Has the World’s End’s time come? This famous riverside district of Chelsea, unfashionable for so long, is emerging as a property hotspot.
© Elaine Sutton
Chelsea-lovers looking for a central, good-value postcode are moving to this steadily-gentrifying area, expecting the value gap with "prime" Chelsea to narrow in future years as regeneration pays off and better amenities arrive.
Remarkably, despite being so close to Chelsea, World’s End is currently about 40 per cent cheaper. One of the area’s historic drawbacks was the no- rail-links dilemma but with the recent opening of Imperial Wharf train station, which connects locals to interchanges at Earl’s Court and Clapham Junction, that problem has all but disappeared. And Lots Road power station, an industrial eyesore for years, and centre of many planning battles, is now undergoing a spectacular transformation and being turned into an upmarket 424-home residential and retail complex.
'I swallowed hard and set off to the "wilds" of SW10. But I know a good thing when I see it. We have struck property gold here'
"We’ve struck property gold," says author and broadcaster Cristina Odone, who recently moved from Notting Hill to a four-bedroom house off Lots Road. "We bought at the bottom of the market, in a neighbourhood that has suddenly received a transport boost and where the new Chelsea Academy is an alternative for parents who want to avoid steep school fees."
Odone’s initial objective was to find a family home within a short walk of Hyde Park, but after several attempts to buy she was persuaded by her estate agent to take a look at World’s End.
© Elaine Sutton
"I swallowed hard and set off for the 'wilds' of SW10 - and was really surprised," she says. "I know a good thing when I see it. The house is quiet, full of light and the back looks out on to a small park. We’ve settled in and really I couldn’t be happier. The neighbourhood is a bit bohemian, with charming rows of houses and a traditional pub. And though Hyde Park may not be just around the corner, the river is."
World’s End is the furthest point on the King’s Road from Sloane Square and takes its name from an ancient tavern - now a large Victorian pub - that looms over an S-bend of the King’s Road and marks a traditional borderline.
© Elaine Sutton
The old Chelsea of artists and aristocrats - as well as the newer one of bankers and hedge fund managers - never extended across this frontier.
World’s End always had a different character. In Victorian times, popular riverside pleasure gardens (not far from Cheyne Walk, grand in scale, with bandstands, pavilions, cafés and jetties for visitors arriving by boat) encouraged "ladies of the night" and became a notorious red light district. Meanwhile, important industrial sites - a huge flour mill and a generating station on the Thames, a brewery and bottling plant - led to a sprinkling of factories.
Though some imposing terraces were built in the area, by the end of the 19th-century Cremorne pleasure gardens had disappeared almost without trace (victim of a clean-up campaign), replaced by tenements and cramped working class housing. During the interwar years, large parts of World’s End were slums.
The Blitz brought in postwar redevelopment, which reached a peak in the Eighties with the building of World’s End council estate, a Barbican-like complex in the middle of a traffic-swirl where model and Sixties society call girl, Christine Keeler was once a tenant.
If the Swinging Sixties immortalised King’s Road, it took a little longer for World’s End to catch up with the counter-culture. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood opened their Sex boutique at World’s End in 1974. Today, this strip of King’s Road has a slightly tawdry feel (with charity shops and low-end retail outlets). But the famous old pub is undergoing refurbishment, while Gilmour’s, a new club on Park Walk, has opened and designer apartment schemes are under way.
Knowledgeable Chelsea locals are trading down to the area, allowing them to free up cash, according to Andrew Langton, chairman of estate agent Aylesford. "This is giving World’s End more credibility. The area does have a few rough edges but inevitably it will catch up in values."
Houses start at about £900,000 and rise to £3 million, or about £800 to £1,000 a sq ft, against a £1,500-£2,000 price bracket in central Chelsea.
Having an address within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea comes with another bonus - resident permit holders can park anywhere in the borough.
Lots Road straddles Chelsea Creek and is being trumpeted as a new riverside destination, with gardens and 442 private flats, all built to a masterplan by architect Terry Farrell.
Two residential towers and three low-rise apartment blocks are being built on a bend of the river alongside the refurbished power station, which will become a spectacular shopping emporium. Circadian, the developer, will start construction in 2010. To register as a buyer, visit www.lotsroad.net or call Savills on 020 7409 8756.
Together with Chelsea Harbour and Imperial Wharf, Lots Road will complete regeneration of a previously out-on-a-limb strip from where riverbuses to the City take 25 minutes.
Chelsea Apartments, a scheme of 25 swish flats, is being built on the corner of Fulham Road and Hortensia Road. The classic-contemporary design has a curved façade with large windows reminiscent of artists’ studios, and tiered, wraparound terraces. Flats will be released in spring 2010. Call developer Manhattan Loft on 020 7631 1888.