Set on a hilltop with views over London, sought-after Highgate has long had lofty ambitions. A pretty area with an 18th-century village feel, highbrow types are attracted to its elegant and expensive Georgian homes, open space and active community, including the Highgate Society residents organisation.
The Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, which occupies a prominent building overlooking Pond Square, has an opera circle, a library with an archive linked to Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge — a former Highgate resident — and hosts debates and talks.
Highgate has long been a cerebral place. Its houses are decorated with blue plaques celebrating the lives of the great and the good — poets such as AE Housman and Sir John Betjeman, who both lived in North Road, and scholar and translator of Asian poetry Arthur Waley, who lived in Southwood Lane, as did explorer Mary Kingsley. Writer JB Priestley lived in The Grove, landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe lived in Grove Terrace, and Indian independence campaigner VK Krishna Menon lived in Langdon Park Road.
It is also the location of one of London’s most secretive property deals. The ownership of Witanhurst, a mansion on the corner of Highgate West Hill and The Grove, had been shrouded in secrecy for years since it was sold for £50 million in 2008.
This year, an article in The New Yorker magazine revealed the owner to be Russian fertiliser magnate Andrey Guryev.
The house sits in six acres, has 25 bedrooms, 364 windows and a 75ft ballroom. For years, a crane has hovered over the site. Lorries full of building materials have trundled up the hill and residents of The Grove, including model Kate Moss, have suffered years of dust and disruption as a separate orangery has been built and a 40,000sq ft double-storey underground extension carved out under the main house.
When complete, the house will be London’s largest after Buckingham Palace — and the most expensive, with an estimated market value of £300 million.
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What there is to buy in Highgate
There are fine Georgian houses in and around Highgate village. Elsewhere, properties are mainly Victorian and Edwardian, with some modern homes scattered around.
There are also some significant blocks of flats, including the Art Deco Cholmeley Lodge on the corner of Highgate Hill and Cholmeley Park, and the two Grade I-listed modernist Highpoint blocks, by the architect Berthold Lubetkin, in North Hill.
Highgate Tube station is on the Northern line, although residents of the village often prefer to catch one of the numerous buses — 143, 210 and 271 — down Highgate Hill to Archway, also on the Northern line, for Zone 2 services to central London.
The area attracts: Estate agent Shaun Cunningham, the assistant manager at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward says there is a mix of locals with many sellers trading in a family house that they have owned for 30 or 40 years for a flat and incomers with people who started looking in Hampstead or Belsize Park turning to Highgate in search of more space for their money.
What there is to rent in Highgate
Khan Cohen, the rental manager at the local branch of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward says most renters are young professional couples looking to rent one or two bedroom flats for between £1,400 and £1,700 a month and there is strong demand for the post war flats in the Shepherd’s Hill area – blocks such as Altior Court, Imperial Court, Fitzroy Court and Stanhope House – which have easy access to Highgate tube, Highgate village and Crouch End Broadway.
There is demand for family houses close to favoured schools such as St Michael’s in North Road in the summer between June and September; the rents for a four bedroom family house in the village starts at around £4,000 a month.
Postcode: N6 is the Highgate postcode.
Best roads: Anywhere in the village; period houses in The Grove for example, could now sell for over £10 million. Fitzroy Park is a quiet private road that leads from the village down to Hampstead Heath. Also the roads between Hampstead Lane and North Hill where houses in private Courtenay Avenue and Compton Avenue also sell for over £10 million.
Up and coming: The area known as the “The Miltons” – Milton Park, Milton Avenue and Milton Road – are tipped by Shaun Cunningham. This area of large red brick terrace houses east of Archway Road has mainly converted flats with one bedroom flats starting at £425,000; two bedroom flats at £525,000 and garden flats at around £575,000.
Staying power: Highgate is an area that inspires loyalty although some families are forced further out by the difficulty of funding the trade up from a flat to a family house.
One Highgate (Savills 020 7472 5000) in Cholmeley Park is a development in traditional style of 15 two and three bedroom flats; prices range from £1.6 million to £4.75 million for one of the penthouses. The development has a concierge, swimming pool gym and gated underground car parking.
Grove Villas (Octagon 020 8358 7900/Glentree 020 8458 7311) is a development of two five bedroom houses on Highgate village’s best road The Grove. The houses have a gym, cinema and separate studio; one house is for sale for £9.25 million the other for £8.95 million.
The Winchester (Greene & Co 020 7604 3200) is a development of one, two, three and four bedroom flats above the former Winchester pub in Archway Road; prices start at £480,000 and the developer has promised to reopen the pub.
Councils: Highgate straddles three councils, all of which are Labour controlled — Camden to the south and west, where Band D council tax for this year is £1,336.81; Haringey to the north, where the charge is £1,479.32, and Islington to the south and east, with Band D council tax for this year set at £1,276.01.
