Neighbours From Hell: London's Infamous Property Disputes

Harry Rosehill
By Harry Rosehill Last edited 85 months ago

Last Updated 19 May 2017

Neighbours From Hell: London's Infamous Property Disputes
The Castle. Photo: Matt Brown

Neighbours aren't always the most accommodating folks. Rarely a month goes by without another super basement creating anger. When neighbours are unhappy about your building plans, there are two ways to tackle the issue. Either be as friendly as possible working together to solve possible issues, or do the exact opposite (colloquially known as the low road). Here are a few of London's most famous disputes and how they were solved.

The Castle

The Castle in Stoke Newington is a climbing centre with a fascinating history. The medieval strategists among you might have wondered why exactly there is a castle along Green Lanes; it wasn't purpose built for climbing fake rocks. Most castles are built in areas with tactical benefit — such as on top of hills — but there's no discernible reason for putting a castle there. The biggest boon of its location is its proximity to so many excellent Turkish restaurants, but unfortunately neither is this an explanation: the castle predates the restaurants.

Well then why is there a castle and what do difficult neighbours have to do with it? It dates back to the Metropolis Water Act of 1852. The drive for more clean water in Victorian London, led to the creation of a new pumping station in Stoke Newington. The area was sparsely populated at the time, but the few locals weren't best thrilled at the prospect of a pumping station blighting their scenic local area.

So a genius compromise was reached. The pumping station was built within a cunning disguise, a castle. Hence, those pesky neighbours were appeased.

Front of 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens. Photo: psyxjaw

Leinster Gardens

You might already know about 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens from Sherlock or from when we've covered it previously, but it can't hurt to go over the details once more. In 1863 the Metropolitan Railway Company built what would become the District line.

They went through Bayswater and had to demolish two houses (23 & 24) on the affluent street Leinster Gardens. The locals were unhappy with an empty space being left in the road, feeling it ruined the aesthetic. Perhaps they were also conscious of the railway negatively affecting their house price; interestingly new trains have the exact opposite effect on prices today.

The back of 23 & 24 Leinster Gardens. Photo: Dun.can

So to alleviate concerns, 23 and 24 Leinster Gardens were built. Yes, that's right, the two houses that were knocked down were rebuilt. Almost. In fact the new 23 and 24 were fakes, to hide the gap. See the picture above for proof.

Candy cane house

Photo: Stephen Richards used under Creative Commons License

What we have here is known as a 'spite house'. It's the term coined for houses designed solely to annoy their neighbours.

While the two cases above reached compromises to accommodate their neighbours' concerns, no amicable agreement was reached in the case of the candy cane house. Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring wanted to demolish her property and start again from scratch. Her neighbours weren't best thrilled at the prospect of disruptive works taking place, so she failed to get planning permission. Lisle-Mainwaring decided to get her own back.

In the dead of night she had her house painted with red stripes, leading many to compare it to a candy cane. The neighbours put up a fight in the form of a protracted court case, but they lost. The candy cane house is here to stay and gloat at the disgruntled neighbours for all eternity.

Cornhill devils

Cornhill Devils. Photo: marnaotto

Even a house of God isn't above getting mired down in the planning permission action sometimes. Step up St Peter Upon Cornhill, a church with medieval origins in the City of London. Over time St Peter's was surrounded by office buildings.

Finally one vicar felt enough was enough. When he saw the plans for rebuilding a neighbouring office ever-so-slightly infringed — supposedly just one inch — upon St Peter's land. The offending architect was forced to redraw the plans at great expense, so decided to get some revenge on the church.

He placed three terracotta she-devils on the building as a thank you for the vicar's vigilance. Talk about neighbours from hell.

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