Residents Cheer as Council Rejects Vereker Road 'Hobbit Hole'

Development would have 'destroyed' celebrated Victorian painter's studio

Artist's studio in Vereker Road, W14 saved by council

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Henry Jamyn Brooks

Henry Jamyn Brooks on Wikipedia

Planning application for 32a Vereker Road

Henry Jamyn Brooks at the National Gallery

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 West Kensington residents are celebrating after a developer was blocked from digging a 'hobbit hole' basement home beneath the artist studio of a celebrated painter of Queen Victoria.

The small, dilapidated building has seen 11 failed planning applications and three appeals by Joseph Asombang.
His latest was an attempt to raise its roof, and add two storeys underground, with a see-through floor above the bottom-floor bedroom.

But residents were delighted after Hammersmith and Fulham Council rejected the scheme on Tuesday, 3 September that would have 'destroyed' the historic home of painter Henry Jamyn Brooks.

Queen Victoria's Last Ceremony by Henry Jamyn Brooks

The Victorian artist’s work includes Queen Victoria’s Last Ceremony, painted before her death in 1901, and Old Masters Exhibition, Royal Academy, in 1888, which included Prime Minister William Gladstone, and hangs at the National Portrait Gallery.

He lived at 32 Vereker Road from 1885, and worked on his masterpieces in the little studio that he built in the garden, with an entrance facing Fairholme Road. 

Fifty local residents objected to Mr Asombang’s plans.

Fiona Ligonnet

One of the objectors, Fiona Ligonnet, a retired archaeologist for the British Museum, said: "Giving it planning permission would have destroyed this historic building, and would have been over-development.

"It would have been just total destruction for the developer to turn a profit. If anything this building should be given a blue plaque."

Another neighbour who asked not to be named, said: "I remember the meeting last year when [the council] rejected this hobbit hole. And here we go again with another version of this troglodyte house.

"This version is virtually identical, except there are fewer windows which open."

The studio has been vacant for eight years, but was bought by Mr Asombang in 2016.

Mr Asombang said after the committee meeting that he will take the council to a judicial review. He did not wish to comment further.

At the committee hearing, Tory councillor Alex Karmel suggested that the committee could decline to make a decision, due to the number of previous, similar applications Mr Asombang had made.

But councillors unanimously decided not to give planning permission. Their reasons included:

Its affect on the Baron’s Court Conservation Area
Unneighbourly effect of the development
Loss of privacy for neighbouring properties
Excessive potential light spillage

A profile of Brooks on the National Portrait Gallery website said he enjoyed close proximity to the Queen’s Club lawn tennis venue, despite complaints from friends that it was 'too far out' of central London – a whole '20 minutes' by horse and carriage.

Brooks specialised in painting social occasions. He painted the first meeting of London County Council in 1889, which took place at County Hall in St James’s, Westminster, and Polo at the Hurlingham Club, in 1890.


September 11, 2019

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