Photographs by Daniel Lynch
Leisure and the arts
Highgate village’s life revolves around the Highgate Society and the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, which sit next to each other at numbers 10a and 11 South Grove. The Highgate Society runs a French Circle, life drawing and watercolour classes.
The Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution puts on talks and lectures, has an art gallery and hosts the Highgate Film Society.
Jacksons Lane is a leading multi-arts centre housed in a former red brick gothic church on Archway Road; it puts on theatre for both adults and children and has a mission to support emerging contemporary circus and performance.
Upstairs at the Gatehouse in the village is the local fringe theatre.
The nearest council-owned swimming pool is the Archway Leisure Centre in MacDonald Road. The swimming pool at the Mallinson Sports Centre, part of Highgate School in Bishopswood Road is open for family swimming on Sunday mornings between 9am and 12 noon.
There is a swimming pool at LA Fitness in Highgate Road. The Highgate Golf Club is in Denewood Road.
Shops and restaurants
Highgate has a pretty village centre, although it is dominated by chain restaurants — Côte, Pizza Express, Café Rouge, Strada, Le Pain Quotidien and Zizzi. However, there are independent delicatessens, a butcher, a bookshop and a lovely tea shop, High Tea.
WCD sells designer furniture and home accessories. The village is well supplied with pubs — the most popular are The Bull, which has a microbrewery, The Flask, The Red Lion & Sun, The Angel Inn and The Duke’s Head, which specialises in craft beers.
Cocoro is a branch of a small chain of Japanese restaurants, while music pub The Boogaloo is famous for its jukebox.
There are more shops — all independent — in Archway Road, including two interiors shops specialising in mid-century furniture, Gonnermann and 20thC Quarters.
Souvenir is a gift and home accessories shop stocking the work of home-grown makers and artists. Leaping Lizards sells locally designed children’s clothes and Zelas is an organic and natural wine specialist.
Open space: Highgate is surrounded by green space and the area is popular with dog walkers. There is a dog-grooming business — Hair of the Dog — in the village.
On the doorstep are Highgate Wood, owned by the City of London, and the council-owned Queen’s Wood. Both have cafés.
The 790 acres of Hampstead Heath are equally close by, with two bathing ponds — the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond and the Highgate Men’s Pond — both on the Highgate side of the Heath.
Highgate Cemetery, where Karl Marx is buried, has some of the country’s best funerary architecture. The East Cemetery has an entrance charge of £4 and the West Cemetery is only open for guided tours.
Waterlow Park is a local park off Highgate Hill — it contains Lauderdale House, an arts and education centre, which is now closed for restoration until next summer.
Three things about Highgate:
Where might people share a drink with a cavalier?
The Flask pub on Highgate West Hill is reputedly haunted. A cavalier is occasionally seen crossing the main bar and vanishing into a pillar. But not content with one ghost, there is apparently another, that of a Spanish barmaid who hung herself in the cellar, now a bar, over her unrequited love for the publican.
Who “drank often and copiously” in Highgate?
Three years ago a plaque was unveiled by the British Comedy Society in memory of Monty Python star Graham Chapman on the Angel Inn where he was a regular drinker. The plaque doesn’t shy away from his drinking – the words “drank often and copiously” are on the plaque - and was unveiled by fellow pythons Michael Palin and Terry Jones.
What do musicians Johnny Borrell of Razorlight and Orlando Weeks of the Maccabees and Sir John Tavener, cricketer Phil Tufnell and inventor Sir Clive Sinclair have in common?
They are all Old Cholmeleians, former pupils of Highgate School, named after Sir Roger Cholmeley, who founded the school in 1565.
Highgate has two top private schools: Highgate (co-ed, ages three to 18) in North Road and Channing (girls, ages four to 18) in The Bank, Highgate Hill.
State Catholic schools
There are two state catholic schools that are judged to be “outstanding” schools by the government’s education watchdog Ofsted: St Joseph’s RC primary schools in Highgate Hill and St Aloysius RC (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Hornsey Lane.
State primary schools
All the other state primary schools are judged to be “good”.
There is a cluster of comprehensive schools on Highgate Road: La Sainte Union RC (girls, ages 11 to 18), William Ellis (boys, ages 11 to 18) and Parliament Hill (girls, ages 11 to 18). These three schools and Acland Burghley in Tufnell Park come together for sixth form studies in a consortium known as LaSWAP.
Other state schools are a new free primary school Whitehall Park in Ashmount Road which opened in September 2014; Mount Carmel RC (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Holland Walk and Highgate Wood in Montenotte Road.
Avenue Nursery and Pre-preparatory School (co-ed, ages three to seven) is in Highgate Avenue.