Strand, Temple and Aldwych: the Northbank's new master plan to rival London's South Bank

A Northbank master plan is shaking up this historic slice of central London with a master plan for a revamp and fabulous new homes in the mix.

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These areas have been urban since the Middle Ages, when bishops and royal courtiers built mansions with boat landings on the banks of the Thames between the City of London and the Palace of Westminster — then two separate settlements. 

Apart from rebuilt Somerset House, the palaces have long since perished. Aristocrats departed for more fashionable Mayfair and the district became known for its lively coffee houses, rowdy taverns and cheap women.

In the 19th century, along with slum clearance and road improvements, much of Strand was rebuilt. A revamp of this major stretch of central London has long been overdue, but now the Northbank initiative — a rebranding exercise that aims to create a rival to the now-vibrant South Bank in terms of inward investment, spending and  visitor numbers — is giving it a facelift by upgrading 40 public spaces.

 Ruth Duston, chief executive of the Northbank Business Improvement District, says Strand will again be worthy of the ceremonial route it once was.

“The area combines all the elements that make London a great global city, yet the public realm has let it down. Collectively, the changes will be the most significant in the area for more than a century,” she adds.

Improvements will include a new riverside promenade; a decluttering of key areas such as Charing Cross station forecourt; improving historic lanes, and introducing lighting schemes to help celebrate the architecture.


The Charles, WC2R, offers16 flats starting from £1.5million

Master plan
Built in 1626 by Inigo Jones as an extension to the Duke of Buckingham’s riverside mansion, but now marooned 150 yards from the Thames, York Watergate will be restored.

Spearheaded by Westminster council and Transport for London, the master plan also gets rid of Aldwych gyratory, a traffic swirl hostile to pedestrians.  New infrastructure projects include the Garden Bridge across the Thames and the Cycle Superhighway along Victoria Embankment.

Focus on Luxury
A concrete slab of Sixties offices has been bulldozed to make way for a two-acre development of 206 apartments set around a private garden square. Called 190 Strand, it is the first purpose-built housing scheme in the district for more than 100 years.

As well as underground parking and a grand entrance lobby staffed by a concierge, there are basement storage rooms plus a package of amenities from a spa to private cinema and virtual golf.

Prices from £1,465,000 and completion is in 2017. Call St Edward on 020 3051 1022.

This development is part of an auspicious streetscape that includes St Clement Danes Church, former BBC World Service headquarters Bush House, the Australian and Indian high commissions, and Marconi House, from which the world’s first television programmes were broadcast. Marconi House has already been split into 79 flats. Resales from £2.5 million. Call Life Residential on 020 3318 6960.

Aldwych Chambers has "secret" steps down to the Embankment.

The Adelphi conservation area, behind The Savoy hotel, is a hidden residential address. Nineteen Buckingham Street has been split into 11 stylish flats  with lacquered cabinetry and leatherwork by David Linley, the Queen’s nephew. Prices from £2.75 million. Call Frank Harris on 020 3641 5379 

The Charles, 16 flats above a bank at street level, with two-bedroom apartments costing from £1.5 million, is being sold by CBRE (020 7420 3050).

There is more to this area than sweeping landmark architecture. Part of its charm is to do with small and intimate conservation pockets where the medieval street pattern survives, especially by the ancient Inns of Court.

Aldwych Chambers sits in a cul-de-sac with an arched entrance to the Inner Temple enclave of barristers’ chambers and gardens, and has “secret” steps down to the Embankment. This scheme of 20 elegant flats has a new brick front in keeping with surrounding buildings. Prices start at £895,000 and go up to £4,975,000 for a four-bedroom penthouse. Call CBRE on 020 7420 3050.

Next to The Waldorf Hilton Hotel, each apartment in The Tavistock features period architecture

The Tavistock, next to The Waldorf Hilton hotel, is the redevelopment of an Edwardian office building into four luxury apartments, each with a lobby with direct lift access from the grand entrance. Period architecture has been retained and mixed with imaginative modern interior design, such as a full-height rectangular-grid Crittall metal window separating the open-plan living area and hallway.

A 2,300sq ft duplex penthouse has twin terraces secluded behind the building’s original Dutch gable façade. Prices from £3.5 million. Call CBRE on 020 7420 3050.

Listed Bedford House dates from 1870. Built in the Queen Anne style, it was once an acting academy and has now been converted into five apartments, including a triplex penthouse with a roof terrace and sun room. Prices from £1.1 million. Call Douglas & Gordon on 020 7036 4000.

The next wave of homes is likely to be east of Aldwych, where law and accountancy firms have displaced the remnants of the old newspaper industry around Fleet Street, and there is resurgent demand for stylish flats. 

This patch is a little cheaper, but perhaps not for much longer. City of London, within whose jurisdiction it falls, has an action plan for public realm and other improvements likely to make the neighbourhood more coveted.

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