By Jane Wynyard, May 15, 2012
One of the best things about Hampstead are the houses and the stories they tell – some fascinating and quirky, some with sad and terrible tales to tell. One such sad story is an apt testament to our pre-recession world of greed and corruption.
The above photo, taken a couple of days ago (May 2012), is all that's left of the dilapidated home of an elderly recluse millionaire author, Alan Chappelow, who lived alone on Devonshire Hill.
Mr Chappelow was battered to death in June 2006 in his house, known as Manor House, by an alleged M16 chinese informant and financial trader who tried to steal his money. The Chinese man, a serial fraudster called Yam, was apparently up to his armpits in debt.
Mr Chappelow, who was a specialist on George Bernard Shaw probably the last person ever to photograph the great writer, apparently lay dead in his house underneath seven decades of books, papers and newspapers for weeks in the ramshackle mansion while the ‘kindly’ Chinese trader tried to pilfer his bank accounts.
The banks became suspicious by the killer’s Chinese accent. He was caught and, despite claiming the murder was carried out by Mossad agents and Chinese triad gangs, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009.
The house, which Chappelow had lived in for 75 years from the age of 14 and had been in his family longer than that - was, according to newspaper reports, sold for 4.1 million and is now being demolished to make way for a new villa. Mr Chappelow was an award-winning photographer and author and specialised in portraits of leading literary and theatrical figures and mansions. His brutal death, over money and greed, seems such a sad and depressing ending for someone so creative and clever.
|Allan and his friends, the Sparrow Family (c) Camden News|
I never knew the history of the Grade 11 listed Georgian mansion, but used to walk past it at the weekend, with its chaotic gardens, crumbling walls, windows smothered with creepers, blue wrought iron balconies, 1940s motorbike with side car in the front section and Do Not Enter warning signs everywhere. Sadly much of the house had collapsed after a fire ripped through the basement and ground floor three weeks after Mr Chappelow's body was found by police.
I wondered who had lived there and why they’d let it fall into such disrepair especially as the rest of the street is so beautiful and well-maintained. I used to drag all my friends to have a look at it. It had a spooky atmosphere about it and one of my friends refused to look at it, eerily believing that someone had died in there - eerie because at that stage, neither of us knew that Mr Chappelow had been murdered there.
|The mansion falling to pieces|
Then suddenly one day in 2011, just months before the Yam went to trial, the section was bordered up with huge blue walls, the old 1940s bike taken away and huge scaffolding erected around the old mansion like a bandage. Large steel pipes were driven through the middle of the skeletal house like surgical metal pins holding together a broken body, and there it sat for another three years awaiting its fate.
For years I walked past the house so abandoned, forgotten and broken. Mr Chappelow and his family probably had a long and happy life in the house and it’s sad to see it in such a state. I later learnt that the new owners were waiting for planning permission to build a new home, retaining the original historic iron work from Manor House and building a new property with an identical facade to Mr Chappellow's.
Update: January 2014 - the house is now gone, and development has begun on the new property.
All that remains is a huge hole of dirt on which numerous machines are digging and preparing the ground for a new, cream coloured two storey house (left).
A picture of the new house pinned to the fencing shows an almost identical home to the rotting and collapsing building that once stood there.
Labels: England, Hampstead, London