City of London residents are the happiest in Britain about where they live, beating even leafy Richmond into second place. The City achieved a 92.4 per cent satisfaction level, according to the findings of a recent Government report.
The Square Mile’s residents praised the area for safety, waste collection, street cleaning, access to arts and culture and its community spirit.
'London's historic financial district remains something of a residential secret'
If you want to join this happy band your search for a home in the shadows of skyscrapers and Wren spires, usually begins, and ends, at the Barbican with an apartment, or a pied-à-terre in an out-dated office conversion.
The city of London has only 8,000 residents. So the arrival on the market of a terrace of refurbished listed Georgian freehold houses is going to attract buyers, and more families, who are putting down roots in this ancient heart of the capital.
Yet London’s historic financial district remains something of a residential secret. The vast majority live on the Barbican, a Sixties-built complex of private housing or in the social housing estates of Golden Lane and Middlesex Street. Other, often period homes, are tucked away in quiet corners such as the lanes and passages around Smithfield market.
City Corporation, the local authority, has relaxed its policy on residential development. Previously, homes replacing offices was seen as a threat to the City’s status as a leading financial centre.
However, there has been a subtle shift in recent years. The old nine-to-five economy has withered away and many shops and restaurants open late into the evening and at weekends.
Royal Exchange, with its luxury fashion boutiques and restaurants, rivals Old Bond Street. All this has made the City a more community spirited and convivial place to live as well as work, without the long commute home.
City planners are promoting mixed-use buildings and increasing the supply of homes, especially on the fringe, towards Spitalfields in the east and Fleet Street in the west, where the Corporation’s jurisdiction reaches.
The latest addition to the housing stock are three splendid 18th-century houses on New Street. Originally built by Sir Robert Clayton, a Georgian merchant banker, and Lord Mayor of London, for many years the houses stood opposite warehouses of the East India Company now being turned into loft apartments.
Long ago, like many original Square Mile dwellings, the houses were converted into offices and were linked together. Though Grade II-listed, the interiors had been butchered and few decorative period features remained when developer Jason Arden took on the project.
Arden commissioned Spitalfields-based architect Chris Dyson to come up with a sympathetic refurbishment. Occupying a narrow footprint, the 2,327sq ft houses are spread over five storeys, and have been opened out inside to provide two reception rooms and three double bedrooms, a basement with utility room and sauna, plus roof terrace.
Cornicing, panelling, sash windows, oak floors, fireplaces and cast iron column radiators have been reinstated. Contemporary-design touches include a Poggenpohl kitchen, white resin floors and mosaic-tiled bathrooms. The houses are priced at £2.1 million. Call estate agent Hurford Salvi Carr on 020 7250 1012.
New Street is a pedestrianised lane, moments from Liverpool Street station and vibrant Spitalfields. City Corporation’s emphasis on business and tourism means the area is a clean and safe place to live.
There is even a low profile “ring of steel” - police sentry points at various access roads - a modern version of the perimeter wall and gates of the mediaeval City giving an extra layer of security.
Apart from historic tourist attractions such as St Paul’s Cathedral, the Square Mile has many amenities on the doorstep for residents to explore and enjoy: London Museum, the Guildhall, libraries, fascinating churchyards and secret gardens.
Schools include two independent primaries - Charterhouse Square and St Paul’s - and two high-achieving secondaries, City of London Girls’ School and City of London Boys’ School.
City pads for sale
Frobisher Crescent: A refurbishment of an original Barbican block previously used as offices: 69 new apartments priced from £375,000. Call Hamilton Brooks on 020 7606 8000.
Number One EC1: Brand new scheme in Lambs Passage. A portered block of 59 compact and comfort-cooled apartments, aimed at City workers who want a crashpad (sizes range from 323sq ft to 870sq ft). Prices are from £325,000. Call 020 7250 1012.
Sir John Lyon House, High Timber Street: Modern-looking riverside scheme of 67 apartments. Three blocks are linked by an enclosed glass walkway and inner courtyards. Prices from £750,000 to £2.3 million. Call Cluttons on 020 7407 3669.
Central Street: developer Mount Anvil has acquired a two-acre site on Central Street that comes with planning consent for 274 homes. Construction is expected to start next year and it will be the largest residential scheme in the City since the Seventies.