For Catherine Beagley, the sales and marketing director at Berkeley Homes (West London), the restoration and conversion of the former Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon, couldn’t have come soon enough.
A Wimbledon girl all her life, she can remember the days when this was a working neurosurgical hospital and the many years that it has been closed and neglected since the last patient was treated in 2003.
Some of that neglect is evident as we work our way around the Victorian building – graffiti on the walls, remnants of fires and teenage vandalism that come with a derelict building, can be seen. You’d never imagine that this was once one of the world’s most advanced brain surgery centres.
But when Beagley and the team of architects and developers first walked around the site they could instantly see the potential “As soon as we walked the site we were buzzing with ideas about what we could do with it, where you could instantly see an incredible duplex apartment with a mezzanine and a vaulted ceiling, or how you could convert the chapel into its own self-contained apartment complete with the stained glass windows and wood panelling. Seeing inside the building, it just made sense.”
She’s not the only one who is excited to see the transformation of what is a landmark local building. “Local people are really excited about the historic project and the level of interest is really high – people are clawing at the door to get in,” says Beagley of the highly anticipated launch of the apartments in the hospital building. “If you live locally, you cannot fail to want to see this building restored to its former glory. Working on this project, it’s one of those sites that you just know you’re going to be really proud of when it’s finished.”
The development of the historic space, which opened in 1869, has not been easy – in some places, around the soaring double-height bay windows there are cracks large enough to put your hand through, in others the beautiful curved brick ceilings are being protected and supported by a form of spray-on concrete that will hold them in place so that the detailing can be retained.
It will be worth it though as period buildings, with their characterful features and interesting spaces, are a real draw for buyers who want the charm and personality. But most modern buyers also want the security of a new-home guarantee, of double-glazing and efficient heating. Character conversions such as this are the ideal compromise.
“Everyone loves a conversion,” says Beagley. “There’s a status thing to live in a grand building, but you get the best of both worlds as you don’t have the upkeep and maintenance that comes with an old building.”
It doesn’t get much more grand than the penthouse triplex apartment, which will even come with its own turret and Victorian wrought-iron railings – and a glorious south-facing view over formal gardens, and then landscaped mature parkland, followed by open playing fields – you almost can’t see another house around.
One of the most exciting things about working with an old building like this is that the architects have top work with what already exists, so you get some really unique spaces – the duplex apartments in the wings of the hospital will have double aspect windows and mezzanine floors to make the most of the extraordinarily high ceiling heights.
Under the building there will be parking with a lift, while the development will also house a gym, concierge and a business lounge with wifi and a meeting room. And as part of the redevelopment of the site, Berkeley Homes is refurbishing Morley Park spots pavilion, which will provide sports facilities for the pupils at Ursuline High School which neighbours the parkland. As a former Ursuline girl herself, it’s no wonder Beagley feels proud of the project. “This site has got everything,” she says, “it’s a dream to work on.”
And for a very lucky few, it will be a dream to live in, too.
Wellington Row, the centrepiece historic hospital conversion at The Wimbledon Collection, launches this September. Two bedroom apartments at the development start at £1.15 million. Find out more at www.berkeleygroup.co.uk or to register an interest call 0208 003 6139 or email email@example.com.
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