Spotlight on Wandsworth

Property expert Anthea Masey follows newlyweds as they migrate across the river in search of spacious family homes
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A view of the Thames in Wandsworth
A view of the Thames as seen from the Riverside Quarter Development
Wandsworth is famous as the local authority with the lowest council tax in the country. It also has a reputation as a good spot for family homes, attracting newlyweds from north of the river who are prepared to head south in search of more space.

The borough covers a large area of south-west London including Battersea, Balham, Tooting, Earlsfield, Southfields and Putney. But oddly, Wandsworth the neighbourhood is found only in the relatively small area clustered around the nondescript town centre. What this little enclave lacks in size and glamour, however, it more than makes up for in its highly desirable residential streets which have attracted superchef Gordon Ramsay, Take That star Mark Owen, and TV and radio presenters Fiona Phillips and Johnny Vaughan.

Did you know?

First and foremost among these desirable streets is Spencer Park, an enclave of large, detached Victorian houses arranged around a private park and overlooking Wandsworth Common. These large houses rarely come on to the market. The highest price paid is £5 million.

Estate agent George Franks of Douglas & Gordon says that for such a small area, Wandsworth’s residents are extremely proud to say they live there. “The area abuts Battersea, Tooting, Balham, Earlsfield and Southfields, and on the boundaries people always claim they live in Wandsworth,” he says.
Wandsworth High Street
A thriving and busy Wandsworth High Street
With such a wealth of fine homes, it is easy to forget that Wandsworth is still struggling with the legacy of its industrial past, especially along its river front. However, over the last 10 years some of this industrial clutter has been cleared and replaced with new flats.

Wandsworth’s greatest challenge is creating a town centre worthy of its position as one of London’s wealthiest boroughs. At the heart of any town centre improvement is the old Young’s Ram Brewery site. A recent mixed-use planning application from property company Minerva to open up the site, restore many of the listed brewery buildings and develop the frontage to the river Wandle, was rejected by the Secretary of State who opposed the erection of two large tower blocks of 39 and 29 storeys, which would have been among the highest in London. Minerva has promised a new application before the middle of next year.

What can you buy?

Properties: most of Wandsworth is Victorian and Edwardian, although there are now new flats along the river and in the town centre. The Magdalen Estate is an area of later Twenties houses west of Wandsworth Common which illustrates George Franks’s point — some call it Wandsworth while others call it Earlsfield. The Tonsleys is a popular neighbourhood of pretty cottages on the hilly slopes to the east of the town centre. Price per square foot in Wandsworth is between £500 and £600, rising to around £700 in the best roads, but this is still cheaper than Fulham on the other side of the river.

The lowdown

The area attracts: young professionals who buy riverside flats and conversions; families go for the houses.
Staying power: Wandsworth people are attached to their neighbourhood and like to put down roots.

Postcodes: the Wandsworth postcode is SW18, but to the south of Bellevue Road there are a few streets which like to think of themselves as Wandsworth even though technically they are in SW17, the Tooting postcode.
Joggers and cyclist in Wandsworth Park
Thames-side Wandsworth Park
Tonsley Road in central Wandsworth
Popular Tonsley Road in central Wandsworth

Best streets: Spencer Park; Lyford Road and the Toast Rack roads (Baskerville, Dorlcote, Henderson, Nicosia, and Patten), where there are large, red-brick semi-detached and terrace Edwardian houses, many overlooking Wandsworth Common, which usually sell for between £1.5 million and just under £3million.

Up-and-coming: George Franks tips the handful of streets around Vanderbilt Road in the triangle between Garratt Lane and Earlsfield Road. There are Victorian terrace houses (priced at between £500,000 and £750,000) and purpose-built flats with their own front doors (between £300,000 and £350,000).

What’s new: Battersea Reach (020 7978 4141) is a large development of five riverside tower blocks, which when complete will have a total of 1,080 flats. It is east of Wandsworth Bridge and the developer is St George. There are only a handful of flats left in The Tower, starting at £789,950 for two bedrooms, rising to £2.3 million for a three-bedroom apartment on the ninth floor. Riverside Quarter, by Singapore-based developer Frasers Property (020 8877 2000), is another Thames-side development, east of Wandsworth Park and opposite the green spaces of the Hurlingham Club.
Riverside flats in St George’s new curved landmark tower at Battersea Reach
£789,950: for a two-bedroom riverside flat in St George’s new curved landmark tower at Battersea Reach (020 7978 4141)
Schools: Allfarthing on St Ann’s Crescent is the kind of primary school parents move to be close to. It is judged “outstanding” by Ofsted. Other top-performing primary schools are: St Anne’s CofE on St Ann’s Hill and St Faiths CofE on Alma Road. Ashcroft Technical Academy on East Hill is the best local state comprehensive. It is co-ed and rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. Other state comprehensives with above average results are: Saint Cecilia’s CofE (mixed) in Sutherland Grove; Ernest Bevin (boys) in Beechcroft Road, and Burntwood (girls) in Burntwood Lane. The nearest private secondary schools are Emanuel (mixed) and Putney High (girls).

In your spare time

Shops and restaurants: Southside is a town centre shopping hub with a Waitrose, Gap, H&M and Primark. More interesting shops and restaurants are found in small parades scattered throughout the area. Bellevue Road has a bookshop, a branch of Jigsaw, a café where you can bake your own cake, and Wandsworth’s best restaurant, Chez Bruce. St John’s Hill has Inform for modern furniture, Helen Turkington’s fabric outlet store, Tablemakers for custom-made tables, Regent House Antiques for mid-century pictures, prints and books, and a new small NHS hospital, the St John’s Therapy Centre, designed by architect Bushow Henley, which makes a fine contribution to the streetscape. Old York Road has Mark Plant for kitchens, Sextons for in-car hi-fi and The Pantry, for top-notch breakfasts, lunches and takeaways.
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Open spaces: Wandsworth has riverside walks and the wild acres of the common. Smaller parks include Thames-side Wandsworth Park and King George’s Park with the river Wandle on its eastern edge.

Leisure and the arts: the Latchmere Leisure Centre is the nearest council-owned swimming pool. Private gyms with swimming pools are available at Virgin Active in the Southside centre in Wandsworth town centre and at Esporta in West Smugglers Way. At the beginning of this month, Mayor Boris Johnson opened the new Wandsworth Museum in the old library on West Hill. There is a 14-screen Cineworld multiplex in the Southside centre.

Transport: Wandsworth itself is not on the Tube network, but it has two train stations — Wandsworth Town (Zone 2; annual travelcard to Zone 1 is £1,032; 18 minutes to Waterloo), and Wandsworth Common (Zone 3; annual travel card to Zone 1 is £1,208; 14 minutes to Victoria). Some Wandsworth residents live close to East Putney Tube (Zone 2; Wimbledon branch of the District line).

Council: Wandsworth (Conservative controlled); band D council tax for the 2010/11 year is £681.81.
A lake and fountain in King George’s Park, Wandsworth
A lake and fountain in King George’s Park, Wandsworth

SW18: average prices

One-bedroom flat £259,000
Two-bedroom flat £332,000
Two-bedroom house £483,000
Three-bedroom house £573,000
Four-bedroom house £721,000
Source: Hometrack

One-bedroom flat £300 to £350 a week
Two-bedroom flat £375 to £475 a week
Two-bedroom house £425 to £475 a week
Three-bedroom house £425 to £650 a week
Four-bedroom house £750-£1,000 a week
Source: Douglas & Gordon

Photographs: Barry Phillips

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