The craziness of the London property market is perhaps illustrated no better than by successful footballers, actors, models and musicians now finding themselves priced out of Notting Hill and Queen’s Park and tumbling instead into once-humble Kensal Rise.
This north-west London neighbourhood — home to soccer pundit Ian Wright, model and author Sophie Dahl and her jazz musician husband Jamie Cullum, pop stars Paloma Faith and Rita Ora, plus chef Thomasina Miers, co-founder of the Wahaca Mexican restaurant chain — has recently gained a glitzy reputation.
Chamberlayne Road, the area’s high street, with its mix of cool bars, cafés and boutiques, was even dubbed the hippest street in Europe by Vogue magazine.
Kensal Rise’s most famous landmark is Kensal Green Cemetery, one of the “Magnificent Seven” giant London cemeteries built in the 19th century. Modelled on Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, it opened in 1833 and is where celebrated father-and-son civil engineers Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and Isambard Kingdom Brunel were laid to rest, along with father of modern computing Charles Babbage and writers Wilkie Collins, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope and Terence Rattigan.
It has three listed chapels and 130 listed tombs and though it is still a working burial ground, Kensal Green Cemetery is a haven for wildlife.
Despite its star residents, Paul Harris, of estate agents Greene & Co, describes Kensal Rise as the grittier neighbour to Queen’s Park. “It has gentrified, but not to the extent that there is nobody left who grew up here,” he says.
What there is to buy: Kensal Rise or Kensal Green? No one can say for sure where Rise and Green start and end. Paul Harris says most people would say they live in Kensal Rise, except if they live close to Kensal Green station when they might describe themselves as living in Kensal Green.
Kensal Rise has mainly Victorian terrace houses, although the roads of houses off the northern end of Chamberlayne Road are later and date from the 1920 and 1930s. Four and five bedroom Victorian terrace houses sell for around £1.3 million, the larger 1920 and 1930s houses for between £1.1 and £1.3 million. The smaller Victorian houses in the College Park area sell for £850,000 plus; while the artisans’ cottages in the Queen’s Park conservation area in the streets between First Avenue and Sixth Avenue sell for between £615,000 and £850,000 depending on the number of bedrooms.
Travel: Kensal Green is on the Bakerloo Line and the Overground with trains to Euston. Kensal Rise is on Overground with trains connecting to the Underground at Willesden Green, Shepherd’s Bush and West Hampstead. Both stations are in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard costs £1,284.
Council: Most of Kensal Rise is in Brent (Labour controlled) Band D council tax for the 2015/2016 year: £1,353.94. The Queen’s Park Estate conservation area is in Westminster (Conservative controlled); Band D council tax for the 2015/2016 year: 3672.74.
The area attracts: Paul Harris says Kensal Rise attracts a mix of young arty professionals and City workers, many with young children. French families are arriving in the wake of the opening this September of the Lycee International de Londres Winston Churchill in Wembley. “We also get families moving over from Queen’s Park looking to buy houses to do up”.
Staying power: Kensal Rise is holding on to its newcomers who once here warm to their new neighbourhood.
What there is to rent: There are three times as many flats to rent in Kensal Rise than there are houses. Flats range in rent from £800 a month to £3,000 a month.
Postcode: Most of Kensal Rise falls into the NW10 Willesden postcode, which covers a large area including Harlesden and Old Oak Common and parts of Park Royal and Neasden; the rest falls into the NW6 Kilburn postcode that stretches from West Hampstead to Queen’s Park and Kensal Rise and the Queen’s Park conservation area is in NW10, the North Kensington postcode. NW6 has the most expensive houses.
Best roads: Ashburnum Road, Burrowz Road, Linden Avenue and Langler Road where the best houses are receiving top prices of up to £1.6 million.
What’s new: Rhapsody (Preston Bennett 020 8954 8626/Greene & Co 020 764 3200) is a development of 13 one, two and three bedroom flats from Clearview Properties; prices range from £670,000 for a two bedroom flat to £949,950 for a three bedroom penthouse.
Claridge House (Greene & Co 020 7604 3200) in Mortimer Road is a development from Crossier Properties of 14 one, two and three bedroom flats; remaining flats start at £595,000 for a two bedroom flat.
Donnington Court (Genesis 033 3000 4000) is a development from housing association Genesis in Donnington Road in nearby Willesden. Shared ownership flats are available at £146,250 for a 45 per cent share of a one bedroom flat with a market value of £325,000.
On the south side of the canal on the corner of Ladbroke Grove and Kensal Road, developer Taylor Wimpey is building 133 studio, one, two and three bedroom flats at The Ladbroke Grove (Strutt & Parker 020 3053 0734 and John D Wood 020 3031 6818). There will be three buildings arranged around a landscaped courtyard; prices in the current phase start at £620,000 for a one bedroom flat.
Up and coming: Paul Harris tips the roads between Holland Road and Wrottesley Road where Kensal Rise merges with Harlesden. Here there are large Victorian houses which are half the prices of similar houses in Queen’s Park.
