Paradise and Kensal Green are two words that sit happily together but for unexpected reasons; when the writer GK Chesterton wrote the immortal words “before we go to paradise by way of Kensal Green”, he was referring to the cemetery rather than the surrounding streets of Victorian and Edwardian houses.
The Kensal Green cemetery, with its crumbling tombs and encroaching wildlife, is one of London’s eeriest locations. It opened in 1832, the world’s first garden cemetery and one of seven large Victorian graveyards built on what was then the edge of London.
A quarter of a million people are buried here and it is the final resting place of such luminaries as the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the mathematician Charles Babbage, the novelists Wilkie Collins, Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray and the playwright Terence Rattigan.
Today, the Paradise is a well-loved gastropub in Kilburn Lane which bears the inscription over the front door: “This place is protected by angels”. And for today’s design-conscious Londoners, paradise is found in the little enclave on the canal that has been colonised by design guru Tom Dixon.
Here, Dixon has a shop, a restaurant called the Dock Kitchen, and a café, while on the other side of the road he has turned an old water tower into a wood-clad home which has already become a local icon.
This overspill of energy from Notting Hill to North Kensington, Kensal Green and beyond has brought a new generation of house hunters to the north-west London suburbs, north of the Grand Union Canal.
Estate agent Alan Isaacs of the Queens Park Partnership has worked in the area for many years. He has seen enormous changes over the past five years. “Young professionals and families are now putting Kensal Green, Queens Park and Willesden at the top of their preferred places to live,” he says.
Edwardian terrace houses and flat conversions in the streets around Kensal Green station; larger semi-detached Edwardian houses around Queens Park, and semi-detached and detached Twenties houses around Brondesbury Park. There are also streets of two-bedroom artisan cottages between Kilburn Lane and Harrow Road. Price per square foot is between £650 and £700 for houses and between £450 and £500 for flats.
The area attracts: these suburbs have a long-standing Irish community but they are increasingly being colonised by young professionals and middle-class families. The interesting independent shops which have sprung up in recent years along Chamberlayne Road, an extension of Ladbroke Grove, and Salusbury Road are an indication of the demographic change that’s afoot.
Staying power: some families move in search of secondary schools, although the local comprehensive, Queens Park, is improving.
Postcodes: Kensal Green is NW10; Queens Park is NW6 and Willesden is NW2; the NW6 postcode will put a few thousand pounds on the house price.
Best roads: the roads around Queens Park such as Chevening Road, Millman Road, Kingswood Avenue and Harvist Road are lined with large, red-brick Edwardian semi-detached houses.
On the other side of the railway line around Brondesbury Park, there are sought-after detached and semi-detached Twenties houses in Aylestone Avenue, The Avenue, Milverton Road and Christchurch Avenue. Many of the houses in Manor House Drive have been extended and now have carriage driveways and security gates. Mount Pleasant Road is increasingly popular.
What’s new: Bellway Homes is selling City View (Goldschmidt & Howland: 020 7289 6666), a development of 50 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats with a communal roof garden at the southern end of Chamberlayne Road. The flats are being sold off-plan for completion next summer. Prices range from £275,000 to £595,000.
Developer Tuipa is selling a development of 13 one- and two-bedroom flats and a three-bedroom penthouse in Kensal Green on Abercorn Place and Regent Street. Prices start at £275,000 and the penthouse is £785,000. Contact Hamptons on 020 7034 0404.
Up and coming: Alan Isaacs tips the roads west of College Road where Kensal Green merges with Harlesden. Edwardian terrace houses here cost between £650,000 and £750,000, a lot cheaper than around Queens Park. Interesting shops, restaurants and cafés are starting to appear on College Road.
Schools: Malorees, a large primary school in Christchurch Avenue, is heavily oversubscribed. The infant school is judged “good” by the government education watchdog Ofsted, the junior school “outstanding”. Princess Frederica CofE in College Road gets good results at Key Stage 2 (age 11) and a “good” rating from Ofsted.
The two local state secondary schools are Queens Park Community School in Aylestone Avenue and Capital City Academy. The latter is one of the first city academies, with a building designed by Norman Foster. Both are judged “good”. Islamia Girls High is a private Islamic girls school which is judged “outstanding”. The nearest top-performing private schools are not far away, in Hampstead.
Shops and restaurants: Chamberlayne Road and Salusbury Road have the most interesting shops, restaurants and cafés. Worth a detour are Tom Dixon’s shop at the top end of Ladbroke Grove, or continue up Chamberlayne Road to browse the antique shops Howie & Belle, Niche and Circus.
Head for Scarlet & Violet, who did the flowers for Kate Moss’s wedding, then try fashion women’s boutique Lau and unisex boutique Supra, then head for a lunch stop-off at Minkies Deli on the bridge close to Kensal Rise station. On Salusbury Road, The Salusbury gastropub and women’s fashion boutique Iris both stand out. There is a large Sainsbury’s at the end of Ladbroke Grove.
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Open space: there are walks along the Grand Union Canal to Little Venice. Queens Park is maintained by the City of London and has six tennis courts, a pitch and putt course, children’s café and playground. Roundwood Park is a Victorian park in nearby Harlesden with Green Flag status.
Leisure and the arts: the Willesden Sports Centre in Donnington Road is the nearest council-owned swimming pool. Kensal Rise has its own independent cinema, the Lexi, in a converted hall in Chamberlayne Road.
Council: Brent (Labour controlled); Band D council tax for the 2010/2011 year is £1,368.76.
Travel: Kensal Green and Queens Park are on the Bakerloo line and have trains to Euston (between 12 and 17 minutes); Kensal Rise and Brondesbury Park are on the overground north London line. All stations are in Zone 2 and an annual travel card to Zone 1 costs £1,288.
One-bedroom flat: £187,000
Two-bedroom flat: £275,000
Two-bedroom house: £288,000
Three-bedroom house: £452,000
Four-bedroom house: £691,000
One-bedroom flat: £230 to £270 a week
Two-bedroom flat: £300 to £400 a week
Three-bedroom house: £380 to £450 a week
Four-bedroom house: £700 to £1,300 a week
Five-bedroom plus house: £1,000 to £2,000 a week
Source: Queens Park Partnership
Pictures by Graham Jepson