|Dolphin Square was for many years one of the largest block of flats in the world with 1250 flats. A colossus of a building in Pimlico, flanking the river Thames. John Anstey refers to it a lot in his books, to highlight examples of how the Party Wall Act is applied in certain circumstances. However, with a bowling green and tennis courts overlooking the river, this wasn’t your average block of flats.|
20 years ago, Roger Watts was enlisted by a landlord to act as an expert witness for a legal dispute after a tenant had made a lot of claims about their flat. Ever the professional, Roger checked every inch of the flat only to be asked to go into the plant rooms of the building, in the basement, to check the boiler.
|Roger asked the engineer for access to the basement, so he could check the quality of the water tanks and boilers. The engineer was quiet but nodded. Walking down to the lower ground, the engineer began to regale the building’s history.|
Dolphin Square was opened in 1936, for its current purpose, as a residential property – home to once Harold Wilson, William Hague and other political figures. Before their time in the building, however, the Free French Forces occupied a few flats during the second world war. Members would use the property as a place to conspire, plot and train to fight enemies that were reigning terror in their mother country. Even when Roger was surveying the joists in the basement that held Dolphin Square in place, the bullet holes in the walls from their makeshift shooting range for rifle practice were visible.
|Roger and the engineer came to a large oak door (an original feature from the 1920s), which the engineer unlocked, and switched on the lights as he crossed the threshold, which flickered on, one by one, down the yellowing corridor, highlighting a wooden chair at the bottom of the passage, near the boiler that Roger had needed to assess.|
The engineer sighed.
“I can see why you didn’t want to come down here,” Roger laughed.
“That’s nothing. See that chair? It was around the corner last night.”
Was it a French ghost? Who could say, but Roger didn’t stick around to ask.
Image of Dolphin Square
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © PAUL FARMER – geograph.org.uk/p/1194507