The south London neighbourhood of West Norwood is beginning to be recognised as a great place to bring up a family with none of the stuffiness of nearby Dulwich.
Recent improvements include the opening of a £14 million new leisure centre tucked away in a beautiful setting off Knight’s Hill, and a new joint four-screen Picturehouse cinema and public library that is due to open later this year in Nettlefold Hall, a refurbished Sixties building.
The area’s crowning achievement, though, and a testament to the community spirit in the neighbourhood, is the West Norwood Feast. This hugely popular event held on the first Sunday of the month, from April through to December, is more than just another street market.
Largely run by volunteers there are music events and children’s activities alongside the street food and market stalls selling everything from food to arts and crafts to vintage clothing.
For many years West Norwood was simply the place where south Londoners came to bury their dead. The local cemetery in the main street is the last resting place of cookery writer Mrs Beeton, pottery magnate Sir Henry Doulton and sugar baron Sir Henry Tate. West Norwood Cemetery is one of London’s “Magnificent Seven”, the vast burial grounds built by the Victorians on the edge of the city to cater for the capital’s fast-growing population.
Full of crumbling mausoleums, nearly 70 listed structures, catacombs and a Greek necropolis with its own half-size Parthenon, this historic graveyard ran out of burial plots long ago, and although it still operates as a crematorium, these days it has become more of a place of quiet contemplation and a haven for wildlife. There are plans afoot to bag a Heritage Lottery grant to restore many of its monuments.
Families choose to live in West Norwood because it is still a lot more affordable than Dulwich. Craig Kelly, from Pedder estate agents, says the area was overlooked for years because it was surrounded by so many better-known spots, but it is now becoming a place in its own right.
“First-time buyers renting in Dulwich, Herne Hill and Brixton are buying in West Norwood, and flat sellers in the same areas are buying houses here.”
Five miles south-east of central London, West Norwood has Tulse Hill and Herne Hill to the north; West Dulwich, Gipsy Hill and Crystal Palace to the east; Upper Norwood, South Norwood and Thornton Heath to the south and Streatham to the west.
The property scene
Fine double-fronted Edwardian houses with five or six bedrooms feature in West Norwood, in the streets between West Dulwich and Norwood Road.
There are also smaller Victorian terrace houses, along with Twenties and Thirties semi-detached houses and Sixties and Seventies townhouses.
This is also a good place to look for period conversion flats.
In nearby West Dulwich, One Housing Group is selling 99 Thurlow Park Road, with eight three-bedroom duplexes and a four-bedroom penthouse, all move-in ready. Prices start at £750,000. Call 0344 800 1635 or visit thurlowparkroad.co.uk.
Help to Buy is available at The Triangle in Gipsy Road, with two-bedroom flats from £590,000 through Pedder (020 7738 6839), and also at Maplewood Court in Elder Road, with one-bedroom flats from £360,000, two-bedroom flats from £420,000 and three-bedroom flats from £500,000. Call Haart (020 8670 5845).
West Norwood is not the busiest place for rentals, with one-and-half times more homes available to buy as there are to rent.
The rental range is from £950 a month for a one-bedroom period conversion flat to £3,900 a month now being asked for a five-bedroom house in Ardlui Road near West Dulwich.
SE27 is the West Norwood postcode although there are areas on the eastern edge which stray into the SE21 Dulwich postcode.
There are fine double-fronted Edwardian houses in Chestnut Road, Chatsworth Way, Ardlui Road and Lancaster Avenue.
However, many parents prefer the best roads on the western side of West Norwood, such as St Julian’s Farm Road, Casewick Road and Thornlaw Road, which are closer to the popular Dunraven comprehensive school.
Up and coming
Woodvale Walk off Elder Road is a small estate of Seventies three-bedroom former council houses that remain relatively affordable.
Houses here are currently for sale for between £385,000 and £425,000.
Pedder estate agent Craig Kelly recommends Elderwood Place, also in Elder Road, a gated development of two- and three-bedroom houses and flats.
West Norwood station has trains to Victoria in 25 minutes and London Bridge in 30 minutes.
Nearby Tulse Hill station has trains to London Bridge in 20 minutes and is also on Thameslink with 15-minute trains to Blackfriars,24-minute trains to Farringdon and 28-minute trains to St Pancras.
