Hornsey Road Baths has a special place in London's history. When built in 1895, it was the largest complex of its kind in the UK, with four swimming pools, 125 "slipper" baths, a public washhouse and laundry. Today, the listed gatehouse entrance, adorned by a delightful neon diving lady sign, still turns the heads of passers-by.
- © Elaine Sutton
- © Elaine Sutton
The old baths closed in 1991 and fell into dereliction but this historic site has risen from the ashes to become a dashing scheme of 212 homes, a nursery and community space plus 40,000sq ft of new offices for Islington council.
If the gatehouse provides an impressive sense of arrival, the glass atrium — formerly the 80ft-high Victorian boiler chimney, now encased in glass as a lobby entrance to new apartment blocks at the rear of the development — is the equivalent of a unique art installation. It dissects and towers over the new flats and has been transformed into a beacon of light by clever illumination. Apartments look out over a tree-lined courtyard and manicured gardens and house-hunters can either buy or rent.
The UK's largest residential property owner, Grainger (with a portfolio of 14,000 tenanted homes), will be on site at Hornsey Road as the long-term managing agents and the scheme will be launched next week. Prices start at £175,000 for one-bedroom flats, and two-bedroom split-level homes with central-London views will cost £350,000. A total of 58 flats will be kept as private rentals, staring at £220 a week.
The average price for a one-bedroom flat is £193,000, which is within the budget of many first-time buyers. No shared ownership is available. Most flats have balconies and include floor coverings and appliances, and the architecture sits comfortably with the robust red-brick elevations of the retained Victorian buildings.
'The neon diving lady sign still turns the heads of passers-by'
The 19th century gatehouse has been split into four flats. One of these incorporates the clock tower, and the restored clock mechanism is housed in a cupboard. Parking provision is limited — only 35 underground spaces (£15,000 each) — and the development is "permit-free", meaning no street parking for residents. For more information, call 0845 2626100, or visit www.hornseyroad.co.uk.
Hornsey is further north, towards Alexandra Palace. The development is actually in Holloway, which stands out as an ungentrified loner in Islington borough's handsome hinterland of Georgian garden squares and Victorian terraces.
The traffic-choked Great North Road, the A1, cuts through Holloway on its way from Angel to Archway and beyond. This has set the tone. The shops are scruffy and uninviting, while the sprinkling of attractive period buildings needs a face-lift.
Improvements are under way, though. Islington council has plans, sparked by Arsenal's Emirates stadium and the eye-catching Daniel Libeskind-designed building for London Metropolitan University, to clean up its act and regenerate. Its ambitious goal is to create a series of squares along Holloway Road. Highbury Corner would have a central garden and pavement cafés.
In time, Holloway Road could become an extension of trendy Upper Street, with speciality shops and neighbourhood restaurants. New mixed-use developments arising from Arsenal's relocation from Highbury have made an impact. VizioN7 in Eden Grove is the main housing scheme: 575 flats in horseshoe-shaped blocks with stepped terraces overlooking courtyards. Resales start from £250,000. For more information, call Stadium Residential on 020 7609 1111.
'Holloway Road could become an extension of trendy Upper Street'
First Base, which specialises in key-worker housing, is building a "21st century version of the Victorian mansion block" at the former Mann & Overton taxi showroom in Holloway Road. Half of the 119 flats will be for private sale and completion is due in 2011. Flats will overlook an inner courtyard garden and some will have views of leafy Highbury Fields. The traditional design features Mansard roofs with a modern twist in the form of solar thermal panels. New retail and commercial space will be at street level. For more information, call Savills on 020 7613 1888.
Redevelopment of Arsenal's old stadium is nearing completion. Called Highbury Square, it is being turned into a complex of 655 flats, most overlooking the former pitch, which will be a two-acre garden square over a health spa and car park. Prices start at £345,000. For more information, call 0845 2626000, or visit www.thestadium-highbury.com.
Almost a secret
The area between Holloway and King's Cross is worth checking out. The blighted railway land is going and smart schemes are sprouting up. In Barnsbury, a pretty early 19th century enclave of elegant garden squares, cottages and ivy-clad pubs, there are several infil developments around the edges where cheaper homes are on offer. In Arundel Square, where a bus station once stood alongside handsome period town houses, 115 flats are being built. Prices start at £320,000. For information, call Modern City Living on 01322 665522.
© Zac Waters
'Great value in inner London'
Graham Stubbs, 31, has lived in Holloway since 2004. Having sold up, he is renting and looking to buy. "Holloway has everything on the doorstep for easy living — the Tube, Waitrose, bars and restaurants, and Highbury Fields, which is like having my own garden," he says.
He works for a marketing company at nearby Angel, walks to work and can be in the West End in 20 minutes on the Tube. "It's still one of the bestvalue places in inner London and a lot of young professionals are moving in," he says.
"I saw a Victorian house yesterday that had been given a complete designer makeover with a modern glass extension at the back. It was like something in Notting Hill." Stubbs says that a lively centre has formed around Highbury Studios, by Holloway Tube station. Former light industrial buildings have been turned into 20,000sq ft of shops, exhibition space and galleries plus small offices for start-up businesses.