Prospect Place was an C18th estate with formal gardens and a spectacular view to the south. Most of the 250-acre estate was sold for development in the early 1850s, the new owners renaming it Cottenham Park after the previous owner. In 1863 the house was demolished and 28 acres were acquired by St George’s Hospital for a convalescent hospital, the coach-house surviving in hospital use. Cottenham House was built in 1869 as a private residence, but taken over by Atkinson Morley’s Hospital from 1942 until 1995. It was then restored as a private home and renamed Prospect House. The house and grounds together occupy a substantial part of a modern housing development with the historic name Prospect Place. In 1999 and again in 2006 the grounds of Prospect House were re-landscaped; some mature trees remain from the mid-C18th. The original Prospect Place coach-house/stable block has been converted into 2 private homes within the Prospect Place estate.
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Prospect Place was an C18th estate with formal gardens and a spectacular view towards Surrey to the south. Most of the 250-acre estate was sold for development in the early 1850s, the new owners renaming it Cottenham Park after the previous owner, Lord Cottenham. In 1863, Prospect Place retained just 40 of its earlier 250 acres. Once empty, the house was demolished when another 28 acres were sold to St George's Hospital in Hyde Park Corner for construction of Atkinson Morley’s Convalescent Hospital (q.v.), which opened in 1869. The only surviving building from before then was the coach-house/stable block. This was subsequently used by the carriages transferring patients between St George’s Hospital at Hyde Park Corner and the Convalescent Hospital in Wimbledon until after WWI. It later became a storage block until the mid-1990s. Two large private houses were built in the late 1860s on the remaining 12 acres of the former Prospect Place.
These were Copse Hill House, later demolished, and Cottenham House, which survives today, transformed into Prospect House. This was built in 1869 for George Walker, a former resident of the nearby Ridgeway. It was extended in 1899 by the then owner, Miss Adele Schuster, daughter of the late railway entrepreneur Leo Schuster, who had moved there from Cannizaro House after the death of her stepmother in 1896. Many years later Miss Schuster felt it necessary to write to the hospital governors complaining about the collapse of the boundary fence between her grounds and those of the hospital after the construction of some cottages on the hospital side. She was having difficulty keeping her dogs on the right side of the boundary and, more importantly, rabbits had gained access to her property, had eaten all her plants and 'left the garden a wilderness'. The House Governor of St George’s was instructed to visit her and explain that the boundary fence was not a high priority for the hospital.
Cottenham House was leased by the hospital in 1942. Although in poor state of repair, it was purchased outright in 1950 for £9850 and then sub-let to the medical school for £350 a year for use as bacteriology, pathology and bio-chemical laboratories. It was later converted for residential use by nurses. Cellars beneath the house dated back to the days of Prospect Place and ran for some distance within the hospital grounds. These were sealed off and became inaccessible. By the early 1990s the house itself was boarded up awaiting redevelopment.
In 1995 the St George’s NHS Trust sold 4 acres of the hospital site to a local resident, Peter Beckwith, who created today’s modern residential estate in the period 1996-1999. The land included both Cottenham House and the coach-house/stable block as well as historic cedars and other trees dating back to the C18th. As a result, a sorely neglected former area of the hospital grounds was converted into an upmarket gated residential estate that was given the historic name Prospect Place. Cottenham House became Prospect House and was restored as a private residence and a century-old extension was pulled down to make way for a swimming pool. Peter Beckwith and his family have occupied Prospect House from 1999 to the present day. The original coach house / stable block built 1757 - 1786 was also converted in the period 1996/1999 by Peter Beckwith to provide two private residences, numbers 1 and 2 Prospect Place.
In front of Prospect House and also in the landscaped garden at the rear there are 2 cedars which were part of the 6 to 8 cedars on the original Prospect Place site dating back well into the C18th.
There is also an extremely old lime in the rear garden and there is a mature dawn redwood, probably from the early days of the hospital; also holm oak, false acacia, silver birch, and many other species.
In 2006 the lower gardens were re-landscaped into a fine Japanese garden, with a camellia and rhododendron walk, where modern planting complemented the remaining historic trees from previous eras.
Set within the irrigated bog valley and fern ravine is a sculpture, Mud Maid, designed by Sue and Peter Hill, one of only three examples of this design in the country, the others being at the Lost Gardens of Heligan and the garden of Olivia Harrison. Adjacent silver birch and other trees form a woodland boundary with Atkinson Morley’s Hospital site.
In the camellia and rhododrendron walk, there are three rare Rhododendron arizelum rubicosum, grown from seeds gathered by the specialist collector Peter Wharton during an expedition to the China-Burma border. Even more rare is the pink PW50 Rhododendron, the only one of its type in the country, which was grown from seed brought back on an earlier expedition. It stands opposite a very large Rhododendron Stadt Essen.
S Daniels, 'Humphry Repton. Landscape Gardening and the Geography of Georgian England', Yale, 1999, p210; T Gould/D Uttley, 'A History of the Atkinson Morley’s Hospital 1869-1995', The Athlone Press, 1996, pp7-25, 67, 71-2; T Gould/D Uttley, 'A Short History of St George’s Hospital and the Origins of its Ward Names', The Athlone Press, 1997, p9. K Hayward, 'Who Was Atkinson Morley?', Friends of Atkinson Morley’s Hospital; P Loobey/K Every, 'Wimbledon in Old Photographs', Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1995, pp72, 78, 79; R Milward, 'Cottenham Park', Wimbledon Society Museum of Local History Notes 2. R Milward, 'Early and Medieval Wimbledon'. The Wimbledon Society, 1983, p15, 16. R Milward, 'Historic Wimbledon', The Windrush Press, 1989, pp 165, 172. R Milward, 'Wimbledon 1865-1965', The Chalford Publishing Co Ltd, 1997, pp 53, 102. R Milward, 'Wimbledon A Pictorial History', Phillimore & Co Ltd, 1994 figs 50, 52, 162. R Milward, 'Wimbledon Past' Historical Publications Ltd, 1998, pp61, 96. R Milward, 'Wimbledon Two Hundred Years Ago, History of Wimbledon Part V', The Milward Press, 1996, pp 124/5. R Milward/C Maidment, 'The Lull before the Storm: The Last years of Rural Wimbledon', 2002. Ian Yarham, Dave Dawson, Martin Boyle, Rebecca Holliday, “Nature Conservation in Merton, Ecology Handbook 29”, London Ecology Unit, 1998.
LPGT Volunteer Research by Tony Matthews, 2009