Former Legat's School of Ballet, nr Rotherfield, East Sussex (Grade II-listed, 1865. Exterior: George Goldie, interior: E.W. Pugin)
A mysterious mansion with sprawling grounds hidden by thick woodland on all sides, you could live two miles from the former Legat’s School of Ballet and not know it was there. This handsome Grade II-listed Victorian mansion was built by architects George Goldie and E. W. Pugin in 1865 as St Michael’s Orphanage for Girls and was paid for by a donation from the Duchess of Leeds. It was run by the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and was part of a pair, with the boys’ orphanage just four miles away at Mayfield.
Until recently its most famous incarnation was as a ballet school founded by Nadine Nicolaeva-Legat in the 1970s. But in the early 1990s it was bought by the charity Jameah Islameah and run as an Islamic school, before it was raided by police in 2006 on the suspicion that it was being used as a training camp for terrorists. Since the school closed in 2007 it has remained unused and is beginning to show signs of disrepair.
Christopher Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said: “So much of the building’s detail is shrouded in mystery as access is so difficult, as you can see by the photographs. A footpath leads round to the front façade so that is the most visible, and is a perfect example of the building’s architectural merit. It is a beautiful building in large grounds and has amazing potential for reuse.”