By Alex Jones
A MYSTERIOUS property overlooking the English Channel, which was built by a German spy during the First World and helped foil the Luftwaffe in the second, has hit the market.
History buffs and military enthusiasts will be using every trick in the book to scope out this remarkable property on England’s south coast, with striking photos showcasing spectacular views across the water to France; the distinctive exterior of this historically significant and architecturally-pioneering home; and the distinctly Edwardian features.
Although rather unassuming in character, London House is chockful of history and decisions taken within its century old walls may well have changed the course of not one but two world wars.
According to Fine & Country, the luxury estate agency who have put the property on the ground floor three-bedroom apartment on the market for a cool £550,000, the building was constructed in 1913/14 by a German spy in order to record the Royal Navy’s shipping habits at the start of the Great War. After discovering the subterfuge taking place right under their noses, the British military services commandeered the property for the Second World War, where it housed key staff for the Royal Air Force, Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and intelligence services. During the war, women would listen intently to intercepted radio communications from the Luftwaffe pilots and pass on any valuable information to a nearby airbase who could intercept or ambush the bombing runs before they started. Until relatively recently, there was even an annual event where former staff of London House would meet up to reminisce about the wartime years.
London House’s female-only “Y” Section, as the listening service became known, became an integral part of the defence structure of Fighter Command suggests local historian Roy Humphreys, and a “thorn in the side of the Luftwaffe”.
London House, located in Capel le Ferne, a picturesque village situated between Folkestone and Dover, is currently on the market for £550,000 with Fine & Country.
As the house is so close to France, German bombers would often fly directly over the house – sometimes the WAAF employees were only a literal stone’s throw away – as former WAAF employee Dalma Flanders told the BBC in 2014.
“From our unit at Capel, which was right on the cliffs about 100 feet up from the sea, we could see the church tower at Calais on clear days, and quite often huge German guns, called ‘Big Berthas’, would be fired across the water,” she explained.
“By the time we had counted 15 seconds, we would all be under our desks, waiting for the shell to burst. It was very upsetting at first but we soon got used to even that. We also got used to the V1s (the pilotless planes flying bombs) which made a hell of a noise. They were horrible, because as soon as they were programmed to drop their bombs, the noise stopped and one had to wait for the explosion without knowing where it was going to come down. It was not so bad in the country as one could hear them coming, but in London, where the traffic made such a noise, one could not hear them, or even find shelter as there was no time.
“And there were other dangers too. Sometimes in Capel, we would be surprised by seeing Messerschmitt fighters fly straight upwards about 100 yards from us, having flown across the Channel very low over the water to avoid being tracked by the radar. They would then head for Folkestone or Hawkinge (which was our fighter base about a mile away). We would immediately signal them by telephone to get their Spitfires and Hurricanes in the air as soon as possible to follow the Germans and have another shooting match.”
Situated just a stone’s throw away from the iconic Battle of Britain memorial, the current owner has spent the last 12 months updating the apartment in order to sell it, either as a family home or as retirement flats.
“This amazing and unique property has been in our family home for the past 40 years and has given us wonderful memories that will last forever,” the owner stated.
“But with the family flying the nest and a new chapter starting in my life I felt it was time to recreate the property more suited to life in modern times. So I have spent the past 12 months lovingly updating it to provide three stunning apartments that will either make superb holiday homes or a wonderful place to retire to.
“Capel le Ferne is a delightful place to live and, where the house is located, provides the most stunning views across the Channel where on a clear day, you can easily see the French coastline and at night there is something romantic about watching the moon shimmering on the sea and the twinkling lights of Calais.
“Stepping out the front door there is a nearby lookout spot with a clifftop café and it is only a few hundred yards to the Battle of Britain Memorial park. There are two pubs in the village the Valiant Sailor and the Royal Oak, so you can enjoy a drink and a meal without having to drive plus the nearby Lighthouse Inn. Every Tuesday there is a well-attended Farmer’s Market providing delicious local produce in the village hall that also hosts numerous other activities in this friendly village community.”
Fine & Country are pleased to offer the opportunity to purchase a unique piece of wartime history.
“London House is probably one of the Kent coast’s best kept secrets,” their listing states.
“It is not only historically important but also arguably one of the most architecturally outstanding properties overlooking the Channel. This unique and imposing clifftop property, with uninterrupted panoramic views across the sea as far as the Belgian coast and round to Hastings, is steeped in history.
“It is believed to have been designed and constructed by a German spy to record naval shipping in the Channel at the start of World War I and was subsequently requisitioned by the RAF during World War II where it housed numerous personnel supporting the war effort. Indeed, even as late as 2000 there was an annual London House reunion for those who lived and manned the facility during the Second World War, hosted at the house.
“The property was built in 1913/14 using sandstone and marble and was one of the very first domestic properties in Kent to employ concrete and has retained its many period features including marble pillars, carved supporting cornices and a spiral staircase. However over the past year this impressive marine residence has undergone a complete and sensitive renovation to create three magnificent coastal apartments, using only the highest quality materials including beautiful travertine tiling, new hard wood windows and many top of the range multi action double glazed sash windows and Bosch appliances.”
For more information, please visit https://www.fineandcountry.com/uk/property-for-sale/capelleferne/ct18-7ht/1515455#