Top-secret M16 spy base in outer London turned into a £8.5 million country house with luxury interiors


Located in the village of Arkley in outer London, a top-secret WW2 listening post base used by M16 to spy on German signals for PM Winston Churchill has been given a modern makeover and is now known as Rowley Ridge, a magnificent newly built 11,000 sqft country house set in landscaped grounds providing six double bedrooms and complete with state-of-the-art leisure facilities including a cinema, games room, gymnasium, swimming pool and spa steam room: the country house with an M16 past is for sale via Beauchamp Estates.

Rowley Ridge and the village of Arkley’s role as a top secret M16 base began at the start of WW2 when M16 established a Radio Security Service which was used to intercept illicit wireless messages operated by enemy agents in Britain and transmissions from German U-boats. The work was so secret that the M16 base was originally established in HMS Prison Wormwood Scrubs, with wireless transmitters set up on the roof of the prison and the radio operators and decoders working from the secure cells on an upper floor.

As Wormwood began to suffer German air attacks in early 1940 it was decided to relocate the M16 listening post to outer London and Arkley was chosen by Churchill because the leafy village is located at a decent altitude of 440 feet above sea level, making the location highly advantageous for capturing radio transmissions.

M16 toured Arkley and selected half a dozen detached country houses set in large gardens – including the site of Rowley Ridge – which were then requisitioned and converted to house the Radio Security Service, the village base helping support the code-breaking taking place at Bletchley Park.

The M16 houses were guarded by police and given bullet proof doors and windows with wireless transmitters and other top-secret technology placed on the roofs. Inside the houses a team of 55 analysts, who included historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (later Lord Dacre), monitored and transcribed suspicious broadcasts which were then sent by motorbike despatch rider to Bletchley Park for decoding before being passed to Winton Churchill and the War Cabinet for review. During 1944 the M16 houses at Arkley were also used by Churchill to send out strategic radio messages to mislead the Germans about the D-Day Landings.

After WWII the original Edwardian villa at Rowley Ridge, along with some of the other M16 houses in the village such as Arkley View, were demolished for security reasons and the role of Arkley as an M16 base was largely forgotten apart from fans of military history.

Now the site on Rowley Green Road used as an M16 base has been transformed by luxury developer Domvs London into Rowley Ridge, an outstanding new country house built to an exacting specification and featuring state-of-the-art home working and entertainment facilities.

Benefitting from views across a private golf course and greenbelt land, the house has a sweeping gated entrance driveway and large rear gardens with the grand double-fronted façade offering bays to the front and rear and striking oval and domer windows and feature chimneys to the roofscape, the architecture inspired by the Edwardian era villa used by M16 that originally stood on the site.

Providing luxurious accommodation over basement, ground and two upper floors the grand home has a stunning entrance hall which leads to a spectacular central oval-shaped three storey atrium which soars through the house, with galleried landings on each floor overlooking the atrium space, surmounted by an oval glass roof cupola.

The atrium adjoins the main staircase and the ground floor hallway gives access to a study and family room to the front of the house with a 70 foot wide triple reception room spanning the entire rear elevation. This main reception room incorporates a lounge area, drawing room area and dining area, with two bays with French doors opening onto the rear garden.

The fully-fitted custom-designed family kitchen is located off the main reception room and has a veined marble central island/breakfast bar, Gaggenau appliances and bespoke units and cupboards which can be concealed behind folding doors. There is also a guest powder room and separate utility room on this floor.

The basement floor provides the extensive health and leisure facilities. There is a large ‘Dolby Atmos’ sound-proofed cinema room with cocktail bar area, a game’s room and a health spa which incorporates a pool room clad in natural stone offering a large swimming pool bordered by leisure decks, a separate gymnasium, a steam room and a changing room with shower and toilet facilities.

The principal bedroom suite spans the entire rear façade of the first floor incorporating a bedroom opening onto private balcony, a separate walk-in dressing area and a main bathroom with a sculptural freestanding bathtub set on a marble plinth and doors onto a private balcony. The first floor includes three further bedroom suites, each with ensuite bathrooms. On the top floor there is a guest suite with walk-in dressing room and bathroom, a safe/panic room and a store room.

The luxurious specification uses the finest materials throughout including marble, rare stone and Oak, beautifully designed architraves and doors, bespoke joinery to all cupboards and wardrobes, Oak parquet flooring to all principal rooms, underfloor heating throughout and bespoke bathrooms with integrated waterproof TVs. The house has the latest Crestron i-pad intuitive ‘Smart Home’ technology, air-conditioning and mood lighting.

Other security features which would make M16 proud include, the bespoke panic/safe room, CCTV throughout, including remote monitoring, biometric entry system and the house can be fully controlled from anywhere in the world, even to the extent of allowing guests access.

The extensive landscaped front and south facing rear gardens of Rowley Ridge have been designed by Chelsea Garden Show Gold Award Winner Luciano Giubbilei. The house is complete with a double garage large enough to accommodate two Rolls Royces or Range Rovers, with substantial private parking for guests.

Jon O’ Brien, Chairman & CEO of Domvs London says: “Rowley Ridge by Domvs Londonis an outstanding newly built house with the architectural design providing an elegant classical exterior façade, with the beautiful interiors designed around the three storey central atrium with the generously sized living spaces designed to maximise space and light. Set in landscaped gardens the house has been built to an exacting specification and is complete with state-of-the-art leisure facilities including home cinema, gymnasium and swimming pool.”