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Athlone House ~  To the north east of the Heath is a derelict site within the Conservation area comprising the grounds and mansion of the former Caen Wood Towers (renamed Athlone House in 1972)

The original building on the site was called Caen Wood and this can be seen ABOVE...
click here to view the Athlone House Heath Extension )

This historic building, currently in disrepair, was built in 1872 for Edward Brooke, an aniline dye manufacturer (the architects were Edward Salomons and John Philpot).

Brooke became a Justice of The Peace for The City Of London but he left Caen Wood Towers in 1885 and Francis Reckitt and his family then moved in.

In 1900, Sir Francis Cory-Wright, a coal merchant, moved in.

In 1919, The House was sold to Sir Robert Waley Cohen, the managing director of Shell. (click here to see Cohen's Fields)

In 1942 the building was taken for war service by the Royal Air Force and was used to house the RAF Intelligence School, although the 'official' line was that it was a convalescence hospital.

The Operational Record (Form 540) of RAF Station Highgate (currently in the National Archives, Kew) was declassified in the late 1990s and shows the true role of this building in wartime service.

Athlone House, on Hampstead Lane, is one of London’s finest Victorian houses.

Picturesque views of Athlone House are enjoyed by millions of visitors to Hampstead Heath every year.

The building received 2 near misses from V-1 flying bombs in late 1944, causing damage and injuries to staff.

The RAF Intelligence School remained in Caen Wood Towers until 1948, when the building was handed over to the Ministry of Health.

It was then used as a hospital and finally a post-operative recovery lodge, before falling into disrepair in the 1980s.

However, the House and its gardens fall within the conservation area of Hampstead Heath.

The NHS sold off this part of their estate in 2004 to a private businessman who is currently redeveloping much of the site.

At the bottom of the grounds of Athlone House, there is a plot of land upon which Harry Hallowes, an Irish tramp, has lived since 1886.

(On either side of this area are the two Cohen's Fields.)

Because he has lived there longer than the 12 years required by law, Harry Hallowes has been declared the legal owner of this land by the Land Registry.

(Athlone House. more recently a nursing home, was sold to the property developers Dwyer International by Kensington and Chelsea Hospital NHS Trust.)

The plot consists of a 90ft-square woodland area around the 12ft x 8ft shack, which is Mr Hallowes' home.

If it were sold with permission for housing, estate agents say it would fetch more than £2million  but Mr Hallowes says he has no intention of selling  it!
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