So terribly important, Noel's flat

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The Independent Online
THE HOUSE in which Sir Noel Coward wrote and rehearsed some of his most famous plays was listed yesterday as a Grade II building because of its historical associations.

Sir Noel lived on the top two floors of the house in Gerald Road near Sloane Square, central London, from 1930 until 1956 when he left England for tax exile in Bermuda.

During his time in London Sir Noel wrote some of his best-known works including Blithe Spirit, In Which We Serve and Design For Living.

The English Heritage inspector's report makes some play of the fact that the childhood home of the former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney has been listed, and firmly states that the master of 20th-century theatrical comedy is equally deserving of such recognition.

Hitherto, houses have been listed for architectural reasons. Now that cultural history has also become a criterion, there is likely to be considerable lobbying for the homes of cultural icons to be listed.

The inspector writes in his report: "Biographies and the regular revivals of [Sir Noel's] plays, together with the continued popularity of his songs, have established Coward as the most significant and lasting popular playwright and songsmith of his generation.

"Gerald Road is at least as deserving of recognition as Paul Macartney's [sic] childhood home; and has the added benefit of clearly manifesting his personal interventions on the fabric."

The Arts minister Alan Howarth visited the house yesterday. He said: "Between 1930 and 1956 this house was the home of a man widely regarded as one of British theatre's most gifted writers and entertainers.

"Sir Noel lived there for much of his working life, and not only wrote many of his most successful plays and revues at Gerald Road, but made permanent alterations to the flat which reflect the particular style of English life that his work both celebrates and teases. It is also fitting that Sir Noel's home should be listed in time for the centenary of his birth next year."

The building, originally a late 19th-century coach house and hayloft, was converted into two flats in the early part of this century.

The interior panelling, wrought ironwork, staircase and bookcases combine traditional Georgian taste with a personal whimsy, characteristic of the man and his times. In particular there is a fixed stage for rehearsals and performances and a fixed desk at which he wrote.

The flat is little altered since Coward left in 1956.