For a short period during the 19th century, the then rural village of Chislehurst, 10 miles from central London, became part of imperial France when the exiled French court took up residence at Camden Place in 1870.
Napoleon III and his wife, the Empress Eugenie, transformed the house into a château-style mansion, and though the emperor died in 1873, Eugenie lived on in the house for another 12 years, dying in 1920, when she was 94.
Today Chislehurst - a 20-minute train ride south-east from London Bridge - is a wealthy suburb but one that retains a good measure of rural charm, with protected commons and woodland and private roads lined with large Arts & Crafts mansions designed in the years before the First World War.
Houses and flats for sale in Chislehurst. Chislehurst has a good spread of property. As well as the big Arts & Crafts homes, there are a few Georgian houses scattered around the commons; Victorian cottages; Thirties semis; later and more modern houses, and blocks of modern flats.
Price per square foot is about £350 - this is above the last peak reached in the autumn of 2007, and higher than surrounding areas such as Bromley, Eltham and Mottingham. According to Laura Knight of estate agent Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, the market for large houses is particularly strong.
Who comes and who stays?
Families move from Dulwich or Blackheath in search of larger houses and good schools. Easy City access has fed an influx of bonus money.
Staying power: once families have reached the zenith of a large house in one of Chislehurst’s best roads, they tend to stay.
Renting: the rental market is popular with professional couples and families looking for luxurious two-bedroom flats, two-bedroom houses or larger family houses, and most people work in the City. According to Kerri Georgiou, senior lettings negotiator at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, many of the family houses are being rented out with leases of up to two years.
Best roads: many of the roads with Arts & Crafts homes are guarded with electronic gates. There are also fine houses around the common.
The most expensive road is Wilderness Road, where the builder William Willett built houses in the years before the First World War designed by his in-house architect, Amos Faulkner. A house in this road sold for a record (for the area) £4.55 million in September 2010. Houses in Camden Park Road overlook Chislehurst golf course, where Camden Place is now the clubhouse.
Camden Close (right) is a gated enclave of Tudor-style Arts & Crafts houses with manicured gardens. There is a four-bedroom house currently on the market here for £1.5 million through JDM (call 020 8325 8000 for more information).
Other roads where houses top the £1 million mark are Denbridge Road, Woodlands Road, Camden Way, Boscobel Close, St George’s Road and Pines Road.
What’s new: Taylor Wimpey is building 251 new homes at Kings Quarter (0845 672 3992) on the site of the old Ravensbourne College in Walden Road for completion between the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015. There is a mix of two-bedroom flats and three- and four-bedroom houses. Two-bedroom flats start at £249,995, three-bedroom houses from £359,995 and four-bedroom houses from £569,995.
Dene Terrace (JDM, 020 8295 2505 and Savills, on 01689 869 601) in Woodclyffe Drive is a terrace of 14 five-bedroom homes by Urban Evolution, priced from £1.25 million.
What about the schools?
There are two state primary schools judged “outstanding” by education watchdog Ofsted - Mead Road and Edgebury in Belmont Lane. Chislehurst (St Nicolas) CofE is judged “good”.
There are three state secondary schools in Chislehurst. Coopers Technology College (co-ed, 11 to 18) in Hawkwood Lane is now an academy and is judged “good”. Beaverwood School for Girls is for ages 11 to 18. Bullers Wood (girls 11 to 16; co-ed in the sixth form) in Logs Hill is the school which gets the best exam results - it is judged “outstanding”. Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar (co-ed, 11 to 18) in Sidcup is the local selective state school.
There are two private schools in Chislehurst. Babington House (boys ages three to seven, girls ages three to 16) in Grange Drive and Farringtons School (co-ed, two to 18) in Perry Street which also takes boarders.
Travel further afield and you have Bromley High (girls, ages four to 18), Eltham College (co-ed, ages seven to 18) in Mottingham and Colfe’s (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Lee.
Shopping and leisure: on Royal Parade there is an antiques shop, gift shops, boutiques and, slightly unexpectedly, a branch of Yves Delorme, the luxury French bedlinen brand. There is also an Italian restaurant and a branch of Pizza Express.
On the High Street, there is a large Sainsbury’s, boutiques, an excellent cookware shop called Culina, local travel agent Go Travel, which has a charming, folksy window display, the long-established Wrattens, a bazaar-like mini department store with a café, Thai and Chinese restaurants and branches of chain restaurants Café Rouge and Prezzo. Frogpool Manor on Perry Street is a large equestrian store.
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Open space: the pond at the north end of Chislehurst Common is the starting point for the south-east London section of the Green Chain Walk and there are plenty of commons and woods to explore. Scadbury Park, where sheep and cows graze, is a nature reserve off Perry Street.
Leisure and the arts: the Chislehurst Caves, off Old Hill, are a big tourist attraction. An ancient chalk and flint mine, the caves were used as an air raid shelter during the Second World War and as a skiffle and pop venue later. Now they are open from Wednesday to Sunday every week and every day during the school holidays. Golf is a popular activity and Chislehurst Golf Club has an 18-hole course with the magnificent Camden Place as the clubhouse.
Travel and commuting: Chislehurst sits close to the A20 which leads to the M20 for easy access to the Channel Tunnel. The railway stations are Elmstead Woods (Zone 4; annual travel card £1,672) and Chislehurst and Bickley (both Zone 5, annual travel card £1,992).
Trains from Elmstead Woods take 17 minutes to reach London Bridge, a few minutes more from Chislehurst. Trains from Bickley go to Victoria in just over half an hour and to St Pancras, handy for Eurostar, in around 44 minutes.
Council: Bromley (Conservative controlled); band D council tax for the 2011/2012 year is £1,301.13.
Houses and flats for sale in Chislehurst.
One-bedroom flat: £166,000
Two-bedroom flat: £273,000
Two-bedroom house: £253,000
Three-bedroom house: £327,000
Four-bedroom house: £644,000
Houses and flats for sale in Chislehurst.
One-bedroom flat: £750 to £875 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £1,100 to £1,400 a month
Two-bedroom house: £1,100 to £1,250 a month
Three-bedroom house: £1,400 to £1,600 a month
Four-bedroom house: £1,650 to £1,900 a month
Five-bedroom plus house: £2,200 to £3,000 a month
Source: Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward