Ernest Shackleton swapped this beautiful home in a leafy London suburb for the bleak conditions of the Antarctic.
The bravery shown by Ernest Shackleton and his crew on their ill-fated trip to Antarctica made him a household name, earning him fame that endures to this day. If he were born today, his Instagram account alone would probably bring in enough to keep him comfortably for life; yet back in the early 20th century, he struggled to make ends meet — badly.
Probate records show that, while he left a small amount of cash to his widow, his estate’s debts ran up to £40,000 — or £1.5 million, adjusted for inflation. It’s extraordinary, then, to see his former home in Putney on the market for £9.5 million. It’s hard to imagine a more stark illustration of the changes in the property market over the past century and a bit, since the great man lived here.
Today, Sir Ernest might have been forced to return from the Palace on collection of his OBE to a small flat in south-east London rather than an 8,584sq ft house in one of the capital’s most sought-after residential postcodes.
In 2021 terms, it’s not hard to see why this is the most expensive house currently listed for sale in Putney. Huge amounts of space, nine bedrooms and five reception rooms, as well as everything from a billiard room and a wine cellar to a self-contained staff flat are on offer here. It’s all set within a huge plot with lovely gardens, a swimming pool and views over Putney Heath.
What’s perhaps most striking is the size of the rooms, all of which are beautifully refurbished, and almost entirely unfurnished. This is a true blank canvas waiting for a family — probably a large, well-heeled family — to move in.
Shackleton lived here from 1911 to 1913 — it’s the house where he wrote up Heart of the Antarctic, the account of the Nimrod expedition of 1907–1909 — before moving on to Kensington. Just a few months later he would embark upon his most famous trip of all, aboard the Endurance.
Switching leafy suburban life for the brutal reality of what would await in Antarctica seems unimaginably hard to most of us; yet by all accounts the great man was never happier than when on an expedition. We’d bet that the new owners of Heathview Gardens will not suffer from the same problem.