Will this house sell in Just a Minute?

A house in North London with connections to one of Britain’s most famous comedy traditions is on the market.
Nigel Lewis tries to describe it without repetition, hesitation or deviation

The home where Just a Minute was bornOver two million homes echo to the weekly half hour of unrivalled mirth and quick fire joke cracking that is Just A Minute, the Radio 4 comedy panel game chaired by Nicholas Parsons (pictured, below) that has been a national institution for over forty years.

And as the BBC prepares to transfer the show to TV, in an impeccable piece of timing the five-bedroom house where the programme’s format was originally devised is now up for sale.

Comedy history
To be found in London’s Hampstead Garden Suburb the house is a pretty, double-fronted, detached early Edwardian property bought in 1959 by Just A Minute creator Ian Messiter, who used the address both as his office and home.

Messiter was one of the key players in Britain’s entertainment industry from the 1960s onwards and the house was used to host parties to which famous names such as Roy Plumley (creator of Desert Island Discs) were invited as Messiter marshalled the creative forces needed  to launch the show, which first aired in the UK in 1968.

The programme had an earlier incarnation though; Messiter and Plumley used elements of its format for an earlier programme, One Minute Please, transmitted during the 1950sNicholas Parsons - the host of Just A Minute.

A family home
Messiter, who went on to help devise TV show Family Fortunes and had one of his plays turned into a Hollywood film starring Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, died in 1999 at the aged of 79 and is survived by his wife Enid, daughter Susan and son Malcom, who is a noted oboeist.

“My father paid £5,000 for the house and I remember when we moved in it had orange and dark brown walls inside, which almost brought my mother to tears she disliked it so much – but it was better than the small flat on the Finchley Road we had been renting up until then,” says Malcom.

Decision to buy
When the 1957 Rent Act was passed and letting was liberalised Malcom says the rent they paid in Finchley tripled almost overnight and it was this that persuaded his father to buy his first home.

“The area was not fashionable at all when we moved in but today it’s one of the most sought after areas of north London, partly because the Hampstead Garden Trust ensures no shops or pubs are opened to preserve its almost rural feel – it’s The garden of the Hampstead Garden Suburb homevery quiet here considering how close it is to central London, Golders Green and Highgate.

“My main memory of the house is the smell of glue. My father set aside one of the spare bedrooms to make Airfix models with me and I spent many happy hours with him there.”

Malcom says his parents looked to move out of the house several times but its generous proportions, handy location and beautiful garden persuaded them to stay put.

“It’s going to be a difficult day when we sell the house even though my mother lives in a nursing home now – my sister and I are very attached to the property but it’s time to move on.”

The property is on the market for £1.65m with local agent Glentree.

  • The area was not fashionable at all when we moved in but today it’s one of the most sought after areas of north London