New homes in London: Little Italy's niche housing and boutique developments make Holborn a top address

A former Victorian weights and measures office has been converted into eight apartments with plenty of character.

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Holborn has a fascinating history. Once a borough in its own right, the district stretches from Smithfield to Covent Garden, taking in the Hatton Garden jewellery quarter and Chancery Lane’s Inns of Court.

“Urban” since the Middle Ages, it still has ancient guilds and trade associations, but has continuously changed with the times. Now it is finding a new identity as a top address, with tasteful homes for well-off accountants and lawyers as well as creatives who want to live close to their workplace.

Much of the new housing is niche — boutique developments in keeping with the area’s individuality. But bigger projects, including the Mount Pleasant postal depot, are in the pipeline, while the Crossrail station being built at Farringdon will bring a new dynamic.

“Little Italy” emerged here in the early 1800s when the Napoleonic Wars forced northern Italians to flee their country. Many of those displaced from Como were skilled artisans making barometers and other fine instruments.

The Italian community endures, with authentic delis such as Gazzano’s flourishing alongside all the new bars and eateries that serve the neighbourhood.

A Victorian weights and measures office in Rosebery Avenue is a legacy from this era. Sitting alongside a viaduct, the handsome red-brick building has been given a modern extension. Together, the two elements have produced eight apartments, including a duplex penthouse with terrace. 

Flats in the original building have high ceilings and traditional sash windows. Prices from £815,000. Call Hatton Real Estate on 020 7101 2020.

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