Spotlight on Hampstead Garden Suburb

Anthea Masey visits a uniquely English invention – a garden suburb – never beaten for good taste or family appeal

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North London’s Hampstead Garden Suburb will not forget the days when the Arab Spring arrived in its tranquil streets. A house owned by Colonel Gaddafi’s third son, Saadi, in Winnington Close was occupied first by squatters, then by Libyan freedom fighters who climbed on to the roof waving banners, then by a local activist demanding Libyan restitution for Jewish assets seized by the Gaddafi regime, before the property was finally seized by the British Government.

The architectural writer Nicolaus Pevsner described Hampstead Garden Suburb as “that most nearly perfect example of the English invention and speciality, the garden suburb”.

It was the vision of Henrietta Barnett, who was married to an East End cleric. Having witnessed the effect of poverty and poor housing on the lives of her husband’s parishioners, in 1907 she set about building an Arcadian alternative with an estate of homes for all classes and incomes, built at a low density, separated by hedges rather than walls, and set in wide, tree-lined roads.

Not all of this original vision has survived the relentless march of London’s property market. Today, Hampstead Garden Suburb’s residents are almost exclusively middle class and wealthy, but its cherished appearance continues to be safeguarded by the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust.

Winnington Road, Hampstead Garden Suburb
Winnington Road - one of the suburb's most expensive areas - is lined with large detached houses and mansions

Property in Hampstead Garden Suburb

The garden suburb has big detached and semi-detached houses, cottage-style terraces and some blocks of flats. The style is influenced by the Arts & Crafts movement, with the widespread use of brick, tile and leaded lights.

At its heart is Central Square, laid out by Britain’s foremost Edwardian architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens, with two imposing churches — St Jude’s whose spire is visible for miles around, and the Byzantine Free Church.

Estate agent Savills says the best local houses sell for around £963 a square foot. This is eight per cent higher than the last peak in the autumn of 2007. The most expensive house for sale now is a new eight-bedroom property in Winnington Road, on the market for £25 million though Glentree (020 3376 5580) and Savills (020 7870 9525). The cheapest home for sale is a one-bedroom flat in Meadway Court near Central Square for £229,950, through Hausman & Holmes.

Who comes, who stays?

Richard Bernstone of estate agent Aston Chase says the garden suburb attracts families because it is a great place to bring up children. It is better value than St John’s Wood, Hampstead or Highgate, it is safe and there are good schools — and yet it is only four miles from central London.

Staying power: once here, families stay, trading up from a flat to a cottage to a larger house. According to Bernstone there is a low turnover of houses and this lack of supply exerts an upward pressure on prices.

Postcodes: most of the suburb falls into the NW11 Golders Green postcode, although the northern section is in N2, the East Finchley postcode. Neither has an effect on property prices.

Best roads: the most expensive roads are Winnington Road, Ingram Avenue and Wildwood Road, where the local council and the trust have allowed many of the large detached Thirties houses to be knocked down and rebuilt as bigger mansions.

Traditionalists prefer the highly protected roads in the heart of the suburb, especially the large Queen Anne-style Lutyens houses close to Central Square and the closes of houses running off Meadway.

What’s new? Multimillion-pound new houses in and around Winnington Road are now a common occurrence but otherwise there are no significant new developments and that is unlikely to change.

Up and coming: Waterlow Court off Hampstead Way is an arcaded courtyard development of one-bedroom flats originally intended for single women, designed by the Arts & Crafts architect Baillie Scott. Flats this year have sold for between £285,000 and £315,000.

The section of the suburb north of the A1 was developed last. It has some well-maintained art deco houses with their original Crittall metal windows in Hutchings Walk and Ossulton Way. Semi-detached houses here sell for about £650,000.

Schools: Henrietta Barnett, a girls’ grammar school, occupies impressive Queen Anne-style buildings designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens on Central Square. This is one of the country’s top- performing state schools and its pupils are regularly photographed and filmed by news crews as they whoop with joy over their splendid achievements on GCSE and A-level results day.

The other local state school, Christ’s College Finchley (boys ages 11 to 16, with girls in the sixth form) is judged “good” by the Government’s education watchdog, Ofsted.

Kenwood House Tea Rooms
The Tea Rooms at Kenwood House, next to Hampstead Heath

There are two state primary schools: Garden Suburb Infant and Junior schools, in the aptly named Child’s Way, are judged “good”; Brookland Infants in Hill Top is also judged “good”, while the junior school is judged “outstanding”.

Golders Hill School (co-ed, ages two to seven) in Finchley Road and Annemount (co-ed, ages two to seven) in Holne Chase are the two local pre-prep schools. Kerem School (co-ed, ages four to 11) in Norice Lea is an independent Jewish primary school. King Alfred School (co-ed, ages four to 18) in North End Road is the local all-through private school.

Shops and restaurants: Hampstead Garden Suburb residents have the choice of Temple Fortune on the Finchley Road or Market Place on the A1 for local shops.

Temple Fortune is the busier of the two centres, with a Waitrose branch (said to be the oldest in London); Din Café; dress designers Matilda &Quinn; Joseph’s Bookstore — a bookshop with a good selection of Jewish books and an adjacent café; Paulie, a women’s boutique; and the Moyses Stevens famed flower shop and garden centre. Capriccio is a long-established Italian restaurant and Atari-Ya sells sushi-grade fish, together with eat-in and takeaway sushi.

Kristal Florists
Kristal Florists in Temple Fortune

Market Place has kitchen and bathroom shops, a branch of Indian Ocean for outdoor furniture, and Toulous, a café with an outdoor seating area. For those really big shopping trips Brent Cross is close by.

Open space: from the Hampstead Heath extension to the south of the suburb it is possible to walk through a countryside setting all the way to Hampstead or Highgate. Golders Hill Park is more manicured and there is a small zoo and a butterfly house.

In the suburb itself there are two areas of woodland: Big Wood and Little Wood, both designated nature reserves. Little Wood is the site of an open-air theatre built in 1920, which is often used in summer by The Garden Suburb Theatre Company.

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Leisure and the arts
Cineworld at Staples Corner is the nearest multiplex cinema, but there are also two art house cinemas: the Phoenix in East Finchley and the Pullman Everyman in Hampstead. There is also bracing outdoor swimming on Hampstead Heath.

Travel: Golders Green is on the Edgware branch of the Northern line and East Finchley is on the High Barnett branch of the Northern line. The H2 bus runs a loop service around the suburb to Golders Green station. The H3 runs a similar service for the section north of the A1 which stops at East Finchley station as well as Golders Green station. The area is in Zone 3 and an annual travel card to Zone 1 costs £1,368.

Council: Barnet (Conservative-controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year is £1,419.92.

Pictures by Graham Hussey

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