It’s not as crazy as it sounds at first blush. One Direction, as well as members of the Wanted, members of the Arsenal soccer team and at least one British reality TV star have all taken residences at Princess Park Manor in North London, the Wall Street Journal reports. But this sprawling estate has a history. It is formerly known as Friern Hospital, and before that the Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum.
Built in the 1800’s by Queen Victoria, the psychiatric hospital at this height housed 3,500 of the “pauper insane” and featured what was at one time the longest corridor in Europe. The asylum closed in 1993 and a few years later the property and 30 acres of parkland was purchased and renamed for Princess Diana by Comer Homes. They have since turned the hospital, located 20 minutes north of Central London, into 380 luxury apartments.
The Journal explains “development has built up a strong working relationship with a recording company, and many of its young acts are pushed in its direction as they find their way,” by way of explaining how all these young stars have ended up in their digs. While the complex offers enough privacy and amenities (including a state-of-the-art fitness club and 20 meter swimming pool, tennis courts, a sauna, restored Victorian features, high grade appliances, videophone entry, 24 hour security and easy access to public transit) to tempt boy band members out of the heart of London, the place also boosts a colorful history.
The asylum has housed a few notable patients. It briefly hosted Aaron Kosminski, the man police suspected of being Jack the Ripper. Maria Teresa Ferrari de Miramar, second wife of occultist Aleister Crowley (nicknamed “The Wickedest Man Alive”) cooled her heels there for a time. And John Duffy, one half of the Railway Rapists who attacked dozens of women in the 1980’s and killed three, was a patient.
The asylum was also the site of a devastating fire in 1903, where 52 women were killed. Reports from the time indicate it was a dreadful event in which some inmates died in their beads while others were pushed into the fire amidst the frantic push to escape.
The conversion to housing means the location is much modernized and rebuilt. While the members of One Direction have moved on from their three bedroom shared house there, member of the Wanted and UK girl band Girls Aloud maintain residences at Princess Park Manor. With the estate’s more famous current inhabitants overshadowing it’s infamous past, boy bands seem to be ushering in a rebirth for this former psychiatric hospital.
-Courtney E. Smith, CBS Local