Some buildings are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them.
Ten Trinity Square may not share the global fame of its illustrious neighbours the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral. But it has long been regarded by those in the know as one of Britain’s finest buildings. And now, following a multi-million renovation, it is about to become one of the City’s most desirable addresses into the bargain.
Designed by the renowned Sir Edwin Cooper in the early Twenties and built for a then astronomical £1 million, this remarkable building has played a key role in the nation’s history – not to mention a bit-part in a Bond film, too. With a majestic classical facade hinting at trade links going back to Roman times, its first incarnation – after being officially opened in 1922 by the Prime Minister David Lloyd George – was as the headquarters of the Port of London Authority.
Britain’s capital was at that time the beating heart of world trade as ships delivered their cargo to the nearby docks. High above the streets of London, a sculpture of Old Father Thames stands atop the building, holding his trident and pointing East to pay homage to the trade between nations.
But just two decades after its construction, as the Second World War engulfed Britain, the building, along with many of its iconic neighbours, suffered its share of bomb damage. Not that this was the first time flames had raged through this part of London. It’s said that the diarist Samuel Pepys, who centuries previously had lived in the adjoining street, Seething Lane, rushed outside to bury his highly prized Parmesan cheese in a nearby garden to protect it from the impending Fire of London.
In a far more recent chapter of the building’s history, it played a starring role in the 2012 James Bond movie Skyfall. With its dramatic, imposing appearance it made an entirely convincing MI6, where Dame Judi Dench, as M, meets Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes).
Cooper’s masterpiece continued to serve as offices until 2008. But then, following the Port of London Authority’s move to a new base in the City, it lay vacant for three years, waiting for a new owner.
Who would take on such a project? Not surprisingly, a buyer with deep pockets and with even greater ambitions was needed. Enter Reignwood. The Chinese investor bought the building in 2010. It then took six months to secure conditional planning permission before conversion work could begin.
“Rather than create reproduction interiors, we chose to restore and preserve as many of the surviving original features as possible, says Kalina Boyadjiew, head of sales and marketing at Reignwood.
“For example, a team of stone-restoration experts have literally spent years restoring the exterior stonework and carvings of the exterior facades, while specialist restorers have brought back to life thousands of square metres of original plasterwork, wood carvings and marble floors.”
More structural work was essential, too. “The original foundations weren’t strong enough to withstand the load of the tower, and therefore the front elevation has experienced settlement over the past 100 years,” adds Tess Cavendish from Strutt & Parker.
“In 2013, the construction team inserted 130 underpin piles in the existing foundation to stop the settlement.”
Along the way a number of significant archeological finds were made, explains Boyadjiew: “These included chalk-walled cellars, cess pits, animal remains and a well. We also found an incredible antique clock in the so-called United Nations room. This is where the reception for the inaugural assembly of the United Nations was held in 1946.”
So Ten Trinity Square enters a new phase in its rich history. Brush past the immaculate Corinthian columns, enter the entrance hall and you will see that the interior has been updated, with a sense of character retained. Original mouldings, panelling and a fairy-tale staircase have been painstakingly restored.
A show flat with a kitchen large enough to entertain the entire Skyfall cast is kitted with all the latest Bond-style culinary gadgets. No discreet ejector seats for unwanted guests, though.
But how much would you pay for a slice of history? Prices are not cheap for the 41 luxury apartments (available through joint agents Christie’s Real Estate and Strutt & Parker). A one-bedroom flat on a 999-year-lease would set you back £5 million. Or even more for a five-bedroom penthouse at the top of the building’s great tower. The price of the penthouse is harder to extract from these agents than a state secret locked in the vaults of MI6.
International and some lucky British buyers will be lining up to snap up these aspirational dream homes, ensuring that the Grade II*-listed building’s future is secure. And if you can’t quite run to an apartment, a 100-room Four Seasons hotel will be opening here, too. A place to see and to be seen in.
It is estimated that work will not be complete until mid-2016. But when the armies of builders and restorers finally move out, the result is sure to be a magnificent achievement. Three and a half centuries on, even local boy Pepys might be lost for words.
Ten Trinity Square is for sale through Christie’s International Real Estate (020 7389 5142; christiesrealestate.com) and Strutt & Parker (020 7318 5198; struttandparker.com). For more information, visit tentrinitysquare.co.uk.