Spotlight on Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks has fewer than 30,000 inhabitants and yet this quiet little Kent town has one of the South-East's busiest commuter train stations. Lying about 25 miles south of the capital, its major attractions lie in its quick commute into the City, its popular private co-educational school (which has pioneered the International Baccalaureate exam), and exquisite Knole, the ancient home of the Sackville family, which sits conveniently on the eastern edge of town and comes with a 1,000-acre deer park.
Knole is now owned by the National Trust but it is still intimately tied to the Sackville family who have lived there for 450 years. The manuscript of author Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando sits in the great hall under a portrait of Knole’s first Sackville, Thomas, the lst Earl of Dorset.
The novel is set at Knole and tells the story of Orlando - who changes sex over a life which spans hundreds of years - and is dedicated to Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf’s lover. It has been described by Vita’s son, Nigel Nicholson, as “the longest and most charming love letter in literature.”
The heart of Sevenoaks revolves around the high street and The Vine, the ancient cricket ground given to the town in the 18th century by the Sackvilles. It was here that six of the seven oaks which symbolise the town were blown down in the great storm of 1987. They have since been replaced but it will be many years before they reach the stately height of their predecessors.
Houses and flats for sale in Sevenoaks:
Sevenoaks has a large selection of Twenties and Thirties detached family homes, although closer to the town centre there are large Victorian and Edwardian semi-detached and detached houses and some Victorian terrace cottages. More recently, flats have been built close to the station.
Large detached Victorian houses in the roads around Holly Bush Lane sell for between £1.5 million and £2 million; semi-detached Edwardian semi-detached houses around Quakers Hall Road sell for between £850,000 and £950,000.
A Twenties detached house in the area around The Rise to the south of the town, can be bought for a starting price of around £825,000, and a postwar house in Montreal Park, to the west of the town, varies in price between £750,000 and £1 million. However, it is still possible to buy a small two- or three-bedroom Victorian terrace house in the central St John’s area for around £250,000.
The area attracts: Sevenoaks and the surrounding villages have long been a popular destination for London commuters, but according to estate agent Dominick Brown of the local branch of Savills, the cost of station parking is making areas within walking distance of the station increasingly popular.
Staying power: The move to Sevenoaks is usual the final destination for London families.
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Best roads: The Wildernesse estate on the edge of Knole Park and close to the golf club is where people aspire to live. It has large, detached Twenties and Thirties houses in acre plots often built in the Arts & Crafts style. The whole estate has a well-established, tranquil and slightly old-fashioned feel with surprisingly few examples of knock down and rebuild. There are a number of houses designed by M H Baillie Scott, the notable Arts & Crafts architect.
What’s new: Ryewood is a Berkeley Homes development of 500 homes (100 affordable) on the site of an old cold store at Dunton Green north of Sevenoaks. The second phase of one- and two-bedroom flats, two-, three- and four-bedroom townhouses, semi-detached and detached houses is launched later this week.
Sackville Place (Savills 01732 789700), is a central Sevenoaks development of 10 flats and one large detached house overlooking The Vine. Prices of the remaining three flats range from £895,000 for two-bedrooms to £1.85 million for three-bedrooms.
There are two flat developments close to the station: The Edge on Mount Harry Road is a development of 11 flats by Elysian Homes; prices range from £429,950 for a two-bedroom flat to £629,950 for a three-bedroom flat. Railway & Bicycle in London Road is named after a now demolished pub. There are nine two-bedroom flats remaining in this development of 24 flats and prices range from £280,000 to £335,000.
Up and coming: Dominick Brown suggests the area off Tonbridge Road to the south of the town has potential. “A family house can be bought here for between £825,000 and £850,000, but once refurbished and extended they can end up being worth £1 million to £1.25 million.
Schools: Sevenoaks School (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) is a top performing private school with a history which dates back to the early 15th century. It was one of the first schools to replace A Levels with the International Baccalaureate.
There are also a number of private prep schools: Solefield (boys, ages four to 13) in Solefield Road; The Granville (girls, ages three to 11 and boys, ages three and four) in Bradbourne Park Road; The New Beacon School (boys, ages four to 13) in Brittains Lane and Sevenoaks Prep (ages three to 14) in Godden Green. Walthamstow Hall is an all-through private girls’ school (ages three to 18) in Holly Bush Lane.
Sevenoaks has four state primary schools judged “outstanding” by the government’s education watchdog Ofsted: Lady Boswell’s CofE in Plymouth Drive; Sevenoaks in Bradbourne Park Road and Riverhead Infants and Amhurst Junior in Witches Lane. Kent County Council has many grammar schools but none in Sevenoaks, although there are now plans to open one in September 2015 on the site of the former Wildernesse School.
Shops and restaurants
Sevenoaks has a pretty high street with a lovely mix of medieval and later buildings, and a small shopping centre behind the high street. There is a Waitrose, and some boutiques and gift shops in the lanes off the high street, but for such a wealthy town, Sevenoaks is not a shopper’s paradise. Valentina is an Italian restaurant and deli, the Vine is a pub restaurant overlooking the cricket ground, and there are a number of chain restaurants.
In recent years a range of independent shops have grown up in the parade of shops on St John’s Hill where there is a cafe and deli, Rafferty’s; Dovetail Vintage, which sells a range of painted furniture and antiques, and Hos Hother, a Danish shop selling Danish children’s clothes and interiors accessories. The Danish Collection, another Scandi shop selling furniture, is on London Road in the Riverhead area. There are dining pubs in the surrounding villages; notably the Bottle House in Penshurst and the Plough in Ivy Hatch.
Open space: The North Downs Way is a long-distance trail with miles and miles of hill top walks. Knole Park, with its roving deer, is on the edge of town.
Leisure and the arts: The Stag Community Arts Centre is in the old Majestic cinema building; it puts on a mixed bag of films, plays and concerts. The Ship Theatre at Walthamstow School holds concerts and community events. The Sevenoaks Leisure Centre n Buckhurst Lane is the local council-owned swimming pool. There are two local golf clubs - Knole Park and Wildernesse.
Travel: The commute from Sevenoaks station is to Charing Cross or Cannon Street and takes a little over half an hour; an annual season ticket costs £3,112.
Council: Sevenoaks District Council (Conservative-controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year: £1,436.30.
Average prices: Buying flats and houses in Sevenoaks
Average prices: renting flats and houses in Sevenoaks
One-bedroom flat: £750 to £850 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £900 to £1,600 a month
Two-bedroom house: £900 to £1,600 a month
Three-bedroom house: £1,300 to £2,000 a month
Four-bedroom house: £1,800 to £3,000 a month
Five-bedroom-plus house: £2,500 to £5,000 a month
Sevenoaks: highest-value streets
Photographs by Graham Hussey