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Exclusive: Harry The Hermit’s land next to Hampstead Heath put up for sale

Harry Hallowes, who lived in a shack and inspired the film Hampstead, died two years ago

17 May, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Harry Hallowes who won squatter’s rights for a plot near Kenwood

A PATCH of land next to Hampstead Heath, which famously became home to a softly-spoken Irishman known as “Harry The Hermit”, is up for sale, the New Journal can reveal.

The half-acre plot, sandwiched behind a copse at the foot of Kenwood and the newly restored Athlone House mansion, has been offered for auction by high-end estate agents Savills. It was used by Harry Hallowes, who won squatters’ rights to the land after years of living in a tumbledown shelter.

His story inspired the movie Hampstead, which starred Brendan Gleeson as a hermit-like character living in a shack. Mr Hallowes died two years ago, aged 88, but left the plot to homeless charities Shelter and Centrepoint. It is due to go under the hammer next month.

Marc Hutchinson, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said a close eye would be kept on any deal. “There are covenants on it, so no one can use it for a building. Its only possible function for a private buyer would be as a garden,” he told the New Journal. “The society wishes it to be purchased to be made part of the Heath and would be happy to be a part of that purchasing arrangement.”

The civic group fears if it is simply sold to the highest bidder then a planning battle over building on the land could ensue. Mr Hallowes, who was from County Sligo, Ireland, won squatters’ rights in 2007 after a court ruled he could lay claim to the overgrown patch as he had made it his home for more than 20 years.

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.

Brendan Gleeson in Hampstead

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.

A Savills auction house salesman confirmed the plot would be for sale in June. Savills describe it 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”.

Shelter’s director of fundraising, Andy Harris, said the charity was “extremely grateful” for the gift. “There has been a lot of interest from neighbours, community groups and the City of London, all of whom we are reaching out to,” he added. “Following this process, we expect to sell the land and use the proceeds to deliver homelessness services in accordance with Mr Hallowes’ wishes.”

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