Lon­don prop­erty mar­ket

An on­go­ing £4 bil­lion re­gen­er­a­tion pro­gramme is breath­ing new life into the SW1 prop­erty mar­ket, from clas­sic houses to new-builds

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

Penny Churchill and An­nun­ci­ata El­wes sur­vey the mar­ket

IN the Vic­to­rian pe­riod, it was said that ‘the City of West­min­ster proper—that tri­an­gu­lar slip of the me­trop­o­lis which lies be­tween the Thames, St James’s Park, and the Vaux­hall Bridge Road, can boast at once of some of the no­blest and the mean­est struc­tures to be found through­out Lon­don… In West­min­ster we have the con­trast be­tween rich and poor as marked as in St Giles’s and St James’s, for al­most within a stone’s throw of the seat of the great Leg­is­la­ture of Eng­land there are, or were till re­cently, more alms-houses, more char­ity schools, and more pris­ons,

more an­cient man­sions, and more coster­mon­gers’ hov­els, more thieves’ dens and low pub­lic houses, than in any other part of the me­trop­o­lis of equal ex­tent’ (Old and New Lon­don, 1878).

This sit­u­a­tion was vastly im­proved by the ex­pan­sion of Lon­don’s trans­port and build­ing boom in the mid to late 1800s, which saw the re­moval of some of West­min­ster’s worst neigh­bour­hoods, among them part of a slum dubbed ‘the Devil’s Acre’ by Charles Dick­ens, which was de­mol­ished dur­ing the con­struc­tion of Vic­to­ria Street, com­pleted in 1851. Sim­i­lar im­prove­ments were achieved on the run-up to the open­ing of Vic­to­ria Sta­tion in 1860 and the Metropoli­tan District Rail­way (the fore­run­ner of the District Line) in 1864.

De­spite Vic­to­ria’s emer­gence as a thriv­ing trans­port hub, bounded by West­min­ster to the east, Pim­lico to the south and Bel­gravia to the west—with a prized SW1 post­code to boot—the area around Vic­to­ria sta­tion re­mained a dreary back­wa­ter in res­i­den­tial terms. That is, un­til now, when, fol­low­ing an on­go­ing £4 bil­lion re­gen­er­a­tion scheme led by Land Se­cu­ri­ties, the ma­jor landowner in the area, and other elite de­vel­op­ers such as Northacre and Grosvenor, the area looks set to be­come Lon­don’s new­est prime res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood. And, says Robert Oat­ley of Knight Frank’s Vic­to­ria and West­min­ster of­fice (020–3866 2970), ‘at half the price of its more fash­ion­able neigh­bours’.

‘Tech giants and cre­ative start-ups have also in­jected much-needed vi­tal­ity and ex­cite­ment into SW1. Mi­crosoft and Google’s Lon­don head­quar­ters are now based in trendy of­fices on Buck­ing­ham Palace Road and, cater­ing to the new breed of of­fice work­ers and “New Vic­to­ri­ans”, fash­ion­able shops, restau­rants and bars have fol­lowed hot on

their heels. As a re­sult of the re­gen­er­a­tion and the ar­rival of new of­fice ten­ants, younger res­i­dents are mov­ing into the area, among them pro­fes­sional cou­ples and in­ter­na­tional stu­dents,’ he re­veals.

With the four pent­house apart­ments al­ready sold at Land Se­cu­ri­ties’ clean-cut Kings Gate Walk build­ing de­signed by Pa­trick Lynch, Strutt & Parker’s Lon­don New Homes di­vi­sion (020–7318 4677) is of­fer­ing one of the more im­pres­sive of the re­main­ing 96 apart­ments and stu­dios on of­fer. For sale at a guide price of £2.9 mil­lion, this is an eighth-floor, three-bed­room apart­ment, with a fully fit­ted open-plan kitchen and a stylish oak-floored re­cep­tion room that has large win­dows lead­ing onto a pri­vate bal­cony, with views to the north and south.

Mean­while, Knight Frank (020–3866 2970) and Sav­ills (020–7409 8756) are han­dling sales of the re­main­ing 19 prop­er­ties at Land Se­cu­ri­ties’ flag­ship Nova build­ing on Buck­ing­ham Palace Road and Vic­to­ria Street, which has ex­tra­or­di­nary views over the palace, The Queen’s pri­vate gar­dens and the ter­races of nearby Bel­gravia. With all the one-bed­room stu­dios now sold, prices range from £2.2m for a two-bed­room apart­ment to £20m for the one re­main­ing pent­house.

The wider Nova mas­ter­plan will in­clude an ar­ray of 18 new delis, restau­rants, cafes and bars. The de­vel­op­ment is also ide­ally placed for com­muters trav­el­ling to the cap­i­tal’s busi­ness districts or air­ports.

But it’s not all about ‘out with the old and in with the new’ in SW1 and, de­spite the neg­a­tive ef­fects of the re­cent Stamp Duty hikes for prop­er­ties worth more than £1.1m, in­vest­ment prop­er­ties and sec­ond homes, there is still a strong ap­petite for his­toric and her­itage houses in pres­ti­gious cor­ners of the post­code.

The thor­ough­fare known to­day as Queen Anne’s Gate is made up of two streets—the eastern named Park Street and the western Queen Square—which were orig­i­nally sep­a­rated by a wall sur­mounted by an iron rail­ing. This bar­rier was re­moved in 1873 and, the fol­low­ing year, the whole street was re­named Queen Anne’s Gate. No 28 (for­merly 10, Queen Square) is one of a ter­race of Grade I-listed houses, orig­i­nally built as fine town houses from 1702 on­wards, for peers, politi­cians, writ­ers and rich busi­ness­men. Most of the houses were con­verted to com­mer­cial use in the late 19th and 20th cen­turies and con­verted back to pri­vate use in the 21st.

