A Mysterious European Is Turning London's Largest Mansion Into A Modern Xanadu


Photo: newformula via Flickr

Welcome to Witanhurst — the largest residential home in London and perhaps the city’s most mysterious property.The estate, which sits on five acres in London’s exclusive Highgate district, has been more or less vacant since 1970, when its owner stopped paying the hefty upkeep bills, according to Forbes.

But last year, a massive overhaul kicked off to restore the home to its former glory.

Click here to tour Witanhurst >
The blueprints call for the renovation of Witanhurst’s 25 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms and walnut-paneled grand ballroom, as well as the construction of a subterranean extension that will nearly double the mansion’s size and house a pool, hairdressing salon, and cinema, according to The Daily Mail.

The expansion is expected to cost around $80 million and will make Witanhurst just 2,000 square feet smaller than Buckingham Palace, London’s largest residence, The Daily Mail reports.

But incredibly, no one knows who currently owns the estate, or who is footing the renovation bill.

Here’s what we do know (via The Daily Mail):

  • A local developer bought the estate on behalf of an Arab family in 2007 for $51 million, saying he would renovate and resell the property for $239 million.
  • But the house reappeared on the market months later, untouched, for $120 million.
  • The home sold again in 2008 to a mystery buyer who completed the purchase through an offshore entity in the British Virgin Islands for $80 million.
  • The buyer filed ambitious renovation plans, including the construction of a glass pavilion. Those plans were initially rejected but later approved on appeal.
  • Not even the architect knows who the buyer is. The construction team has reportedly said that the owner is “a wealthy European family looking for a permanent base in London.”
  • It was widely reported that Yelena Baturina, a Russian tycoon and wife of former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, was behind the renovation. But Baturina, who made her fortune in construction, has vehemently denied those rumours.

No matter who owns Witanhurst, it’s clear that overhauling the abandoned estate is a Herculean task. Two photographers, JakeSPhoto and Eddie Error, were kind enough to share their images of Witanhurst’s decayed interior with us.

The estate was built in 1774 for a stockbroker and his eight children

The home has a massive grand hallway and four tennis courts

But its been largely empty since 1970, when its last occupant left

A grand piano sits in one of the mansion's gilded rooms

A decayed bathroom

And unfinished floors

Remnants of the home's former glory still peek through

One of the grand staircases

Another view of the hallway

The mansion is filled with arched doorways

Decadent paneling

The grand staircase still looks impressive

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.