Surrounded by beautiful rolling Essex countryside, Brentwood lies a few miles beyond the M25 and about 20 miles from central London. Roads were the key to Brentwood’s past: this is where the Roman road from London to Colchester crossed the pilgrim routes from the Midlands and East Anglia to Canterbury.
The ruins of a 13th-century chapel which was built in memory of the martyred saint Thomas Becket, and medieval buildings in the high street tell of the town’s importance as an ancient trading and staging post.
Today, Brentwood stands to be one of the major beneficiaries of Crossrail, with Shenfield, the town’s northern suburb, chosen for the eastern terminus. This makes Brentwood a hot property tip, as the new cross-London rail route now has secure funding and the Shenfield service will be running by 2018.
Brentwood School, the popular private school in the town, is a big draw for parents. Its grand red-brick buildings in Ingate Road sit in large grounds. A new sixth-form centre and 400-seat theatre designed by architects Cottrell & Vermeulen make a striking addition to the townscape.
The other notable relatively new building is the nearby Catholic cathedral, its style described by the project’s modern classical architect, Quinlan Terry, as a cross between early Italian Renaissance and Christopher Wren’s English baroque.
What can you buy?
Eighty per cent of homes in Brentwood are owner-occupied, and the majority have been built since 1945. However, there are Victorian houses and cottages near Brentwood station and in the Station Lane conservation area in nearby Ingatestone.
Hutton and Shenfield, on the north-eastern edge of Brentwood, have roads of quiet suburban Twenties houses and later detached properties, and there are modern town houses and flats in gated mews in the town centre.
Attractive nearby conservation villages with period cottages and houses are South Weald, Blackmore, Great Warley, Fryerning and Herongate.
Terry Holmes, director of Essex estate agents Beresfords, says the wide variety of properties makes Brentwood popular with London house hunters.
“There is everything from large mansions to one-bedroom, new-build flats near Brentwood station selling for about £175,000,” he says.
House prices in the whole area, and in particular in the roads close to Shenfield and Ingatestone stations, with fast trains to Liverpool Street, are driven by City bonus money.
Who buys and where
According to Terry Holmes, about a third of his firm’s buyers in Brentwood are moving to Essex from more central areas of London.
Hutton Mount is where Brentwood folk aspire to live. Prices in unadopted private roads such as Heron Way, Ridgeway and Hillwood Grove range from £1 million up to £5 million. On the other side of the railway line in what locals call “old” Shenfield, the best road is Mill Hill, where houses can sell for up to £3 million. Prices in the other top roads — Coombe Rise, Middleton Road and Warren Road — range from £850,000 to £1.3 million.
The Galleries (01277 202122) is an impressive conversion of the formerly near-derelict Warley Hospital buildings in Pastoral Way, on the southern edge of Brentwood. Developer City & Country is creating about 200 flats in the old hospital itself, and there will be about 60 new-build apartments on site. Prices range from £168,000 for a one-bedroom flat and £350,000 for a two-bedroom property.
Developer Crest Nicholson’s BASE (0870 757 8384) is a strikingly modern development close to Brentwood station. About 300 flats are planned, starting at £165,000 for one bedroom, while two-bedroom apartments are from £223,500.
Mid-20th century architecture and design are becoming increasingly fashionable. The Tor Bryan Estate, in Ingatestone close to the station, is a good example of about 60 late-Sixties detached and semi-detached houses and bungalows. The three-bedroom semis sell for about £390,000, with four-bedroom detached houses going for between £500,000 and £550,000.
Going to school
Brentwood has many excellent state primary schools. The following are judged “outstanding” by Ofsted: St Thomas of Canterbury CofE in Sawyers Hall Lane; St Helen’s RC junior school in the same road; St Mary’s CofE in Shenfield; St Joseph the Worker RC and Hutton All Saints CofE, both in Hutton; St Peter’s CofE in South Weald, and Bentley St Paul’s CofE in Pilgrim Hatch.
The top state comprehensive schools are Brentwood Ursuline for girls, and St Martin’s, which is co-ed, in Hutton. Fee-paying Brentwood School is predominantly a day school, although it does take some boarders. The pre-prep and preparatory schools are co-ed, but boys and girls are taught separately in the senior school from ages 11 to 16, after which they come together again in the sixth form.
Herington House in Hutton is a co-ed prep school for ages three to 11. Woodlands has two schools, one in Great Warley, another in Hutton Manor, which take pupils from age three to 11, with a nursery, Little Acorns, which takes babies from three and a half months. Ursuline Prep is a co-ed Catholic school for children aged three to 11.
Leisure and open space
Brentwood has a busy high street which has recently had a facelift, although there are still a number of empty shops. There is a Marks & Spencer, Boots, Next and WH Smith, plus upmarket kitchen shops Mark Wilkinson and Clive Christian, and behind the high street there is a large Sainsbury’s.
Jasmine Bleu at Wilson’s Corner is a homestore selling the shabby-chic look. Off the high street, Crown Street is where the smaller independent stores are flourishing. Look out for boutique Comfort and Joy and French Quarter for painted French furniture.
Chain restaurants and coffee bars are the norm: Pizza Express, Prezzo, Zizzi , Café Rouge, Starbucks and Caffè Nero are all present. The Sugar Hut at the historic White Hart is the local nightclub, which also has a branch of Mason’s, part of a small Essex chain of restaurants. The Headley at Great Warley is a popular local gastropub.
Brentwood is surrounded by farmland and also by country parks, the largest of which are Thorndon, to the south-east of the town centre, and Weald to the north-west.
Leisure and the arts
The nearest council-owned swimming pool is the Brentwood Centre in Doddington Road in the countryside north of the town. Brentwood has its own purpose-built theatre, which puts on mainly amateur shows.
The local museum is housed in a quaint cemetery lodge in Lorne Road, in the south of the town. Brentwood is due to get a six-screen cinema in William Hunter Way by late 2013.
Road links are excellent — the M25, M11 and A12 are all close by. Trains to Liverpool Street go from Brentwood (34 minutes, annual season ticket £2,140); Shenfield (26 minutes, annual season ticket £2,580) and Ingatestone (29 minutes, annual season ticket £2,880).
Brentford borough council (Conservative-controlled) Band D council tax for the 2011/2012 year is £1,459.
One-bedroom flat £191,000
Two-bedroom flat £205,000
Two-bedroom house £264,000
Three-bedroom house £353,000
Four-bedroom house £569,000
One-bedroom flat £550 to £725 a month
Two-bedroom flat £700 to £725 a month
Two-bedroom house £800 to £1,100 a month
Four-bedroom house: £1,400 to £2,500 a month
Photographs: Barry Phillips