The people of the parliamentary constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup in south-east London still hold former prime minister Ted Heath in high regard.
He was their MP for 50 years, Tory prime minister between 1970 and 1974, and was responsible for taking Britain into the Common Market. And in March this year, the local newspaper celebrated the news he was to be commemorated with a plaque in Westminster Abbey.
The commuter suburbs of Bexleyheath and Sidcup, in the London Borough of Bexley, straddle the A2 Rochester Way about 12 miles from the centre of the capital and on the edge of open countryside, but still within the boundary of the M25.
This is an area that was extensively developed in the period between the two World Wars and is a good place to look for a Thirties detached or semi-detached house, with some three-bedroom homes priced at £250,000.
The local council still has grammar schools, which makes the place a magnet for parents with children who can pass the tough entrance exams. The area is also blessed with historic houses with gardens and parkland.
Danson House in Bexleyheath was once described by English Heritage as “the most significant building at risk in London”; now this magnificent Palladian mansion has been restored to its former glory and was opened by the Queen in 2005 after having been boarded up for more than 35 years.
Hall Place in Sidcup is a Grade I-listed Tudor house with a great hall and a large 17th-century extension, including a vaulted long gallery.
The Red House in Bexleyheath is one of the most important Arts and Crafts houses in the country. It was built for designer and reformer William Morris by the architect Philip Webb and is now owned by the National Trust.
What there is to buy
The predominant house type is the Thirties semi-detached or detached house, but there are also a few Georgian houses in Old Bexley, roads of fine semi-detached and terrace Victorian and Edwardian houses in Sidcup and Old Bexley, and everywhere there are modern flats built in the years since the Sixties.
Bexleyheath is increasingly attracting buyers from more central London locations, attracted by the affordability of the houses. Once here, families tend to stay, especially if their children get into one of the Bexley or nearby Kent grammar schools. In Sidcup, though, the market is more local. Estate agent Brett Northover of Village Estates says that many families have been in Sidcup for generations, sending their children to the same primary and secondary schools that they attended.
In Bexleyheath the best roads are around Danson Park, especially Danson Road itself. Detached Thirties houses here sell for between £600,000 and £800,000. In Danson Road there is a popular row of modernist houses which sell for about £730,000.
In Sidcup, families aspire to the Victorian and Edwardian houses in the Christchurch conservation area west of Station Road, which sell for between £700,000 and £1 million.
There are a number of interesting conservation areas in Sidcup. For example, in the Old Forge Way conservation area there are pretty, tile-hung cottages in the Arts and Crafts style, which sell for about £440,000.
What’s new: sedate Sidcup hasn’t seen anything like The Fold before (Chesterton Humberts 020 3376 3337). Developer United House is building 98 (29 affordable) studios, one- and two-bedroom flats in three linked, gold-clad blocks overlooking Sidcup station. There will also be a restaurant and offices, all designed by architects Studio Egret West. First residents will move in this summer and the development completes in September. Prices start at £148,000 for a studio, £178,000 for one-bedroom flat and £205,000 for a two-bedroom flat.
Hatherley House in Hatherley Road, Sidcup is a scheme of 57 flats, including 17 affordable, in three blocks by developer Skillcrown Homes. Two-bedroom, two-bathroom flats start at £225,000. Call Village Estates on 020 8302 1002.
Up and coming
Brett Northover from Village Estates suggests looking in the Harland Avenue area of Sidcup, where good-quality Thirties three-bedroom semi-detached houses sell for around £280,000. “They are good-size houses with potential for an extension above the garage, after which they sell for about £400,000,” he explains.
Getting an education
The following local grammar schools get excellent results: Chislehurst and Sidcup (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Hurst Road; Townley (girls ages 11 to 18) in Townley Road, and Bexley (co-ed ages 11 to 18) in Danson Lane, both in Bexleyheath; and Beths Grammar (boys ages 11 to 18 and girls in the sixth form) in nearby Bexley.
In Sidcup many parents send their children to one of three prep schools: Benedict House in Victoria Road (co-ed ages two to 11), Merton Court (co-ed ages two to 11) and West Lodge (co-ed ages three to 11) in Station Road.
The following state primary schools are judged “outstanding” by the Government’s education watchdog Ofsted: Bursted Wood in Swanbridge Road, Bexleyheath; Chatsworth Infants in Burnt Oak Lane and Birkbeck in Alma Road, both in Sidcup.
Open space: Bexleyheath and Sidcup are close to open countryside. Joydens Wood is looked after by the Woodland Trust, while Foots Cray Meadows, through which the River Cray flows, and Scadbury Park are both local nature reserves. Danson House and Hall Place both have fine parks.
Shopping and eating out: the Broadway in Bexleyheath is the local shopping centre with a good selection of high street names, although the nearby Bluewater shopping centre has a wider choice. The town has a large Sainsbury’s and an Asda. Sidcup has a Morrisons supermarket and a branch of Waitrose is expected soon, but the high street has become run down. Old Bexley still has the feel of a country village and here there is a better choice of independent shops, plus Ferrari’s, a popular Italian restaurant. The best local restaurant is Chapter One in nearby Locksbottom.
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Leisure and the arts
The Crook Hog Leisure Centre in Bexleyheath and the Sidcup Leisure Centre have the nearest council-owned swimming pools, and there’s a private swimming pool at the David Lloyd club in Sidcup. There is a large Cineworld multiplex cinema in Bexleyheath, which also has a small theatre, the Edward Alderton, which puts on amateur dramatics. Sidcup Golf Club has a nine-hole course close to Lamorbey, a historic mansion that now houses the Rose Bruford drama school.
Travel: the A2 and A20 are both close by, offering quick access to the Channel Tunnel and the coast. There are train stations at Bexleyheath for Charing Cross, Cannon Street and Victoria (between 35 and 40 minutes), and at Sidcup and Albany Park with trains to Charing Cross and London Bridge (around 30 minutes). All stations are in Zone 5 with an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costing £1,992.
Council: the London Borough of Bexley (conservative controlled); the Band D council tax for the 3012/13 year is £1,435.31.