But yesterday it was home to 30 Eastern Europeans who flocked 1,000 miles to London when they heard how Britain was such a soft touch for squatters.
The gang of immigrants are living for free in the £6million former home of an ITV boss in North London.
Head of the house: Squatter Jason Ruddick with his live-in friends at the house in a leafy suburb
What a lark! Zhypka and Chrissey in front of the Highgate mansion which has been taken over by squatters from all over Europe who like sliding down the bannister for fun
Lounging about: Three of the squatters make themselves at home in one room of the property
Many of the young foreigners, mainly from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, broke through a window of the mansion on Boxing Day and have put up legal notices claiming it is their ‘right’ to stay.
They have plastered the property with posters threatening to prosecute anyone who enters without permission.
The ten-bedroom house in Highgate was owned until July last year by John Ormerod, 61, a director of several leading UK companies who also chairs the audit committee at ITV, and his wife Pamela, a magistrate.
The warning posters, on the door and windows, read: ‘Take notice. That we live in this property, it is our home and we intend to stay here.’
Once finely decorated, the house now resembles a refugee camp, with the 30 squatters, many of whom are jobless, littering the floors with rubbish and smoking drugs freely.
The gang, aged from 19 to 50, have been given a court order to leave by January 19, but they boast about their intentions to stay on – if they don’t upgrade to a bigger home nearby.
Freeloader: Jason Ruddick is now squatting in the London mansion in Highgate after travelling from Latvia
Warning: One of the hand scribbled signs attached to a door in the house. Many others are located across the property claiming the squatters' right to stay
Make yourself at home: A guitar at the ready for some entertainment at the Highgate property
Taking it easy: Two of the squatters relax with a bottle of wine, beer, a cigarette and some music
Some of the bedrooms have marble en suite bathrooms and Jason, who moved to the UK a year ago, has set up a makeshift office in one.
The jobless 21-year-old said: ‘I knew before I came that people live in squats and have legal protection.
‘Here we have heating and electricity all for free. The bills come in the post but they are addressed to the old owners. We don’t pay them.
‘There are four floors in the house. Ten bedrooms. There are three bathrooms with bathtubs and showers, a kitchen with all the cooking facilities, heating – and all the utilities are on. And there is a big garden with a swing. It’s really expensive to live in such a big house if you have to pay for it. But in the UK we get everything for free. Even food.
‘We always have a full fridge. We go to Iceland and get all the good food from the rubbish bins. It’s called “skipping”. We get sausage rolls, pies and beer from there. When one can is damaged they throw out the whole pack. It’s easy. I like it in Highgate. The area is nice. It is close to Hampstead Heath. If they make me leave I will find a bigger place in the area.’
One squatter, Zhypka, from Lithuania, said: ‘I have the most amazing, posh bathroom – en suite. I love it. Some of us have jobs but most of us are looking for work or on the dole.’ Another of the squatters boasted: ‘We’re moving into a bigger mansion soon!’
Before arriving at the mansion – which is a stone’s throw from millionaire bankers and celebrities such as George Michael and Sadie Frost – the squatters were living in The Bull, an empty pub in the area.
But after several months Jason decided to find somewhere new. After a brief walk down the road he came upon Mr Ormerod’s former home. The lights were off and a skip was in the drive so he climbed in through a window and called his friends.
Jason is from the Latvian capital of Riga, where he also did not work.
He said he chose to come to England because in other countries squatters are routinely arrested and hauled before the courts.
‘Here I can live in a big house for free,’ he said. ‘I was the first one here but I told all my friends about it. We tell everyone back home about it.’
Neighbours are furious. One, who asked not to be named, said: ‘I’m not happy about it.
‘They leave their rubbish on the street. I care because rats have come because of them.