Both stations are in Zone 3 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,520.
The X68 is a morning rush-hour express bus that doesn’t stop between West Norwood and Waterloo before continuing to Russell Square.
Lambeth council is Labour controlled. Band D council tax for the 2017/2018 year is £1,310.34.
Shops and restaurants
West Norwood’s main shopping street is Norwood Road, with a typical London mix of phone shops, charity shops, hairdressers, chicken shops and betting shops, dominated in this case by a petrol station and a large branch of B&Q. There are, though, enough highlights to keep shoppers coming back.
St Luke’s Church stands sentinel at the end of Norwood Road where the route divides into High Street and Knight’s Hill. In the High Street, The Book and Record Bar sells records, books and coffee and holds live music, DJ and open decks nights.
In Knight’s Hill, Roseberys fine arts and antiques auction house is a south London institution; Portico Gallery is an art gallery which runs pottery, life drawing and sewing classes; Pintadera is an Italian café and delicatessen and Cul de Sac is a café with a French twist, while The Great North Wood is the local gastropub.
Norwood Road has a branch of south London bakery Blackbird, plus cycle shop Bon Velo; Knowles of Norwood, from the Antic pub chain, is a newish arrival in the old Co-op building; Beamish & McGlue is an established deli and café, and there two fishmongers.
Homecare is the kind of shop, selling everything from mops to linen baskets, that every high street should have. Off Norwood Road in Nettlefold Place, Cenci is a famous vintage warehouse.
Some would claim this is West Dulwich but coffee roaster Volcano runs a lovely, hidden away café in the Parkhall Business Centre in Martell Road.
Locals moan about the lack of pubs but The Railway in Station Rise at nearby Tulse Hill station is a favourite, while The Park in Elder Road has its fans and the Tulse Hill Hotel, with boutique bedrooms, a restaurant and pub, is getting good reviews.
West Norwood Cemetery has a Green Flag Award but for a more conventional facility locals head for Norwood Park, which occupies one of the highest points in the borough of Lambeth.
There is a children’s playground with a water feature, a café, one o’clock club, outdoor gym and skatepark.
Leisure and the arts
The South London Theatre, a community enterprise, is south London’s most successful amateur theatrical company.
It is currently based at the Stanley Halls in South Norwood while its premises in West Norwood’s old fire station are restored.
An appeal has been launched to plug a £150,000 funding gap.
The first West Norwood Free Film Festival took place earlier this year with free showings of cult classics, art house favourites and new releases.
West Norwood Feast, a “volunteer-powered street market festival”, runs a film night on the last Friday of the month at The Book and Record Bar in Norwood High Street.
With the Dulwich private schools so close, West Norwood offers a good choice for education.
All West Norwood’s state primary schools are rated “good” or better by Ofsted. Rated “outstanding” are Elm Wood in Carnac Street and Kingswood in Gipsy Road, although Julian’s in Wolfington Road, Hitherfield in Leigham Vale and Streatham Wells in Palace Road are also very popular.
The “outstanding” comprehensive schools are Dunraven in Leigham Court Road (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) — parents move house to get their children into this school — and Bishop Thomas Grant RC (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Belltrees Grove in nearby Streatham. The other local comprehensives, all judged “good”, are: Elmgreen (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Elmcourt Road, City Heights E-ACT Academy (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Abbots Park; St Martin-in-the-Fields High (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Tulse Hill; Norwood (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Crown Dale; Kingsdale (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Alleyn Park; St Joseph’s RC (boys, ages 11 to 18) in Beulah Hill, and Virgo Fidelis RC (girls, ages 11 to 18) in Central Hill.
There is a choice of three private primary and preparatory schools: Rosemead (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Thurlow Park Road; Oakfield Preparatory (co-ed, ages two to 11) also in Thurlow Park Road, and Dulwich Prep (boys, ages two to 14) in Alleyn Park.
The three well-known Dulwich schools are: Dulwich College (boys, ages seven to 18) in Dulwich Common; James Allen’s Girls’ School (ages four to 18) in East Dulwich Grove, and Alleyn’s School (co-ed, ages four to 18) in Townley Road.