Inventory Site Record

Athlone House Grounds (Kenwood Place) (Camden)

Brief Description

Planning permission for development of Athlone House and its grounds, to be called Kenwood Place (in progress)

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Caen Wood Towers
Site location:
Hampstead Lane
N6 4RU
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
Housing/Estate Landscaping
Open to public?
Opening times:
To check on completion of development
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Caen Wood Towers, later called Athlone House, was one of a number of fine villas built on the Southampton Estate in Highgate. It was built by Edward Salomons and John Philpot Jones in 1870-2 for Edward Brooke, a wealthy entrepreneur from Manchester, and covered the estates of two earlier mansions, Dufferin Lodge and Fitzroy House, both built c.1838/9. Dufferin Lodge had 4 acres of land and was built for a wealthy merchant, Charles Crawley, but became the home of Lord Dufferin, Governor General of Canada and Viceroy of India. In 1860 Highgate Horticultural Society held its first garden show here, which took place annually in succeeding years, including after Dufferin Lodge was sold and demolished for Caen Wood Towers, whose grounds were subsequently used for at least 12 garden shows. The substantial mock-Elizabethan mansion was on the site of Fitzroy House, built by Charles Crawley's brother George Abraham Crawley, to whom the Crawley Chapel at Highgate School was dedicated. Fitzroy House was demolished in 1869, its 8-acre estate becoming part of the grounds of Caen Wood Towers. Pulham & Co. are known to have undertaken some work for Brooke in 1870. Other wealthy businessmen succeeded the Brookes, including dye-maker Francis Reckitt.

An advertisement for a Colonial Garden Party in 1886 in aid of the Finsbury Park Young Men's Christian Association described the garden, then owned by Reckitt, as follows: 'It is simply impossible to describe the beauty of CAEN-WOOD TOWERS. Within the Grounds will be found a MINIATURE LAKE, LOVELY WALKS, AND BOWERS, GROVES, GROTTOES, COOL RETREATS. . . '. A later owner was coal-merchant Sir Cory Francis-Wright, High Sheriff of Middlesex and Chairman of Hornsey District Council, who died here in 1909. During WWI Caen Wood Towers was used to house Belgian refugees and then became the American Hospital for British soldiers. The last private owner was Sir Robert Waley-Cohen (1877-1952), an industrialist with Shell Oil and a leading figure in the Anglo-Jewish community and President of the United Synagogue. He was also active in the campaign to save the Kenwood Estate from development, and part of Hampstead Heath is now called Cohen's Fields after him.

In 1951 Caen Wood Towers was leased to the Ministry of Health for Middlesex Hospital residential nursing home, and remained in NHS ownership until 2003. During this time it provided publicly accessible private open space abutting Hampstead Heath and Kenwood (q.q.v.), and in its grounds were ponds and the derelict Caen Wood Towers Farmhouse, a model farm built in the late C19th. In the late 1990s, the NHS Trust decided to relocate and to sell Athlone House, and in 2002 a planning application was under review by Governors of Highgate School for change of use for educational purposes with a view to purchasing the site, which is south of school playing fields across Hampstead Lane. This did not go through and Athlone House and grounds were subsequently sold in 2003 to Dwyer Investments Ltd, the house to be demolished and developer Brooking Properties Ltd to build luxury homes on the site. As part of the development deal 1 hectare of the grounds was handed over to the Corporation of London to add to Hampstead Heath, the first new land to be added to the Heath in more than 60 years. This took place at a ceremony on 6 June 2007; Brooking Properties also made a one-off payment of £50,000 for ongoing maintenance. The addition to the Heath provides an important buffer between Kenwood and the Athlone House development. The western part of the additional land is managed as a conservation area, landscaped with indigenous planting. The southern, publicly accessible part has a new hedgerow planted and volunteers from Heath Hands have undertaken a number of projects such as cutting back bramble and opening up new glades.

Planning permission for development of Athlone House and its grounds, to be called Kenwood Place, was granted in 2009 and includes conversion of Athlone House, The Coach House, The Gate House and Caen Cottage for houses and erection of 3 new blocks of flats, with underground parking and landscaping (Hamiltons Architects Ltd).

Sources consulted:

LB Camden Planning information; 'Streets of Highgate' ed. Steven Denford and David A Hayes (Camden History Society Publications, 2007); John Richardson, 'Highgate Past' (Historical Publications Ltd, 1989); LB Camden, Highgate Conservation Area Appraisal and Management Strategy, 2007

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ278874 (527624,187453)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Brooking Properties
Site management:
Brooking Properties
Listed structures:
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character: Hampstead & Highgate Ridge
Other LA designation:
Private Open Space

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.