One of Richmond's most recognisable landmarks has been converted into plush apartments. Eleanor Doughty reports on The Star and Garter.
For years, residents of Richmond, in south-west London, have waited patiently for work to be finished on the town’s most adored landmark, The Star and Garter.
Now, the scaffolding is coming down, the garden looks beautiful and new apartment owners are booking their removal vans.
The Star and Garter was named for Edward III, who founded the Order of the Garter (which has a star in its insignia), the most prestigious order of chivalry, in 1348. Built in 1809 on the site of an 18th-century coaching inn (on land belonging to a member of the Order), it was initially the opulent Star and Garter hotel, described by a contemporary as ‘more like a mansion of a nobleman than a receptacle for the public’.
Its heyday was the 1850s and guests included William Thackeray, Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Napoleon III. The 1870s saw Italian Romanesque additions, including the ballroom, but, by 1906, the hotel had been abandoned. In 1914, the mammoth building housed troops trained in Richmond Park and, in 1924, it became a military hospital patronised by Queen Mary, with a new building by Sir Edwin Cooper.
In 2013, when the last residents of the Royal Star & Garter Homes, as the charity is now known, moved to their new state-of- the-art Surbiton residence, the iconic property went up for sale, awaiting its next challenge. Developer London Square snapped it up for £50 million and set to work converting the Grade II-listed building into 86 apartments, ranging from one to six bedrooms.
To celebrate the major restoration, more than 50 artists have been commissioned to interpret the view to and from The Star and Garter — the only listed view in Britain, as immortalised by Turner. The ‘VIEWS’ exhibition, a sale of these new works with an accompanying book, runs from April 4 to May 4 in the newly restored grand marble hall – the exhibition is being run by a charity called the Victoria Foundation, which has more details on its website.
From the 20,000sq ft communal garden, one can observe the curve in the Thames as Turner must have seen it and, in the distance, the London Eye, glinting in the sun. On the other side of the building is 2,500-acre Richmond Park. Inside, the apartments have high ceilings and large windows—a welcome relief, one suspects, for London’s new-build buyers.
The three-bedroom, three-bathroom penthouse apartment, for example, a 2,433sq ft unit on the market for £3.95 million, features a vaulted living area with triple-aspect sash windows, a grand internal staircase and, in the master bedroom, a secret room behind the mirror.
Downstairs, in the former ballroom, is a luxurious swimming pool, where, at one end, a portrait of George V surveys the bathers. The gym and spa are next door. There’s also a six-seater cinema room and Harrods Estates will be running the 24-hour concierge for residents, with a town-car service.
Although this is doubtless a great deal of money to spend on any property— even if it is a penthouse overlooking a listed view—the apartments, which start at £1.65 million, are not unreasonably priced for the area, says Carsten Swift of Knight Frank’s Richmond office (020–7861 1368).
Buyers have been enticed south by the relative good value, he says, and there are still apartments available. ‘People have been looking in and around Notting Hill and Hyde Park and, rather than buying a small flat there, they’re getting a big flat here.’ To date, the majority of buyers, Mr Swift says, have been domestic.
‘There were half a dozen sold in Hong Kong, but all but one of those are British expatriates coming home.’ Happily, the flats are being bought by owneroccupiers, Mr Swift adds, with relief.
‘I will eat my hat if, when the 86th one is sold, more than a dozen are not being used most of the time.’
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More details from thestarandgarterlondon.co.uk or on 0333 666 0102.