Spotlight on West Norwood
West Norwood is only five miles from central London, situated between Streatham and Dulwich.
It may not be on the radar of many home searchers, but in its best streets it has fine double-fronted Victorian and Edwardian houses which sell for half the price of a similar home just up the road in Dulwich Village.
Its high street remains a bit tatty but is fast improving, thanks in part to the arrival of a monthly market — the West Norwood Feast — which features food stalls, vintage fashion, crafts and plants. There’s a strong community spirt and local parents have been pioneers of the free school concept.
Singer and songwriter Adele is one of West Norwood’s heroines — and the feeling is mutual. She came here in her early teens and her song Hometown Glory is her tribute to the place where she spent those formative years.
The name Norwood is a contraction of the Great North Wood, a historic oak wood that once covered an area stretching from Camberwell to Croydon. St Luke’s Church, one of the fine classical “Waterloo” churches built after the defeat of Napoleon, dominates Norwood Road, the main shopping street. Next to it is the West Norwood cemetery, with its listed monuments, catacombs and chapels, one of the so-called “magnificent seven” cemeteries the Victorians built in London’s expanding suburbs and now a nature reserve.
Jonathan Barry from local estate agents Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, says West Norwood is a place on the cusp of change. Over the past 10 years, East Dulwich has been the surprise property hot spot, but West Norwood has better houses and they are now cheaper than those in East Dulwich.
On the West Dulwich side of Norwood Road, there are large detached and semi-detached double-fronted houses. On the Streatham side there are terraces of mainly Victorian houses, although at the top of York Hill, around Lavengro Road and Cheviot Road, there are semi-detached and terrace Twenties houses. Period conversions and former council flats and houses are also to be had. According to Jonathan Barry, price per square foot in West Norwood is around £360 a square foot — nearly £140 cheaper than in the banker belt of south-west London.
The area attracts: first-time buyers, flat-dwellers from elsewhere in south London looking for a house, and City commuters with children at the Dulwich private schools who us the Thameslink train service from Tulse Hill station.
Staying power: the average house buyer stays for around 10 years and the average flat buyer around five years.
Best roads: on the West Dulwich side of Norwood Road the best roads are Lancaster Avenue — where semi-detached houses have sold recently for between £1.2 million and £1.5 million — and Idmiston Road where terrace houses have sold for between £465,000 and £990,000. On the Streatham side, the best road is Julian’s Farm Road; here semi-detached have sold in the last two years for between £495,000 and £730,000.
What’s new: Norwood Hall, a new swimming pool, health and council service centre is being built on a secluded site behind Knights Hill, designed by leading architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. It is due to open its doors in spring next year.
Up-and-coming: the area around Wolfington Road has the advantage of being close to a new offshoot of the popular Julian’s Primary School. Large terrace houses here sell for around £470,000.
There is also an enclave of Twenties terrace houses close to West Dulwich in Hexham, Lavengro and Tulsemere Roads. Houses in Lavengro Road have sold recently for between £396,000 and £465,000.
Schools: West Norwood parents campaigned for years for a new secondary school and, in September 2007, Elmgreen opened. The school moved into its new building in Elmcourt Road three years ago; however, Ofsted rated it only “satisfactory” in February. Its close neighbour, the once unpopular Kingsdale, is now judged “outstanding”.
West Norwood has a number of popular and successful primary schools. The following are judged either “outstanding” or “good”: Elmwood in Carnac Street; Kingswood in Gipsy Road; St Joseph’s RC Infants school in Crown Dale; Crown Lane in Crown Lane, and Julian’s in Leigham Court Road, which has expanded from one form entry to three form entry with a new school building. The new Julian’s school is due to open at a former Jewish orphanage in Wolfington Road. There are three local state secondary schools, all co-ed with sixth forms, which get above-average results at GCSE and are rated “good”: Norwood in Crown Dale; Bishop Thomas Grant RC in Belltrees Grove, and popular Dunraven in Leigham Court Road.
The local prep schools are Rosemead and Oakfield, (both co-ed ages two to 11), both of which are in Thurlow Park Road, and Dulwich College Prep (boys ages three to 13, with girls in the nursery).
The three top private secondary schools are Dulwich College (boys ages seven to 18) in Dulwich Common, Alleyn’s (co-ed age four to 18), and James Allen’s Girls’ School, or JAGS (ages four to 18) in East Dulwich Grove.
Shops and restaurants: the high street — Norwood Road — is somewhat uninspiring for shopping, although there are one or two bright spots such as the Blackbird Bakery and Beamish and McGlue, a deli and café, and a fishmonger, Whittaker’s. Cenci, in Nettlefold Place, is a large warehouse full of vintage bargains.
Opposite is the Portico Gallery, which is also a community arts space. The monthly shopping high is the West Norwood Feast, held on the first Sunday of the month, when the gardens of St Luke’s Church and parts of Norwood Road and the side roads are taken over by traders. The Rosendale on Rosendale Road in West Dulwich is a popular gastropub.
Open space: Norwood Park is a well-loved local park with an active friends’ group. There are good views north over central London, a water play area, a café and plans for a new skate park.
Leisure and arts: the South London Theatre in the old fire station is a long-standing amateur dramatics group. The Picturehouse group, owners of the Brixton Ritzy cinema, are looking at the possibility of acquiring the now-empty Nettlefold Hall. It has a small theatre and a separate hall but the council had to close it and the adjoining library last year after theft of copper from the roof.
Travel: West Norwood station has trains to Victoria (journey time 23 minutes) while Tulse Hill station has Thameslink trains (journey time to Farringdon 24 minutes). Both stations are in Zone 3 with an annual travel card to Zone 1 costing £1,368.
Council: Lambeth (Labour controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2012 year is £1,232.01.
Renting in West Norwood
One-bedroom flat: £875 to £1,100 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £1,200 to £1,350 a month
Two-bedroom house: £800 to £1,200 a week
Three-bedroom house: £800 to £1,200 a week
Four-bedroom house: £2,000 to £3,000 a week
Five-bedroom house: £2,000 to £3,000 a week
Source: Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward