Poetic licence

Famous former residents add value as well as glamour to a property. Belinda Archer reports

A delightful Grade II listed double-fronted Georgian house in the heart of Highgate Village has just gone on sale for the first time in 42 years. It boasts four floors of bright and roomy accommodation, crucial off-street parking, and an impressive collection of celebrity neighbours.

A delightful Grade II listed double-fronted Georgian house in the heart of Highgate Village has just gone on sale for the first time in 42 years. It boasts four floors of bright and roomy accommodation, crucial off-street parking, and an impressive collection of celebrity neighbours.

But perhaps more than this, Moreton House, priced at a not-insignificant £3m by Hampstead estate agents Savills, was once the home of Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Rumour has it that while wandering about the shrubbery in its 143ft south-facing rear garden Coleridge tweaked the final version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. He used to sit at his desk in the top floor study and work through the proofs and he is believed to have shared many a happy hour there with fellow Romantic poets Wordsworth and Keats. "Coleridge lived in Moreton House for several years while he was being looked after by an apothecary who was trying to cure his addiction to laudanum," says Simon Edwards, an associate director at Savills.

But how much of the seven-bedroom pile's price tag is for the bricks and mortar, and how much for the fact that it comes with a genuine literary connection? Do famous former residents crank up the value of properties? And what is it like living in a home with a history?

Edwards says: "Famous associations add value, but not necessarily a huge amount. Ultimately people are too savvy and they just care about bricks and mortar and location. They won't buy a property just because of its historical association, unless they are complete fans." He adds that Savills handled the sale of a Bracknell house that was used as Number Four, Privet Drive in the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. That was initially planned for an auction sale, but it failed to reach its £240,000 reserve price and ultimately went for a mere £30,000 more than similar properties in the same cul-de-sac.

The science fiction writer Aldous Huxley lived in a house in Hampstead, which was sold a year ago. The family had lived there for many years and it is thought that he penned his 1932 Brave New World there, but this cut no ice with sniffy buyers.

The problem seems to be that London, in particular, is so knee-deep in historic buildings where significant things happened or literary classics were penned or famous people lodged that they are, well, almost 10 a penny.

Blue plaques, however, have real potential to add value. These are awarded at much discretion by English Heritage to mark buildings of historical interest, predominantly in London (where there are more than 760 such plaques), but it does depend on which famous person they are commemorating. Compare the cachet of Nelson, for instance, with some obscure 18th century poet or philanthropist.

"Blue plaques can genuinely add value, but only if it is someone particularly famous. Otherwise it probably makes no difference, other than to make nosey passers-by loiter outside," says Charlie Seligman, an associate director of Savills, Sloane Street.

Interesting pasts can crank up a property's appeal and help it stand out in a saturated buyers' market. The developers Beechcroft have just finished converting Thameside Place, a villa that they believe used to be the home of Lillie Langtry, actress and mistress of Edward VII, and this little nugget of information is finding its way on to all marketing materials.

Agents Cluttons, in Arundel, are similarly making great play of the literary credentials for Bury House, a Grade II-listed West Sussex property in which the author of The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy, resided for the last seven years of his life.

Samantha Cookson, of Hamptons International, agents for Thameside Place, comments: "In our experience, having a famous former owner or resident of any property increases the amount of interest we receive. Many of those viewing have been particularly interested in the historical connection with Lillie Langtry and in the area itself, which is steeped in history."

So if famous former residents don't always raise a property's price, it still must be quite appealing living somewhere with such a unique and special history mustn't it?

Ivor Burt, the current resident of Moreton House, says: "The fact that Coleridge lived here certainly made a difference when we bought.

"We felt we were buying a little piece of literary history. It's rather nice to think of him strolling up and down the garden."

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Exhibition Content Developer

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in South Kensington, this prestigi...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established managed services IT...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003