Spotlight on Belsize Park
Two blue plaques in Parkhill Road in north London’s Belsize Park — one to the sculptor Henry Moore, the other to the painter Piet Mondrian — tell the story of London’s artistic community in the Thirties.
Ben Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo and Herbert Read all lived nearby and when Mondrian was coaxed into leaving Paris for London in 1938 the group found him a studio in Parkhill Road. But after Nicholson and Hepworth fled to St Ives and Moore to Much Hadham, Mondrian had little reason to stay in wartime Britain. When a bomb dropped on the house next door he fled to New York.
Today, Belsize Park is home to a much wealthier arty set. Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow and her Coldplay frontman husband Chris Martin own two adjacent mid-Victorian villas, while actress Helena Bonham Carter and her film director husband Tim Burton live in two mews houses with a connecting door.
Belsize Park is three and a half miles from central London, south of Hampstead and north of Chalk Farm and Primrose Hill. Its name is reputed to derive from the French “bel assis” or “well-seated”. Development started in the mid-19th century when large stucco mansions around Belsize Square were built to rival Kensington and Bayswater. Later, small Arts & Crafts-influenced houses and mansion flats were built.
It also has a small concentration of art deco and modern movement buildings, including Stanbury Court deco flats on Haverstock Hill, and houses on Garnett Road and Parkhill Road, while the Isokon building on Lawn Road, by architect Wells Coates, is one of this country’s finest London examples of modern-movement architecture.
According to estate agent James Staite of the Belsize Park office of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, most large stucco houses are now converted into flats, though a spacious three-bedroom flat can cost as much as £1.2 million.
Whole houses are rare, although a house in Belsize Park Gardens sold for £6 million this year. An art deco house with original Crittall windows costs £1 million plus, while a one-bedroom flat in the Stanbury Court block costs £500,000.
The area attracts: Belsize Park is popular with European buyers who are used to apartment living, but there is also a strong local market of people trading up from a one-bedroom flat to a two or three-bedroom flat.
Staying power: families who want a house tend to move out because the jump from a flat to a house prices many people out of Belsize Park.
Postcode: Belsize Park falls into NW3, the desirable Hampstead postcode which also includes Chalk Farm and part of Primrose Hill.
Best roads: Belsize Park Gardens, Belsize Square and Eton Avenue.
Colin Gillibrand, lettings manager at Kinleigh, Folkard & Hayward’s Belsize Park branch, says most renters are young professional singles and couples, and corporate lets. People like the period conversions for their high ceilings, cornices and wooden floors.
De Laszlo House in Fitzjohn’s Avenue is a development of three interlinked Arts & Crafts-style houses. One was the home of the royal portrait painter Philip de Laszlo who painted Edward VII in 1907 and Princess Elizabeth in 1933. There are 18 two-, three- and four-bedroom flats and prices range from £1.45 million to £3.85 million (Knight Frank 020 7861 5442).
Up and coming: James Staite tips The Etons, Thirties blocks near Chalk Farm Tube, where one-bedroom flats sell for about £360,000 and two-bedroom flats for about £530,000.
Getting an education
Belsize Park has a very high concentration of private schools. The choice for girls is between Sarum Hall (ages three to 11) in Eton Avenue, The Village (ages three to 11) in Parkhill Road, St Christopher’s (ages four to 11) in Belsize Lane, South Hampstead High (ages four to 18) in Netherhall Gardens and Maresfield Gardens, and The Royal (ages three to 16) in Rosslyn Hill.
For boys there is Hereward House (ages four to 13) in Strathray Gardens, The Hall School (ages four to 13) in Crossfield Road and University College School (UCS) (co-ed ages three to seven, boys ages seven to 18 with girls in the sixth form) in Frognal. Trevor-Roberts School (co-ed ages four to 13) is in Eton Avenue.
The North Bridge School nursery (co-ed ages three to five) is in Fitzjohn’s Avenue, the junior school (co-ed five to eight) is in Netherhall Gardens. From September the North Bridge Senior school is moving from Camden Town to The Royal which will become co-educational, much to the consternation of some parents.
The Fine Arts College (co-ed ages 13 to 18) in Lambolle Place is a private school teaching mainly A-levels but with a few GCSE students. The following state primary schools are judged good by the Government’s education watchdog, Ofsted: Rosary RC in Haverstock Hill, Fleet in Fleet Road and Fitzjohn’s in Fitzjohn’s Avenue.
The nearest comprehensive is Haverstock, which is judged good. There is a lot of local excitement at the prospect of a new academy school sponsored by University College London, UCL, which opens in September.
Shops and restaurants
The inhabitants of Belsize Park must love coffee because no one is more than a couple of minutes away from a cappuccino. There are shops, cafés and restaurants on Haverstock Hill near Belsize Park Tube, and further down in the strip branded Steeles Village after the pub of the same name.
There are more shops along England’s Lane, where there is a popular butchers, Barretts, and in Belsize village on Belsize Lane. There is a farmers’ market every Wednesday at the Swiss Cottage end of Eton Avenue. XO in Belsize Lane is one of a small chain of restaurants serving pan-Asian food. Bradleys on Winchester Road has a Michelin Bib Gourmand award.
Open space: there’s a “park” in the name but Belsize Park hasn’t got one — although Regent’s Park, Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath are all close by.
Leisure and the arts
The Hampstead Everyman has a second cinema close to Belsize Park Tube. The Roundhouse at nearby Chalk Farm is a leading venue showing a mix of live music, theatre and circus. The Hampstead Theatre is a fringe theatre at Swiss Cottage, which is the location of the nearest council-owned swimming pool.
Travel: Belsize Park, Chalk Farm and Swiss Cottage are all stops on the Northern line. Finchley Road & Frognal station is on the Overground north London line. All stations are in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,168.
Council: Camden (Labour-controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year is £1,328.25.
Buying a house or flat in Belsize Park
One-bedroom flat: £432,000
Two-bedroom flat: £716,000
Two-bedroom house: £900,000
Three-bedroom house: £1.75 million
Four-bedroom house: £2.52 million
Five-bedroom house £3.78 million
Renting in Belsize Park
One-bedroom flat: £350 to £550 a week
Two-bedroom flat: £425 to £850 a week
Two-bedroom house: £500 to £1,000 a week
Three-bedroom house: £750 to £1,500 a week
Four-bedroom house: £1,000 to £5,000 a week
Five-bedroom house: £1,250 to £10,000 a week
Source: Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward
Photographs: Graham Hussey