‘To stum­ble upon this most ex­quis­ite of streets is one of Lon­don’s best ar­chi­tec­tural sur­prises… also about the only place where you will see Lon­don houses of the 18th cen­tury in near mint con­di­tion,’ wrote the ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­ri­ans Elain Har­wood and An­drew Saint in Lon­don (1991).

In the 1720s, the trustees of the South Sea Com­pany sold Nos 28 and 30 to John and Sa­muel Rush. At the time, No 28 was oc­cu­pied by Lord Derby, who ap­pears to have also rented No 30 from 1718 to 1721. He was suc­ceeded at No 28 by Ed­ward Wadding­ton, Bishop of Chich­ester, and later by Ad­mi­ral Sir Peter Parker, per­haps best known as the early pa­tron of Nel­son.

A Blue Plaque con­firms its oc­cu­pa­tion by Lord Hal­dane, ‘states­man, lawyer and philoso­pher’. The 1720s sale doc­u­ment de­scribes the house as ‘con­tain­ing in front about 29 feet and in depth 40 feet, three storeys high, with a large hall, two par­lours and two stair­cases on the first floor, three rooms on each of the other floors, and kitchens, wash­houses and other of­fices un­der­ground’.

Spe­cial­ist de­signer Ate­lier has re­cently refurbished the en­tire house to 21st-cen­tury stan­dards of com­fort and ef­fi­ciency, while high­light­ing its many grand orig­i­nal fea­tures, such as the pan­elled en­trance hall and the beau­ti­fully carved English-oak stair­case. In all, it now of­fers six re­cep­tion rooms, five bed­rooms and six bath­rooms.

No­table rooms in­clude the for­mal din­ing room over­look­ing the main ter­race and St James’s Park be­yond, a front re­cep­tion room and a state-of-the-art wine-and-cigar room on the ground floor; on the piano nobile above, there is a for­mal study at the front and, to the rear, a grand draw­ing room, five win­dows wide, with even more spec­tac­u­lar, green views of the park. The gar­den floor houses more in­for­mal liv­ing spa­ces, in­clud­ing a mod­ern kitchen/break­fast room and a huge, 600sq ft, open-plan din­ing and liv­ing area, with doors lead­ing to the land­scaped gar­den. This en­vi­able mod­ern masterpiece is cur­rently for sale through Knight Frank (020–7881 7721) and Hath­aways (020– 7222 3133) at a guide price of £19.5m.

Around the cor­ner from Queen Anne’s Gate, Strutt & Parker are han­dling the sale —at a guide price of £8.95m—of the charm­ingly au­then­tic, Grade Ii-listed 20, Old Queen Street, a splen­did Arts-and-crafts house orig­i­nally de­signed by the Scot­tish ar­chi­tect Fran­cis W. Troup as a fam­ily home for Henry Gage Spicer of Spicers’ Paper. The present own­ers ren­o­vated the prop­erty in 2009, when great care was taken to high­light its char­ac­ter.

The house, which boasts an im­pres­sive pan­elled draw­ing room, five dou­ble bed­rooms and four bath­rooms on six floors, all of which have views of St James’s Park, has a light well run­ning through its en­tire height, which al­lows nat­u­ral light to flood the in­te­rior. Var­i­ous out­side liv­ing ar­eas in­clude a gated en­trance por­tico, a ter­race lead­ing to a large shared gar­den—and, through a pri­vate gate, to St James’s Park— and a large, decked roof ter­race over­look­ing the land­mark-stud­ded sky­line.

Prices drop sharply the fur­ther south and east you go in the di­rec­tion of ‘New Vic­to­ria’, where large apart­ments within tra­di­tional Ed­war­dian man­sion blocks are es­pe­cially pop­u­lar among Bri­tish fam­i­lies, as well as South-east Asian and other over­seas buy­ers. Around West­min­ster Cathe­dral, for ex­am­ple, apart­ments in quiet, red-brick man­sion blocks in Ashley Gar­dens and Carlisle Place on the edge of the newly re­gen­er­ated area cost from about £1,300 to £1,500 per square foot, which com­pares favourably with the likely price tag of £2,900 per square foot for a house in the area south of St James’s Park or £4,000 to £5,000 for those north of the park.

This sce­nario is re­flected in the £2.8m guide price quoted by Sav­ills (020–3430 6860) for a 2,282sq ft, sec­ond-floor, lat­eral apart­ment at 165 Ashley Gar­dens, which has ver­sa­tile and well-pro­por­tioned liv­ing space through­out. ‘This is an ideal fam­ily home or pied-à-terre, with ac­com­mo­da­tion com­pris­ing 2/3 re­cep­tion rooms, 3/4 bed­rooms and two bath­rooms, with a con­tem­po­rary kitchen/break­fast room and a good sense of nat­u­ral light in ev­ery room,’ the agents say.

Left and above: Lat­eral liv­ing could be ideal for a fam­ily at tra­di­tional 165, Ashley Gar­dens. £2.8m. Be­low: Sleek mod­ern lines are matched by a killer view at the new de­vel­op­ment at Kings Gate Walk

Close to St James’s Park, Grade Ii-listed 20, Old Queen Street is an Arts-and-crafts gem that was el­e­gantly ren­o­vated in 2009. £8.95m

At 28, Queen Anne’s Gate, mod­ern com­forts are on hand through­out (left), but the six-storey house (be­low) still re­tains its tra­di­tional grand fea­tures, such as orig­i­nal pan­elling and oak stair­case. £19.5m

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