In the early days of the Cold War, the British Admiralty built a torpedo testing facility in the middle of Bushy Park, a royal park outside London. The facility had a 150-foot-wide pool reinforced with 4-foot-thick concrete blast walls, in which scientists spun torpedoes at the end of a metal arm.
Eventually, the site was decommissioned and handed back to the Crown, at which point it sat unused until 2000, when a developer purchased the property, demolished most of the facility, and in 2004 turned part of the curved pool walls into a private home and filled in the rest with a lawn and landscaping. The project was almost complete, at which point he left it to stand and rot, said Zena Holloway, an underwater photographer who purchased the house in 2011 with her husband, Patrick, a property developer. After moving in, the couple spent four years turning the house into a livable residence and then put it on the market in 2015 for 6.75 million ($8.8 million).
Renovating the property wasnt without its highs and lows. We moved in straightaway, Holloway said. It had a kitchen that was already sort of serviceable. The ice in the freezer was 10 years old, but it still worked. That said, when we switched on the oven all the circuits blew, and then the fire alarm went off and we didnt have a code for it, she said. There was a catalog of oh my God moments.
The couple also discovered elements from the buildings wartime past. In the houses subbasement, which Holloway describes as a kind of vast bat-cave, she discovered a hole in the wall. Her husband climbed in with a flashlight and then promptly disappeared into what turned out to be an immense, potentially endless tunnel. He crawled and crawled and crawled, and at one point he got towe thinkunder the neighbors house, Holloway said. I think there were all these tunnels as an escape plan for the prime minister. (The tunnel is now closed.)
There were other quirks, too. Because the house is circular, you can suddenly find yourself hearing something you shouldnt be hearing from the other end of the house, she said. Its really odd.
Despite the houses idiosyncrasies, or perhaps because of them, its interior, which covers some 9,880 square feet, manages to be both spacious and intimate. The ground level is designed as an open-plan living area with a large kitchen, living room, and office. The floor above contains the houses six bedrooms, and the basement has a large lounge area filled with pillows. The floor below (that of the mystery tunnel) is an area that Holloway calls bizarreand the couple never quite found a use for it. It would, she said, make the most amazing swimming pool for somebody. Or perhaps someone would want a climbing facility, or a shooting range, or a massive wine cellar.
Outside theres a sunken area, which provides natural light in the basement and which Holloways children use to play basketball. Theres also a connected, two-car garage.
The house sits on 1.3 acres of land and has the added benefit of being inside Bushy Park, which is still owned by the Crown. The park is this vast, massive area of green space with a population of deer, which roam freely, Holloway said. Were still in London, but its like living in the country. Waterloo station is about a 40-minute commute by train.
Holloway, who professes to love the house, said theyre moving for both practical reasonsshed really like a pool to use for her photographyand whimsy. My husband wants to design-slash-build a house from the ground up, she explained.
Holloway anticipates the process will take some time. We didnt expect a quick sell, she said. Its so unusualyou need the right person.
The house is listed by Luke Ellwood and Peter Norgrove of Knight Frank.