A new start for the old Royal British Legion on Lavender Hill

The Royal British Legion at 173 Lavender Hill was a long established club, one of an extensive network of social clubs – the Legion Clubs – throughout the country. In its day, it was a popular one, known for Christmas tree sales to benefit the Legion on the forecourt.

But towards the end, so many members passed away not enough money was being taken to pay the bills to keep the club running, and it closed just before Christmas 2017. The premises belonged to the Royal British legion and were rented to the local club, and they eventually repossessed the property.

It’s fair to say that the last few years had been quite hard for the club, and despite heroic efforts to keep it afloat, maintenance of the building rather understandably fell down the list and by the end it was in a pretty poor state. The Royal British legion, having reclaimed the club after the rent stopped being paid, found themselves with a three storey-plus-basement building in a very run down condition, needing a comprehensive refurbishment. The photos above and below (drawn from the design and access statement for the redevelopment) show the condition of the interior of the building before works started.

Buildings are always more valuable with planning permission than without it, so the Legion wisely applied for planning permission to convert the building in to three flats (one one-bed, and two two-bed – including a roof extension and an extension at the back of the building) and a ‘community venue’ on the ground floor; which they were granted in June 2019.

The images above and to the right are from the design & access statement in the planning application – showing he building with an extra storey and a new shopfront more in keeping with its neighbours (because the mostly-brick facade of the Legion Club never really fitted in!).

The Royal British Legion then put it up for auction with a guide price of £800,000 – £825,000. There was considerable interest – and the whole building ended up being sold for £1,155,000!

And the new owner then started the building works earlier this year. The stonework has been repaired and repainted, the extensions have been built, the windows have been replaced, and the interior has had the comprehensive refit that was long overdue. In the end three two-bed flats were built on the upper levels (one of which has a relatively generous terrace), all of which were fitted out to a decent standard, and offered on a partly-furnished basis at a whisker under £2000 pcm. The developers clearly pitched this about right, as two of the flats (only listed a week ago and not available until November) have already been let!

There’s no doubt that this is a pretty significant improvement overall – even if it’s a bit disappointing that the ground floor is quite different to the original planning proposals, and doesn’t have the elegance that could have been delivered with a more traditionally-styled shopfront. It’s not clear if the basement has ended up as part of the shop unit as was originally envisaged, or as a separate flat.

So while it’s a shame that the Legion Club, the building now has a more secure future and the investment it had been needing for a while. And it’s not all over for the Legion Clubs either, as although this definitely marks the end for the Battersea & South Wandsworth club – whose sign remains in place until the ground floor finds a tenant – the Clapham branch is still running on Victoria Rise, at the other end of Lavender Hill.

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