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I’m often asked about this beautiful building, set back from Victoria Embankment facing the London Eye and designed in the style of a French Chateau.
Truth is, apart from being a lovely piece of architecture, there’s not much to say about it, except it was used by the Secret Service during the war and is now the Royal Horseguards Hotel.
There is however a fascinating story about the man who built it. His name was Jabez Spencer Balfour and was a Liberal MP and Property Developer. In 1892 he was at the centre of a financial scandal after a Building Society he had set up, left thousands of investors penniless. Instead of lending the money to home buyers, he advanced money to property companies so they could buy buildings owned by him, including this one, at an inflated price. After the swindle was discovered he fled the country to South America. He was pursued by Detective Inspector Frank Froest of Scotland Yard who arrested him and rather than waiting for lengthy extradition negotiations, bundled him into a train and then onto a boat sailing for England. He was tried at the Old Bailey and sentenced to 14 years.