Go south for fam­ily houses, green space and lively café cul­ture, says Anthea Masey

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Front Page -

BALHAM rose to fame in the Fifties as the joke lo­ca­tion “Bal-ham: Gate­way to the South” in a mock-Amer­i­can trav­el­ogue by Peter Sell­ers. The sketch, orig­i­nally com­mis­sioned for a ra­dio com­edy show, went on to be­come the 1958 top-sell­ing record The Best of Sell­ers.

To­day, Balham is re­garded as a pop­u­lar south Lon­don neigh­bour­hood full of young fam­i­lies, cafés and restau­rants, with a good sup­ply of fine Vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian fam­ily houses against a back­drop of the open green spa­ces of Toot­ing Com­mon.

In the 2007 movie Atone­ment, based on Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, Keira Knight­ley’s char­ac­ter dies in the Balham Tube sta­tion dis­as­ter. In the real-life tragedy, 68 of 500 peo­ple shel­ter­ing in the sta­tion were killed on October 14, 1940, at the height of the Blitz, when a bomb burst a nearby wa­ter main.

Du Cane Court, the huge Art Deco block of 676 flats in Balham High Road, is a lo­cal land­mark. When built in the Thir­ties it was billed as Europe’s largest block of flats and there is a lo­cal leg­end that it es­caped wartime bomb­ing only be­cause Hitler planned to oc­cupy it after in­va­sion. De­signed by Ge­orge Kay Green, it was named after the Du Cane fam­ily, the orig­i­nal landown­ers. Stars who have called Du Cane Court home in­clude comic Arthur Smith — the self­styled “Bard of Balham” — and Bal­ham­born char­ac­ter ac­tress Mar­garet Ruther­ford (1892-1972). Fur­ni­ture mak­ers re­cently pro­duced a his­tory of the block — visit un­der-the-same-roof/ to see it.

Five miles south of cen­tral Lon­don, Balham has Clapham to the north, Streatham to the east, Toot­ing to the south and Earls­field to west. Lo­cal Kin­leigh Folkard & Hay­ward es­tate agent Leigh Mun­day says it’s pop­u­lar with young first-time buy­ers, of­ten with hefty de­posits from their fam­i­lies, and has some of south Lon­don’s best and busiest cafés, bars and restau­rants.

Be­fore the big time: The Bed­ford pub hosted Ed Sheeran and Michael McIn­tyre

“Youth club for adults”: bar chief Max Stro­jev at The Ex­hibit

Great lo­ca­tion: Rams­den Road, a stroll from lo­cal ameni­ties

Shop, eat, visit the beauty salon: bustling Balham High Rd

Brunch cen­tral: grab a ta­ble in pedes­tri­anised Hil­dreth St

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