Born-again Bloomsbury:two new Crossrail stations and office conversions spark residential renaissance

With many of Bloomsbury's office leases being switched to residential, and smart new flats springing up in hidden legal enclaves, families are finding value in the central London area that's got plenty more development in store...

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Three centuries after the Duke of Bedford developed the Georgian district of Bloomsbury as London’s first planned suburb, the area, owned by the Russell family, is in the throes of a residential renaissance fuelled by two new stations along the high-speed Elizabeth line route — Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road — being built on its eastern and western borders.

The transformation of once-seedy King’s Cross and St Pancras, on Bloomsbury’s northern edge, is the regeneration story of the decade, while formerly humdrum Holborn on its southern fringe is another bonus, now it has found favour once again with law and accountancy firms. 

With place making in mind, Bedford Estates, backed by a local business partnership, Camden council and English Heritage, is spearheading this change. Many office leases, created after World War Two, are reverting to the Estate, allowing for conversion back to residential. These include small-scale refurbishments of barristers’ chambers and new boutique flats in the historic legal enclave close to the Inns of Court.

The Grays, by Gray’s Inn, has 13 flats, priced from £895,000. Call CBRE on 020 7420 3050. The Lincolns has 16 new apartments above traditional shopfronts and backs on to the gardens of one of four Inns of Court. Prices from £855,000. Call 020 7637 0821. Langdale Place has 13 flats in a tucked-away mews. From £935,000. Call Banbury Ball on 020 7833 4466.

In John Street, a Blitz-damaged house substantially rebuilt after the war without its historic interior has been restored and remodelled into seven smart flats, including two ground-floor homes with private garden. Prices from £1.2 million. Call 020 7323 2277.

St Pancras Place is Bloomsbury’s biggest new scheme since the Seventies with 61 homes — apartments and houses — priced from £1,695,720. It also brings a new tree-lined street through to Euston Road. Call 020 7328 7171. Bloomsbury Gardens is another sizeable new-build, with 44 private apartments bordering St George’s Park

Brunwick Centre's 400 flats, coveted by architects, seldom come to the market but a two-bedroom home is for sale for £950,000

Families are finding value in child-friendly pockets of WC1

Bloomsbury’s architectural fabric is being upgraded, especially around Russell Square, the British Museum and along Store Street, a key east-west route. Villagey pockets of privately owned shops create a community feel to Lamb’s Conduit Street and Flaxman Terrace, attracting new restaurants, galleries and speciality shops to join hatters and bookbinders, with flats above the shops. 

Bedford Estates is keeping control of its estate, in the way Grosvenor has in Belgravia and Mayfair, by refurbishing homes for rent rather than selling them off. Dozens of flats are being released  in side streets, and in listed houses overlooking garden squares. With their elegant fanlight street doors and tall drawing-room windows, the homes make an attractive package for Londoners wanting to rent and live in period property in grand surroundings. Rents range from £430 to £1,100 per week. Call Hurford Salvi Carr on 020 7299 3322.

A flaw of Bloomsbury is the lack of schools, but it is certainly a child-friendly place, being home to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and more families are putting down roots as the supply of homes increases.

“Parents must be accompanied by children at all times,” declares a sign at Coram’s Fields, a seven-acre sanctuary dedicated to under-16s with a play park, aviary and mini zoo. This enclosed green space faces Brunswick Centre, the Brutalist concrete housing estate and shopping destination, with cinemas and bistro life, now renovated and more popular than ever. Its 400 flats, coveted by architects, seldom come to the market but a two-bedroom home is for sale for £950,000. Call 020 7837 2022.

St Pancras Place is Bloomsbury’s biggest new scheme since the Seventies with 61 homes

Check out Mecklenburgh Square, a residents-only garden square with bollards at one end to stop through traffic. Big, unrenovated houses sell for upwards of £1.5 million.

A modernised freehold house with garage and roof terrace in John’s Mews is priced at £2.25 million. Call 020 7299 3323. And a splendid listed Regency house in Duke’s Row, part of a picturesque terrace often used as a film location, is on the market for £2,575,000. Call Frank Harris on 020 7387 0077.

“Newcomers to Bloomsbury are often surprised by how relatively good value it is,” says Carl Schmid of estate agent Fyfe Mcdade. The area has always appealed to radicals and romantics. Its academic and literary credentials are well known, but the nouveau riche  prefer more chichi central addresses. This has kept a lid on prices, which start at about £450,000 for a mansion block studio or small pied-à-terre.

Store street: moments from busy Tottenham Court Road. Image: Hannah Channing

£7m already spent - with more improvement in store

Bedford Estates has switched its focus to Store Street. This location is moments from busy Tottenham Court Road and its homeware shops including Habitat and Heal’s. The Estate has regained ownership of a run-down Georgian parade of 14 shops with residential upper floors. These have been refurbished with coffee shops and niche independent retailers including Russell & Chapple, London’s oldest art supplies shop, Orchidya the “orchid florist”, and Cloud 9, a maker of bespoke bicycles.

More than £7 million has been spent improving the streetscape. Boutique apartments and a restaurant have been built on the site of a disused Art Deco petrol station and garage in Store Street that featured in the film An Education, starring Carey Mulligan.

Here, too, is One Alfred Place, the private members club for entrepreneurs founded by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. Store Street has been a hub for design businesses since the Fifties. Its South Crescent is home to New London Architecture — a public forum, exhibition space and research resource for the capital’s decision makers — and also The Building Centre, which promotes ideas and product innovation. During the annual London Festival of Architecture, the crescent’s public space is transformed into an “urban meadow”. This is also a main venue for the burgeoning Bloomsbury Festival, which this year runs from October 19-23.

Wellcome Trust’s gleaming glass-and-steel HQ on the corner of Gower Street and Euston Road, including the Wellcome Collection, is a sign of the new Bloomsbury. Designed by Hopkins Architects, the building has public galleries, a library and a 300ft-long central “street”.

"Bloomsbury is a village [...] just a stone’s throw from everything", says resident and writer Tim Martin

It is a local amenity used by writer Tim Martin, 53, who moved his wife over from LA and settled in Bloomsbury a year ago. They live in a flat in a Georgian house overlooking a park designed by renowned landscaper Humphry Repton. “I studied architecture and write books now, and immediately joined the British Museum and the Architectural Association for their amazing members’ rooms and libraries,” says Martin. 

“Living in Bloomsbury is a twofold joy: towering literary figures among remarkable London heritage, as all the blue plaques show. Even Gertrude Stein lived down the road from us, in 1902. “I’m discovering things all the time. And I love the fact that Bloomsbury is a village, a patchwork of green spaces and idiosyncratic lanes just a stone’s throw from everything.”

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