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OPULENCE & SPLENDOUR

Luxury and the artsFrom houses to cars and from Hockney to van Dyck, a profile of the best and the worst

First Among (Not So) Equals

The latest sale of 32a Ovington Square

 

I first visited 32a Ovington Square in September 2009. At the time, this “hidden house” was the home of Lord Carrington and it had just come on the market at a price, if I recall correctly, of circa £3,000,000.

 

The newly redeveloped Carrington House, 32a Ovington Square, London, SW3 1LR
The Rt. Hon. The Lord Carrington KG, GCMG, CH, MC, PC, DL (born 6th June 1919) with his wife Lady Carrington (1920 – 2009) and their dog Edward

 

A friend was looking for somewhere to buy in London and I’d somehow come across the aforementioned property in a magazine. A detached house in Knightsbridge at this price seemed like a bargain and as he was keen to take a look and I lived round the corner, we arranged to see it together.

 

During this period, I had unfortunately made the mistake of making the acquaintance of a former ambassador’s wife who thought herself rather grand. Said woman somehow found out about my friend going to what Americans might term an “open house” at 32a Ovington Square and somehow muscled in. This individual happened to be selling her own home nearby and I reckon she, like my friend, thought she’d be onto a bargain. She’d previously unsuccessfully tried to persuade my friend to buy her individually styled, Ralph Lauren wallpapered home but as it actually rattled every time an underground train went underneath and as it was far from a bargain, he’d sensibly declined.

 

We arrived at the 2,240 square foot 32a Ovington Square to be told by a rather unhelpful estate agent that we’d have to just wander round by ourselves and that there was no brochure or floor plan. As a merry throng trailed through the house, Lord Carrington stood in the garden looking bemused and his secretary fussed around him. The pair plainly weren’t comfortable with all the interlopers and all in all, who could blame them.

 

The ex-ambassador’s wife, whose carelessness Rupert Everett most amusingly made reference to in his recent memoirs, spent the entire visit whingeing about the house being dark and stinking of damp. I had to agree with her as the neighbouring buildings towered over it and there was mould on the walls. My friend simply said: “It needs a fortune spending on it.” We left and later I heard that it sold for well above the asking price. The wife of the ex-ambassador thankfully departed from our lives soon after.

 

A site plan shows how hidden away 32a Ovington Square truly is – ideal for a government minister or indeed a wayward celebrity

 

About a year and a half later, I saw 32a Ovington Square for sale with planning permission to construct a far larger residence with a basement and sub-basement pool complex. The price was in the order of £14,000,000. I thought that somewhat ludicrous but now that the very same property is on the market at a price of £23,00,000, it seems that the world has just gone mad.

 

The brochure for the new residence, which has been renamed, Carrington House, reveals a three-storey low-built freehold building with 5,300 square foot of accommodation. Though 32a Ovington Square has been more than doubled in size by a developer named London City Developments, the sub-basement leisure complex has not been constructed. Could this have been because of planning problems or simply because such construction wasn’t deemed to add value?

 

In August 2002, Lord Carrington, whom The Mirror described as being  “doddery” in a Scurra diary piece, was said to have objected to a bar named Townhouse behind his former home being given a 1am licence. That bar has since closed but as seven of the residents of Ovington Square and Beauchamp Place also took a dislike to the prospect of subterranean developments at his former home, only proposals for a single basement level were included in the January 2010 plans submitted by a Mr & Mrs R. Garner.

 

Jeffrey Archer’s 1984 novel “First Among Equals” (published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN: 0-340-35266-3)

 

Aside from controversy with residents and planning officials, this “heavily overlooked,” “dark” house gets a brief credit in Jeffrey Archer’s 1984 novel, First Among Equals:

 

“Charles would not have normally accepted the invitation. Lately he found cocktail parties to consist of nothing but silly little bits of food, never being able to get the right drink and rarely enjoying the trivial conversation. But when he glanced on his mantelpiece and saw an ‘At Home’ from Lady Carrington he felt it might be an amusing break from the routine he had fallen into since Fiona left. He was keen to discover more about the rumoured squabbles in Cabinet over expenditure cuts. He checked his tie in the mirror, removed an umbrella from the hat stand and left Eaton Square for Ovington Square… He arrived at Lord Carrington’s front door a little after six forty-five. A maid answered his knock, and he walked straight through to a drawing room that could have held fifty guests and very nearly did. He even managed to be served with the right blend of whiskey before joining his colleagues from both the Upper and Lower Houses.”

