Family-friendly Chislehurst is one of the most expensive parts of south-east London. Much of the pretty village’s charm and rural feel are derived from its surrounding commons, which were saved from development by residents at the end of the 19th century and are protected by an Act of Parliament.
Along with the village atmosphere that families crave, the big attraction for house hunters is Chislehurst’s close proximity to central London, says estate agent Laura Knight-Smith, from the local branch of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward. “It’s a lovely, leafy area and there are two high streets with some high-end shops,” she adds.
Chislehurst’s fine wooden village sign stands on the little green at the junction of Bromley Road and Bromley Lane, opposite a line of shops known as Royal Parade. The sign depicts Queen Elizabeth I in the act of knighting Thomas Walsingham (1561-1630), who lived nearby at Scadbury Park, which is now a popular nature reserve. A royal courtier, Walsingham was a friend of the playwright Christopher Marlowe and related to Elizabeth’s spymaster, Francis Walsingham, who was born at Scadbury.
Old Hill: Chislehurst has a range of properties, from modern flats to Victorian and Edwardian terrace houses
Fast-forward three centuries to the Chislehurst of 1870, and Camden Place — a grand house resembling a French château, which became the home of the exiled French emperor Napoleon III and his wife, Eugénie. Napoleon died in 1873 and Chislehurst held a grand funeral procession through the village to St Mary’s Church, neighbouring Camden Place.
Today, Camden Place serves as the clubhouse of Chislehurst Golf Club and as a wedding and conference venue, but several local street names are a reminder of its royal connection. Eugénie has Empress Drive, where there are Thirties and Fifties semi-detached houses, while Prince Imperial Road, overlooking Chislehurst Common, is named for the couple’s son, Louis.
Chislehurst Caves, an ancient chalk and flint mine with a 22-mile labyrinth of underground tunnels, is the big local tourist draw. In the Sixties and Seventies the caves became a famous music venue, with performances by the likes of David Bowie, Status Quo, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd — but they had other uses previously. The caves served as a store for munitions during the First World War, then as a mushroom farm in the Thirties, and were used as a vast air raid shelter during the Second World War.
Albany Road (pictured): property prices in Chislehurst average £279,000 for a one-bedroom flat and £533,000 for a three-bedroom house
What there is to buy in Chislehurst
The choice of local homes is wide — from modern flats to period conversions; from two-bedroom cottages to Victorian and Edwardian terrace houses, plus large detached mansions behind electronic gates. The most expensive house now for sale is a six-bedroom detached Twenties property of more than 4,600sq ft, set in a landscaped garden in exclusive Wilderness Road and priced at £3.5 million.
The most unusual property on the market is a former government nuclear bunker, The Glass House in Kemnal Road, which was converted into a five-bedroom house 15 years ago. Built around a glazed courtyard and with an indoor swimming pool, it’s priced at £3 million.
Period cottages close to High Street start at about £450,000. There is a pretty two-bedroom cottage in Park Road for sale for £490,000.
Average prices: buying houses and flats in Chislehurst
One-bedroom flat: £279,000
Two-bedroom flat: £417,000
Two-bedroom house: £414,000
Three-bedroom house: £533,000
Four-bedroom house: £839,000
Grand design: Chislehurst Golf Club’s head PGA pro Paul Eastwood outside Camden Place. Home for three years in the 1870s to exiled French emperor Napoleon III, it’s now the clubhouse.
Lying 12 miles south-east of central London, with Sidcup to the north, Orpington to the south and Bromley to the west, Chislehurst is close to the junction of the M25 and M20. There are trains from Chislehurst station to Cannon Street that take 29 minutes, while services to London Bridge take 21 minutes. It takes 29 minutes to Charing Cross, 24 minutes to Waterloo and 41 minutes to Blackfriars. Services take a few minutes less from nearby Elmstead Woods station.
Chislehurst station is in Zone 5 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £2,188. Elmstead Woods is in Zone 4 and the travelcard costs £1,844.
The area attracts: as well as local buyers, young couples move in from other village-type areas, such as Dulwich and Blackheath, in search of more for their money.
What there is to rent in Chislehurst
Anita Barry, lettings manager at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, says renters are professional couples and families, or singletons, not sharers. Two-bedroom flats rent for £1,250 to £1,550 a month, with two-bedroom cottages from about £1,650 a month.
Large family houses can rent for as much as £4,000 a month, and Barry says she recently rented a five-bedroom house with an indoor swimming pool for £5,800 a month. Many tenants of large houses often want one- or two-year tenancies.
Average prices: renting houses and flats in Chislehurst
One-bedroom flat: £976 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £1,394 a month
Two-bedroom house: £1,332 a month
Three-bedroom house: £1,625 a month
Four-bedroom house: £2,321 a month
Postcode: BR7 is the Chislehurst and Elmstead postcode.
Best roads: Wilderness Road, Camden Park Road, Cricket Ground Road and Yester Park.
Up and coming: estate agent Laura Knight-Smith, of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, tips the Thirties houses in roads such as Westhurst Drive, Holmdale Road and Woodside Avenue, which are becoming increasingly popular. Three-bedroom houses here sell for £450,000 to £500,000.
Staying power: this is an area where families enjoy living and tend to put down roots, although some do move further into Kent in the direction of Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells.
Viscount Mews (Proctors; 020 8467 1818), off High Street, is a development of one- and two-bedroom flats and duplexes built to resemble three mews houses. Prices for one-bedroom flats start at £425,000, while two-bedroom flats begin at £435,000. The development will be ready in February.
