Walking the quiet streets of Clapton in north-east London, with their well-maintained Victorian houses, parks and green spaces, it is surprising that until relatively recently this was a deeply unfashionable area.
A spate of gun crime hit the district around the Millennium, with Lower Clapton Road and Upper Clapton Road known as “Murder Mile”.
The area lacked decent secondary schools and a Tube station. But what a difference the intervening years have made.
Today, the infamous Chimes Bar and nightclub, scene of many of the shootings, has been rescued and returned to its original use as a pub.
There are far better schools and the Overground has arrived at Rectory Road and Clapton stations. Estate agent Debbie Blow, from the local branch of Keatons, says Clapton’s reputation was always unfair. “I lived in the area throughout that time and I never felt unsafe,” she says.
“But there is no doubt that perceptions have massively changed since the Olympics in 2012. There are now lots of new shops, cafés and restaurants and a popular Sunday market along Chatsworth Road. Lower Clapton Road has seen similar improvements, and the council has plans to improve the Clapton end of Mare Street.
“Couples move here from more central areas to get more space and if they can afford it, will upgrade from a flat to a family house.” This is a creative place, says Blow, popular with architects and designers.
Clapton sits five miles north-east of central London, with Tottenham to the north, Leyton across the River Lea to the east, Hackney Central to the south and Stamford Hill and Stoke Newington to the west.
Clapton can boast Georgian houses in Sutton Place and Clapton Square. However, the neighbourhood’s housing stock is made up of two- and three-storey Victorian properties, for the most part.
This is a good place to seek out a Victorian flat conversion, and there are three times as many flats for sale as there are houses on the market in Clapton.
Altius in Woodmill Road, in the heart of Clapton, is a Taylor Wimpey development of 28, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Just one three-bedroom flat remains, priced at £457,495. Call 01277 280542 for more information.
Homerton Row is a development in Homerton Row of six one- and two-bedroom apartments, with one-bedroom homes priced from £444,950 and two-bedroom flats at £600,000. Call Foxtons on 020 7973 2020.
Lara Lamonte, of Keatons, says most of her tenants are couples, rather than sharers, who are moving from areas such as Shoreditch in search of more space — they appreciate the hipster-ish feel of Chatsworth Road and Lower Clapton Road.
Keatons estate agent Debbie Blow says: “It used to be the case that people moved further out once their children reached secondary school age. But now the schools are better, families are much happier to stay.”
E5 is the Clapton postcode but on its southern edge it merges with E9, the Homerton postcode, and on its north-eastern corner it merges with N16, the Stoke Newington postcode.
There are Georgian houses in Sutton Place and Clapton Square.
Up and coming
Upper Clapton north of Lea Bridge Road — currently less popular than Lower Clapton.
Clapton is served by three Overground stations — Clapton, Rectory Road and Hackney Downs — which all have trains to Liverpool Street. All stations are in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,296.
This is an area where many people rely on the buses, with the No 38 to Victoria, the 48 to London Bridge, the 55 to Oxford Circus, the 106 to Whitechapel and the No 254 to Aldgate.
Hackney council is Labour controlled, with Band D council tax for 2016/2017 of £1,294.42.
Shops and restaurants
A family highlight of the week is a visit to Chatsworth Road Market on a Sunday, when the northern end of the road is closed.
The main shopping streets are Chatsworth Road and Lower Clapton Road, where there are independent coffee shops, delicatessens, bakeries and flower shops.
In Chatsworth Road, the local Spar branch combines the familiar convenience store with a florist, Eat17 restaurant and a cinema. Also in Chatsworth Road is independent Venetia’s Coffee Shop; L’Epicerie 56 deli; Dorée & Co bakery and café; Venerdi Italian restaurant; Hop of Hackney family lifestyle store, for clever toys and gifts for all ages; neighbourhood restaurant Shane’s on Chatsworth, and Botany, a modern flower shop selling fashionable succulents alongside gifts and toiletries.
In Lower Clapton Road, Kate Sheridan and Mimi sell their own designer handbags and accessories; Wild & Woolly is a knitting shop with classes — the owner says Clapton is now full of knitters — and Pages of Hackney is an independent bookshop.
Newcomers include P. Franco, which describes itself as a wine shop and bar with seasonal food, and My Neighbours the Dumplings, a family-run dumplings and sake bar.
Access to the great outdoors is one of Clapton’s biggest selling points. There are walks along the River Lea, and two parks. Springfield Park has outdoor chess, table tennis, a café, children’s playground, a pond with fountains and a bandstand.
Millfields Park has a river running through it and a children’s play area, a trim trail and a community orchard.
Leisure and the arts
Estate agents Keatons sponsored the 40th anniversary celebrations last year of Chats Palace in Brooksby’s Walk, an arts centre which stages plays, music events and classes for local people.
The nearest council swimming pool is at Kings Hall Leisure Centre in Lower Clapton Road.
Most Clapton parents are happy to send their children to the local state schools. The single Clapton primary with an “outstanding” rating from the government education watchdog is St John & St James CofE in Isabella Road. All the rest of the local primary schools are rated “good” by Ofsted, with Rushmore in Elderfield Road and Millfields in Hilsea Street the most popular.
Three local state comprehensive schools are judged “outstanding”: Mossbourne Community Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Downs Park Road, where former Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw was head, and where starchitect Richard Rogers designed the building; The City Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Homerton Row, and Clapton Girls’ Academy (ages 11 to 18) in Laura Place. The other comprehensives — Cardinal Pole RC (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Morning Lane; The Urswick School (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Paragon Road and The Petchey Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Shacklewell Lane — are all judged “good”.