A village fit for a time lord
Everything about Highgate breathes affluence, from its clusters of Georgian town houses at the centre of the village to its woods, its cutesy shops and its sweeping views south to the City where so many of its residents make their big bucks.
After a tricky 18 months following the banking collapse, wealthy buyers are back in action, pouring millions into property. Chris Underhill of Prickett & Ellis Underhill (020 8340 7000) says: “When Lehman’s collapsed, Highgate property sales went down by 85 per cent. Highgate shut down because there are so many City workers there. But there’s a lot of demand for properties between £1 million and £1.5 million now.”
This buys a solid family home for the many families who are drawn to Highgate because of schools, Hampstead Heath on the doorstep and a village atmosphere. Many people move into Highgate and stay there, getting to know their neighbours well. Giselle Harrison of Litchfields estate agents (020 8348 8000) says: “You can’t walk down the street without seeing someone you know.”
But to leaven the English cosiness, there is a more exotic smattering of celebrities — Victoria Wood lives there and the new Doctor Who, Matt Smith, has just bought a £775,000 home — and Russian oligarchs who are drawn to the area because of the Russian trade delegation on Highgate West Hill. Some are prepared to spend big money.
New money likes variety
Properties: Highgate has a great variety of architectural styles, from the perfectly preserved Georgian town houses of South Grove to the mock Tudor apartment blocks and houses of the Holly Lodge Estate, built on land owned by 19th-century philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts.
East of Highgate High Street, well-kept blocks of interwar mansion flats are popular choices for older residents trading down after their families have left home, while roads on either side of Archway Road have a mixture of red- brick Victorian and more suburban- style Edwardian houses. Highgate’s “new money” favours the large, detached, rather soulless houses lining the roads up to Highgate Golf Course.
The area attracts: affluent professionals and couples, especially City people, lawyers and doctors; creative and media types; traders-up from flats in Crouch End, Muswell Hill, Belsize Park or Islington; people from all parts of Europe, Russia and the US; celebrities; families wanting to be close to Highgate’s private schools.
Staying power: Generally very good. Like many areas of London, Highgate generates a lot of loyalty and protectiveness among its residents. Once people arrive, many stay and trade up locally, says Chris Underhill. “They move up through the ladder of a flat, a house, a bigger family house when they have children. Then when the children are at university, they scale down.”
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Postcodes: Highgate proper is in N6 but there is a desirable enclave of streets in the Whitehall conservation area east of Archway Road, which, although distinctly Highgate in feel, is in neighbouring N19. The red-brick houses, with lovingly preserved stained glass and mansard roofs, change hands for Highgate prices.
Best streets: Some of the most sought-after streets are in the centre of the village, including South Grove and Pond Square. Close to Hampstead Heath is Fitzroy Park, a private road where properties are hidden behind high walls and hedges and architects have created striking modern homes.
Up-and-coming areas: The closer to the Crouch End borders you go, the cheaper it is, as you cross the psychological dividing line of busy Archway Road. Roads around Milton Avenue east of Archway Road are fruitful territory for conversion flats. If you want a house and are determined to stay west of Archway Road, check out ex-local authority, two-bedroom cottages in North Hill Avenue, Storey Road or Gaskell Road.
What’s new: Most of the large Victorian institutional buildings and grand houses ripe for conversion have now been finished and there is little scope in listed and protected Highgate for large developments.
Schools: Highgate is at the meeting point of three boroughs — Camden, Islington and Haringey — and state-school standards can be variable. St Michael’s Primary in Highgate Village is a popular starting point with many parents who then opt for one of Highgate’s private schools, Highgate (mixed) or Channing (girls). Good nearby state schools include La Sainte Union RC (girls).
Shops and restaurants: There is still a good range of individually owned shops, including an independent bookshop, as well as a good choice of delis, cafés and restaurants. Chains such as Strada and Café Rouge are unobtrusive additions to Highgate’s eating choices, tucked away in period buildings. But residents report that Highgate is a “bit dead” at night and younger people head down to seedy Archway in search of excitement.
Green space/culture: Highgate village is surrounded by beautiful green space, with Hampstead Heath to the west and Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood to the east. From Queen’s Wood, pick up the Parkland Walk along the old branch line from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace. Highgate Cemetery, famous as the resting place of Karl Marx, is open to the public, although its opening hours can be short. You can catch a glimpse of its crumbling Victorian headstones through the railings of neighbouring Waterlow Park. The Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution runs cultural activities.
Transport: Highgate Tube station is on the Northern line.
Council: Camden (no overall control); Band D council tax is £1,332. Islington (no overall control); Band D council tax is £1,272. Haringey (Labour); Band D council tax is £1,494.
Average sale prices: N6
One-bedroom flat: £253,578
Two-bedroom flat: £409,744
Two-bedroom house: £579,326
Three-bedroom house: £870,450
Four-bedroom house: £999,867
Average rental rates: N6
One-bedroom flat: £250pw+
Two-bedroom flat: £300pw+
Three-bedroom house: £600pw+
Four-bedroom house: £650pw+
Demand for rental property is rising, says Gideon Mark of Litchfields (020 8348 8000). “This is a very busy lettings market. There’s room for slight negotiation but there is more demand than supply, which is pushing rates up.”
Photographs by Barry Phillips