Bringing back the old-style terrace
If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember an era when a terraced property was seriously out of fashion. But it has emerged as a survivor. Figures from the National Home Building Council show that since 2000, the number of new terraced homes built annually has ranged from 21,000 to 40,000 and in some of those years they made up 25 per cent of all new-builds.
Terraces began in the 1720s as rows of grand townhouses in the likes of London’s Grosvenor Square and Bath’s Queen Square. Terraces then reduced in size and proliferated during Victorian times. Tiny but infamous “two up, two down” terraces, divided from each other at the back by narrow lanes, soon symbolised urban poverty rather than grandeur. In Sixties Britain, some 500,000 were demolished by planners as politicians urged us to live in towers instead.
Yet the terrace is back with a vengeance. The surviving Victorian examples are now revered by young families as affordable but characterful homes; according to Land Registry, the terrace is the cheapest property type in the country. Those well-preserved ones with high ceilings, ornate cornices, dado rails and sash windows command higher prices, and they can often be easily extended upwards into the loft and out at the back to accommodate growing households.
“Terraced properties are seen as secure as they are surrounded by neighbours and also share the benefit of warmth from each side, rather than having more external walls,” says Tom Carr of Verto Homes, a housebuilder that has embraced the style and given a distinctively 21st-century makeover to the old-fashioned concept.
“End-of-terrace properties are more desirable for certain buyers as they offer semi-detached accommodation at a lower price than a standard semi. Terraces also enable developers to build faster, more efficiently and at lower cost. These benefits are passed to the homeowners who are able to buy a bigger home for the same money over a detached property.”
Verto is building zero-carbon terraces with photovoltaic solar panels, ground and air-source heat pumps and triple-glazing. In the splendidly named Chimney Pot Park – a scheme in Salford by developer Urban Splash – old terraced houses have been converted anew, while in its other developments around Manchester the company has built new versions with quirky layouts, putting living space and a kitchen upstairs, and bedrooms and bathroom at ground level.
Now the terrace, by accident or design, is also tapping into the growing trend of Britons wanting to live closer to major centres rather than out in the suburbs. Land is more expensive in city centres, so developers are embracing a return to terraced property where, even on a relatively small footprint, you can build a spacious home over three or four floors, sometimes even putting parking below.
“As well as enjoying the closer community and security, terraced housing generally means you’re in a more urban setting than detached house suburbia,” explains Angus McQuhae, director of housebuilder Octagon Developments. “You can walk to a centre, enjoy shops, restaurants, public transport and schools – all beneficial for modern family living.”
His firm’s new Bishop’s Row terraced scheme in Fulham has homes of up to 6,150 sq ft in size – much bigger than many detached houses out in the sticks – which also have cinema rooms, gyms and other features usually associated with more “lateral” property types. “Two decades ago an affluent buyer with a family would want a detached house in Surrey, but successful new-build schemes have changed the perception of the terrace, especially in London. It’s now far more familyfriendly, and for overseas buyers it’s their first choice,” says Martin Fewell, a buying agent.
There are cons, of course: older terraces with poor-quality party walls can get noise from neighbours, gardens are often overlooked, while front doors can be close to busy roads, requiring double or triple glazing. And as for car parking – you may have to take your chance on the street. But the enduring popularity of terraces is unlikely to end anytime soon. We may embrace modular housing, tiny living pods and shared spaces, but who would bet against terraces reinventing themselves again and still being around a century from now?
Urban Splash’s terraces in New Islington, Manchester, main and right; Octagon’s terraced home in Bishop’s Row in Fulham, below