Athlone House (Caenwood)

Hampstead Lane, Highgate, N6 4RX

Medical dates:

Medical character:

1955 - 2003


This neo-Elizabethan style Victorian mansion, known originally as Caen Wood Towers, was built in 1871 by Edward Brooke, MP, a businessman who had made his fortune in the chemical industry manufacturing aniline dye.

During WW1 the house became a military convalescent hospital, when it was known as the American Hospital for English Soldiers.  The King and Queen visited it in April 1916.

During WW2, under the guise of being an RAF convalescence hospital for officers, in 1942 Caen Wood Towers became the RAF Intelligence Training School.  In 1944 two near misses from V1 flying bombs caused some injuries to the staff and damage to the buildings.

By 1945 a two-storey building had been added to the north of the house. The conservatory was demolished and a dining room and physiotherapy gym was built on its site.

The Ministry of Health acquired the site in 1951 and
Caen Wood Towers was converted into a convalescent home for the Middlesex Hospital.  Dr John Wedgwood (a member of the famous pottery family), a geriatric care specialist, helped establish it as the second post-war geriatric hospital.  It was renamed Athlone House in 1955.

During the early 1970s the House was extended. A single-storey building of timber and glass was erected to the east of the main building. This new extension contained three wards - Suffolk, Beaufort and Caenwood - all connected to Athlone House by covered walkways. Two modern blocks were built at the eastern part of the site for nursing accommodation - the New Residence (a two-storey block with a flat roof) and Lake House (three interconnecting one- and two-storey blocks). A one-storey day hospital was built between the New Residence and the Hampstead Lane boundary.

The property belonged to the Parkside NHS Trust, but was used by the Kensington and Chelsea NHS Trust who decided it was too remote from their 'borough'.  The site was sold to Dwyer Investments and the patients, who were all from northeast Westminster, were transferred to the Princess Louise and Athlone House nursing homes in North Kensington and Paddington in 2003.

Present status (January 2008)

Caen Cottages, the Gate House and Coach House were to be converted into residential use, but the 1940s wing and 1970s extension have been demolished.   The site, to be called Kenwood Place,  is currently being redeveloped, with the construction of three new blocks to provide 21 luxury flats.  

The site was split in 2006 and Dwyer Investments sold Athlone House for £16m to a Kuwaiti  business mogul.  He intends to demolish the unlisted building and replace it with a palatial Classical reproduction building in the style of Blenheim Palace.

Athlone House

Athlone House lodge

The remaining old buildings as seen from Hampstead Lane.


Entrance to site

Entrance to the Kenwood Place site.

Athlone House site

Lodge building


construction site

The construction site from Hampstead Heath.

Harry Hallowes, a tramp who has lived in the grounds of Athlone House since 1986, recently won the rights to the deeds of his half-acre plot (reputedly worth £2m).  Because local residents were concerned that the new development would dominate Hampstead Heath,  Dwyer Investments agreed to donate a hectare of woodland (which included Mr Hallowes' plot) to the Corporation of London, who manage the Heath, to act as a buffer zone.


(Author unstated) 1916 Care of the wounded.  British Journal of Nursing, 29th April, 379.



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