Developers outline their mansion vision
THE developers behind a plan to transform a former university campus into a luxury housing development have pledged their commitment to preserving the historic character of the site.
Berkeley Housing Group bought the former Middlesex University campus in Trent Park last year and are planning on knocking down the outbuildings which were erected in the 1960s and 1970s and recreating the original grounds around the mansion house in Trent Park – restoring them to how they looked in the days of Philip Sassoon, who bought the mansion in 1909.
Leading the Advertiser on a tour of the house and grounds, John Murdoch, landscape architect in charge of the project, explained that the team was hoping to recreate the original vista that the playboy millionaire would have looked out on and will be clearing trees and foliage from the grounds to give future residents of the development a clear view across the lake to the north of the mansion and out over the rest of Trent Park.
The planned development has been subject to controversy after Conservative ward councillor for Cockfosters Jason Charalambous launched a petition, which has since attracted more than 3,000 signatures, calling for the developers to retain the house as a museum open to the public, due to its significance in World War II when secret agents bugged the house and listened to conversations among the prisoners of war who held there.
Although the developers have pledged to retain a dedicated museum section of the mansion, they have not yet outlined how much of the house will be reserved and transformed into a museum.
One aspect of the house that they may be under pressure to preserve is the Listening Room, deep in the damp and cramped cellars, where wires from every room led – allowing translators and spies to record the intrigues that passed between Nazi officers.
But the house’s recent history does not begin and end with its role in winning the war. The mansion, which commands views over the rolling acres of Trent Park, was bought by Mr Sassoon at the turn of the 20th century.
The millionaire was considered a sort of British Gatsby – renowned for hosting huge parties – and he lavished time, attention and money on his home, fitting out ballrooms with Chinese silk copies of rare tapestries he saw in the V&A museum and installing a heated swimming pool beside his ground-floor bedroom.
The swimming pool that was used by the public and students when the university owned the property, is another interesting aspect of the development. In a briefing about the developer’s plans for the site, Berkeley Homes managing director Piers Clanford said that they were committed to restoring the open air pool, which is a listed building structure. However, he would not be drawn on whether it would be exclusively reserved for the residents of the luxury flats on the site. “
We are going to look at options, but there might be some special occasions where everyone could enjoy it,” he said.