Bentley Priory – steeped in more than 600 years of British history and surrounded by 57 acres (23 hectares) of manicured parkland – was once the royal residence of Dowager Queen Adelaide, consort of King William VI, and command headquarters of the Royal Air Force during the second world war.
Redeveloped a decade ago, the penthouse flat is up for sale for only the second time, at the asking price of £2.4 million (US$3 million).
The luxury penthouse is named the Dowding Suite after Sir Hugh Dowding, the chief air marshal who directed RAF operations from the location during the Battle of Britain in 1940.
(If you need to read up on your history, the Bentley Priory Museum – dedicated to the battle – occupies the ground and basement floors of the mansion.)
“Dowding had his operation room there and could stand on the terrace and see the planes coming back during battles,” Douglas Sleaper, listing agent at Savills, says of the Historic England-listed property.
Entered via the second floor of the renovated mansion/country house complex, the three-bedroom, three-bathroom, 2,285-square-foot (212 square-metre) apartment is arranged over three floors with the master suite occupying the top level.
The penthouse’s terraces (there are three) offer sweeping views of the city skyline, including landmarks such as the London Eye, BT Tower, and the 95-storey skyscraper, The Shard.
The unit comes with four parking spaces – two underground and two outdoor – as well as a 24-hour concierge.
The property sits amid larger and lesser-priced homes in Stanmore, in Middlesex County, about 12 miles (19km) as the crow flies from central London – roughly one hour’s drive or Tube (subway) ride.
A free-standing, five-bedroom property in the area can be bought for the same price, although it lacks the history and views – and the two full-size second world war fighter planes (a Spitfire and a Hurricane) in the front garden.
Bentley Priory has had many lives. The property dates from the 15th century, when it was the site of a monastery, although no structures from the period remain.
King Henry VIII gave the land to Robert Needham and William Sacheverell in 1546 before it was sold in 1775 to James Duberly, then sold again to the Honourable John Hamilton, the ninth Earl of Abercorn, in 1778.
Hamilton employed noted architect Sir John Soane to extend and remodel the already large house on the grounds.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert became frequent visitors when Dowager Queen Adelaide took residence in 1848.
Nearly 40 years later, in 1885, hotelier Frederick Gordon of Metropole fame, turned it into a hotel – and even built a private railway to serve it – but it did not last.
From 1908 to 1924 it was used as a girls’ school before the RAF Fighter Command took over the property in 1936.
Following a devastating fire in 1979, Britain’s queen mother championed the restoration of the mansion house, although the work was hastily done and not particularly sympathetic to the original Soane design.
British developer City & Country undertook the most recent refurbishment and remodel, carving out eight flats and the museum, with additional freestanding houses subsequently developed within the grounds.
The Dowding Suite has since been sold only once, in a private sale to the current owners, who wish to remain anonymous.
Sleaper says they had a flat in the mansion complex at the time it was finished and immediately put it on the market to move on up.
British house prices fell in July for the first time in seven months, according to a report by the property website Rightmove.
Prices nationwide were down 0.1 per cent from June, while London saw a price drop of 0.5 per cent.
Coming off a three-decade boom, prices have been tempered amid slow economic growth and Brexit uncertainty.
In contrast, property agent Foxtons lists the average sold price in Middlesex as having increased 7.18 per cent over the previous year, with the February average home sale price in the area at £475,443.