20 September, 2006

Whitehall Court



One of my favourite buildings sits on the north bank of the Thames, rising up behind the Victoria Embankment Gardens. I had seen it many times on my frequent river strolls—a long neo-Gothic mansion with a restored right wing, like something one might see along the Rhine. But I knew not what it was—I had some vague sort of notion of it as Admiralty HQ, or a former War Office, or Banqueting House. Recently I decided to investigate, and discovered that it is none of these things. My mistake: a glance at the A-to-Z had been too cursory—


Having only considered the building from across the river, I had only an imperfect notion of its exact location. Given its apparent importance, I assumed that it was one of the buildings marked on the map (in purple). But it turns out to be the unmarked area that I have here indicated with a red spot. The Old War Office (which it is claimed to be by Dan Hyde, who took the second photo above from the London Eye) turns out to be this building, while Banqueting House looks like this. In fact, the mysterious Gothic edifice is the one outlined in red on the aerial photograph below:


So what is it? The answer is: Whitehall Court, which I had taken merely for a street name. But it serves no grand historical function: it is only a hotel and a block of flats. How disappointing! Still, Wikipedia has an article on it. It was designed in the 1880s by eminent Victorian architects, including Alfred Waterhouse, better known for the fabulous Natural History Museum. H. G. Wells and G. B. Shaw lived there. And guess what? You can buy a 2-bedroom apartment there, albeit one facing away from the river, for 650 grand—which, given London house prices, is an astonishing bargain.

15 comments:

chris miller said...

It perfectly matches my childhood image of merry-old-London ---- as the place where Mary Poppins would live, while her boyfriend, the chimney sweep, would dance across the roof tops.

language said...

And across Whitehall Place is the old Hotel Metropole, which features in Pat Barker's WWI trilogy (as the home for a military office).

Richard said...

"But it serves no grand historical function: it is only a hotel and a block of flats"

Umm, not exactly. As the wikipedia article points out, most of the building is taken up by the Liberal Club which seems to me to have a certain historical importance (certainly it's one I had heard of before):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Liberal_Club

Conrad H. Roth said...

Pish! A gentlemen's club? Historical, p'raps--but hardly grand.

Richard said...

That rather depends on the calibre of gentleman...

Mario Corile said...

If you would like to see a more artistic view of Whitehall Court please look here:

http://www.corile-design.co.uk/White-Hall-Court-Small.jpg

http://www.corile-design.co.uk/WhitCrtL.jpg

Mario Corile

Kenneth Johnson said...

I was happy to see your interest in Whitehall Court. My wife and I met in London and spent two and a half of our happiest years living in the flat once inhabited by Mr. Shaw. We certainly felt surrounded by the history of the building, and it was also nice to be able to order room service from the Thistle Hotel (also in the building) which will deliver to the adjacent flats. Thanks for the site.

Conrad H. Roth said...

Sounds very grand, Kenneth; thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on what you define as interesting/historically important
it was the birthplace of the secret intelligence services
http://hometown.aol.com/FenianRam/cumming.html

the story of its financer was covered in a interesting book on Jabez Balfour
(only a bit of the building houses the national liberal club)
the price of the flats is limited by the high service charge (approx £7k for one of the smaller 2 bed flats)
a bit more interesting than your average boring suburban pile of bricks??
I've more info on WHC if you want me to challenge your notion of 'disappointing'??

Conrad H. Roth said...

"a bit more interesting than your average boring suburban pile of bricks??"

Who could possibly doubt it?

"I've more info on WHC if you want me to challenge your notion of 'disappointing'"

Please do!

Anonymous said...

what would make it less disappointing?

Conrad H. Roth said...

I don't know, try me...

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid £650k is a little on the low side. As one just sold there for £4.5 million.

Conrad H. Roth said...

That's more what I would expect. At the time of writing, however, there was one for 650, which I had linked to.

Anonymous said...

Lived there for four years, not riverside facing but still OMG what a base to explore London from!

But yes the non-riverside facing are substantially cheaper although 650k for a 2 bed sounds cheap (define 2 bed - there was one that claimed to be a 2 bedder at 550sqft!).

Sigh... miss London so much...