Apart from eye-popping house prices what does “prime London” offer? In the case of Knightsbridge it means lovely landscaped garden squares and Hyde Park, Harrods and Harvey Nichols on your doorstep — along with Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana.
Is it any surprise that international buyers, fleeing civil wars and economic uncertainty, find a safe and comfortable haven among its stuccoed streets?
The chief landlord, the Earl of Cadogan, who owns 90 acres of prime London including much of Knightsbridge, adds an appealing touch of British eccentricity to the management of his family’s 300-year-old Cadogan Estate: when older residents complained of unfettered sun worship in their private squares, he responded that, surely “nude sunbathing is to be encouraged”.
Simon Godson of estate agents WA Ellis says record prices are now being achieved in Knightsbridge. “The area is certainly bucking the trend, especially the garden squares. Prices in Knightsbridge range from £2,500 to £4,500 per square foot.” At the top of the last peak the record price was £3,000 per square foot.
The world’s best address?
One Hyde Park, the Candy & Candy redevelopment of the ugly old Bowater House site overlooking Hyde Park has propelled Knightsbridge to new heights. With its ground-floor McLaren and Rolex showrooms, it is promoted as the world’s best address.
The 86 flats in this Richard Rogers-designed scheme have created a new market for single-level living, with one flat rumoured to measure 27,000sq ft. Candy & Candy say six flats remain though they won’t reveal the prices.
This summer saw a price tag of £65 million for the first One Hyde Park flat to go on the open market, through Aylesfords. The five-bedroom flat has 9,000sq ft of space and is valued at £7,222 a square foot. So far there are no takers, although Liam Bailey, head of research at estate agents Knight Frank, is of the opinion that this could be a snip: he is predicting that price per square foot at this now-iconic development will reach £10,000 by 2016.
According to Simon Godson, there is nothing in London comparable to One Hyde Park, which solves the puzzle as to why one of the most expensive houses currently for sale in Knightsbridge, a five-bedroom house in Cadogan Place (through Savills) with 6,600sq ft, four terraces, staff accommodation and a swimming pool is on the market at £28 million, but is valued at “only” about £4,200 per square foot.
Properties for sale in Knightsbridge: Knightsbridge is made up of squares and terraces of period properties, many of which have been converted into spacious flats. There are also more modern purpose-built blocks, often with a resident porter. In recent years many large houses have been linked once again with their adjoining mews properties, which are then used for car parking or staff accommodation. The Grosvenor Estate and the Cadogan Estate have given Knightsbridge a cohesive character.
Tom Dogger of estate agents Winkworth says it is easy to tell the two apart. “By and large, the Grosvenor Estate is characterised by large white stucco houses; the Cadogan Estate by its red-brick Queen Anne style.”
The area attracts: over recent years the area has been dominated by overseas buyers who treat a property in Knightsbridge as a store of value and who rarely sell. More recently, wealthy UK buyers have been house-hunting again. They tend to stay, although they may trade up or down.
Renting: most rentals are between £1,000 and £3,000 a week, but just now there is an abundance of homes to rent under £1,000 a week and savvy tenants have been negotiating good deals.
Best roads: Cadogan Square, Lennox Gardens, Montpelier Square, Lowndes Square, Hans Place, Ennismore Gardens, Rutland Gate.
What’s new: there are currently no significant new developments in Knightsbridge.
Up and coming: Simon Godson suggests that medium-term leases of between 35 and 60 years are worth exploring. “Such properties sell at a discount and you can live there for five or 10 years before making a decision as to whether to extend the lease.”
Schools: Knightsbridge and nearby Belgravia and South Kensington have a wide choice of private pre-prep and prep schools. Hill House (co-ed ages four to 13) in Hans Place, where pupils wear distinctive ginger-coloured knickerbockers, is the best known. Others are: Eaton House (boys ages five to seven) in Eaton Gate; Knightsbridge (co-ed ages two to 13) in Pont Street; St Nicholas Prep (co-ed ages two to 11) in Princes Gate; Sussex House (boys, ages eight to 13) in Cadogan Square; and Ravenstone (co-ed ages two to 11) in Elvaston Place. More House (ages 11 to 18) is a private Catholic girls’ school in Pont Street. The French Lycée (co-ed ages three to 18) is in Cromwell Road.
There are also good state schools in the area. The following primary schools are judged “outstanding” or “good” by government education watchdog Ofsted: Holy Trinity CofE in Sedding Street, Marlborough in Draycott Avenue and St Peter’s Eaton Square in Lower Belgrave Street. Saint Thomas More RC (co-ed ages 11 to 16) is the local comprehensive, and it is judged to be “good”.
Shops and restaurants: Harrods is a world-famous Knightsbridge landmark and locals use the lavish food hall as their supermarket. There are other food halls, in Harvey Nichols and Waitrose in Motcomb street, as well as a local butcher O’Shea’s, and cheese shop, Beillevaire, in Montpelier Street.
But Knightsbridge is all about the top fashion brands to be found in Sloane Street, such as Prada, Giorgio Armani, Jimmy Choo, Dior, Marni and Yves Saint Laurent.
There is a giant Burberry store on the junction of Brompton Road and Knightsbridge, while Caroline Charles and Bruce Oldfield are tucked away in Beauchamp Place. A wander down Kinnerton Street reveals unexpected gems such as Patricia Roberts for hand-knitted garments, and fashion store Egg, in a converted dairy.
There is no shortage of top restaurants either. Mosimann’s in West Halkin Street is a private members club; Marcus Wareing is at The Berkeley hotel; Petrus, part of Gordon Ramsay’s empire, is in Kinnerton Street. Zafferano in Lowndes Street is a popular Italian restaurant.
Open space: Hyde Park, London’s largest central park, is on the doorstep, while residents of the private garden squares will all have access.
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Leisure and the arts: the Royal Court Theatre is in Sloane Square and there are cinemas on King’s Road. The Royal Albert Hall is on Kensington Gore and the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the V&A are all benefiting from the road improvements along Exhibition Road.
Travel: Knightsbridge (Zone 1; annual travelcard £1,168) is on the Piccadilly line, three stops away from Piccadilly Circus and on the line to Heathrow.
Council: Kensington and Chelsea (Conservative-controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year: £1,075.72.