Du Cane Court is a strikingly beautiful Art Deco apartment building in Balham, South London. It opened in 1937 with 676 apartments, making it one of the largest blocks of flats to be found anywhere in Europe. With its distinctive curves and Art Deco styling, Du Cane Court was the height of modernity. Its sleek lobby, marbled pillar entryway, and top floor social club, with a bar and restaurant on the 7th floor, made it a widely popular home for many actors and music hall stars in the 1930s.
But it was also a building surrounded in mystery. During World War II, whilst most of London suffered terrible damage during the Blitz, despite its vast size, Du Cane Court was left completely untouched by the German Luftwaffe, giving rise to peculiar rumours concerning its importance to the inner circle of the Nazi party.
Balham especially suffered ferocious damage during the firebombing of London, particularly on the night of October 14th, 1940, when a 1,400 kg fragmentation bomb hit the road outside Balham tube station. The underground station was in constant use as an air raid station during the attacks, but the giant bomb collapsed the northbound tunnel, destroying the water mains above and flooding the station. Immortalized in Ian McEwan’s Atonement, the air raid took the lives of 66 civilians, with bodies still being recovered for months afterwards.
As the months of constant bombing continued to pulverize the city, Du Cane Court continued to remain unscathed. It was said that the distinctive size and shape of the apartments, which, from the air closely resembled part of the swastika, was used as a sign post for Luftwaffe navigators, as the point to turn around and head back for mainland Europe.
But more chillingly was the alleged story that Adolf Hitler had earmarked Du Cane Court as the future home of the SS, and his private apartments, should the proposed invasion of Britain have succeeded.
After the Battle of Britain, the so-called Operation Sea Lion plans were shelved, and Hitler’s rumoured plans for Du Cane Court remain subject to speculation. But the apartments remain one of London’s most elegant examples of Art Deco architecture.
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