Article by Janice Morley
“Not many people in the UK can say they live in a building like this,” says golf professional Lee Mucklow, 57, who is standing on the wide and elegant steps of a magnificent, newly restored Grade II-listed mansion-style pile overlooking the Surrey Hills.
Perched high on a hill in the Hampshire countryside, this Victorian landmark in Aldershot’s new Wellesley neighbourhood, was until recently the abandoned Cambridge Military Hospital. Bob Weston, chairman of Weston Homes, took on the challenge of transforming the historic but derelict gem into 74 handsome apartments, with mews houses in the landscaped grounds. Lee, his wife Jackie and their children, Faith and Christian, moved into their new three-bedroom apartment as the very first residents in what has now been renamed Gun Hill Park.
The family lived in a four-bedroom Victorian terrace house while the children were growing up, near Windlesham in Surrey, where head professional Lee has taught golf for 25 years. Jackie, a special needs teacher, wanted a change and spotted the development on property website Rightmove. “We had never lived in an apartment so I was a bit concerned,” admits Lee. “But we decided to take a look and booked to see the show home. We walked into the building and I said, ‘This is where I want to live’.”
He says he still can’t quite believe they call this grand, porticoed building home, with its sweeping entrance flanked by tall sash windows, lit up at night by magnificent chandeliers. “It’s a real show stopper,” he smiles. “People walking by in the evening literally stop and stare.
“That was what was so appealing for me, the quality of the building. It is like buying into a piece of history – but fresh and clean.”
The architecture of these new homes is dictated by the historic grandeur of the building. The ceilings are high and the restored windows are tall, flooding the homes with light. The Weston Homes technique of embedding safety sprinklers into the ceilings means there’s no need for partition corridor walls, so the rooms are opened up to give a luxurious feeling of space – of which Lee and his family enjoy 1,200sq ft.
“We haven’t made any decisions about how we are going to decorate,” says Lee. “I have put some money aside for the interiors. Curtains are going to be interesting with all this height.
“We loved the show home. It gave us really good ideas and we’re going to steal some of them.” He is learning the skill of upsizing, in a property built on such a grand scale. “We are going to have big sofas – and chandeliers, or big light fittings.”
The beauty is, this glorious mansion-style property has been completely restored to provide a lifestyle that’s modern and easy. Lee and Jackie have thrown away their kettle – there’s no need for it when they’ve got an in-built boiling water tap. They’ve inherited oak floors in a rich, treacly brown, while there are deep-pile carpets and fitted wardrobes in the principal bedroom suite. Their en suite bathroom comes complete with temperature-control shower and taps, and built-in no-steam mirror cupboards with a smart-tech clock: bliss.
They can set the alarm of course – but the sunrise might do the job. The couple say they love the view from their “beautiful bedroom” as day breaks.
And while countryside spreads out around them for walks, they certainly aren’t in the middle of nowhere. Gun Hill Park is in the Aldershot regeneration area with new homes around it. Lee and Jackie are just 20 minutes away from their friends and 10 minutes from Aldershot town centre, the station and the motorway. Farnham, Guildford and Farnborough are close for smart shopping – and London is just 33 miles away.
“It’s strange being the first people here,” says Lee. “We park our car in the grounds, walk up this grand stairway into the house, and then into our apartment.”
This building throbbed with history as a hospital, in wartime and afterwards, serving the local community until it closed in 1996. Many of the people who walk by today have been treated here, or were born here. When more modern hospitals were built it could simply have been left to fall apart. Instead, it is beginning a new life with families including Lee’s who are looking for renewal and finding it this glorious restoration project.
To find out more please visit Gun Hill Park