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Who Really Owns Old London's Largest Private House?

In northwest London, a tony suburb called Highgate is the site of London’s largest private house — estimated to be worth more than 100 million pounds (approximately $142.3 million).

Witanhurst — an eleven-acre property with an expansive, multi-level mansion — has been the subject of rumors for many years, because no one has been definitively named as the owner. And with massive renovations taking place for nearly a decade, rumors and complaints are common among the Highgate community.

These changes have included: demolishing the old service wing and replacing it with a 3-story, Georgian villa called the “Orangery”; a new, connected basement measuring more than 40,000 square feet and including a 70-foot swimming pool, movie theater and parking for 25 cars; a second connected basement beneath the gatehouse, and more.

Once the renovations are complete, the home will have about 90,000 square feet of interior space — making it the second-largest mansion in London, after Buckingham Palace.

While the original estate dates back to the 1770s, the current “Queen Anne style” house was built between 1913 and 1920 for Sir Arthur Crosfield, a wealthy soap merchant. It’s currently “Grade-II” listed, which is an important historic and architectural designation.

With 25 bedrooms, a 70-foot-long ballroom and views over nearby Hampstead Heath and London itself, Witanhurst (“Parliament on the Hill” in Old English) has had several owners since Crosfield.

But as of 2008, no family had lived in the home regularly for decades. However, it had been used as a location for filming movies and TV shows, including The Lost Prince, Tipping the Velvet and Fame Academy.

The ownership of the home was the subject of much debate for years. Public records were unclear. Real estate agents, architects, contractors and attorneys kept quiet and even claimed to have signed confidentiality agreements. Recent rumors claimed that the home belonged to a family from Russia, but their identity remained a mystery.

In the last decade alone, the property exchanged hands several times. It was put on the market in 2005, then bought by a developer for 32 million pounds in 2007. The local council demanded that repairs be made, and after they were completed, it was again put up for sale — with an asking price of 75 million pounds.

And then, Witanhurst was sold for 50 million pounds in 2008. The buyer was an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands, said to be owned by the family of Andrey Guryev.

A Russian businessman and legislator, Guryev is one of Russia’s 30 richest people. According to Forbes, his personal fortune is approximately four billion dollars. But like the property that his holding company purchased, Guryev is a quiet man who remained so even during his career in politics and public service — rarely taking the floor to speak.

Why has Witanhurst maintained such public — even international — interest? A huge, luxury mansion that rivals a nearby royal castle, with a unique and mysterious history of ownership — it makes for quite an intriguing story.

Imagine having Witanhurst as YOUR listing!

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