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Behind the doors of London's £3 billion street

By Jan Moys

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One of the most expensive streets on the planet, Kensington Palace Gardens is home to royalty, oligarchs, tycoons and ambassadors. With an average house price estimated at over £33 million, this ‘Billionaire Row’ is well worth a closer look.

Guarded entrance to Kensington Palace Gardens (image: Txllxt TxllxT)

The freehold on this grand street is owned by The Crown Estate, meaning most properties are sold with 90-125 year leases. Each end of the road is guarded by gates and checkpoints with Diplomatic Protection Group police officers, thanks to the number of embassies and ambassadors’ residences on the street. So who owns these mega-mansions?

Numbers 18-19 – Lakshmi Mittal

Starting with perhaps the most famous of the street’s mansions, the house at 18-19 has quite a history. Construction of the two semi-detached villas began in 1845, their Italian palazzo style receiving an enthusiastic welcome from the Commissioners. Sections of the walls were built using surplus stone from the new Palace of Westminster, and work was completed in April 1847.

The first residents were the lease owner Thomas Grissell, who moved into number 19 with his wife and nine servants. A ‘general merchant’, John Leech, moved into number 18 with his family of seven and eight servants. In 1912 Lionel de Rothschild became one of the property’s most notable owners, moving into number 18 and completing substantial renovations, including the installation of winter gardens and an electric lift.

18-19 Kensington Palace Gardens (image: Malkalior)

More recently, the houses have moved into private hands after numbers 18 and 19 served for many years as the Egyptian and Russian embassies. Property developer David Khalili bought and united the two properties in the 1990s, spending £20 million to merge the two into one palatial home. He also added a swimming pool and floors and pillars in marble from the same quarry as the stone used to build the Taj Mahal.

In 2001, Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone bought the house for £50 million. However, his then wife, Slavica, allegedly disliked the building and refused to live there. Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal stepped up and bought the 55,000 sq ft mansion for just over £57 million – a far lower offer than Ecclestone’s original asking price of £85 million. The property became known as the 'Taj Mittal', and is thought to have trebled in value since its purchase.

Mittal went on to buy house number 9a on the street for a record £117 million, as well as another property nearby for £70 million. These were reportedly for his son and daughter respectively.

Numbers 5-7 – Embassy of Russia

Although Bernie Ecclestone may have sold his own house on Kensington Palace Gardens, daughter Tamara enjoys life in her own red-brick mansion just off the street on Palace Green. After completing three years of renovations in 2013, the house was estimated to be worth £70 million. An indoor pool and basement cinema form two of the 57 rooms in the house.

Number 8 Palace Green – Tamara Ecclestone

Although Bernie Ecclestone may have sold his own house on Kensington Palace Gardens, daughter Tamara enjoys life in her own red-brick mansion just off the street on Palace Green. After completing three years of renovations in 2013, the house was estimated to be worth £70 million. An indoor pool and basement cinema form two of the 57 rooms in the house.

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace (image: Shisha-Tom)

The palace that gives the street its name is currently home to a number of prominent Royals, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. Constructed in 1605 by Sir George Coppin, the house was selected as a palace by William III and Mary II, who jointly ascended to the throne in 1689. Extensive expansion work was undertaken by Sir Christopher Wren, and many successive monarchs added their own additions and adaptations to the palace.

Number 8 – the London Cage

The grand houses that formerly stood at number 8 Kensington Palace Gardens had a somewhat grisly history. From 1940-48 they were an MI19 prisoner of war facility known as the 'London Cage', where captured Germans were interrogated. The facility attracted controversy following a large number of allegations of torture throughout its operation. The original buildings were demolished in the 1960s and replaced with a development of four luxury apartments.

Number 10 – Jon Hunt

Foxtons founder Jon Hunt bought his own slice of this prestigious street in 2005, paying £15.75 million for the former Russian consulate building. Hunt’s nose for a good investment was once again proven after winning a 10-year planning battle for a huge basement extension to the house, including a garage for his collection of Ferraris. The revised property will cover more than 51,000 sq ft, with a value upwards of £100 million.

Prior to renovations, Hunt allowed a stunt biker to create this remarkable video of himself riding through the house. The dilapidated state of the interiors is clear, as well as fascinating glimpses of the cellars and other structural elements of the property.

Number 15a – Wang Jianlin

China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin bought number 15a for £80 million in 2015. Jianlin made his fotune in property and Chinese movies and went on to spend tens of millions to refurbish the house to his own taste and standards. The house was used as an official residence by the Nigerian High Commissioner during the 1960s and 70s.

Number 15b – Leonard Blavatnik

The double plot of 15 and 15b were purchased by the Russian-American billionaire Leonard Blavatnik in 2004. Not to be outdone by his neighbours, the tycoon added underground parking, an indoor swimming pool and a cinema room to the vast property.

Number 17 – Roman Abramovich

In 2011, Chelsea F.C. owner Roman Abramovich bought 17 Kensington Park Gardens for £90 million. In 2016 the Russian oligarch was granted planning permission for a £28 million refurbishment of the property, adding a subterranean pool and leisure complex and boosting the size of the Grade II-listed home to 20,000 sq ft.

Number 20 – Sultan of Brunei

The current Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, has owned the house next to Lakshmi Mittal’s property for around 30 years. The house was previously used by the Commission for European Communities.

Diplomatic houses and embassies

French Embassy, 11 Kensington Palace Gardens (image: Krokodyl)

A number of embassies and diplomatic residences complete the roster on this prestigious street. These include the Russian Embassy (5-7), French Embassy (11), Nepalese Embassy (12a), Russian Ambassador's residence (13), Ambassador of Finland's residence (14), Lebanese Embassy (21) and the Japanese Embassy residence (23).

The Russian Ambassador's Residence at number 13 Kensington Palace Gardens(image: Roger Templeman)

Click here to view spectacular homes for sale around Kensington Palace Gardens.

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