Professor Gert-Rudolph Flick puts his South Kensington cottage on the market for £105 million
The media have shown much interest in Beauchamp Estates bringing a hidden South Kensington cottage to the market this week for £105 million. What they missed is that this property, Park House off Pelham Street and Onslow Square, has quite a history and has variously been the home of Lanning Roper, Sir Maxwell Joseph, Lady Annabel Goldsmith and most recently Professor Gert-Rudolph “Muck” Flick.
Constructed in 1841, the house was originally two separate properties, Park House and Park Cottage. Park House was occupied by its builder, a grocer turned developer called James Bonnin, whilst Park Cottage took its name from a tailor named Thomas Park. A studio was built nearby in 1888 and in 1987 remodeling by the Italian architect and designer Toni Facella Sensi resulted in the creation of the property on sale today.
In 1959, Mark Birley and his then wife Annabel (later Lady Goldsmith) moved into Park Cottage. She recounts her time there in a book No Invitation Required: The Pelham Cottage Years:
“The day I discovered Pelham Cottage was a day that both changed and enhanced my life… I could not believe such an oasis could exist only a few yards from South Kensington Tube station. In my daze of delight, I knew immediately that I had stumbled upon something magical here”.
It was during this time that Pelham Cottage played host to the cream of London’s society. Claus von Bülow played backgammon there and Nicky Haslam wandered “round the drawing room shifting furniture”. Edith Marchioness of Londonderry advised on the garden and Patrick Plunket “loved it with a passion”.
The hotelier and property developer Sir Maxwell Joseph (1910 – 1982) lived in the property for a period subsequently and in 1986 the Daimler Benz heir Gert-Rudolf Flick and his then wife Donatella £4.5 million for Park House.
A 1991 Architectural Digest feature on the house reported that the couple “wanted a house, not a cottage” and so commissioned Facella Sensi to “give it an arrangement”. He created what is currently a 6 bedroom, 7 reception room “little palazzo” to display their “remarkable collections of English silver, antique furniture and Italian landscape paintings”, the “little palazzo” and of it Flick himself commented:
“I was attracted to it because it is almost a country house in the middle of London. It is very quiet. From no window can you see a car passing by”.
The secret gardens of Park House were landscaped in the 1950s when the American garden designer Lanning Roper lived there. Roper, most famous for having been commissioned by Prince Charles to do the grounds of Highgrove in 1981, is said to have “set a style for country flowers in town” and Cecil Beaton photographed “the wildflowers, the thick greenery and the little rarities that reveled in the warmth of sheltered walls” of Park House.
With an incoming owner, a new era is set for this hidden gem after Flick, despite fierce opposition from neighbours including cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, secured planning permission for a vast subterranean extension earlier this year. Should construction go ahead, it would include rooms for winter and summer wear, a luggage store, a 50-foot swimming pool, cinema room, gym, beauty treatment room, steam room and passenger lift. Building would take around three years and payments of £157,500 to the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s affordable housing fund and £66,000 to the cover the Mayor of London’s Community Infrastructure Levy would be required.
When planning was granted, Mr Lloyd Webber expressed his distaste to The Daily Telegraph stating:
“I think it is a very bad decision by the council, which they will come to regret. The fact is when you put it all together, we just know the disruption is going to be massive. It is poor planning decision. The council should protect its residents but if it can grant permission for this, one of the oldest houses in the borough, it seems nothing is sacred. When people realise what they are going to face, there will be a lot more protests”.
Just like Mark Birley’s former home, Thurloe Lodge, Park House is unlisted. If the new owner proceeds with the proposed development, Park House will not only be one of London’s most expensive homes, it’ll be another of London’s most pricey residential building sites.
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