 

Turning to the real Lord Carrington, here is a man who has led a remarkable life. He served as Foreign Secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet between 1979 and 1982 and as Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988. The last surviving member of the Cabinets of both Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home was British High Commissioner in Australia between 1956 and 1959 and also chaired the 1979 Lancaster House conference that brought Zimbabwe’s revolutionary war to an end. In 1991, Carrington presided over diplomatic talks in the former Yugoslavia and commented:

 

“When I first talked to Presidents Milošević and Tudjman, it was quite clear that both of them had a solution which was mutually satisfactory – which was that they were going to carve up Bosnia between them.”

 

Lord Carrington at his desk in 32a Ovington Square, Knightsbridge
The Manor House, Bledlow, Buckinghamshire, HP27 9PB is the country home of Lord Carrington

 

Milošević was found dead in his cell in 2006 but it is quite possible that Lord Carrington’s name will be mentioned in the trial of Goran Hadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that has just commenced at The Hague. It is amazing to think that matters involving this 93-year old politician are still current but Carrington’s stamina is shown in his roles as the longest serving member of the House of Lords and the second longest serving member of the Privy Council after HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

 

Aside from politics, there is much on the internet, a considerable amount of it written by wildcards and fantasists whose number includes David Icke, about Carrington’s involvement with Henry Kissinger, the Illuminati, the Bilderberg Group and the Committee of 300. The consensus of these conspiracy theorists generally borders on the ludicrous, but it is without doubt that Lord Carrington had and continues to have influence in many high places. He was chairman of Christie’s International PLC from 1988 to 1993 and has held directorships on the boards of companies that have included Barclays Banks PLC, Hambros PLC, Cadbury Schweppes PLC, Amalgamated Metal Corporation PLC, British Metal Corpoation PLC, Rio Tinto PLC, Kissinger Associates Inc. and Hollinger Inc.

 

The main entrance to Carrington House
The main reception room of the house is decorated in a contemporary style and a far cry from the traditional decoration favoured by Lord and Lady Carrington
An essential feature in any house priced over £10 million is a media room
Carrington House now boasts a bar that any dignitary would envy
The newly added basement level features an entertaining hall, dining room, bar, gym, media room and two bedroom suites
The staircase is now lit by a glazed cupola
The master bedroom
The master bathroom
Another bedroom, located at basement level, is decorated with a Scottish theme and has access to a shared courtyard
The other suite that shares the courtyard is decorated with an “Out of Africa” theme complete with an image of a zebra and matching linen and upholstery
Would the purchaser of a £23,000,000 home truly want an AstroTurf lawn?

 

Following on from this rather over the top redevelopment, a new chapter has certainly begun at 32a Ovington Square. Whether it is bought by a popstar or a Russian oligarch, they’ll definitely not be anywhere nearly as equal to Lord Carrington in terms of their league of influence.

 

Carrington House, 32a Ovington Square, London, SW3 1LR is for sale through Knight Frank. For further information contact Nick Vestey on +44 (0) 20 7591 8600. Full details of the house can be viewed at: http://search.knightfrank.com/sla100211

 

For more details about the Carrington family’s Carrington Estates Ltd., go to: http://www.carington.co.uk/

Comments

2 comments on “First Among (Not So) Equals”

  1. Lord Carrington, is indeed a truly remarkable gentleman and brilliant statesman , and in sharp contrast with what ones finds nowdays in diplomatic ranks, where the level is plummeting fast.
    I am very honored to have met him and attended events/ lectures where he was guest speaker or chairman.

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