The 2009 Ashes series between England and Australia put the spotlight on Oval - the place as well as the cricket ground - just as the one-day internationals at Lord’s in September will attract property hunters to St John’s Wood.
- © Jason Hawkes
The two areas could not be more different. The historic and down-at-heel, but at the same time up-and-coming, Oval in the borough of Lambeth is a no-frills, good-value, inner-city district.
Leafy St John’s Wood is a pricy, prestige neighbourhood with a glossy high street and a settled backbone of relaxed wealth.
For cricket fans who want to live close to the action, both addresses have much to offer, affordable mansion flats and glamorous penthouses - with a bird’s eye view of the pitch.
The Oval, home of Surrey County Cricket Club in Kennington, is ringed by inter-war tenement blocks, blighted at the Vauxhall end by huge gas holders and struggled for years to have an identity beyond its cricket ground. But private sales are replacing squatter flats in the refurbished Oval Mansions, putting it on the homebuyers’ map.
Iconic landmarks such as Big Ben and the London Eye break the skyline, reminding locals that they truly live in London. For such a well-connected area - about a mile from Parliament and only three Tube stops to the West End - it deserves this higher profile.
Step beyond the immediate presence of the ground and you hit Kennington Cross, the nearest thing to a village hub. Here is The Duchy of Cornwall Estate, a collection of neo-Georgian cottages built just before the First World War.
The delightful Cleaver Square, long-time home of politicians within earshot of the division bell, is a sought-after gem. Regency houses overlook an open space, where boule is played in the summer months. Houses start at £850,000, according to estate agent Field & Sons. Call 020 7840 0666.
Authentic lofts have been created at The Lycee, a Victorian school conversion in Kennington Road. Nearby developments include live/work units at Chaplin Mews and Metro, a former Art Deco cinema.
Fentiman Road is arguably Oval’s best address. MPs and barristers discovered the street years ago and values rise to more than £1 million for four-storey, mid-Victorian town houses.
Oval is just a small neighbourhood sandwiched between Kennington, with its famous landmark, the Imperial War Museum, and Stockwell. In Walcot Square, a charming, newly refurbished three-bedroom listed house, once a sweet shop, is for sale for £695,000. Call Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward on 020 7582 7773.
Redevelopment of a former printworks near Oval station brings a new development of scale and style. This four-acre site has 152 homes - apartments and modern town houses - plus bars and restaurants, around a new public square. Prices start at £295,000. Completion is due next summer. Call Galliard Homes on 020 7620 1500.
Kennington Park Square, a Barratt scheme of 120 apartments on the site of a former council tower block, has proved a hit, even in these uncertain times. One-bedroom flats were priced from £243,995 in the first (sold out) phase. More homes will be released in the autumn. Call 020 7820 8020.
The Oval cricket ground itself is in line for a £35 million redevelopment, which should hasten improvement of run-down streets on the Vauxhall fringe. Spring Gardens, an historic green space dating from 1661, butts up against railway arches, warehouses and depots but sites are earmarked for imaginative redevelopment, including one for 69 apartments.
Lambeth Walk is one of London’s most historic streets and parts of it are being restored. Shopfronts are being refurbished, architects are moving in to studios and over-the-shop accommodation is becoming available.
St John's Wood
There is no better view of Lord’s than from the 4,000sq ft duplex penthouse at Embassy Court, a former backpackers’ hostel transformed into a classy Art Deco-style block of 25 posh apartments.
The penthouse’s wraparound terrace also offers panoramic views of Regent’s Park and the London skyline. All apartments have a top-notch specification that includes bespoke walnut and oak joinery, stone flooring, Poggenpohl kitchens, marble bathrooms, smart cabling and air cooling. Prices range from £2.2 million to £10 million. Call Knight Frank on 020 7586 2777.
St John’s Wood offers the nearest thing to village-like urban bliss in the capital, according to James Simpson of Knight Frank. “Elsewhere in London there is always a reminder that you are in a big city but in St John’s Wood there’s a slower pace and a sense of belonging.”
It has a pretty high street with cafés, boutiques and bistros surrounded by wealthy streets with urbane good manners. Regent’s Park offers impressive and manicured gardens and an open-air theatre. The local conservation society bats off vulgar developers. “And Lord’s adds a certain English eccentricity to the area,” adds Simpson.
Americans love the place, which has reinforced the axis with Canary Wharf, only 25 minutes away on the Jubilee line. Attractive tree-lined avenues appeal mainly to families with bread-winning bankers and lawyers.
There is a wide range of homes - everything from elegant Regency villas to mews houses and modern mansions. About £1.5 million is the entry price but houses in the best streets start at about £4 million and can cost more than £30 million.
Hamilton Terrace is the premier road, while sought-after streets on the Regent’s Park side are Avenue Road, Queen’s Grove, Acacia Road and Norfolk Road. A modern mews house at St James’s Terrace Mews costs £1.75 million. Call 020 7586 2777.
St John’s Wood Barracks, which rivals Chelsea Barracks as a prestige site, is to be redeveloped. Eyre Estates is revising development details after its proposals for a 123-home scheme at the five-acre Ordnance Hill site were rejected by Westminster council planners. The barracks is currently occupied by the King’s Troop, which will relocate in 2012.
A handsome 19th century baptist church in Abbey Road, opposite the famous recording studios, has been tastefully redeveloped into 13 apartments, including a double-height penthouse incorporating the dome of the church and original bell towers. Prices start at £550,000. Call DTZ on 020 3296 3837.