Cross the river in the bustling town of Kingston, from the Surrey to Middlesex side, and you will find, in contrast, the quiet little riverside villages of Hampton and Hampton Wick.
© Barry Wood
They have hardly changed since the 18th century when London luminaries bought themselves a country house away from their busy London lives.
Hampton, Hampton Wick and inland Hampton Hill are the three neighbourhoods that make up London’s Hamptons. The area is defined by the loop of the Thames in which they sit and the 1,000 acres of Bushy Park, with its chestnut avenue and the 17th-century Diana fountain.
Two top private schools, Hamptons School for boys and The Lady Eleanor Hollis for girls, are a big draw for families with clever offspring. This is tight-knit community territory; recent campaigns have succeeded in hanging on to free car parking in Bushy Park and preventing house builder Linden from increasing the height of its buildings in Sandy Lane.
The Hamptons is a self-contained area. According to Hampton Hill estate agent Marius Spies, from Snellers, almost all buyers come from within the area: “This is a place where people can easily move up and down the housing chain.”
Properties: The Hamptons have an interesting mix of homes. There are fine Georgian houses and cottages in the heart of the village, and at Hampton Wick, flat-fronted early Victorian terraces, larger Victorian houses, Twenties and Thirties detached and semi-detached houses, and cul-de-sacs of Sixties houses.
The area attracts: Popular primary schools and two of the capital’s top private secondary schools make the area popular with families. The National Physical Laboratory on the edge of Bushy Park is the area’s largest employer, with many young scientists buying or renting nearby.
Staying power: The ability to move up and down the housing ladder means that families tend to stay, finally trading down once the children have left home or the couple have retired.
Postcodes: Hampton, the largest of the three areas is TW12; Hampton Wick is KT1, the south Kingston postcode; parts of Hampton Hill are TW11, the Teddington postcode.
The Ormonds - Crescent, Drive and Avenue - have similar houses with prices ranging from £500,000 to well over £1 million. Hamptons (020 8940 2772) is selling a six-bedroom Arts & Crafts-style detached house in Ormond Crescent for £2.35 million.
Up and coming: Off Oak Road in Hampton, in the area known locally as the nurserylands, there are roads and cul-de-sacs of predominantly affordable two- and three bedroom Sixties houses that sell for between £210,000 and £250,000.
What’s new: The Sidings (agents Gibson Lane, 020 8546 5444) is a striking modern development of eight one-bedroom flats and a single two-bedroom penthouse in Station Road, next to Hampton Wick station. The flats start at £265,000, and the penthouse is more than £1 million for occupation mid-autumn.
Hampton Green is a small development of five houses overlooking the green at Hampton which is being sold by Chase Buchanan (020 8941 7576) at prices ranging from £550,000 for a three-bedroom house to £1.1 million for the largest five-bedroom house.
Linden Homes (01883 334443) is building 119 homes in Sandy Lane, Hampton Wick. The second phase of 19 one- and two-bedroom flats is for sale off plan. The price of one-bedroom flats is still to be released, but two-bedroom flats start at £350,000.
Schools: The Hamptons have a number of popular and successful primary schools. Collis, in Fairfax Road in nearby Teddington, is judged “outstanding” by Ofsted; Hampton Hill Junior and Hampton Junior in Hampton Road are both rated “good with outstanding features”; while Sacred Heart RC is “good”. Denmead School in Wensleydale Road is a prep school for girls age three to seven and boys age three to 11. Hampton’s two top private schools sit next to each other in Hanworth Road: The Lady Eleanor Hollis takes girls from age seven to 18; Hampton School takes boys from age 11 to 18.
Shops and restaurants: The Hamptons are a big disappointment when it comes to shopping and eating. It seems the big shopping magnet that is Kingston has sucked the life out the neighbourhoods the other side of the river, and in Hampton’s pretty Station Road there are many empty shops. Most of the shops are concentrated in Hampton Hill.
Deborah and Alistair Burnside’s two Attic shops in the high street, selling shabby chic furniture and interesting accessories and gifts, is worth seeking out.
Best local restaurants are: the Portuguese La Familia in Hampton Hill High Street; Al Borgo, an Italian in Church Road in Teddington; the King’s Arms Hotel by the Lion Gate in Hampton Court Road; and The Canteen, a family-friendly café in Wensleydale Road.
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Open spaces: The river and Bushy Park are two of the Hamptons’ biggest attractions. With more than 1,000 acres of parkland, Bushy Park is the second-largest royal park after Richmond Park. This majestic space, with its avenue of chestnut trees culminating in the Diana fountain, was once a royal hunting ground.
There is a woodland and some newly restored water gardens, with pools, a cascade and basins. The Thames between Hampton Bridge and Hampton overlooks a number of small inhabited islands with their picturesque but often ramshackle chalets. Close by is a small temple that the 18th-century actor David Garrick, whose nearby house is being renovated, built in memory of Shakespeare.
Leisure and the arts: Hampton has a heated lido, which is open all year round in the high street, half way between Hampton and Hampton Hill. Teddington Pools and Fitness Centre in Vicarage Road has an indoor pool and learner pool.
There is a David Lloyd gym with a pool in Staines Road. The Hampton Hill Theatre in the high street is a small local theatre that puts on amateur plays. The Rose Theatre in Kingston is the nearest professional theatre, and for cinema the Kingston Odeon at the Rotunda is a multiplex.
Transport: Commuters must rely on the train service from Hampton Wick (35 minutes), Teddington (40 minutes), Fulwell (42 minutes) or Hampton (45 minutes) to Waterloo. All stations are in Zone 6 and an annual travel card costs £1,904.
Council: Richmond (Conservative controlled since May 2010) has a Band D council tax of £1,597 for 2010/11.
Buying (Average prices) The Hamptons, TW11
One-bedroom flat: £209,000
Two-bedroom flat: £297,000
Two-bedroom house: £411,000
Three-bedroom house: £499,000
Four-bedroom house: £677,000
Buying (Average prices) Hampton/Hampton Hill, TW12
One-bedroom flat: £172,000
Two-bedroom flat: £228,000
Two-bedroom house: £273,000
Three-bedroom house: £289,000
Four-bedroom house: £566,000
Photographs by Martin Pitchley
All details correct at time of publication.