Dollis Hill House - The Campaign
PUBLISHED: 12:05 27 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:17 24 August 2010
by Jenny Engstrom The ongoing campaign to restore Dollis Hill House is almost as comprehensive as its history. For nearly 20 years the future of the house has been hanging in the balance, with bulldozers ready to step in and pull down wha
by Jenny Engstrom
The ongoing campaign to restore Dollis Hill House is almost as comprehensive as its history.
For nearly 20 years the future of the house has been hanging in the balance, with bulldozers ready to step in and pull down what is left of the Regency villa on more than one occasion.
The lengthy saga started in 1989 when the building was closed as a training centre for catering students.
Surveys showed many people wanted the house to be available for use again, but various proposals for repair and use fell through because of costs.
The house was declared surplus to Brent council use in 1994 and shortly after Whitbread drew up plans for a Beefeater Inn, but the plans were rejected by residents.
The building was then badly damaged by an arson attack in 1995, followed by another fire in 1996, which left the house derelict.
Three years later, the council attempted to market the house again, but the only financially viable proposal was from the same brewery that approached the council in 1994.
During a public consultation, residents opposed the proposal but at the same time a great groundswell of support for setting up a charity was generated.
The Dollis Hill House Steering Group was set up during a large public meeting in 2000, followed by the Dollis Hill House Trust, in 2002.
Several possible solutions were discussed, but none proved viable and in 2003 the council voted in favour of demolishing.
At this point, the council was spending £20,000 a year on maintaining the building.
The money came largely from the insurance cover following the two fires, but it was starting to run low.
In 2006, Ken Livingstone, then Mayor of London as well as a Brent resident, vowed to contribute to half of the renovation costs, or up to £2 million, if Brent Council met him half way.
The Dollis Hill House Trust was given a couple of months to put together a viable business plan, but ran out of time.
Later that year the council put the building up for sale again and this time received over 100 inquiries and six firm proposals.
Social enterprise charity, Training for Life, which sets up training centres for disadvantaged people in formerly run-down buildings, was identified as one of them. The charity has a track record of projects across London, with the Hoxton Apprentice, in Hackney, being their prime example.
Last week, Dollis Hill House was awarded a £1.2m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will help transform the dilapidated building into a restaurant and tearoom. The trustees are now in the process of lobbying new London Mayor, Boris Johnson, for the funding share promised by his predecessor, Ken Livingstone.
A meeting is yet to be arranged.
Gill Close, chairwoman of the Dollis Hill House Trust, said: "For 20 years we have been struggling to save this historic building.
"People in the community were starting to wonder why there was such an eyesore at the top of the park for so long. But now it finally looks like all the hard work we put in will pay off."
See our special report 'Dollis Hill House - a history' below