Blackhorse Lane and Blackhorse Road have been thoroughfares since Saxon times and once provided a path between the rolling fields of Higham Hill and the corn mills at Lea Bridge.
Today few Londoners beat a path to the area that takes their name — yet this forgotten place is full of east London promise, with hundreds of millions of pounds of investment expected over the next decade.
As neighbouring Walthamstow’s star has risen, so the optimistically named Blackhorse Village is starting to welcome a ripple of priced-out buyers willing to house hunt a mile or so up the road.
In October, Waltham Forest council granted Legal & General permission to build 440 homes, plus cafés, shops, workspaces, and gardens, on the former Ferry Lane industrial estate. And U+I, a regeneration specialist, plans to spend £95 million transforming three industrial acres in Blackhorse Road into a mixed scheme with another 300 properties.
More than 2,500 homes and 1,000 new jobs will be created in this area in the next 10 years and Clare Coghill, Waltham Forest’s economic growth chief believes the area has “the greatest potential for improvement of any part of the borough”.
Housing association Peabody is ahead of the curve with Unity Works, a new development aimed at first-time buyers. The flats themselves are smart and modern, although their low-rise block is slightly pedestrian to look at, and the location has some key plus points.
Unity Works is 10 minutes’ walk from Blackhorse Road station, on the Victoria line in Zone 3, and also on Gospel Oak to Barking Overground services. For green space there is Walthamstow Wetlands, the new, largest urban wetland nature reserve in Europe, formed around Lea Valley’s chain of reservoirs. Lloyd Park, home of the William Morris Gallery, is less than a mile away.
The Greater London Authority and Waltham Forest council are investing in the area, prettying up local shops, improving roads, and encouraging local makers and designers — because for all its ugly trading estates, this is a surprisingly arty area.
The Blackhorse Workshop offers evening and weekend courses in everything from blacksmithing to building your own surfboard, while Barbican Arts Group Trust has artists’ studios and an exhibition space in Blackhorse Lane.
The other big tick for first-time buyers is affordability. A 35 per cent share of a one-bedroom flat starts at £105,000. Buyers will need to pay £447 in rent per month, plus a £170 service charge. Monthly repayments on their £94,500 mortgage will be an estimated £558.75.
A 35 per cent share of a two-bedroom flat starts at £133,000. Monthly costs include rent at £566, service charge at £195, and mortgage at £708.75. Three-bedroom homes are priced from £154,000 for a 35 per cent share. Monthly outgoings are £655 rent, £218 service charge and £819.50 mortgage repayments.
There are compromises to be made. Blackhorse Road and Blackhorse Lane have some neighbourhood cafés and restaurants, but little in the way of shops or nightlife.
However, Islington is 10 minutes away by Tube and increasingly interesting Walthamstow Central and Leytonstone are closer. So buyers with a little patience and faith might overlook the problems because of the area’s transformative possibilities.