Few parts of London have such a fascinating history as the City fringe districts of Hatton Garden, Old Bailey, Smithfield, Temple and Fleet Street. They are steeped in the most colourful history and have been urban since the Middle Ages, as the surviving inns and alleyways, monasteries and mansions, churches and almshouses testify.
- © Aleksey Lapkovsky
- © Aleksey Lapkovsky
The rich mix of architectural styles and periods — from medieval to modern — means each neighbourhood has a distinctive flavour and charm. Traditionally, they have been commercial quarters, where old professions, guilds and trades — from law, through journalism to jewellery-making — have flourished. But the area has always moved with the times.
‘These EC postcodes appeal to knowledgeable Londoners’
In recent years, global accountancy firms have moved in, which has triggered demand for homes. At the same time, old-style office buildings and factories, inappropriate for modern business with all its technological needs, are coming up for redevelopment and spawning more residential space. Most are smallscale schemes of boutique flats, in keeping with the area’s individuality. These EC postcodes appeal to knowledgeable Londoners.
Hatton Garden remains the centre of London’s diamond and gold trade, with some 300 local businesses, many hidden away in workshops above ground-floor retail premises. Despite the verdant name, there is no longer any garden greenery but plenty of sparkle to tempt homebuyers even in these sobering times.
A warehouse once owned by Bank of England assayers Johnson Matthey, which established its precious metals business there in the 19th century, has been transformed into Sweeps Building with 14 flats that have double-height ceilings and big industrial-style windows. Prices start at £345,000. Contact Hurford Salvi Carr on 020 7250 1012.
A handsome Art Deco corner building at 44 Hatton Garden is being converted into 10 flats. At the top is a pair of three-bedroom duplexes, each with a spiral staircase and terrace offering views of St Paul’s Cathedral. Completion is due at the end of this year. Prices are from £425,000. Call Hurford Salvi Carr (as before).
The City’s boundaries run from Chancery Lane in the west to Aldgate in the east, from the Thames in the south up to Chiswell Street in the north. A few ugly office redevelopments from the Sixties and Seventies mean there are windswept corners where the environment is less inviting.
Most of the best new homes are tucked away down narrow lanes and passageways or are butting up against heritage buildings. Sir John Lyon House is a redevelopment of a faceless riverside office building in High Timber Street, which is moments from the Millennium Bridge but also close to pedestrian-unfriendly Upper Thames Street. Swish, modern-design flats, some with splendid views across the river to Tate Modern, are priced from £350,000 to £4.75 million. A restaurant is earmarked for the ground floor of the building. Call estate agent Cluttons on 020 7407 3669.
‘The area is tipped as a future hotspot as more people realise how central it is’
Fetter Lane runs from Fleet Street to Holborn Circus. This pocket has acquired a fresh identity since the demise of the newspaper industry in the Eighties. The world’s biggest “courts complex” (29 courtrooms and other judicial accommodation) is being built at 110 Fetter Lane, evidence of the area’s resurgent legal sector. Nearby Inner and Middle Temple, with their barristers’ chambers, are London’s oldest live/work estate.
At 84 Fetter Lane, a period building is being converted into seven bijou — some might say small — apartments that are all less than 500sq ft, apart from a two-bedroom duplex at 1,239sq ft. Prices are from £325,000 to £1.05 million. The flats are too small to be permanent homes but are useful pieds-à-terres for professionals such as barristers and bankers with homes in the country. Call Hurford Salvi Carr (as before).
© Aleksey Lapkovsky
The area is tipped as a future hotspot as more people realise how central it is; close to the river and unusually quiet at weekends. Pinstriped commercial property surveyors call the area “Midtown” because it lies between the City proper and the West End.
City accountant Tony Moran knows the patch better than most and has targeted it as a buy-to-let opportunity. A year ago, he bought a studio flat in the Temple area. He paid £250,000 and receives £1,300 a month in rent.
“I had no trouble finding a tenant. People love the fact that it’s tucked away and very tranquil. They also like the sense of history. Because of its roots, the area has more refinement than some other City fringe districts such as Shoreditch.”
Smithfield and Clerkenwell
East of Fleet Street lies Smithfield, another delightful quarter with a bright future. While the fate of the famous listed Victorian meat market is still up in the air, residential schemes are progressing.
Thornsett Group is building 124 apartments just behind ancient Charterhouse Square on land previously owned by Bart’s Hospital. Prices are from £415,000. Call 020 7253 2533. From here it is a short stroll to Clerkenwell Green, the heart of old Clerkenwell — a gathering place for the Peasants’ Revolt and still home to the Marx Memorial Library.
Today, it is a hub and the centre of the area’s creative community. Radiating out from the Green and Georgian St James’s Church are narrow cobbled streets and a jumble of handsome buildings, including a former Victorian school in Sans Walk that has been converted into loft-style apartments.
Clerkenwell Close twists around to meet Bowling Green Lane. Journalist and television personality Janet Street-Porter lives there. She is a long-time local resident and has lived in two architect-commissioned houses, her current one designed by David Adjaye.
A scheme of 13 flats and ground-floor commercial space is going up next door to where acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid has her design studio and offices in Bowling Green Lane. It is a modern-looking low-rise building that fits pleasantly into the streetscape. Prices are from £435,000 to £895,000.
The developer is Marldon, whose trademark of oak interiors is perhaps a little dated for cutting-edge Clerkenwell but is highly attractive to traditionalists. For more information, call Hurford Salvi Carr on 020 7250 1012.