The joy of the junction
Battersea has changed a lot since 1958 when Nell Dunn moved over the river from Chelsea and bought a little cottage near Clapham Junction for £700. She wrote her novel of working-class life, Up The Junction, there. Today that cottage has risen in price a thousandfold — with no change from £700,000.
Most of the colourful characters from the sweet factory she wrote about have either moved away or been rehoused in high-rise flats.
Meanwhile, Battersea’s Victorian terrace houses have been renovated and extended by several generations of professional families, who have flocked to the area over the last 30 years turning it into one of the capital’s most desirable neighbourhoods, with popular state primary schools and an ever-increasing number of private prep schools.
According to estate agent Mark Hutton at the Battersea Park branch of Douglas and Gordon, the eventual arrival of the US Embassy in 2016 means Battersea can look forward to a bright future, with property prices unfailingly moving up. The embassy is relocating from central London to Nine Elms, in a move that took everyone by surprise.
Clinging to a wide sweep of the southern bank of the Thames, Battersea looks over the river to Chelsea. It occupies the area between Chelsea and Wandsworth Bridges and stretches south to Clapham Junction and the yummy-mummy enclave between Clapham and Wandsworth Commons.
Properties: three main types of homes predominate: mansion flats; recently built riverside flats and Victorian terrace houses. Spacious mansion flats are located around Prince of Wales Drive overlooking Battersea Park, where prices range from £250,000 for a one-bedroom flat with no park view, to over £1 million for a flat with three or four bedrooms with views over the park — and a high service charge. The most expensive homes currently on the market are riverside apartments with wide balconies. Particularly sought-after are the blocks built by two of Britain’s star architects — Richard Rogers’s Montevetro, on Chelsea Church Road, and Norman Foster’s Albion Riverside on Hester Road, close to Battersea Bridge.
The area attracts: mainly professionals and first-time buyers who can count on help from the bank of mum and dad. Italian buyers like the mansion flats while French families go for the terrace houses north of Clapham Common close to Ecole de Wix, which is a feeder primary school for the French Lycée in South Kensington.
Staying power: variable. Families around Battersea Park often move from a mansion flat to a house in one of the nearby streets and continue to rely on the park for outside space, whereas families living between the commons often move to Dulwich for the schools once their children reach secondary school age, or off into the country — the husbands become commuters.
Postcodes: Battersea is exclusively in the SW11 postcode.
Best streets: in the Battersea Park area, the best roads are Anhalt Road, Kersley Street, Brynmaer Road, Soudan Road and Foxmore Street where houses sell for between £1 million and £1.7 million. Between the commons the best roads are Thurleigh Road and Blenkarne Road, where houses can sell for £2 million-plus. Homes near Honeywell or Belleville state primary schools, which are sought-after, command a premium and sell for between £750,000 and £1.7 million.
Up-and-coming: Little India — though today it perhaps ought to be called Little Afghanistan — is a small enclave of streets north of Clapham Junction off Falcon Road with names such as Cabul, Candahar and Kymer roads. Here you’ll find more affordable Victorian terrace houses selling for between £400,000 and £675,000.
What’s new: the 450-acre Nine Elms site, which includes the landmark Battersea Power Station, is one of Europe’s largest regeneration projects and covers a huge chunk of the riverside between Vauxhall and Chelsea Bridges.
The future of Battersea Power Station and its surrounding acres has been in the balance since it closed in 1983. Two attempted developments have already failed but whatever the site becomes, it is expected to stay as some sort of events space.
Schools: Belleville in Belleville Road and Honeywell in Honeywell Road are two large state primary schools between the commons which get excellent results at age 11, and are oversubscribed. Wix School in Wix Lane shares its accommodation with Ecole de Wix and has a unique bilingual stream.
Private pre-prep and prep schools are thin on the ground. The choice is between Eaton House, the Manor; Newton Prep; Broomwood Hall and two Thomas’s schools. There are no top-performing state secondary schools in Battersea. The best performing local state secondary schools are: Graveney co-ed in Tooting; La Retraite RC for girls in Balham, and Burntwood, for girls, in Wandsworth. Emanuel is a co-ed private secondary school taking pupils from age 10 to 18. The private schools in Dulwich run bus services from the area.
Shops and restaurants: around Clapham Junction there is Arding & Hobbs, a Debenhams department store, plus a Waitrose and Asda. Northcote Road sits in a valley — London’s archetypal nappy valley — between the commons. This long shopping street has restaurants, cafés and interesting stores, although independents are being replaced by upmarket chains such as Question Air, Whistles, Jack Wills, Farrow & Ball and Space NK. There are, however, still two independent butchers; La Cuisinère kitchen shop, The Hive — a specialist shop for beekeepers and honey — and the Northcote Antique Market. In nearby Webbs Road, Lizzie’s has gifts, clothes and painted furniture; and Atelier specialises in French-look interiors.
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Battersea’s top restaurants are Tom Ilic in Queenstown Road and the long-standing favourite, Ransome’s Dock in Parkgate Road. Also favoured are Lola Roja tapas bar on Northcote Road; Fish Club on St John’s Hill and Fish in a Tie in Falcon Road.
Open spaces: Battersea Park, which overlooks the Thames, is one of London’s most beautiful parks. Its 200 acres were recently restored at a cost of £11 million with help from the National Lottery. There is a peace pagoda, a children’s zoo, boating lake, art gallery and the Fifties Festival of Britain gardens. Clapham and Wandsworth Commons are favourites with dog walkers and joggers.
Leisure and the arts: the large swimming pool at Latchmere Leisure Centre in Burns Road has a popular wave machine. Battersea Arts Centre on Lavender Hill puts on award-winning experimental theatre, while Theatre 503 is a fringe theatre above The Latchmere pub in Battersea Park Road. The Pump House Gallery is a modern art venue in Battersea Park. The nearest cinema is the Clapham Picture House in Venn Street.
Transport: Battersea is in Zone 2 (annual season ticket Zones 1 and 2 £1,032). There is no Tube service but trains from busy Clapham Junction take seven minutes to Waterloo or Victoria. Queenstown Road is just 10 minutes to Waterloo, and Battersea Town is four minutes to Victoria.
© Getty Images
Council: Battersea is in Wandsworth (Conservative controlled) and Band D council tax for 2010/2011 is £682, the lowest in the country.
One-bedroom flat £282,000
Two-bedroom flat £435,000
Two-bedroom house £490,000
Three-bedroom house £662,000
Four-bedroom plus house £920,000
One-bedroom flat: £285 to £425 a week
Two-bedroom flat: £310 to £500 a week
Three-bedroom flat: £395 to £500 a week
Three-bedroom house: £450 to £675 a week
Four-bedroom plus house: £650 to £975 a week
Source: Douglas & Gordon
Photographs by Barry Phillips