ANARCHIC comedian Peter Cook may have had three wives and countless girlfriends but he never fell out of love with the area of Hampstead. The actor and comedian — who rose to fame in the 1960s in Beyond The Fringe with Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller and Dudley Moore — moved to Hampstead in 1965, living first in a splendid Georgian townhouse in Church Row, then in a 16th-century cottage in Highgate and finally in this glorious 18th-century mews house in Perrin’s Walk. He moved here in 1973 and it’s where he lived with his third wife Lin until his death in 1995 at the age of 57.
Peter, who wrote and starred in TV shows such Not Only But Also alongside Dudley Moore, as well as the outrageously sweary Derek And Clive LPs, also picked up a Grammy, a Tony and a Bafta for his work. And he adored the lush and leafy garden of the extraordinary cottage in this quiet, cobbled mews, where he and Lin cultivated a pond of Koi carp.
‘Peter’s home was his castle,’ Lin wrote in Something Like Fire: Peter Cook Remembered, a memoir she edited. ‘From the front, the architecture appears Queen Anne. From the rear, it is undoubtedly Victorian, with picturesque, leaded, inverted strawberry windows. Anyone who saw it from the garden would be reminded of fairy tales, it looks that enchanting.’
Part of that enchantment was no doubt created by Norman Evill, a student of Edward Lutyens, who revamped the rear of the house in the early 20th century, transforming it into a Strawberry Hill Gothic-style vision. From the rear, you half expect to see Hansel or Gretel emerge. Or, looking skywards, perhaps even the golden locks of Rapunzel.
When Peter died, his devastated widow never lived in the house again. A plaque will be added to the home later this year in memory of its most famous inhabitant.
Now, following Lin’s death in 2016, the Grade II-listed property has come on to the market for the first time in almost five decades, following an incredible 18-month makeover by Lin’s brother Chiew Chong, who has increased it in size to 2,116sq ft. The former garage has been transformed into a spacious entrance foyer and dining room, with engineered oak floors that flow into the open-plan kitchen and a door that leads into the lush and leafy 70ft-long garden.
A guest cloakroom near the new front door [the original door is retained near the stairs] is lined in a quirky wallpaper featuring 18th-century drawings of animals, while a pendant chandelier reminiscent of giant glass bubbles is suspended above the large dining room table. Chiew has had the house redesigned as well as enlarged, adding a fabulous study/bedroom to the newly created fourth floor — once the rooftop where Peter and Lin loved to sit on decaying deck chairs, watching the stars. The fourth wall here is made almost entirely of glass, with bi-fold doors opening on to a 17ft-long roof terrace surrounded by lofty trees.
On the first floor, there’s an enormous living room at the front of the house and a spacious bedroom at the back with views over the garden.
The bedrooms on this and the upper floors all have warm, oatmeal-coloured wool carpets, illuminated through the romantic Strawberry Hill Gothic-shaped lattice windows. One bedroom has a vaulted roof with an original pitched-roof skylight. En suites throughout the property are large and elegant, with stone-coloured ceramic tiles and Hansgrohe fittings.
Peter and Lin’s favourite area was the garden and this is still arguably the most magical part of the home, along with its location, just seconds from Hampstead High Street.
The lower levels of the garden are patios, laid in York stone, leading to a pretty circle of newly laid lawn and a back patio area of more stone.
The original steps leading from the Mews House to the ‘Big House’ on Church Row are still tucked at the back of the garden. The fig tree that so thrilled Lin and Peter is still resplendent at the back of the property, though the pond where he kept his carp and once tried to breed newts has long since gone.
Peter rarely referred to Hampstead in his comedy but the cosmopolitan London village did influence him. And in the 1960s, his countless parties were a veritable who’s who of the rich and famous -with the likes of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Joan Collins, Kenneth Tynan and Alan Bates among his guests.
Peter’s later life in Perrin’s Walk was more circumspect — the romantic folly, with its little arched and lattice windows, becoming the perfect retreat.
‘I hope I never have to move again,’ he once told his parents.
And he never did…
What you get for your money
■ 2,116sq ft historic mews cottage tucked away in a pretty, cobbled mews in the heart of Hampstead
■ The former home of legendary British comedian Peter Cook, who lived here until his death in 1995. It is the first time the house has returned to the market for almost fifty years
■ Four bedrooms, three bathrooms and two receptions.
■ 70ft-long leafy private garden
■ Designated private parking
■ A glorious, 17ft-long roof terrace
■ Perrin’s Walk, Hampstead, £5million, dexters.co.uk