Sundridge Park (020 8313 9163) is a Millgate Homes development of two detached five- to six-bedroom houses, a five-bedroom detached town house, 13 four-bedroom townhouses and 25 two- and three-bedroom flats in nearby Bromley. Prices for flats start from £695,000, while townhouses go from £1.25 million. The development is expected to be completed in late spring.
Tea party: Johanna King, Carmel Jossa and Kate Ernoult of Annabel’s luxury English gift shop in High Street, Chislehurst
There are four state primary schools in Chislehurst. Mead Road Infants (ages five to seven) in Mead Road is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, while Edgebury in Belmont Lane and Chislehurst (St Nicholas) CofE in School Road are both judged “good”, but Red Hill in Red Hill is only judged “satisfactory”.
At secondary school level, girls are much better catered for than boys, with Bullers Wood (girls, ages 11 to 18) in St Nicolas Lane judged “outstanding” and Chislehurst School for Girls (ages 11 to 18) in Beaverwood Road rated “good”. Coopers (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Hawkwood Lane is also “good”. The lack of secondary school places for boys has led Bullers Wood to propose a new Free boys’ secondary school. Parents with academically able children make for the grammar schools in nearby Bexley or Kent. The nearest is Chislehurst and Sidcup (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) — known locally as Chis and Sid — in nearby Sidcup.
There are two all-through private schools in Chislehurst — Farringtons School (co-ed, ages three to 18), a Methodist day and boarding school in Perry Street, and Babington House (co-ed, ages three to 11) and sixth form (girls, ages 11 to 16) in Grange Drive. Bromley High (girls, ages four to 18) is in Blackbrook Lane in nearby Bromley.
WHAT THE LOCALS RECOMMEND ON TWITTER
@jdmchislehurst follow the cricket club @CWKCC; @chislehurstgolf; @FrielJoanna for local history; Chislehurst Christmas lights
@pureflukeplays Top kebabs from Üsküdar Turkish takeaway at Chislehurst train station. Imperial Arms wine bar is top
@GasBennett Crown and Anchor pub in Park Road, Bromley
@MachineGun1967 Dennys seafood restaurant in the old waiting room at the actual station...
Grape taste: Gemma Hill of Champion Wines in High Street
Leisure and the arts
Chislehurst is a sporty place, with the Chislehurst and West Kent Cricket Club in Cricket Ground Road, a tennis club in Empress Drive and the golf club in Camden Park Road. There are Odeon and Empire multiplex cinemas and Churchill Theatre in Bromley. Virgin Active has a swimming pool at its Chislehurst branch on the A20 Sidcup By-Pass. The nearest council-owned pool is at The Pavilion leisure centre in Kentish Way, which has two flumes, a wave machine and a water cannon.
Shops and restaurants
The two shopping areas are along High Street and Royal Parade. High Street is dominated by a lovely duck pond at one end and a large branch of Sainsbury’s at the other. Most of the shops are independent, but there are a lot of chain restaurants, including Café Rouge, Côte, Zizzi and Prezzo. Wrattens, a local institution, is like a mini department store that also has a café, as does gift shop Annabel’s in High Street.
There are fashion boutiques, too, and KFH’s Laura Knight-Smith says many of her buyers visit Louis Baron for interior design. Villagio is an Italian restaurant in the former police station. There is a PizzaExpress and Italian restaurant, Due Amici, in Royal Parade, which was built in 1876, three years after the death of exiled Napoleon III. French linen firm Yves Delorme has its only London suburban shop here, while Michael Sim sells English antique furniture. Plenty of the local pubs serve food, including the Crown Inn in School Road, which is a Shepherd Neame pub, while the Bull’s Head in Royal Parade belongs to Young’s. Also owned by chains are the Bickley in Chislehurst Road, the Queen’s Head in High Street, and the Tiger’s Head in Watts Lane. The Ramblers Rest is a lovely old pub in Mill Place, while the Imperial Arms in Old Hill bills itself as a gastropub with a wine bar.
Open space: Chislehurst and St Paul’s Cray Commons are largely wooded, although attempts are being made to re-establish heathland. The London Loop long walking trail runs through Scadbury Park nature reserve and St Paul’s Cray Common.
Council: Bromley is Conservative controlled and Band D council tax for this year is £1,325.14.
Test your knowledge: how did this local girl immortalise a Hong Kong garden?
Three things about Chislehurst
How did a local girl immortalise a Hong Kong garden?
Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees lived in Chislehurst and recorded the song Hong Kong Garden. She named it after a Chinese restaurant in High Street. It is still a Chinese takeaway, but is now called Noble House. Spotlight owes this information to Joanna Friel, of the Chislehurst Society, who does a weekly short history broadcast on the Visit Chislehurst website (www.visitchislehurst.org.uk
Which Chislehurst resident had a eureka moment in Petts Wood?
Builder William Willett (1856-1915) had a revelation early one morning when he was out riding in Petts Wood. He realised that, although it was light, many people were still in bed. In 1870, he published a pamphlet The Waste of Daylight, in which he proposed turning the clocks forward in summer. This was taken up in Parliament, but didn’t find favour until the First World War, when there was a need to save coal. British Summer Time was finally introduced on May 21, 1916, but Willett died the previous year, so didn’t live to see his idea introduced. There is a sundial in Petts Wood and a Blue Plaque on his house, the Cedars, in Camden Park Road, in his memory.
Which other Chislehurst resident could be considered to be the patron saint of distressed motorists?
Frederick Simms was an engineer and businessman in the early days of the motor car. He founded a number of organisations — the Motor Car Club in 1896, the Automobile Club in 1897, which 10 years later became the Royal Automobile Club, and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders in 1902. His ashes are buried near the Lych Gate of the Annunciation Church in High Street, next to a replica of Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Photographs by Daniel Lynch
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