January and February, when bonuses are paid, are busy months for Clapham estate agents. Fenella Russell-Smith of Hamptons (020 7498 8686) says: “This is a very bonus-driven market and we get a lot of people with cash to put down for a large deposit. The vast majority of buyers are City people.”
Ever since the first Sloane Rangers ventured across Chelsea Bridge 20 years ago, Clapham has been a favoured enclave for City professionals who love its quick links to the City and West End, its burgeoning choice of prep schools and its general feel of middle-class cosiness around the open space of the Common.
This is where you move if you’ve just got your first job in London after leaving public school and university. You rent for a bit, then you buy with generous help from your parents. Tom Crabtree of Marsh & Parsons (020 7501 3666) says: “A lot of flat-buyers are already renting and people move here if friends are already here.”
Clapham area file
Properties: Apart from a handful of beautiful Queen Anne and Georgian houses around the Common, Clapham is almost all Victorian, a place where the
19th century pattern-book-builder reigned supreme.
The grids of terraces, built to accommodate Victorian commuters travelling to town on cheap train and Tube tickets, can feel slightly oppressive further away from the open spaces of the Common. But the stone carving on the bay windows is freshly painted, front doors gleam, original stained glass is carefully preserved. Little visual evidence remains of the much more working class suburb of 20 years ago, until you get to the borders with Brixton and Stockwell.
The area attracts: Affluent professionals and City workers; Europeans, especially the French, who move in to be close to the French Lycée in nearby Wix Lane; and refugees from north of the river in Fulham or Islington (a quick pop down the Northern Line) looking for a bit more space for their money.
Staying power: Variable. Clapham generates a lot of loyalty, partly because of its comforting, people-like-us atmosphere, but many families move further out when their children go to secondary school, heading for salubrious suburbs with good schools such as Kingston, or out into the Home Counties. Families sometimes shift a few streets west to more expensive Battersea, colonising the larger period houses “between the commons” (Wandsworth and Clapham).
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Postcodes: SW4, which covers Clapham Common, High Street and Old Town, as well as the smart streets of Clapham Park and Abbeville Village to the east, is at least 10 per cent more expensive on average than neighbouring SW2, technically Brixton, says Tom Crabtree.
People want to be in SW4 but he says: “Everyone’s snobbish [about SW2] but there are some beautiful houses around Acre Lane and there’s great transport. You’ve got the Victoria line, and you can usually get a seat because it’s the end of the line.”
SW11, technically Battersea, to the west is more expensive than SW4 and used to be very sought-after in the Eighties because it was in Tory Wandsworth, where council tax was zero, rather than neighbouring Labour Lambeth, where council tax was high, though this is no longer an issue.
Best streets: The general rule is that the closer to the Common you are, the better. Prime roads include Macaulay, Orlando and Lillieshall in the increasingly smart Old Town, as well as Grafton Square, whose stucco Italianate terraces overlooking the square are more Kensington than Clapham. Windmill Drive on the Common itself is also prime territory.
Up-and-coming areas: Look around Clapham North Tube station and east of the railway line carving through Clapham from Victoria at Sibella Road, Bromfelde Road and Gauden Road, and roads off Clapham High Street. SW2 and SW9 (Stockwell) also yield some bargains. Clapham Common Southside is generally cheaper than the north.
What’s new? New developments here are usually small and subtle rather than in-your-face, as large plots of land are in short supply.
Worth keeping an eye on is the £80 million redevelopment of Mary Seacole House (currently council offices) and of Clapham leisure centre in Clapham High Street into a new library, swimming pool and flats, of which 30 per cent will be affordable. Call Cathedral Group on 020 7939 0800.
Schools: There are a couple of sought-after state primaries, Belleville and Honeywell, as well as several prep schools. Both Lambeth and Wandsworth scored better than the national average in the 2009 secondary school league tables. Best performers were: La Retraite (RC) for girls (Lambeth) and Graveney, mixed (Wandsworth). Private options include Emanuel in Wandsworth and Dulwich (buses from Clapham).
Shops and restaurants: The Old Town, Northcote Road and, more recently, Clapham High Street have seen an influx of smart delis, organic food shops, designer clothes shops and restaurants of every description, servicing a growing middle-class clientele. Only the area immediately around Clapham Junction seems immune to the tide of gentrification with a tacky choice of fast-food joints and chains.
Green space/culture: Clapham Common plays host to thousands of Sunday-afternoon family strolls and games of football, although the space itself is a bit featureless and carved up with busy roads. The independent Clapham Picture House shows off-the-wall films.
Transport: The area is well connected with Britain’s busiest railway station at Clapham Junction and three Tube stations on the Northern line.
Local council: Wandsworth (Conservative), Band D council tax is £681.81; Lambeth (Labour); Band D council tax is £1,235.11.
Average sale prices
One-bedroom flat: £255,591
Two-bedroom flat: £342,705
Three-bedroom house: £605,750
Four-bedroom house: £787,733
One-bedroom flat: £187,901
Two-bedroom flat: £247,950
Three-bedroom house: £357,298
Four-bedroom house: £465,191
Clapham’s lettings market is busy and everything is going very quickly because of a shortage of property, so tenants need to move quickly, says Victorian Robertson at Hamptons Lettings.
Average lettings prices
in SW4 and SW2
One-bedroom flat: £275-£350pw
Two-bedroom flat: £325-£495pw
Three-bedroom house: £525pw-plus
Four-bedroom house: £750pw-plus
Pictures by Barry Phillips
All details correct at time of publication (10 February 2010). Reuse content