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Empty Mansion up for sale – 12, Jointon Road

Empty Mansion up for Sale

By Richard Wallace

Go Folkestone has long been lobbying about the emptiness of “Kelston”, 12 Jointon Road – the massive building on the corner of Earls Avenue. It is a squarely handsome mansion rumoured to have been designed by the famous Edwin Lutyens in the early 1920s, and still described as School of Lutyens. This may have influenced Kent County Council, which bought the long leasehold in the 1970s, in making a surprisingly good job of extending the house with a rear block which is perfectly matched, and keeping the staircases, skirtings and some fireplaces intact. Public authorities certainly in the past have been among the biggest architectural vandals, stripping out period features, covering door panels and painting everything cream or magnolia. Not here.

I visited the property in April when it was open to potential purchasers via G.V.A. Grimley ( hurry, hurry to alex.williams@ gva.co.uk). Go Folkestone, which seemed to be known to the agent, had been frustrated that it had been half-heartedly on the market for some years; this was described as ‘soft-selling’ and the reason was explained. It had become apparent that with, by now, a successor health authority having only a 60 year lease from the Folkestone Estate, the latter had, realistically, to be negotiated with first. I am told that the proportion of the freehold sale price to be shared out to the Estate has been agreed and the public authority can now go on to sell at or near the, to me reasonable, asking price of £800,000, to include a concurrent sale of the freehold reversion.

Internally most of the walls are smooth, dry and tastefully wallpapered with as few cracks as there are many in the bad outside cement-render. The property was used for housing elderly, frail and mentally infirm ladies and gentlemen and did not feel as if it had been empty for over 10 years, which it depressingly has. Most of the rooms were clean and good sized with possibly 1985/90 en suite toilets and wash hand basins but few showers, perhaps for safety. Probably about 25 persons could be accommodated with minor alterations, and including about 15% of the space on a dormered second floor. The ground floor has a large, nicely tiled, institutional kitchen and both main floors have a simple layout of rooms in side corridors off a spine, with two stairs and one lift. The huge 1990s conservatory at the rear must have cheered some of the residents even if north-facing. However there is clearly room in this cramped, ungracious age for a third, attached block or even a small separate apartment building fronting Earls Avenue. A shame as the primrosed garden centred on a small roundel with a dead centred orchard tree is very Enid Blyton. 

Apparently the viewers are half residential developers and half care home specialists. The planners have told me that the building is not of listable quality (questionable) but they imply it is still worth retaining. I am advised that instant conversion to flats is out of the question. As  a C or community use it will have to be retained unless the demand for it as a nursing  home , old persons’ home , institution , school ‘hall of residence’ or general ‘good thing’ is proven inactionable . The latter happened with rambling but majestic Eversley College which is finally going to be residential, but Kelston may well be a viable care home. 

The other wasted, historic, ex Health building in Folkestone, Ash Eton, built in 1903 in Radnor Park West is apparently [unless you know different ?] going in precisely the opposite direction. It is being re-opened for mental health consultations and administration.