When I told a neighbour in Highbury Hill, where I'd been living for seven years, that I was moving to the Harringay Ladder, he was bewildered.
"What's that? Where is it?" he asked. He's a well-informed man, the director of a think tank, and is writing a book about multiculturalism and immigration. But he didn't have a clue.
The Harringay Ladder is an area of 20 streets between Green Lanes and Wightman Road, in N4 and N8. Only 10 minutes from Highbury by bike or car, it is on the other side of Finsbury Park and two stops further on the Piccadilly line from Arsenal.
The name itself is obvious once you’ve seen these streets in the A-Z, so graphically do they represent a ladder, composed of two long side roads and a series of shorter rungs, bisected by the New River canal and a narrow pedestrian passage.
Built for the middle class
It was developed on what had previously been the park of Harringay House from 1881 until 1899, under the aegis of the British Land Company, which took care that the houses built were of good quality, for middle-class buyers — and the streets remain remarkably homogeneous today.
The buildings are full of intriguing minor decorative variations but they are all classic Victorian terraces with everything that house buyers still seek: a fine front door, spacious rooms, high ceilings, a garden.
The Ladder has good transport links, both overground and underground, while astonishingly good food shops and bargain restaurants abound in the Turkish-dominated main thoroughfare, the Grand Parade, part of the immensely long Green Lanes.
Yet until now it has remained remarkably little known and relatively underpriced.
Three- or four-bedroom houses, depending on size and condition, go for between £450,000 and £600,000, while ground-floor flats average about £310,000, with first-floor flats around the £280,000 to £290,000 mark.
Prices have gone up decisively this year though, say Elan Silver and Michael Persaud, directors at Winkworth in Grand Parade. For the first time, a whole house here is becoming worth more than the same property split into flats. So market forces might well in future assist Haringey council’s intermittent attempts to control the number of houses in multiple occupancy.
At Winkworth, they’ve also noticed a growing difference in value between the south end of the Ladder, nearer to Manor House and Finsbury Park, and the north, nearer Turnpike Lane and Wood Green — “an average of £100,000”.
One of the factors uniting Ladder dwellers and bringing in newcomers is an exceptional community website, Harringay Online, created five years ago by Ladder resident Hugh Flouch. Hugh has been living mid-Ladder for 15 years, having moved from Crouch End. Previously a management consultant, he now runs his own business helping communities to set themselves up with effective social media — so Harringay Online, set up without grants, is something of a showpiece for him.
It’s an astonishingly active, sociable and informative site and research has proven its positive effect on a local sense of belonging. The site has 5,000 registered users, with a thousand or so logging on every day, asking for recommendations, commenting on local news, offering support and just chatting in a neighbourly way.
It’s also a key resource for people considering moving into the area — just see, for example, the hundreds of remarkably informative, sensible responses made to a query from a nervous buyer in June (harringay online.com/forum/topics/the-ladders-a-safe-area-to-live). Hugh says that over the five years he has been running Harringay Online, “the area has buffed up a bit and it’s clearly in general on the way up, but to me it still seems enormously good value.”
A new market
Only a month ago, a new food market began on Sundays in the playground of North Harringay Primary School in Falkand Road, offering a mix of street food and produce. It’s still finding its feet and nothing like as big as the farmers’ market in Ally Pally, but it’s promising. “You bump into people, it’s a great way of grazing past people, you stop and chat for a few minutes,” says Hugh.
And we meet in the stylishly designed Café Moka, recently opened near Harringay station by Mauritian-born Kevin Vanthem, who has just got the premises licensed. For my own part, I can’t get enough of the brilliant Turkish restaurants on Grand Parade — Gökyüzü, Antepliler, Devran and Hala among them — which I would say are the best value I have found in all London, well worth the trip.
Such shops as Yasar Halim at 493 Green Lanes offer great-value fruit, vegetables and herbs, making supermarket prices look ridiculous, but also surprising ranges of, say, veal chops, French quails and chickens, doubtless influenced by the ocakbasi grill restaurants all around. Of course, if you fancy a whole sheep’s head, that’s no problem either. Beat that, Tesco Metro.
Visiting the area repeatedly, discovering the great Victorian pub The Salisbury (its splendid interior features in The Long Good Friday), we fell for the place — fortunate perhaps, because we surely could not have afforded a comparable house in any other part of London as buzzy, as little suburban.
Eventually, we found an unrestored four-bedroom house for £486,000. It still had the embossed Victorian wallpaper, an outdoor loo and a little scullery — but under the plywood and swirly carpets it also proved to have original doors, cupboards and fireplaces, undamaged floorboards and beautiful multicoloured original tiles in the hallway.
Warmly recommended on Harringay Online was a locally based firm of Polish builders, Decoracus (decoracus.co.uk). After talking to some people they had worked for before — including the owner of a minimalist palace in Hampstead who assured us that, though her employees in her factories in Hong Kong worked very hard, Decoracus’s guys worked even harder — we went with them and were amazed by the speed, skill and dedication they showed in refurbishing the whole house.
The manager, Shemek Krajcer, proved always available and responsive, sorting out problems and suggesting solutions in the way you dream of finding in a builder but, it seems, rarely do. After just six weeks, the house has begun to shine again. So it is possible to get to the end of a major project still entirely happy with your builder. Who knew?
Not for snobs
Of course, the Harringay Ladder has its drawbacks. The traffic on Green Lanes never flows freely — it’s a mess. Parking is extortionate if you don’t have a resident’s permit, itself only to be gained by approaching Haringey council with patience. It’s not crime-free, though like the Turkish areas in Dalston, the shops in Grand Parade were not much touched in the rioting that hit nearby Tottenham and Wood Green so hard.
“It’s diverse, urban, multicultural and it’s gritty like any urban London area,” say Silver and Persaud at Winkworth.
“If you want all your neighbours to be rich, middle-class people and you’re a snob, you might not buy in the Harringay Ladder. But it’s why people moving on from buying in Dalston and Stoke Newington like this area.”
It may be a long time yet before Harringay goes the way of Chatsworth Road in Hackney E5, where flamboyant gentrification has lately sparked a backlash. But it is now steadily returning to the good place to live it was originally built to be.
Pictures by Graham Hussey