Current owner seeks S’pore buyer for $9.5million property


A BIG piece of Singapore history is up for sale – in London.


By Tay Shi’an



05 May 2008


A BIG piece of Singapore history is up for sale – in London.


The last home of Singapore’s


founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, has been put on the market for £pounds;3.5 million ($9.5million) .


The property, Highwood House, has two storeys, eight bedrooms, and sits on almost an acre (about 4,000 sq m) of land in Highwood Hill, an exclusive suburb in London.


Compare that to Singapore, where the average price of a Good Class Bungalow – a class of bungalows in certain exclusive areas such as Nassim Road, with a minimum plot size of 1,400 sq m – is $13.8 million.


Sir Raffles, who founded Singapore in 1819 and returned to England in 1824, lived in the house from June 1825 till his death in July 1826.


His wife, Lady Sophia Raffles, continued living in the house until she died in 1858.


But those hoping to find a manor filled with a treasure trove of antiques will be disappointed.


The house has been through several owners and tenants since Sir Raffles.


From the 1950s to the early 1980s, it was used first as a Red Cross convalescence home, then as a nursing home.


The interior has since been converted into several apartments and rented out to tenants.


Singapore businesswoman Esther Zheng, 27, who has lived in the UK for the past 10 years, saw the property on sale and contacted The New Paper on Sunday.


She was checking out the price of another house in the area on the Internet when she spotted the listing for the Raffles’ home.


‘There was even a plaque on the wall which says that ‘Sir Stamford Raffles, Founder of Singapore, lived here’, she said.


Intrigued, Ms Zheng sent the listing to her Singapore friends on social networking site Facebook, and arranged to see the house through a property agent on 1 May.


She said: ‘When we arrived… it was obvious that the property was quite run-down and needed a lot of work. The paint was slightly faded and peeling.


‘The interior of the property was desolate and derelict, with many of the rooms having water stains and holes in the walls.’


But she said the terrace was beautiful, and she could still see the original elegant cornices and high ceilings where the chandeliers would have been.


One of the upper rooms also has a great view of the valley below and the surrounding countryside.


The highlight of the visit for MsZheng was when her partner pointed out a square brass box fitted to the wall, which had glass circles cut into it and numbers below.


She said: ‘This was where small bells would have been hung that were connected with string to the rooms above. When someone in one of the bedrooms rang the bell, the servants could respond immediately. ‘




Overall, she said, it was very interesting but sad to see the house’s faded beauty.


‘I understand the property has also been turned into investment flats, which seems sacrilegious in a way.


‘It’s very strange to see a piece of history that is important to Singaporeans go on sale without much fanfare. Although a lot of British people know Singapore exists, they probably wouldn’t be able to name the person who founded it.


‘I hope that someone will buy the place and restore it to the way it had been. Or better yet if someone makes a museum of the place so that Singaporeans and other Asians who remember their founder can make a pilgrimage,’ Ms Zheng said.


The property’s current owner, DrDerek Segall, 81, a retired nursing home medical director, said he bought it in 1978 for £pounds;130,000 to expand his business.


He told The New Paper on Sunday in a long-distance telephone interview: ‘I had a nursing home in the vicinity, and Highwood House was also a nursing home then.’


He used it to house his employees.


Dr Segall said that when he bought the property, he had no idea that it was connected to Sir Raffles.




It was only when he obtained a copy of the property’s history, for record purposes, that he found out.


He then found the blue plaque with the dates that Raffles had stayed at the house, in the front driveway.


It had been placed on a wooden stand, which was knocked over and cracked.


He had the plaque fixed onto the front wall of the house and, in the early 1980s, converted the interior into several residential apartments to rent out to tenants.


Dr Segall, who has two adult children, said he decided to sell the house more than a year ago because he was ‘getting on’ and would like a sum of money in his retirement.


Besides Highwood House, he owns four other properties in London and Spain.


He said he had about ‘half a dozen’ offers for the house, but they fell through for various reasons.


He now hopes to find a Singapore buyer, and plans to come here later this year to speak to some real-estate agents.


‘Singaporeans may be attracted to occupying the house that was occupied by the founder of their island.


‘From time to time, I’ve been in the house when people have suddenly turned up and walked up the garden. They say, ‘We’re from Singapore, we’re visiting London and we’re here to see Sir Stamford Raffles’ house.’ They’re all fascinated by it.’


Dr Segall said the house has been empty since January.


‘(The tenants) all left recently at the same time when they discovered the house was for sale,’ he said.


But Dr Segall said that he saw it as a blessing in disguise – he plans to move into Highwood House in a month’s time.


He said: ‘Tenants can be very disappointing in the way they treat a property, so I’m taking the opportunity to refurbish and redecorate apartments that were occupied.’


Mr Jim Falconer, a sales manager with UK’s Winkworth Estate Agents, said: ‘The potential of the house lies in returning it to a single dwelling. It would be a magnificent period home and would be among the very few homes of that period in the area.’


He added that given the property’s history and its former use as both a convalescence and nursing home, it ‘will require extensive renovation to return it to its original splendour’.




Agreeing, Mr James Goldsobel, of Richard James Estate Agents in UK, said: ‘It is not what it was and needsadiscerning purchaser to sympathetically restore it to its former glory.’


Would Singapore’s National Heritage Board (NHB) consider buying the house? Its spokesman replied that it already has some of the important memorabilia and artefacts from Sir Raffles, such as letters and portraits, which are on display at the National Museum of Singapore.


Mr Walter Lim, director of corporate communications and industry promotion at NHB, said: ‘Raffles’ old home, while significant, cannot be transported back to Singapore for the appreciation and education of the public, or study by our curators.


‘The Board also does not participate in the acquisition of historically significant buildings in foreign lands as our key thrust lies in the collection of artefacts, artworks and archival materials of historic significance. ‘







Highwood House facts:


·  Freehold


·  Early 19th century Georgian mansion


·  Set in grounds of almost an acre.


·  Gross internal area of about 8,000 sq ft (740 sq m). Presentlyconverted into three apartments plus one unconverted apartment. Total: Eight bedrooms.


·  Grade II listing issued by the English Heritage (the equivalent of the National Heritage Board), meaning the building is either ofarchitectural merit or has historical significance.


·  Located in Highwood Hill, which was featured last December in The Sunday Telegraph as one of Britain’s top 10richest suburbs. According to UK real-estate agent Jim Falconer, property prices in this area can go above £pounds;10 million ($27m).


Source: The NewPaper

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