Closer to the centre of Kensal Rise it is still possible to find a family house for under £1 million in College Park.
Photographs by Daniel Lynch unless specified otherwise.
Shops and restaurants: Chamberlayne Road is Kensal Rise’s high street and during the day, it is all about coffee. Most shops are independent and there are no chain stores. Notable coffee shops are Minkies Deli, which has a large outside seating area on the bridge leading to Kensal Rise station, and on the opposite side of the road there is Cable Co and on nearby Station Terrace, Bel & Nev.
There is a chic children’s boutique and toyshop Kidsen and Supra is a men’s and women’s boutique. Scarlet & Violet is one of London’s top florists, known for doing the flowers at celebrity weddings, including for Kate Moss. Circus describes itself as selling “interesting antiques and objects from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries”.
Brooks is the local butcher and Borough Wines, part of a small chain, has a few tables and wine tasting events. The Shop NW10 is the local cocktail bar. The Paradise, a local institution, is a vast pub with a gothic interior, interesting menu, celebrity clientele and a programme of music events, which included sets from Ms Dynamite and Neneh Cherry over Notting Hill Carnival weekend. Other popular pubs are the Chamberlayne and The Whippet Inn.
Local restaurants include Micky’s Fish for traditional fish and chips; Comptoir Mezze for its Middle Eastern and North African menu; Rullo’s is a local Italian; recently opened by hip hop artist DJ Yoda, Austen’s Smoke House does barbeque food; and in nearby Regent Street, The Parlour is an all-day brasserie.
Architectural salvage is found at Retrouvious on Harrow Road and across the canal at the northern end of Ladbroke Grove there is Portobello Docks with designer Tom Dixon’s shop and chef Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen.
Away from Chamberlayne Road in deepest Kensal Rise there are shops and cafes along College Road include Gracelands, a café that puts on popular workshops and Italian café and delicatessen L’Angolo.
Open space: Queen’s Park is the local park. It is run by the City of London and has a café, a Victorian bandstand, tennis courts, a pitch and putt course, a petanque pitch, a children’s playground and paddling pool and a small zoo. It plays host to the annual Queen’s Park Day, run by the local community association, which this year takes place on Sunday 13 September.
The Willesden Sports Ground in Donnington Road has a playground, picnic area and football pitches.
There are long walks or cycle rides along the Grand Union Canal.
Leisure and the arts: The Lexi on Chamberlayne Road is the local independent cinema, a social enterprise it donates all profits to charity and relies on passionate local volunteers. Nomad cinema pops up every year in Queen’s Park in September. There are two local council-owned swimming pools: Willesden Sports Centre in Donnington Road and Jubilee Sports Centre in Caird Street.
Three things about Kensal Rise
What did the American author Mark Twain do for Kensal Rise?
In September 1900, Mark Twain opened the Kensal Rise library in Bathurst Gardens. The library was the subject of a long-running campaign to save it after Brent council decided to close it. The fine Victorian building has now been bought by developer Uplift Property, who are converting it into five flats, but are also providing a library on the ground floor that will be run by the community.
Where does the Rolling English Road come to rest in Kensal Green?
G K Chesterton’s famous poem in defence of drinking alcohol, The Rolling English Road, has as its last line “Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green”. This is where the pub, Paradise by Way of Kensal Green in Kilburn Lane, gets its name.
Where do the following radicals and reformers come together in Kensal Green: Robert Owen, Harriet Martineau, Arnold Toynbee, William Morris, John Ruskin, Thomas Paine and John Stuart Mill?
Their names all appear on the Reformers’ Memorial in Kensal Green cemetery. The memorial was erected in 1885 by Joseph Corfield ‘to the memory of men and women who have generously given their time and means to improve the conditions and enlarge the happiness of all classes of society.
The educational charity Ark, founded by venture capitalist Arpad Busson, runs three state primary schools in the area: Ark Franklin in Harvist Road, replaced Kensal Rise primary in September 2013; Ark Brunel in Middle Row, replaced Middle Row primary also in September 2013, and Ark Atwood, a free school in Amberley Road, which is the only primary school in the area judged to be “outstanding” by the government’s education watchdog Ofsted.
The following state primary schools are judged to be “good”: Princess Frederica CofE in College Road; Queen’s Park in Droop Street; St Luke’s CofE in Fernhead Road; Kenmont in Valliere Road; Donnington in Uffington Road and Furness in Furness Road.
Three state comprehensive schools are judged to be “good”; they are: Queen’s Park (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Aylestone Avenue; Sion Manning RC (girls, ages 11 to 16) in St Charles Square and Newman College RC (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Harlesden Road. Kensington Aldridge Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Silchester Road opened in September last year.
There is a small choice of local private schools; the primary schools are: Seacole (co-ed, ages four to 11) in Bosworth Road; Maple Walk (co-ed, ages four to 11) in Crownhill Road; The Lloyd Williamson School (co-ed, six months to 11) in Telford Road; and the secondary school is Bales College (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Harrow Road. Many parents use the private schools in nearby Belsize Park and Hampstead.