Prime (minister's) real estate: inside Margaret Thatcher's Â£30m home
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(© The Telegraph) Inside Margaret Thatcher's £30m home
It is certainly a property worthy of a former prime minister: a six-bedroom, six-floor townhouse on one of the most prestigious squares in Belgravia, and it comes complete with a £30 million price tag. This is blue-plaque London at its majestic best.
Plaques on the other side of the square commemorate Matthew Arnold, the poet, and Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein. Around the corner in Eaton Square, the English Heritage blue badge marks the home of another former Conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, who was at the helm during the 1936 Abdication crisis.
But the former resident of No 73 Chester Square – the late Baroness Thatcher, no less – was a far bigger political beast than Baldwin. And there is sure to be an avalanche of interest now that her old home has come on the market, after a three-year, multimillion-pound refurbishment by owners Leconfield – the central London, luxury developer, controlled and run by managing director, George Brooksbank.
(© The Telegraph) The number 73 inlaid into the doorstep
Little architectural grace-notes abound. The inlaid “73” plaque in the front doorstep was designed by Baroness Thatcher herself, while the flooring in the entrance hall uses the same Hopton stone as the lobbies of the House of Commons.
“If these walls could talk, they could tell extraordinary tales of Margaret Thatcher talking to Ronald Reagan and other world leaders [both in person and over the phone],” says Richard Gutteridge, head of Savills Sloane Street.
“It is an eminent and rare property and will have a strong appeal for any buyer at this level of the market looking for an exceptional London home,” he adds.
No attempt has been made, wisely, to turn the house into a museum – unlike Churchill’s old home, Chartwell, in Kent, which he bought in 1922 and is now owned by the National Trust.
But you would have to be very dull to miss the echoes of the past. The steel-lined, bombproof front door has been preserved, and new security, shatter-resistant windows are in place.
(© The Telegraph) The outside of No 73 Chester Square
I was lucky enough to work in the House of Commons during the Thatcher years, observing her at first hand, marvelling at the way she commanded the political stage. I once shared a lift with her for 30 seconds and was treated to an unexpectedly warm, almost roguish, smile. So to enter her old home, magnificently restored, is a treat indeed.
The new-look Chester Square dwelling evokes the Iron Lady’s glory days. The book-lined study is adjacent to the formal dining room, just as it was when she lived here, and it’s easy to imagine the former prime minister holding court in the first-floor drawing room and library – her favourite rooms in the house, where the ceilings reach 3.5m high and the windows overlook Chester Square.
Aesthetically, the property blends the classical and contemporary. There are parquet floors, a roof terrace and a skylight in the family room, as well as a newly built mews house attached, which doubles as a garage and entrance to the kitchen.
(© The Telegraph) The hallway, roof terrace and skylight
The original Louis XVI fireplaces are magnificent, but there is also a modern lift, cinema room with a bar and wine cellar holding 500 bottles, and a gym.
The latter would have produced a loud snort from Denis. “What’s the point of a ruddy exercise bike when you could be out on the golf course?”
But Leconfield Properties – which has 21 other redevelopments projects underway in Belgravia, Kensington, Chelsea and Knightsbridge – has done a sensitive job. The firm uses its own interior designers.
Upstairs, the elegant master suite uses the entire floor plate of the second floor, which comprises a large double bedroom, dressing area and master bathroom. There are a further five bedrooms in the property, including the option for staff accommodation.
There’s a family room with oak flooring, Italian style sofas and a marble table, and a staircase leading to the roof terrace above.
Every house bears the imprint of its former owners, and this one is no exception. So what does No 73 Chester Square tell us about Britain’s first female prime minister, brought up above a grocer’s shop in Grantham? After all, a politician’s property is often as revealing of their personalities as their political careers.
(© The Telegraph) The sitting room
Winston Churchill lived on in retirement at 28 Hyde Park Gate, where he died in 1965. Ted Heath, when not sulking, spent many happy hours at Arundells, a gorgeous Georgian property in Salisbury’s cathedral close, which is also open to the public.
More recently, Tony Blair has acquired so many properties that the world has lost count. They include a large townhouse in London’s Connaught Square and a stately pile in Buckinghamshire, previously owned by Sir John Gielgud.
Estimates of over £25 million have been put on the Blair property portfolio, whereas Gordon Brown lives in a comparatively modest family home in Fife, close to his old constituency.
Baroness Thatcher shimmied up the housing ladder, living in 10 different abodes throughout her time in London.
After leaving Oxford in 1950 she rented just around the corner from Belgravia. During her two attempts to take Dartford from Labour, while working as a research chemist in Hammersmith, she lived in a small flat in St George’s Square Mews, Pimlico, for £2 per week. She learned to drive here in the surrounding cobbled streets.
(© The Telegraph) Part of the Bathroom
In 1951 she married Denis and moved into his bachelor pad in Chelsea – “a light, sixth-floor flat with a fine view of London”, as she described it in her autobiography, with two bedrooms, a study and a living room. It was just off the Kings Road and cost £3 per week.
The couple then bought their first home in Kent for £5,000 – a large suburban house in Farnborough, Bromley, which she spotted in Country Life magazine. Importantly for Baroness Thatcher, there was an acre and a half of gardens for her four-year-old twins to run around.
The family went on to live in Westminster, under parliamentary arrangement, before moving back to Kent and then Chelsea in her final ascent to power (1972-1979). Then, after her tenure as PM she moved fleetingly to Dulwich before settling at number 73.
“It’s is one of the finest houses on the Square,” says Gutteridge. “The property fully embraces its history and Grade II listed status, whilst the level of craftsmanship has enabled the careful creation of a modern, yet traditional home.”