Buy Of The Week: Middlesex

Set in the unlikely location of Stanmore, a magical and historic home will transport you straight into the Country Life set
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The Independent Online

As far as outer London suburbs go, Stanmore in Middlesex has a fair amount going for it. Locals appreciate its variety of green spaces and good transport links (it has a station on the Jubilee Line). With its low crime figures and good schools, Stanmore is a pleasant place to live - but it doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd.

As far as outer London suburbs go, Stanmore in Middlesex has a fair amount going for it. Locals appreciate its variety of green spaces and good transport links (it has a station on the Jubilee Line). With its low crime figures and good schools, Stanmore is a pleasant place to live - but it doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd.

Which is why Stanmore Hall, an atmospheric Gothic mansion just one-and-a- half miles from nearby Edgware, seems even more incongruous. Normally the sort of property that you see plastered over the pages of Country Life, it certainly doesn't fit with Stanmore's average housing stock, which has perhaps more than its fair share of mock-Tudor 1930s properties.

Standing at the highest point in Middlesex and with views stretching up to 20 miles, Stanmore Hall is a huge and dramatic edifice. It was originally built in 1744 by the Duke of Chandos, designed by Brightwen Binyon and enlarged in the late 18th century by James Forbes of the East India Company, who adorned the garden with the first pieces of Hindu sculpture ever seen in Britain. It has been described as "the most perfect house in the kingdom".

Recently restored and converted by Relic Pride into 24 luxury apartments, it is enhanced by its secluded gardens, filled with many species of protected trees.

Estate agent Leon Benardout from Anscombe and Ringland is marketing the penthouse apartment at Stanmore Hall, which is on the market for a cool £1.5m. He says: "Stanmore Hall is unique to this area - and the penthouse is the jewel in the crown."

Enclosed within walls and overlooked by a gatehouse, Stanmore Hall has all the right credentials for those who aspire to country living. It's approached via a gravelled driveway and entered through double doors in a crenellated portico. The split-level penthouse, which is also known as Castle Keep, is set within the turret of the hall and occupies three floors, including the roof terrace. The dramatic views stretch across north London, taking in Canary Wharf, Wembley Stadium and Harrow on the Hill.

The three-bedroomed penthouse is currently owned by Sandy Oakley, who bought the apartment after she and her family moved from a much bigger house. "It more than makes up for the fact that it's smaller than our previous house," she says. "We have found it a fascinating, magical place to live. Whenever children come to visit, it reminds them of the Harry Potter books, and they think they're in Hogwarts. There's also a great sense of security, as we are watched over by the gated security system. The building is surrounded by woods; all you have to do is walk along a little lane and you're there."

The entrance to the penthouse is via a grand hall (above left), whose most dramatic feature is the 150-year-old William Morris mosaic floor that leads to a sweeping staircase. With a desk for a porter (Stanmore Hall is the only portered property in the area), as well as comfortable chairs and pot-plants, it's more hotel lobby than grand country house - but it sets the tone for the rest of the interior.

Inside the apartment, the sitting room has an Art Deco feel, with its pitched roof, marble fireplace and black-and-white furnishings. Like all the other rooms, it has dramatic views. The kitchen, which is kitted out with good quality oak-finished wooden units, black granite worktops and limestone tiled flooring, has a staircase leading down to a private wine cellar and the gardens.

Another spiral staircase in the turret leads up from the kitchen to the third floor, currently occupied by Oakley's son and his girlfriend - where "you can lie in bed and see the London skyline". The bedroom leads up to a large square roof terrace with crenellated walls and more "incredible" views. All the bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms.

The apartment has access to a passenger lift down to the 40ft swimming-pool. And although the pool is shared among the residents of the other 23 flats in the house, Oakley says: "It's very private. All the residents get along well and we don't get in each other's way. When I'm using the pool, there's often no one else there." There's even a communal Jacuzzi (if you're getting on particularly well with the neighbours), and secluded gardens of about three acres (perfect for a getaway when you're not). Other extras include an underground car park, a gymnasium and a bridge room.

"There are only a few people who would want this sort of quirky property," says Oakley, "but I think the right buyer will find us. I care terribly that it goes to someone who loves it. There's a responsibility in passing it to the right person."

The Castle Keep at Stanmore Hall is for sale at £1,500,000 through Anscombe & Ringland (020 8954 6111)

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