Good-looking large Victorian houses in wide, tree-lined streets typify Tufnell Park, the north London neighbourhood that sits between Kentish Town, Holloway and Highgate. Yet for a generation, this pleasant district of the capital was linked with a terrible Thames tragedy.
On the night of September 3, 1878, the paddle steamer Princess Alice ploughed into a steam collier, the Bywell Castle, just off Gallions Reach at Woolwich with the loss of around 640 lives.
It was worst-ever accident on a British waterway. On board the Princess Alice was a party of young girls from a private school on the corner of Carleton and Brecknock Roads in Tufnell Park. So many of the girls died that night that the school closed, never to reopen.
Tufnell Park, or Upper Holloway, is where George and Weedon Grossmith set their comic novel The Diary of a Nobody, in which the absurb but lovable bank clerk Mr Pooter aspires to rise above the masses. Today, Tufnell Park is more likely to be home to City bankers on fat bonuses, senior politicians and successful actors than lowly bank clerks. Famous local residents include two generations of the Kinnock family, and actors Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and Bill Nighy.
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Tufnell Park and nearby Dartmouth Park have mainly big Victorian houses, but most have been broken up into flats so large family houses are at a premium. There are also a number of between-the-wars council estates. According to Clive Nunes of the Kentish Town branch of estate agents Winkworth, this is a good place to look for spacious garden flats or maisonettes with good-size gardens, with buyers expecting to pay as much as £500,000 for a flat in good condition.
The most expensive house currently for sale in Tufnell Park is a six-bedroom, double-fronted Victorian property in Huddleston Road, on the market for £2.95 million through Benham & Reeves (020 3376 0744). Attempts to turn converted houses back into single family homes are usually thwarted by council policies designed to maintain current densities.
The area attracts: as we have seen, Tufnell Park and Dartmouth Park are popular with politicians and actors. As well as the Kinnocks, MP and shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell lives in Tufnell Park and Labour leader Ed Miliband lives in Dartmouth Park. But the area also attracts professional couples and families working in the West End and the City. “Kentish Town Thameslink station is the area’s unsung hero; from there it is a 12-minute journey to City Thameslink station,” says Nunes.
Staying power: families generally stay in the area while their children are at school. Some move away once the kids leave home for university.
Renting: George Heraklides, lettings manager at Winkworth’s Kentish Town office, says tenants are typically young professional couples looking for a one-bedroom flat in a period conversion with some outside space. In good condition, the rent is likely to be between £325 and £350 a week.
Postcodes: most of Tufnell Park falls into N7, the Holloway postcode, but west of Huddleston Road and the whole of Dartmouth Park is in NW5, the Kentish Town postcode, while the northern corner is N19, the Upper Holloway postcode. NW5 is the best postcode, with house prices higher in Dartmouth Park than in Tufnell Park because families will pay a premium to live near Hampstead Heath.
Best roads: in Tufnell Park the best roads are Anson Road, St George’s Avenue, Archibald Road and Huddleston Road. In Dartmouth Park the top addresses are Boscastle Road, Dartmouth Park Road, Dartmouth Park Avenue and Laurier Road. Roads close to two popular primary schools, Yerbury and Eleanor Palmer, are also popular.
What’s new: Taylor Wimpey is building The Junction, a development of 25 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats, in Junction Road close to Tufnell Park Tube station. Prices have not yet been announced. For more information, contact 0845 672 4137.
Up and coming: Nunes says nothing is cheap in Tufnell Park or Dartmouth Park, although properties are cheaper along the main thoroughfares such as Tufnell Park Road and Chetwynd Road, which is a cut-through.
Schools: there are three primary schools judged “outstanding” by Ofsted: Yerbury in Foxham Road, Eleanor Palmer in Lupton Street and Torriano Infants and Juniors in Torriano Avenue.
There is a choice of comprehensive schools within walking distance: Holloway School (ages 11 to 16) is judged “satisfactory”; Acland Burghley (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) is “good”; La Sainte Union (girls, ages 11 to 18) is “good”; William Ellis (boys, ages 11 to 18) is “satisfactory” and Parliament Hill (girls, ages 11 to 18) is “outstanding”.
The last four schools run a long-established sixth-form consortium known as La Swap. Highgate School (co-ed, ages three to 18) and Channing School (girls, ages four to 18) are two private schools in nearby Highgate.
Delis and gastropubs
Tufnell Park and Dartmouth Park do not have any high streets to speak of but there are interesting independent shops in small parades dotted around the neighbourhoods.
In Brecknock Road, close to Camden Road, Bumblebee is a long-established wholefood store. Salvino is an Italian deli and The Third Estate sells ethical clothing made in the UK and non-leather shoes, while Belle & Bunty designs clothes for the likes of Amanda Holden and Lauren Laverne. Over on Campdale Road, there is the children’s boutique Eenymeeny, and Flavours, a deli and café. On Fortess Road, Future & Found is a stylish homeware store. On the same road you will find Harrington & Squires, letterpress printers who also run printing courses.
In Dartmouth Park there are shops along York Rise, including a butcher’s and a deli, Truffles, with a lovely Fifties-themed window display. The Tufnell Park Tavern is a popular local gastropub on Tufnell Park Road, which holds a Saturday food market. Another, The Junction, is on Fortess Road, but the pub that gets the rave reviews for its food is the Bull & Last on Highgate Road.
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Open space: Tufnell Park is short of open space but Parliament Hill and Hampstead Heath are close by.
Leisure and the arts
The Forum on Highgate Road is a leading music venue, as is the Torriano, a pub threatened with closure. Poetry is celebrated at the Torriano Meeting House which, along with the pub, is in Torriano Avenue. There are plenty of opportunities for outdoor swimming with a lido at Parliament Hill and the Hampstead Heath bathing pools.
Train and tube links
Tufnell Park and Kentish Town are both on the Northern line. There is also a Thameslink overground service from Kentish Town with trains to St Pancras and City Thameslink. All stations are in Zone 2 — an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,168.
Councils: Dartmouth Park lies in Camden, but Tufnell Park falls in both Camden and Islington. In Camden (Labour-controlled), Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year is £1,328.25. In Islington, which is also Labour-controlled, the charge is £1,268.59.
Photographs: Graham Hussey