‘Mysterious mansion’ put on list of endangered buildings

The impressive building dates from 1865 and involved two of the leading architects of the Victorian age
The impressive building dates from 1865 and involved two of the leading architects of the Victorian age

A remote former ballet school has been named on the Top 10 Endangered Buildings List for England and Wales.

Compiled by The Victorian Society, the list recognises at-risk Victorian and Edwardian buildings and structures.

The aim is to expose their plight in the hope that increased awareness and appreciation will help save them.

The 2018 line-up includes the Grade II Listed former Legat’s School of Ballet, near Rotherfield, which was built by architects George Goldie and E. W. Pugin in 1865.

Situated at Catt’s Hill on the B2100, it has been described as a “mysterious mansion” with sprawling grounds, hidden by thick woodland on all sides. It began life as St Michael’s Orphanage for Girls and was paid for by a donation from the Duchess of Leeds. It was run by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and was part of a pair, with the boys’ orphanage just four miles away at Mayfield.

Until recently its most famous incarnation was as a ballet school founded by Nadine Nicolaeva-Legat in the 1970s.

But in the early 1990s it was bought by the charity Jameah Islameah and run as an Islamic school, before it was raided by police in 2006 on the suspicion that it was allegedly being used as a training camp for terrorists.

Since the school closed in 2007 it has remained unused and is beginning to show signs of disrepair.

Christopher Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said: “You could live two miles from the building and not know it was there.”

He said: “So much of the building’s detail is shrouded in mystery as access is so difficult. A footpath leads round to the front façade so that is the most visible, and is a perfect example of the building’s architectural merit. It is a beautiful building in large grounds and has amazing potential for reuse.”

Others on the endangered list include seven gasholders at Bromley-by-Bow, London, and The Winter Gardens, Great Yarmouth.