A grand London townhouse believed to have once been home to one of the most reviled characters in Victorian society has hit the market asking £16 million (US$21.23 million).
The white-painted and ornately pilastered 1840s mansion rises six levels on Hyde Park Gate, steps away from Hyde Park in Kensington and surrounded by foreign embassies and houses marked with blue plaques for their various historical connections. This particular address is believed to have been the home of Mary Caroline Blair , also known as Mary, Duchess of Sutherland , a scandalous figure who would be the inspiration for the evil stepmother in Disney’s “ Cinderella ,” according to the real estate agents marketing the home.
“This elegant Hyde Park Gate townhouse has immaculately presented interiors and was once the London mansion of Mary Caroline Blair , the Duchess of Sutherland, whose soirées inspired Oscar Wilde plays” as well as the cartoon villain, said Gary Hersham, founding director of Beauchamp Estates. Mr. Hersham is representing the seller alongside Tunstall Property.
The property is one of a pair of identical terraced houses that echo the style of lauded London architect John Nash , featuring classical embellishments and column-flanked entryways. The new instruction has yet to hit public listing sites.
It’s believed that Blair lived in the London townhouse in the late 1800s with her first husband, Capt. Arthur Blair , whose boss, the Duke of Sutherland—with whom his wife began an affair—was a frequent guest. Other English nobility and leading cultural figures in the Duke’s orbit, including writer Oscar Wilde, would have also been guests at the Blairs ’ residence.
Blair’s affair with the Duke continued after her first husband’s mysterious death, and ignited a full-blown scandal when the lovers married only a few months after the Duke’s own spouse died.
When the Duke of Sutherland himself passed away, Blair again became the center of scandal when she landed in prison for attempting to destroy parts of the Duke’s will—at the expense of her step-children, according to a 2018 biography “Power Play: The Life and Times of Mary, Dowager Duchess of Sutherland” by Catherine Layton .
When she was released from jail and the inheritance settled, she used her share to build Carbisdale Castle in the Scottish Highlands. The castle included a clocktower with only three clock faces—with one side left blank purposefully so as not to give her former relatives even the time of day, the biographer wrote.
While the Duchess's story has gone down in infamy, her former London home has been thoughtfully maintained and updated. The six-bedroom house now boasts an array of contemporary details, including an elevator and a lower ground floor with a home gym, vaults and a media room, according to floor plans of the home.
Upstairs, the ground level includes the dining room and expansive kitchen built with a multitude of appliances, and French doors out to the back garden terrace.
The home’s main level, entered from the front door, encompasses a grand reception room that runs into a more informal sitting room at the back of the home. Five bedrooms are spread across the upper three floors, including a principal bedroom with a large private terrace and a marble-clad en-suite bathroom, floor plans show.
It’s not clear when the home last traded hands, but a record in the U.K. Land Registry vaguely stated it had a value over £1 million in 2016.
The current owner could not be reached for comment.
Listing agent Mark Tunstall , founding director of Tunstall Property, said the home also has generous ceiling heights across the main living rooms, “with each of the principal rooms featuring full-height windows, fireplaces and Oak strip or parquet flooring.”