Maze Hill runs down the east side of glorious Greenwich Park, and just a few of the houses at the bottom of the road have direct access to the park. One of those properties is now on the market – a rare treat indeed – and the current owner takes The Resident on a tour…
Words: Sue McNeil
Having direct access to the oldest of London’s Royal Parks is an amazing and unique privilege, with only three other adjoining houses that enjoy this access. As part of our licence we have to abide by park rules, which exclude after hours access, but to have a 183 acre ‘backyard’ maintained by the Royal Parks is one of the greatest treats of living here for so many years.
We have had many summer parties spreading out into the park and, when it has snowed in winter, we’ve had great sledging parties. On a day-to-day basis it is a joy to step out of our gate for a walk or a run, or just to go shopping in Greenwich or Blackheath.
The garden wall dividing us from the park is part of the original 1660s Jacobean enclosure. Our garden housed some of the outbuildings for the children’s hospital, built in 1809 for the Old Royal Naval Hospital seamen’s children. The house originally formed the southern end of this hospital, or ‘asylum’ as it is referred to on the original plans. The block was later divided into individual dwellings as officers’ quarters, which then included the adjoining house at No 40, added in Victorian times. The MOD and Crown Estate began to sell off the dwellings privately from the 1970s.
Just before No 38 came onto the market, my husband Peter was living in a flat on the first floor of No 36 Maze Hill. No 38 was let out and had been badly neglected so was in need of major renovation, but we were excited about the project to salvage such a unique house with a garden on the edge of Greenwich Park.
Despite the state of disrepair we had always hankered after it and were delighted when it came to the market. The sale took place by blind bid which, after an initial hiccup, we secured, selling the first-floor flat at No 36 to our ground-floor neighbours, but taking what is now our street side bedroom to form part of the new house.
Our first action on buying the house was to find a suitable architect. We appointed Bob Hayes and Jon Broome of Architype, who have since gone on to be world leaders in sustainable architecture and building design. They drew up the plans and oversaw all the works, helping us secure a grant from English Heritage to contribute to renovating the Grade II listed house in a way that was sensitive to its Georgian military heritage, but worked as a modern living space for us.
Architype helped us secure a grant from English Heritage to contribute to renovating the Grade II listed house in a way that was sensitive to its Georgian military heritage, but worked as a modern living space
English Heritage were very strict and particular while being supportive. We had to eradicate dry rot and extensive damp proofing was introduced, new drains and later, again with the help of English Heritage, a new roof put on the whole building using slates acquired from Buckingham Palace!
Apart from the spiral stone staircase, the building was more or less gutted and restructured, the whole exercise taking about 18 months including the planning applications and grants. We elevated the kitchen floor to be level with the garden and installed French doors, thereby creating a very useful under floor storage area.
Downstairs we converted a cupboard into a wet room with separate loo, with further storage and boiler space above. Architype raised part of the hall wall and installed a round window to bring in more light. The original York Stone in the hall was used to pave the garden after we removed the outhouses and ‘lean-to’s and replaced them with black and white marble tiles.
We also painstakingly spent several weekends removing the gloss paint on the cantilevered original stone staircase ourselves with Nitromors and wire brushes! We are very proud that the staircase is not only mentioned in Pevsner’s book on the South East, but also features in other books on the history of Greenwich.
When we first bought the house there were four bedrooms on the first floor formed only from what is now our sitting room and master bedroom; the previous tenants with three children having had a downstairs living room next to a kitchen. We removed their partition walls, reinstated and upgraded the fireplace and made a huge lounge with four windows, two on each side of the house, to make the most of the morning sun on one side and the evening sunsets and views across the park on the other.
We removed the partition walls and made a huge lounge with four windows, two on each side of the house, to make the most of the morning sun on one side and the evening sunsets on the other
The master bedroom overlooking the park was reconfigured and the front bedroom was created from what had been the kitchen and bathroom in the flat at No 36.
Overall our intention has been to create a home that is light and airy in summer, and warm and cosy in winter, while respecting and appreciating the history of the house and its special location. We have a lot of friends and family and the house has been a wonderful space for entertaining and the venue for many happy parties.
Maze Hill SE10 is on the market for a guide price of £1,600,000 with Savills Canary Wharf – click here for further information