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Harry the Hermit’s land next to Hampstead Heath sold for £154k after auction bidding war

Bid by Heath and Hampstead Society and City of London to buy land fails on auction room floor

18 June, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

The shack which was home to ‘Harry the Hermit’

A PATCH of land next to Hampstead Heath, which famously became home to a man living in a shack, has been sold for £154,000 after an auction room battle.

A New Journal exclusive revealed last month how the site claimed by Harry Hallowes, known as Harry the Hermit, under squatters’ rights was going under the hammer, two years after his death. He had said the proceeds should go to homeless charities Shelter and Centrepoint.

This afternoon (Monday), a private buyer snapped up the land during an auction at the Marriott hotel in Grosvenor Square. The Heath and Hampstead Society together with the City of London had launched a joint bid on the auction room floor but stopped at £152,000.

Harry Hallowes

Negotiations behind the scenes had seen the charities reject an offer of £94,000, the guide price in auctioneers Savills pre-sale handbook, from the Society and the City of London before the auction began. The attempt to buy the land was part of plan to join the site up with the main Heath.

Winning bidder Mohamed Yousaf told the New Journal afterwards: “I did not come to buy it. I come to auctions as a bit of a hobby. My son is a property developer and he called me when I was at the auction and said ‘Dad, please bid on Lot 118’, so I did. He said ‘don’t let it go’. He said ‘buy it and I’ll tell you later’, so I did.”

Brendan Gleeson appearing in the film, Hampstead

He confirmed this evening (Monday) that the Heath and Hampstead Society and City of London had already made contact with him about reaching a deal for the land, which he said he was happy to consider. Mr Yousaf said he had not heard about the history of the land, or the possible restrictions.

Mr Hallowes’ unusual story inspired the film Hampstead starring Brendon Gleeson as a man living in a makeshift camp on the Heath last year. Mr Hallowes told the New Journal in 2015 he would never put anything more than “perhaps a caravan” on the land to keep the worst of the winter weather at bay, but never even went that far. 

Bob Warnock and Karina Dostalova at the auction

Under a legal agreement drawn up in 1923 between the 6th Earl of Mansfield, whose family built Kenwood House, and Sir Robert Waley Cohen, who owned Athlone House, no building of any kind – temporary or permanent – could be constructed on the gardens. It meant even Mr Hallowes’ shack – consisting of a fire-stained brick wall, plastic sheeting and old doors – was technically illegal.

Savills had described the land as “a unique, irregular-shaped site of approximately 7,000 square feet on Hampstead Heath, made famous through the film Hampstead”. Its brochure adds that “the overgrown site” is currently “vacant” and they add that there may be “further potential”.

Mr Yousaf said he had not seen the movie, or heard of it.

Marc Hutchinson (second seat) from the Heath and Hampstead Society keeps track of the bidding

Karina Dostalova, chair of the City of London’s Hampstead Heath management committee, said: “I was surprised to see a private buyer was so intent on buying it. We are extremely disappointed. We will vigorously defend the Heath and protect it as much as we can. We will make sure the covenants on this land are enforced. There will be no vehicle access, no utilities allowed, and no underground facilities allowed at all. Our intentions are to protect it and have public access to it as green space.”

Marc Hutchinson, chair of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said: “We bid over £150,000 and are very disappointed to have been unsuccessful. Our aim was to always bring it back as public open space.”

A statement from the charities said: “Shelter and Centrepoint are very pleased the land left to us by the late Harry Hallowes has sold at auction which will allow us to carry out our vital work for homeless people in London – something Harry felt so passionately about and wanted to be his legacy. The £75k raised will allow Shelter to provide face-to-face support and legal advice to 3,000 people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in London. Meanwhile, Centrepoint will use their £75k to provide life-changing psychotherapy by the charity’s health professionals to help relieve the devastating toll homelessness can have on a young person’s mental health. Together, we are so grateful to Harry for his generosity and honoured to have had this chance to fulfil his final wishes.”

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