For London home buyers, there are some desirable property traits that can be hard to come by. Homes with lots of outdoor space, for example, are few and far between. And the distant hum of city life is never far away. One thing that those living in the capital are not wanting for, however, is history. If period buildings are what gets you going, you’re in the right place.
Our latest Property of the Month, the Heritage Collection at 9 Millbank, is one such example but, to understand its story, you need to look further back into the city’s history. London replaced Colchester as the capital of Britannia in the second century, and the population steadily rose until the stirrings of the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s. During this period, the urbanised area spread into places like Islington, Paddington, Belgravia, Holborn, Shoreditch and Southwark. Later, the period between the two World Wars saw London’s geography grow more quickly than ever before or since.
As a result, the city is studded with reminders of a lifetime spanning centuries in the form of former industrial properties, warehouses and other reminders of London’s industrial past. And, as these buildings fall out of their original usage, and people continue to pour into London, one by one they are being transformed into stunning residences on an increasingly regular basis.
9 Millbank is a particularly creative reimagining of one of the capital’s relics: a selection of five Grade II-listed homes overlooking the Houses of Parliament and River Thames, on the boundaries of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The building has a storied past: 9 Millbank was designed by Sir Frank Baines, chief architect at the British Office of Works, and constructed between 1927 and 1929. It was then known as Imperial Chemical House, built for Imperial Chemical Industries which was, for a long time, the largest manufacturer in Britain. ICI erected the building on Millbank (a name which refers to the 14th Century mill that served Westminster Abbey and the banks of earth that held back the Thames water) because it was a trade route to the Continent.
Imperial Chemical House cost nearly £1,800,000 to build – equivalent to approximately £120.5 million today. New building innovations meant it was to go up within two and a half years, half the time expected for a building of its size, while the finished product was also breathtakingly advanced: it was lit by ‘artificial daylight’, and employees would breathe air freshened by an ozone plant.
The most pioneering materials and equipment were used: marble lined the walls and floors and limed Austrian oak was used for the doorways, doors, dados and panelling along two miles of corridors. This Neoclassical stone structure of 9 Millbank, from its provenance to execution, is a living symbol of Britain’s industrial innovation.
The Heritage Collection apartments reside on 9 Millbank’s upper floors – the former boardrooms and offices of the ICI chairman, directors and officials. In its curation, developer St Edward has taken great pains to retain the building’s history, with master artisans were commissioned to restore, and in some cases replicate, the original 1920s features.
For example, the entrance of 9 Millbank is flanked by two 20ft doors designed in 1927 by William Bateman Fagan (reminiscent of the bronze gates made by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistery in Florence). Weighing 21 tons, each door is divided into six panels which illustrate the progress of industry: the left panels show primitive man engaged in activities such as hunting, building and agriculture, while the right panels illustrate how these activities have evolved with science.
The sixth floor, meanwhile, is home to eight busts commemorating innovators in chemistry. These include Alfred Nobel, founder of the Nobel Peace Prize and inventor of dynamite; Joseph Priestly, the man who discovered oxygen; and Alfred Mond, the ICI founder and chairman.
Also immortalised in sculpture, this time on the corner of 9 Millbank overlooking Lambeth Bridge, are the industries of construction, marine transport, agriculture and chemistry. The pieces were created by Charles Sargeant Jagger, whose works include the Royal Artillery memorial at Hyde Park Corner. Elsewhere, intricately carved architraves, hand-cut timber panelling, ornate plasterwork and cornicing, all subject to protection by Historic England, have been painstakingly repaired.
Ranging from 2,550 sq ft to 9,717 sq ft, the Heritage Collection residences comprise five elegant apartments. There is The Conrad, which features a 30-metre private Portland stone terrace, plus four bedrooms, a double-height lounge with mezzanine library, a ‘hideaway’ with a study, TV room and bar, and a separate guest apartment. The Walpole is just as gorgeous: a space decked out with original wood panelling and featuring a dramatic entrance hall and a living space rich in detailed features, such as glazed screens and decorative plasterwork.
The Astor, meanwhile, boasts a double-height living space and mezzanine, as well as a separate two-bedroom guest annex and private roof garden with views of the London Eye, while The Somerset offers a vaulted dining and living room, plus a roof terrace and winter garden.
Last but not least: The Gainsborough. This apartment enjoys the most sumptuous master suite in the development, where a super king-size bed resides beneath a domed ceiling. Its private stone terrace comes complete with an original sculpture of the chemist Charles Sargeant.
The calibre of amenities matches that of the interiors, comprising a gym, swimming pool, spa with treatment room, cinema screening room, meeting rooms, secure underground parking and 24-hour concierge. The building’s ‘Club Concierge’ is on hand for all requirements, including private event catering, beauty and spa treatments, personal trainers, restaurant and events reservations, transportation, florists and in-apartment fine dining.
If you’re looking for a home where history permeates every door, stone and panel – with the specification and services befitting a modern development – you have officially found it.
Apartments start from £18,000,000. For more information visit 9millbank.co.uk