, at a guide price of £11.75m, Centurion House represents a real New Year’s gift for a discerning buyer, Mr Garbett believes.
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