Clare Gradidge was a self-confessed north-of-the-river snob until a listed school conversion lured her to Battersea. Having lived in a Victorian terrace in Hammersmith, she had developed quite a robust antipathy to anywhere south of the river.
A visit to friends in SW11 was the turning point, when Clare, 35, discovered a new home with character and style close to the leafy acres of the redesigned and rejuvenated Battersea Park .
So she bought a top-floor duplex apartment at Kingsway Square, an architectural gem, formerly Battersea Polytechnic, that has been transformed into 153 homes around landscaped courtyards.
'The location feels central and it is great to be so near the river and the park'
Clare, co-owner of Scarlett Willow, a web-based tableware company, paid £690,000 off-plan in 2007 and has no regrets — despite the property downturn. “It’s a beautiful, old building with lots of individuality where no two flats are the same and most have glorious big windows and high ceilings,” she says.
During the conversion architecture watchdog English Heritage ensured that the fabric of the splendid building, which dates from 1894, and some exquisite period details were retained. The old library, which is oak panelled and has stained-glass windows, is earmarked as a restaurant and club, a fashionable new venue for SW11.
Developer St James Homes sought to avoid design compromises such as carving up the building into boxy units. Some one-bedroom flats are 1,000sq ft, while studios have a patio and mezzanine bed-deck. Prices start at £320,000. A new show apartment has opened. For more information, call 0870 850 7674.
"The location feels much more central than Hammersmith,” adds Clare. “It is only a 10-minute bike ride to my office in the King’s Road, Chelsea, and it is great to be so near the river, and the park, where I work out with my personal trainer, is just beautiful.”
The building’s red-brick bulk gives it a dominant presence on busy Battersea Park Road, not the best address in the area.
But the college backs on to attractive Victorian terraces and mansion blocks, and once inside it is a remarkably tranquil, self-contained address. Clare says: “And with a concierge and secure entry system, there’s a sleek, hotel-like quality about the place.”
A suitable case for treatment
A new estate of 447 homes — 135 of them houses — set in listed walled gardens and with a prized 18th century mansion at its heart is a rare offering anywhere in London. When the development also borders the wonderful, wide-open spaces of Richmond Park, it is special indeed.
Called Queen Mary’s Place, the development sits in 14 acres off Roehampton Lane. The homes range from flats to lodge houses and five-bedroom detached properties and are arranged in formal squares, avenues and crescents. An original Palladian mansion, one of the most architecturally significant buildings of its type in the capital, survives intact and will be split into 25 grand apartments.
In 1915, the house became a hospital to serve injured First World War soldiers. This heralded a new chapter in its history. Ancillary buildings were constructed alongside and eventually the hospital was taken over by Wandsworth Primary Care Trust.
Latterly, the site was acquired by St James Homes, who gained planning consent for traditional house designs, with new landscaping echoing the elegance of the original grounds. Three-bedroom town houses with a small back garden and an attic-style bedroom with roof windows on to a balcony are priced from £545,000. Two-bedroom apartments start at £350,000. For more information, call 0870 850 1560.
Conversion of the listed mansion is expected to start next year after the health authority leaves. Grand apartments up to 2,000sq ft with four-metre-high ceilings are envisaged. One of the ornately designed rooms off the concierge reception will be used as a library and meeting room for residents. On-site showhomes are open for viewing and tomorrow there is an open jazz evening in the sunken garden of the mansion.
Up the Creek
Homebuyers will soon be heading up the Creek — to Deptford, where a fancy new apartment complex is being built on derelict land beside a hidden industrial waterway cutting into the Thames. In recent years, piecemeal regeneration has improved pockets around the neglected Creek.
The Laban dance centre has helped put the area on the map, and launching later this month is the first part of a new “creative village” that will eventually comprise about 900 homes.
Until recently, Deptford’s main draw was its closeness to historic Greenwich and the open expanse of Blackheath. However, it is becoming a location of choice in its own right.
What makes Deptford such a compelling regeneration candidate is its unpretentious, inner-city character and its long-standing, unsung artistic community. Planners believe the Creek area can be transformed into a lively residential and cultural quarter with waterfront cafés, open space and a showpiece footbridge across the Creek.
Local alliances are being formed between Laban, Goldsmiths College, Greenwich University, the Albany Theatre, Trinity College of Music and the Blackheath Conservatoire. There is even Arts Council talk of a jazz academy coming to Deptford.
Developer Telford Homes will unveil its Greenwich Creekside scheme on 27 September at the Marriott Hotel in Park Lane. The sleek, confident design by architect Squire & Partners has four glass-clad buildings rising to 17 storeys and comprising 242 flats in total. The first completions are due in autumn 2010.
Adagio Apartments is the first phase. The building will have a communal roof terrace and “sky gardens” on alternate floors. Prices range from £230,000 to £550,000 and underground parking spaces cost £17,500. Stamp-duty refunds are being offered. For more information, call 0870 872 0987.
Kennington’s “Division Bell” status has made the district popular with MPs who want an affordable pied-á-terre but the area is still passed over by many north-of-the-river Londoners who fail to realise just how close to the action it is — in travel Zone One and bordering the Thames. Georgian squares such as West Square are the equal of anything in Islington.
Kennington Park Square is the area’s biggest development for many years — a Barratt scheme of 200 apartments on the site of a former council tower block at Black Prince Road and right opposite the Duchy of Cornwall Estate, a charming collection of neo-Georgian cottages built just before the First World War. Flats are priced from £267,995. For more information, call 020 7476 7163.
Black Prince Road runs through to Albert Embankment, a much swankier address barely half a mile away, where the best river-facing apartments sell for millions of pounds.