The former headquarters of the Nationwide Building Society in 17 acres of green belt on the edge of High Wycombe is finally being converted into apartments and townhouses after several previous plans for alternative schemes hit the dust.

The Grade II listed Victorian mansion and more modern buildings in the grounds of Uplands in Four Ashes Road, Cryers Hill, were most recently used as a hotel and conference centre by the De Vere group. The hotel closed at the end of 2014.

Locals regard the site as an important part of the heritage. They want it preserved.

The main house was built in gothic style between 1858 and 1862. The hilltop position inspired the name.

The first family to live there were the Hewetts. They had five children – two born in Hughenden, one in Wycombe.

Captain Hewett served in the Royal Bucks Kings Own Militia. His wife was a Lancashire lass. The family had six servants: a cook, lady’s maid, two housemaids, a footman and a nurse for the two youngest daughters.

In 1900 the house was bought by the Cock family.

Thomas Cock paid £8,600 for it, He was a partner in the banking family which later became Martins Bank.

He and his wife Ethel had three daughters and a son. Parish records show that in 1910 the house had 15 bedrooms: ten for the family and five for the staff.

Over the years the grounds were landscaped into terraces and avenues as a setting for outbuildings. In the early 1980s these were redesigned by a leading British architect, Edward Cullinan, to provide the scope for Uplands to become the headquarters of the Nationwide.

Ted Cullinan as he is widely known in the profession went on to design the new library for Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, which opened in 2010. A few years before that he was responsible for the revolutionary Weald and Downland Gridshell building built of oak laths. It was the first of its kind in the UK and nominated for the Stirling Prize.

During Uplands’ most recent reincarnation as a four-star De Vere hotel there were 73 bedrooms and 23 meeting and training rooms.

A proposal by the Redrow Group in 2013 to demolish the conference centre and build 16 up-market houses was met with strong opposition. As a result the buildings were listed.

In 2015, a great admirer of Cullinan, Nick Bridges at the London firm Ettwein Bridges Architect, drew up a scheme for 52 homes – 11 houses and 41 flats. He went to see his mentor to show him the plans.

Bridges said: “He remembered it all very clearly” reported the eminent architect’s one time pupil. “Straight away he honed in on one or two areas and made helpful suggestions.”

Nothing came of that scheme, regardless of the great man’s input.

The latest owners are an Italian-based multinational company called Area Equity.

Kevin Chapman, manager of JNP’s land and new homes division, the selling agent for the development, says the apartments and townhouses converted from the original scheme are being designed with Italian flair.

Buyers will have the first chance to see the plans for themselves and reserve a plot when the development is launched on site early next month.

Prices will range from £225,000-£650,000.

For more details call the agent on 01494 521222.