Spotlight on Balham

With plenty to do and new restaurants and shops opening every week, it's worth taking a look around Balham
Nightingale Square, Balham
Nightingale Square, in the Nightingale conservation area, is one of Balham's best roads with large houses typically selling for about £1.5 million
For years Balham in south west London was the joke destination in the Peter Sellers spoof travelogue. Everyone over a certain age still doubles up with laughter at the phrase spoken in a phoney American accent: “Bal - Ham, gateway to the south”.

Today, though, Balham is having the last laugh, with this once rundown neighbourhood now almost as smart as nearby Wandsworth and Clapham. It even has its very own bard, Arthur Smith, the cockney comic and famous resident of Du Cane Court, Balham’s landmark art deco apartment block on the high road.

As the figures below show, Balham has been strongly resurgent over the last 15 years with house prices rising faster here than in the rest of Wandsworth and London as a whole. Paul Herring of estate agents Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward says Balham has now become smart. “I have worked in Balham for the last seven years and the place is being transformed with new cafes and restaurants seemingly opening every week.”

Houses and flats for sale in Balham
Houses and flats to rent in Balham

Best of Balham

The area attracts: Families move to the area from all over London, but those who can’t afford to trade up in the Abbeville Road area of Clapham, or between the commons in Battersea often move to Balham, where house prices are still some 10 per cent cheaper. Flat conversions, Victorian mansion flats and the Art Deco Du Cane Court are popular with young professionals.

Properties: most of Balham’s houses are Victorian or Edwardian.

Staying power: Balham is a strong pull for parents with school age children.

Post codes: Most of Balham is in the SW12 Balham postcode, although the favoured Heaver Estate is ironically in the much less desirable SW17 postcode.
Du Cane Court, Balham
Art deco apartment block Du Cane Court is popular with young professionals
Best streets: the best streets are located in two conservations areas: the Heaver Estate, between the Balham High Road and Tooting Common, and the Nightingale Lane conservation area, north of the high Road. The Heaver Estate has red-brick terraced and semi-detached houses and the estate has been described as one of the best suburban estates in London.

The best road is Elmbourne Road, especially the houses overlooking Tooting Common. In the Nightingale Lane conservation area the best roads are Nightingale Square, Endlesham Road and Ramsden Road. Large houses in both these conservation areas sell for around £1.5 million.

Up and coming: Paul Herring of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward picks the Hyde Farm estate, the grid of streets between Hydethorpe Road and Emmanuel Road, close to Tooting Common as an up-and-coming area. Here there are three- and four-bedroom terrace houses and self-contained maisonettes. Many long-standing elderly residents mean there are often unmodernised family houses for sale for around £600,000.
Tooting Bec Common
Balham has three nearby commons: Tooting (above), Wandsworth and Clapham

Good homes and schools

What’s new: Shanley Homes has a development, Nightingale Mews (020 8673 8978), of ten four- and five-bedroom mews houses off Nightingale Lane, close to Clapham South station. Five remain at prices ranging from £1.65 million to £2.15 million. Trinity Crescent (contact Rochford Stokes on 020 7801 6789) is an award-winning development of nine flats; four remain with one-bedroom flats starting at £290,000 and two-bedroom flats at £395,000.

Schools: most Balham primary schools are rated “good” by Ofsted with St Anslem’s RC school on Tooting Bec Road near the Heaver Estate rated “outstanding”.

Ravenslea, Henry Cavendish and Telferscot, both of the latter on the Hyde Farm estate, are popular with parents. La Retraite, a girls’ catholic comprehensive school is the only Balham secondary school with above average results at GCSE; nearby Burntwood (girls) and Graveney (mixed) do well although they are partially selective. Broomwood Hall is a popular pre-prep and prep school with sites in Nightingale Lane and Garrad’s Road. Other walking distance private schools are: Streatham and Clapham High on Abbotswood Road, which takes girls from age two to 18; and Emanuel (mixed) from ages 11 to 18.
A smart cafe on Balham High Road
A smart cafe on Balham High Road

Balham’s high points

Shops and restaurants: Balham’s high street tells a mixed story. There is a Sainsburys, a Waitrose and an organic supermarket, As Nature Intended, but there are also pound shops and charity shops.

Most of the interest lies in the side streets: in Balham Station Road, there is bookshop, My Back Pages, and Trinity Stores, a cafe and deli; in Bedford Hill, there is Harrisons bar and restaurant and two gift and homewares stores run by owners with a good eye: Whippet and Lucas Bond; on Ramsden Road, Bertie and Boo is an award-winning independent coffee shop; and the Balham Bowling Club is a bar and restaurant in an old working men’s club. Balham’s gastronomic high point is Lamberts restaurant in the high road.
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Open Spaces: Balham has lots of nearby commons: Tooting, Wandsworth and Clapham, all good for kicking a football about with the children, jogging and cycling.

Leisure and the arts: Balham Leisure Centre in Elmfield Road is the nearest council-owned swimming pool and there is Tooting Bec Lido on the common. The Exhibit bar and restaurant, in Balham Station Road, behind Sainsburys, has a tiny 24-seater cinema; and the Banana Cabaret, is a leading comedy club in the Bedford, a pub on Bedford Hill.
Tooting Bec Lido
With good leisure facilities on the doorstep, such as much-loved Tooting Bec Lido, Balham has strong family appeal
Transport: Balham (zone 3) station has a Tube and train service. The Tube is on the Northern Line; the station has trains to Victoria (16 minutes). An annual travel card to zone 1 costs £1,288.

Council: most of Balham is in Wandsworth (Conservative-controlled); band D council tax for the 2010/11 year is £681.18. However, the corner of SW12 which is south of Cavendish Road, including the Hyde Farm estate, is in Lambeth (Labour controlled); band D council tax for the 2010/11 year is £1,235.11.

Houses and flats for sale in Balham
Houses and flats to rent in Balham

Buying in SW12

One-bedroom flat: £260,000
Two-bedroom flat: £372,000
Two-bedroom house: £516,000
Three-bedroom house: £648,000
Four-bedroom house: £791,000
Source: Hometrack

Renting in SW12

One-bedroom flat: £900 to £1,400 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £1,250 to £2,000 a month
Two-bedroom house: £1,250 to £2,000 a month
Three-bedroom house: £1,650 to £2,600 a month
Four-bedroom house: £2,400 to £5,000 a month
Source: Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

Pictures by Barry Phillips

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