Will man-of-the-hour Nick Clegg do for Putney what he has done for his party - propel its popularity to the top of the property poll, pushing Hampstead down a peg or two as the natural home of the well-heeled liberal?
© Rebecca Reid
The Clegg family moved to leafy Putney in 2006, before Nick became party leader, to live in what estate agents describe as “one of the area’s most desirable neighbourhoods” - a handsome collection of tree-lined avenues with substantial Victorian and Edwardian semis, priced from about £1.5million, and some enchanting Georgian cottages tucked away in narrow, hidden lanes.
This is where you live if you have made it in life and have chosen not to commute from Berkshire or Hampshire. It is convenient, green and by the river - a respectable, unglitzy place ideal for prosperous middle-class families. It’s “suburban heaven”, says Clegg.
Putney is within easy travelling distance of the Palace of Westminster, has its very own heath and common and is close to the open wilderness of Richmond Park. So who needs the country? Putney has a busy, useful high street and the area has some excellent schools (state and private) - a relief for a politician with three young children.
“Miriam and I decided that we didn’t want to split the family up so the kids go to a local school,” he says. They attend a church school because, although the Liberal Democrat leader professes to be an atheist, Miriam, his international lawyer wife, is Catholic and their offspring - Antonio, eight, Alberto, five, and Miguel, one - are being raised in her faith.
Clegg is not a born Londoner. He had not lived in London before being elected an MP in 2005. He grew up in Chalfont St Giles, a sought-after, picturesque village in Buckinghamshire, with its duck pond and tiny high street opening out into the rolling Chiltern Valley. His father is chairman of the United Trust Bank.
Nick studied at Cambridge and worked in Brussels before becoming a member of the European Parliament. He has pledged to return any profit he makes on his taxpayer-funded constituency house in Sheffield Hallam. Use of a ski chalet in the Alps and a château in France owned by his parents comes free.
Clegg is on record as saying the couple were “mortgaged up to the gills” to buy their Putney home. Prices in the area are roughly back to their 2007 peak, meaning that the Cleggs are still ahead of the game.
Million-pound-plus houses are unremarkable in Putney but the sheer variety of its housing stock means those with a much lower budget can afford to live in this Thames-side town where flats start at about £300,000 and cottages and small terraces cost from about £500,000.
It ticks all the boxes
Putney had residential pulling power long before neighbouring Wandsworth acquired its fashionable “nappy valley” status. In the 18th century it was a popular parish with wealthy merchants, some of whom built estates on former Royal parkland.
With the 19th-century railway boom came substantial homes for middle- class commuters. The 20th century added flats - lots, both conversions and purpose-built - and during the past decade grown-up riverside apartments and office-to-residential schemes have been added to the mix.
Younger singles and couples tend to choose east and central Putney, which are cheaper, whereas families look further south and west within the area.
“Families put down roots there,” says Gary Howorth of estate agent Foxtons. “Parents who don’t fancy a long commute live there because it does have good schools and spacious homes with large gardens. Putney ticks all the boxes for them. It always helps when an area gets a bit of a profile - Nick Clegg will be good for our cachet.”
The three-way split
Putney splits into three sub-markets. The heart of Putney is the not-so-attractive, traffic-choked high street that sweeps down the hill to Putney Bridge.Not a great place to be in commuter hours, where a wedge-shaped neighbourhood lies between the river and Lower Richmond Road.
South of Upper Richmond Road is West Putney (where the Cleggs live).This area is laid out on a grid pattern, with four long roads: Westleigh Avenue, Chartfield Avenue, Hazlewell Road and Howard’s Lane.
Telegraph Road cuts across the heath. Heathview Gardens and Bristol Gardens have among the most popular and pricey homes in this enclave: vast Edwardian houses with up to eight bedrooms. Winkworth is selling one for £6 million. Call 020 8788 9295. Bowling Green Close has rather special Thirties Art Deco houses, which are rarely on the market, though one is selling now for £2.25 million. Call Hamptons International on 020 8780 0077.
East Putney, between the high street and Wandsworth town centre, has a new riverside quarter. Putney Wharf, a St George development, has cleverly opened up the riverside to the town. Apartments in a curvy glass tower with stepped roofline are priced from £400,000 and rise to
£3 million for a penthouse.
The scheme incorporates two new public squares and low-rise apartment blocks plus a gym, bar and restaurant hub.
Deodar Road runs parallel to the river and is the priciest street in east Putney. Large semis, some with private moorings, sell for about
What's on the way
Under way on Putney Hill is a complex of 210 apartments being built by Barratt. Called Putney Square, these homes will be released later this year. To register, call 020 8326 7171.
West Hill, a continuation of the A3, has big Victorian mansions and a new housing estate, formerly Whitelands College, an untrumpeted design of architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, famous for Battersea Power Station and the red telephone box. The main Thirties building has been split into 97 apartments and three houses, while modern-looking new homes have been built.
A spectacular listed converted chapel (double height, with 3,832sq ft of space) is on the market for £1.55 million. Call Hamptons on 020 8780 0077.
© Barry Phillips
A 12-acre walled estate
People priced out of Putney gravitate towards Roehampton, which has desirable ex-council properties - the listed Alton Estate, built in the Fifties and Sixties, overlooks Richmond Park - and smart private housing. Queen Mary’s Place in Roehampton Lane has raised the bar.
This 12-acre walled estate is being built within the grounds of a listed Palladian mansion. New-build town houses with garden and integral garage cost from £660,000, and apartments from £249,950. For more information, call 020 8246 6748.