Young creatives blazed a trail to Shoreditch and Hoxton, prompting a property price boom and pushing other artists, sculptors and designers to search further afield for period terraces and studio space in Bethnal Green. Surely then, this area's time has come.
© Oliver Lim
'Artists priced out of Shoreditch are looking for maximum space and light for reasonable money'
It is home to Alexa Chung - the woman dubbed the most fashionable on the planet by Vogue - and the equally fashionable Broadway Market, for many years a sad, tired affair but now a tempting array of original artworks and speciality food stalls and shops.
Meanwhile, local night-time venues have just been given a shot of glamour with the arrival of the area's first boutique hotel, The Town Hall Hotel, while the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club - not a particularly promising name - offers a heady mix of club nights, live music, burlesque and film.
Simon Stone, owner of agents Daveystone (daveystone.com), says: "Bethnal Green has really come into its own. The artists, priced out of Shoreditch, are looking for maximum space and light for reasonable money. We are not talking about your Damien Hirsts, but up-and-coming artists, and people more generally are moving that little bit further east - there is so much more happening here than in other places at a similar price. If you are looking for an emerging market you should always follow the artists. The City money will soon be in Bethnal Green."
One of the key reasons to move to Bethnal Green is its stock of Victorian housing. Shoreditch, with its endless warehouses and industrial spaces, has hardly any houses left. You could pick up a two-bedroom conversion for £300,000 that you would pay about £500,000 for in Shoreditch. A three-bedroom house would cost between £450,000 and £500,000.
Bethnal Green at its best
The nicest Bethnal Green streets are on the Jesus Hospital Estate, close to Columbia Road flower market. It mostly offers former hospital workers' accommodation. Other popular streets lie close to the Museum of Childhood - Cyprus Street and the roads off it have some particularly fine period homes, as does Arnold Circus.
Finding a school
Local schools include Columbia Road Primary and Queensbridge Primary, both rated good by Ofsted. Fee-paying parents praise The Gatehouse school, also for primary pupils. The prize for senior parents is a place at either Oaklands or Morpeth Schools, both rated excellent by the Government schools watchdog. The other two local schools, Raine's Foundation School and Bethnal Green Technology College, only managed satisfactory ratings at their last inspections.
In terms of location Bethnal Green is hard to beat: two stops from Bank on the Central line and with Oxford Circus a 15-minute hop. It is also within easy walking distance of the new East London line service at Shoreditch, with Canada Water less than 10 minutes away.
Shops nil, markets 10
Local shopping is not great - and there's barely a chainstore to be found - but Bethnal Green is encircled by some of London's best markets. Brick Lane and Spitalfields are less than a mile to the east, while the reinvigorated Broadway Market, rapidly becoming London's coolest street market, is just north of the Regent's Canal. Columbia Road, the weekly floral spectacle, is also on the doorstep.
The great outdoors
The largest open space is Weavers Fields, home to the annual spring Baishakhi Mela - a celebration of Bangla new year - and there are also the compact Victoria Park Gardens just across the road from the Tube station. Just over the border in Hackney, Haggerston Park has the added attraction of the Hackney City Farm.
The combination of good schools, transport links and affordable property means local prices have now bounced back to almost the levels seen at the 2007 peak. Chris Wilkinson of Elms Estate Agents agrees that over the last six months the market has picked up from a virtual standstill last year, but says the profile of buyers has changed. "It used to be a lot of buy-to-let investors, but it is much harder for them to get a mortgage nowadays and you need a 35 to 40 per cent deposit to get a decent rate. What we are seeing is first-time buyers in their mid-thirties being helped by their parents, or parents buying flats and then renting them to their children. The days of the first-time buyer in their early twenties have pretty much gone."
Singer Kate Nash is a Bethnal Green fan
She is at a point in her career where she could afford to live almost anywhere, but singer Kate Nash has chosen to take her first step on to the property ladder in Bethnal Green.
The Brit Award-winner, who was born and brought up in the distinctly less cool north-west London suburb of Harrow, has recently bought a flat with her guitarist boyfriend, Ryan Jarman, of The Cribs - the couple previously rented nearby.
On rare days off she likes a lie-in then a pot luck brunch selected from the stalls at Broadway Market. She also rates the Cat and Mutton pub at the south side of the market - where she has been known to conduct interviews (no Savoy suite for Nash, thank you). Nash claims she has become a homebody and developed a taste for DIY since buying her own place. She recently made sure she'd have a short journey home by choosing to perform the first taster of her new album, My Best Friend Is You, at the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club.