Surbiton in south-west London sits on the Surrey, or southern, bank of the Thames a short distance south of Kingston upon Thames. Thanks to a quirk in railway history it has been bequeathed a quicker commute into London (15 minutes to Waterloo) than Kingston, its larger, better-known neighbour. It has got a better station too, which is a prime example of art deco.
Though the programmes were never filmed there, Surbiton entered the national consciousness through the Seventies TV sitcom The Good Life, starring Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers as Tom and Barbara Good, attempting to become self-sufficient from their suburban back garden.
Often jokingly dubbed Suburb-iton, this Thames-side town has fine roads and squares of large Victorian houses and cottages, a plentiful supply of Twenties and Thirties detached and semi-detached houses and affordable flats in converted houses or purpose-built blocks.
It also played a leading role in the conquest of cholera. The filter beds and Victorian buildings along the Portsmouth Road are what remains of the Seething Wells waterworks which were built in the middle of the 19th century to bring clean water to Lambeth. When Dr John Snow, who is described as the father of epidemiology, compared the incidence of cholera in people who drank water from Surbiton with those who were still drinking water from a contaminated well in Soho, he was able to prove cholera was a waterborne disease rather than airborne as previously thought.
Today, these semi-derelict filter beds are a haven for wildlife and, along with local MP Edward Davey, a pressure group is fighting proposals by developer Hydro Properties to build 64 floating homes as part of a marina
Property for sale in Surbiton
St Andrew’s Square has large Victorian houses, mostly converted into flats, which have sold this year for between £245,000 and £382,500.
Nearby is Surbiton Court, a Queen Anne-style development built around a communal garden, where flats have been sold in recent years for between £212,500 and £438,000.
There are pretty Victorian cottages in many of the roads between Maple Road and Portsmouth Road, known as the “river roads”. For example, houses in Cleaveland Road have sold in the past two years for between £425,000 and £529,000.
In the Southborough conservation area there are detached Twenties houses and some older Victorian and Edwardian houses. Detached houses in Woodland Road have sold recently for £1.1 million and the last house sold in Corkran Road went for £1.53 million.
Similar houses can be found in Berrylands, although the area is cheaper than Southborough. Here detached houses in Pine Walk, one of the best roads, sell for between £850,000 and £955,000; in other streets semi-detached houses sell for between £430,000 and £630,000.
The area attracts: Jo Pannell of local estate agent Dexters says the Surbiton property market is dominated by first-time buyers who are after affordable flats — starting at about £180,000 for a one-bedroom flat and £250,000 for two bedrooms.
Staying power: According to Jo Pannell, people stay in Surbiton if they can but some find they can’t afford the leap from a flat to a house and move further out.
Renting: Charlotte Ambridge, the rental manager at Dexters, says most renters in Surbiton are couples. “Many take on a long-term rental contract but with the intention of buying in the area after two or three years.”
Postcode: Surbiton is in the KT Kingston postcode area. KT6 covers popular central Surbiton and Southborough and is more sought-after and expensive than KT5, which covers Berrylands and most of Tolworth.
The best roads: The river roads between Portsmouth Road and Maple Road are very popular. A spacious two- or three-bedroom conversion flat with a garden in one of these roads can cost up to £450,000. In Southborough, the best roads are Corkran Road, Woodland Road and Langley Avenue. In Berrylands the sought-after roads are Pine Walk, Pine Gardens and Manor Crescent.
What’s new: St Mark’s Court (020 8390 8181) in Church Hill Road is a development of 32 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats including seven duplexes. Prices of the unsold properties range from £395,000 for a two-bedroom flat to £575,000 for a three-bedroom duplex.
Up and coming: Jo Pannell tips the area west of Hook Road in Tolworth where there are Victorian semi-detached and terrace house in roads such as Cotterill Road and Ellerton Road, which sell for between £350,000 and £500,000.
Getting an education: Almost all of Surbiton’s state primary schools do well and the following are judged “outstanding” by government education watchdog Ofsted: St Andrew’s and St Mark’s CofE Junior in Maple Road; Christ Church CofE in Pine Gardens, Berrylands; Tolworth Infants in School Lane, and Our Lady Immaculate RC in Ewell Road.
Linley House (co-ed, ages three to seven) in Berrylands Road is a private pre-prep school; Shrewsbury House (boys, ages seven to 14) is the local prep school. The council still runs grammar schools: Tiffin School (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Queen Elizabeth Road and Tiffin Girls’ School (ages 11 to 18) in Richmond Road, both in nearby Kingston, take pupils from throughout south-west London and there is a tough entrance exam. Both of these schools are judged “outstanding”.
In spite of this competition for the brightest and the best, Surbiton’s comprehensive schools perform well. Holyfield School (co-ed) in Surbiton Hill Road, Southborough High (boys ages 11 to 18) in Hook Road and Tolworth Girls’ in Fullers Way North (ages 11 to 18) are all rated “good”. Surbiton High (co-ed ages four to 18) is a private school in Surbiton Crescent; Kingston Grammar (co-ed ages 10 to 18) in London Road is also popular.
Shops and restaurants: Surbiton has a busy town centre with a large Waitrose and a branch of Sainsbury’s, a good selection of pubs and chain coffee shops. The Press Room (left) and the Pickled Pantry are two independent coffee shops. There are also shops and restaurants along Maple Road, including The French Table, the best local restaurant, which has recently opened a new café next door called the French Tart.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF KINGSTON:
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Open space: At the weekends, and weather permitting, there is a ferry from The Harts Boatyard to the park at Hampton Court Palace. The Hogsmill Valley Walk runs to the east of Berrylands to Kingston; the Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais used the Hogsmill as the setting for his famous painting of Ophelia.
Leisure and the arts: Nearby Kingston has the Rose Theatre and cinemas; the cornerHOUSE is a community arts centre in Douglas Road, Tolworth. The Thames Sailing Club is the oldest river sailing club in the world and races the vintage Thames A Raters with distinctive 45ft masts. Nuffield Health has a beautiful swimming pool in one of the converted waterworks buildings in Simpson Way; the nearest council-owned swimming pool is the Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Fairfield Road, Kingston. The Hampton Court Palace Golf Club is in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace.
Travel: No wonder Surbiton (Zone 7, annual travelcard £2,320) is such a popular commuter town — fast trains to Waterloo take 15 to 18 minutes and from Berrylands (Zone 6, annual travelcard £2,136) it’s about 30 minutes.
Council: Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames (Liberal Democrat- controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year is £1,658.91.