The O’Reillys have lived in the property for the past 10 years. They have made extensive changes, landscaping the garden and installing a summer house plus a fish pond. The big wrought-iron “Wuthering Heights” sign on the front gate is their idea. “The house was already called that in the title deeds, so we decided to put that in as a homage to Kate,” says Jackie.
The house bears the name of Bush’s greatest hit
She is not an out-and-out Bush groupie herself, but takes pride in the Bush connection – and the fact that parts of a video promoting Wuthering Heights were shot in what is now her daughter’s bedroom.
“Kate has long since moved out of the area, but we catch sight of her from time to time,” adds Jackie. “Her brother still lives next door, and there is a gate between the two gardens.”
For one of the most admired singers of her generation, Bush remains an elusive figure. Her concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo this summer were her first public performances for 35 years. But she is as much a child of south-east London as Emily Brontë was a child of Yorkshire.
She was born in Bexleyheath Maternity Hospital, grew up on a farmhouse on Wickham Lane, Welling. Her father was a local GP, and she was educated at St Joseph’s Convent Grammar School, later a campus of Bexley College.
In her late teens, having already been signed by EMI, she moved to Brockley. There she lived in the middle flat at 44 Wickham Road, sandwiched between her two brothers’ flats.
Her rise was meteoric, even in an industry in which fame and fortune can come ridiculously young. By 1977, when she was still 19, she was fronting the KT Bush Band in local pubs, notably the Rose of Lee in Lewisham, now Dirty South. A year later, she released her first album, The Kick Inside, incorporating Wuthering Heights, which went straight to No?1.
Said to have been written in a few hours late at night, the song was born in Brockley, but right from its haunting open lines (“Out on the winding, windy moors/We’d roll and fall in green…”), is as Yorkshire in spirit as Harry Ramsden’s or Geoffrey Boycott.
A bedroom in the six-bedroom property
As a child, Bush had been obsessed with screen adaptations of Emily Brontë’s famous novel. She made much of the fact that she shared a birthday, July 30, with the novelist. Thus were two idiosyncratic talents, both revered for the rawness of the emotions they evoked, umbilically linked.
The £3?million asking price for the property on Court Road reflects its substantial size, plus the fact there is planning permission in place to add an additional three-bedroom wing.
The location – between the Royal Blackheath Golf Club and Eltham Palace, an Art Deco masterpiece – could hardly be better. And if Eltham would not yet qualify as a fashionable address, it is an intriguing area with a rich social history. Bob Hope was born here – there is a community theatre named after him. More recent residents have included Frankie Howerd, Boy George and Jude Law.
“Eltham used to be regarded as quite a gritty location, not nearly as sought after as neighbouring Mottingham or Chislehurst,” says James Ankers, of Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward. “But it is coming up fast. The transport links have improved dramatically, and we have seen price rises of between 18 and 20 per cent in the past 12 months. Quite a few properties have been selling for around the £3?million mark.”
Emily Brontë, it is reasonable to surmise, would be horrified at London property prices. In Haworth, in West Yorkshire, where she and her sisters grew up, you can still get a seven-bedroom detached house for £375,000.
But if all properties retain something, however fleeting, of the people who have lived in them, this one certainly stands out from the crowd.
Wuthering Heights, Court Road, Eltham, may never have quite the mystique of the original Wuthering Heights on the Yorkshire moors. But it can forever revel in its association with a remarkable young woman who, like Emily Brontë, dared to be different.
The six-bedroom property in Eltham, London SE9, is on the market for £2.9m with Kinleigh, Folkard?&?Hayward (020 3280 3540; www.kfh.co.uk)
A bluffer’s guide to Wuthering Heights (both versions):
Wuthering Heights was Emily Brontë’s only novel. It was published in 1847, under the pseudonym Ellis Bell.
The book had mixed reviews at the time, largely on account of its frank depiction of violent emotional passions, but it is now regarded as one of the greatest novels in the language.
The title is the name of the farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors where most of the action is set.
The action revolves around the doomed love of the heroine, Catherine, for Heathcliff, an orphan from Liverpool who comes to live with her family.
Of the many screen adaptations, the most celebrated is the 1939 movie starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. There have also been a number of television versions.
Kate Bush, growing up in south London, was obsessed with the movie, as well as with the television adaptations, as a teenager – an obsession that would inspire her breakthrough song of the same name.
The song was released as her debut single in 1978, when she was just 19. She reportedly wrote it in a few hours late at night. It became a No?1 hit single, and Bush performed it on Top of the Pops.
Bush was the first woman to have a No?1 hit single that she had written herself.
Wuthering Heights also featured on her debut album The Kick Inside.
Emily Brontë and Kate Bush share a birthday – they were both born on July 30.