Spend £3m to live in a former youth hostel

PROPERTIES at Wellgarth Manor, a luxury residential development in north London’s Hampstead Garden Suburb, start at a cool £3m. Cynicism might be your reaction – it’s a hefty price tag for a development in a former youth hostel who’s closest Tube station is scruffy Golders Green in Zone 3. But not every re-vamped youth hostel has sound-proof cinema rooms in the basement with HD projectors, Blu-ray players and marble. The vast Poggenpohl kitchens with Gaggenau appliances, the immaculately sourced Italian leather in the living rooms, the his and hers en-suite bathrooms, the rooftop terrace, the two-car garages and the underfloor heating also help.

As for any nose-wrinkling at buying a new, fully done, kitted up property instead of a grand period home, Knight Frank’s Hampstead agent, Grant Alexson, says: “Many wealthy people are cash rich but time poor, and developing a house into something special takes a lot of work. Sure, you can get a grand old house, but when they come on the market, they’re not always up to date, with terracing on the upper levels, cinemas and en-suites, for example.”

Wellgarth Manor is a well-conceived fusion of old and new, and practical too. It’s got the high, early 20th century ceilings and the spacious, horizontal floor plans that characterise houses in the area. “One of biggest issues of pre and post-war architecture is that ceiling heights dropped because it made houses easier to heat,” Alexson says. “And yet here we have an older building, built in 1912-13, which still had the architecture that insisted on big ceiling lines. And if you head down to Kensington, you may get the space, but you’d never get it laid out like this, with the lounge and reception, kitchen and dining room all on the same floor. It would be much more narrow.”

The other big selling point is, of course, the location. Just down the hill from Hampstead, the air is fresh, the vast greenery of the Heath Extension is on the doorstep and an air of wholesome tranquillity pervades. Walk 10 minutes to the Tube and you’re at Moorgate in half an hour.

Philanthropist Henrietta Barnett founded the Garden Suburb in the belief that a Tube station at Hampstead would be the “ruin of the sylvan restfulness of that portion of the most beautiful open space near London.” In response she organised a group called the Hampstead Heath Extension Council to save 80 acres of land to keep it safe from the “rows of ugly villas such as disfigure Willesden and most of the suburbs of London.” She succeeded, and the resulting residential area is meticulously planned and built according to guidelines that would ensure quiet, beauty and safety.

Wellgarth Manor is also near the best schools in London – Henrietta Barnett girls’ school, UCS boys’ school, South Hampstead girls’ school and further north, Haberdashers’ and Merchant Taylors. Maybe that £3m doesn’t sound too much after all.