Sean Connery and Noël Coward dined at collapsed £8.5m Chelsea mansion


The Chelsea mansion worth £8.5million which collapsed during mega-basement construction work once entertained Sir Sean Connery and Noël Coward – and even Ronald Reagan.  

Neighbours reported hearing a thunderous thud late on Monday night at the mid-terraced house in exclusive, Chelsea, West London. At least 40 people were evacuated from surrounding buildings by firefighters.

The collapsed home in Durham Place belonged to the family of film executive Arthur Abeles, who founded United International Pictures in the late 1960s. His wife Audrey, a former model, died earlier this year.

It can now be revealed that Abeles entertained James Bond star Connery, who recently died aged 90 at his Caribbean home, and Noël Coward, with his famously strong martinis.

Former US president Ronald Reagan, then a B-list actor who appeared in westerns, even once appeared at the driveway before whisking Abeles away for a weekend to Monaco, the Sunday Times reports. 

The Chelsea mansion worth £8.5million which collapsed during construction work once entertained the rich and powerful

Noël Coward with Sean Connery and Blanche Bakewell. Connery and Coward dined together at the Chelsea mansion

Noël Coward with Sean Connery and Blanche Bakewell. Connery and Coward dined together at the Chelsea mansion

Sir Sean Connery

Former US president Ronald Reagan

It can now be revealed that Abeles entertained James Bond star Connery, who recently died aged 90 at his Caribbean home, and Noël Coward, with his famously strong martinis. Former US president Ronald Reagan, then a B-list actor who appeared in westerns, even once appeared at the driveway before whisking Abeles away for a weekend to Monaco

Two mid-terraced homes in Durham Place, Chelsea, have been completely destroyed after they collapsed

Two mid-terraced homes in Durham Place, Chelsea, have been completely destroyed after they collapsed

The back of the property showed the terrible damage done to the building caused by the collapse

The back of the property showed the terrible damage done to the building caused by the collapse

Abeles' daughter Angela Ashcroft, now in her fifties and a mother of three, told the Sunday Times that she had been in bed at her home in Dorset when her London neighbour phoned to relay the awful news

Abeles’ daughter Angela Ashcroft, now in her fifties and a mother of three, told the Sunday Times that she had been in bed at her home in Dorset when her London neighbour phoned to relay the awful news

Emergency services frantically worked into the early hours of Tuesday morning to secure the building and adjoining ones. The area is home to a number of celebrities, including Mick Jagger and Roman Abramovich.

Abeles’ daughter Angela Ashcroft, now in her fifties and a mother of three, told the paper that she had been in bed at her home in Dorset when her London neighbour phoned to relay the awful news.

The 18th Century property was undergoing renovation works when it collapsed. Land registry documents show the freehold of property is owned by Seabrook Properties Limited, which was set up in the British Virgin Islands.

A planning application, approved last year, had been granted for works to the lower ground floor and terrace above. It also mentioned a rear extension to lower ground floor with terrace on upper level.

It said: ‘All box sash windows to be replaced with painted timber, with double glazed sashes. Timber glazed bi-fold doors to upper ground floor level. Reinstatement of pitched roof and 8 no. conservation rooflights.’

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had warned at the time: ‘Advice should urgently be sought if a problem occurs during approved works’. 

Homes in Durham Place, a short distance from the Royal Chelsea Hospital, sell for over £10m. Many of the four-storey homes overlooking a private green are converted into flats. 

Around 40 people were evacuated from neighbouring properties and a 25m cordon was put in place as a precaution by the Metropolitan Police Service. 

Plans showed the owners wanted to extend the basement three metres further and add a new upper terrace, shown in black

Plans showed the owners wanted to extend the basement three metres further and add a new upper terrace, shown in black

New steps from the new basement to the garden and then to the upper terrace were also shown in the new design drawings

New steps from the new basement to the garden and then to the upper terrace were also shown in the new design drawings

First and second floor plans said brickwork was to be repointed and replaced where necessary and new window sashes in

First and second floor plans said brickwork was to be repointed and replaced where necessary and new window sashes in

The scene in Durham Place in Chelsea, west London, after two mid-terrace houses collapsed

The scene in Durham Place in Chelsea, west London, after two mid-terrace houses collapsed

Met Police said they received reports the buildings had collapsed and crews were working to secure the scene

Met Police said they received reports the buildings had collapsed and crews were working to secure the scene

Pictures of the devastation show the huge mid-terraced house reduced to rubble behind a cordon set up by police. The London Fire Brigade said at least 40 people have been evacuated from surrounding buildings. 

A close neighbour told how he was woken in the early hours of the morning by what he thought was a loud thunderclap. He said: ‘There was just a huge thud. I thought it was thunder but there was only the one loud thud. It wasn’t until the morning on my way to work that I saw the building had collapsed. 

‘There were lots of police and the road was sealed off. Workmen have been there for weeks excavating a basement. I don’t think anyone was in the property at the time but it is going to be very expensive to fix.

‘The roof has just collapsed inwards and taken down the whole of the inside.’ 

Another said they heard a ‘ huge crash ‘ and ran out of their flat to see the building next door had collapsed. She said:  ‘We were still up and just heard a huge crash . We ran outside and the building next door had disappeared.

‘We knew it was empty but called the police. Lots of police and ambulances turned up, but no one was injured. A few hours later and there would have been 10-15 builders inside.’

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