Sitting between Kensington, Notting Hill and Shepherd’s Bush in west London, Holland Park is home to some of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs and music moguls, from Sir Richard Branson and Simon Cowell to Bryan Ferry and Brian May.
Large stucco mansions routinely sell for well above £15 million, and yet in the early 19th century Holland Park was far less desirable. Landowners and developers nearly went bankrupt trying to persuade people to live this far west of the centre of town and within close proximity to stinking potteries and brickworks.
Holland House, a grand Jacobean mansion, was the last of the large country houses that once dotted the area until late one night in June 1940 when it was destroyed by a Luftwaffe incendiary bomb.
In the late 18th and early 19th century the house belonged to the Fox family, which included the Whig politician Charles James Fox, who played host to writers and politicians such Wilberforce, Byron, Macaulay and Scott. Now its haunting ruins lie within 54 acres of parkland which is host to a hugely popular summer opera season.
After the estate’s destruction a remarkable artists’ colony grew up around Lord Leighton’s and Val Prinsep’s houses in Holland Park Road, with homes and studios built for artists such as George Frederick Watts, William Burgess and Sir Luke Fildes in Melbury Road. Rollo Miles of local estate agents John D Wood says the limited number of family houses has kept the Holland Park property market buoyant.
“There is a large variation in price per square foot though — between £1,500 and £3,000 for the very best houses. Buyers should scrutinise different streets and compare the square foot prices.”
Properties: when most people think of Holland Park they think of grand double-fronted stucco houses with ornamental glass-covered porches, but there is a surprisingly large range of homes — everything from Regency terraces in Addison Road, to the Gothic brick houses in St Ann’s Terrace, to converted flats in Royal Crescent, to red-brick Arts & Crafts homes in the Melbury Road area, to mansion flats, to Wates-built Sixties houses in Abbotsbury Road, to “right to buy” flats in former council blocks.
Who buys and who stays
High property prices mean that many buyers come with money made in the City; it is also popular with European buyers who like the community feel, and wealthy families who like the choice of private schools. Some buyers have second homes in the Cotswolds so appreciate being close to the M4 and M40.
Staying power: according to Rollo Miles, the high cost of stamp duty is an incentive to stay rather than move. “Houses tend to come on the market on average every 10 years. For flats, the time space is around five years.”
Best roads: south of Holland Park Avenue the best streets are Holland Park itself, Camden Hill Square, Addison Road, Holland Park Villas, Melbury Road and the Phillimore Estate roads off Kensington High Street. North of Holland Park Road, the most desirable roads are those which have access to communal gardens such as Norland Square and St James’s Gardens
Places to explore
After years of lying derelict, the Sixties Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington High Street with its swooping copper roof is to become the new home of the Design Museum. The £80 million scheme, due for completion in 2014, is to be designed by minimalist architect John Pawson, and includes two blocks of flats which will finance the development.
There is an enclave of cottages and terraces close to Latimer Road Tube station, around Sirdar Road and Treadgold Street, which is worth exploring.
Getting an education
Holland Park, Kensington and Notting Hill are awash with prep schools, including the very exclusive Wetherby School for boys in Pembridge Square where Princes William and Harry were pupils. However, there are a number of state primary and secondary schools which are judged “outstanding” by Ofsted. The outstanding primary schools are: Fox in Kensington Place and St Francis RC in Treadgold Street.
Both local comprehensives are outstanding: Cardinal Vaughan RC in Addison Road (boys, with girls in the sixth form), and Holland Park School (co-ed) in Airlie Gardens. Fee-paying St Paul’s Girls’ School, Godolfin & Latymer (girls), Latymer Prep (co-ed ages seven to 11) and Latymer Upper (co-ed ages 11 to 18) are in Hammersmith, and St Paul’s School (boys) is in Barnes.
Shops and restaurants: there are numerous cafés — Paul, Patisserie Valerie, Maison Blanc — along Holland Park Avenue where there is also Lidgate, one of London’ s best butchers, and a branch of Daunt Books. There is a village feel to the area known as Clarendon Cross where Julie’s wine bar is a local institution. There are also antique shops including Virginia Bates’s vintage boutique and French-style kitchenware shop Summerill and Bishop.
The Belvedere is a popular local restaurant in the beautiful remains of Holland House in the park, but surprisingly for such a well-heeled area, Holland Park does not have any top-notch fine dining restaurants.
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Holland Park itself is the area’s biggest attraction. Stretching to 54 acres, the park is one of London’s most diverse with a semi-wild area of woodland, a Japanese garden, a cricket pitch, tennis courts and a youth hostel. Avondale Park is north of Holland Park Avenue, and was created in 1892 from a former pig slurry pit known as the “ocean”.
Leisure and the arts: the Kensington Leisure Centre in Walmer Road is the nearest council-owned swimming pool. There are multiplex cinemas in Kensington High Street and the Westfield shopping centre. The summer highlight is the opera festival in Holland Park complete with Glyndebourne-style picnickers.
Transport: Holland Park is close to the A40 and the M4. There are two Tube stations: Holland Park on the Central line and Latimer Road on the Circle line and the Hammersmith and City line. All are in Zone 2 and an annual travel card to Zone 1 costs £1,168.
Council: the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (Conservative-controlled); Band D council tax for the 2011/2012 year is £1,079.12.