London continues to rediscover its lost waterfront — from neglected Docklands canals to the leafy virgin riverbank of Richmond and beyond.
For homebuyers, the magical meeting point between land and water has always held strong allure. What is making a difference now is eye-catching new architecture, right on the water’s edge, and the riverside’s greatly improved public space.
It means that more people than ever now live along the central section of the Thames, with more riverside homes to come — at least another 24,000 by 2015.
Much of the capital’s waterfront has been inaccessible rather than undiscovered, a legacy of the industrial age. Paynes and Borthwick wharves in Deptford are being turned into a new “cultural destination” with 247 flats, an art gallery, exhibition space, café and riverside promenade.
Pedestrian access has been blocked for a generation so few people have seen the impressive listed façade of Paynes Wharf, built in 1860 for the manufacture of marine boilers that were loaded on to ships through magnificent Italianate arches.
Flats are priced from £299,000; penthouses start at £750,000. Call estate agent King Sturge on 020 7715 9700.
For the first time, the site will become part of the Thames Path, allowing riverside strollers and residents to reach the majestic Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich.
Along the more gentrified western reaches of the Thames other former industrial sites are being unlocked. Head out of central London along the busy Great West Road and it is impossible to imagine that a hidden riverside strip exists beyond a high-walled brewery complex. But here lies Chiswick Mall and a listed Victorian pumping station that has been transformed into 43 impressive new homes.
Vintage artefacts from the old red-brick pumphouse form part of the communal landscaping and residents have direct access to the riverbank via a private gated entrance. A spectacular duplex penthouse with 2,000sq ft roof terrace and glazed pavilion, reached by a Perspex spiral staircase, costs £1.95 million. Call Savills on 020 8987 5550. Hammersmith Tube station is a 15-minute walk.
Georgian grandees built country mansions on the opposite bank of the Thames, by Barnes, Richmond and Roehampton, upstream and upwind from the city. St Margaret’s Estate, a private enclave of villas nestling in woodland, was laid out in 1854 and became London’s prototype garden suburb.
To the west of the capital, Richmond Lock, formerly a Brunel University campus, has been turned into a 14-acre estate of 100 semi-detached and terrace family houses bordering the Thames. Prices range from £1.95 million to £3.65 million. Contact Imagine Homes on 020 8744 4320. A listed mansion once the home of Lord Kilmorey is to be refurbished into a new trophy residence.
Stunning views for £300,000
Riverside living is not restricted to wealthy buyers. River-view flats start at less than £300,000 at Royal Arsenal in Woolwich and from about £350,000 in Rotherhithe.
For some buyers, the water rather than the address is the main draw. Prices are lowest east of Canary Wharf, past Beckton, where the riverfront still has an industrial character. Docklands in general is cheaper because it is slightly disconnected from central London. Yet if you want to live in a waterfront setting, it has some of the most dramatic riverscapes.
Worth exploring is Regent’s Canal, especially on foot or bike, which is wonderfully enjoyable. It is part of the Grand Union Canal and, remarkably, still something of a secret.
Starting at Limehouse Basin, the nine-mile canal snakes through Mile End and Hoxton, then to Angel Islington, King’s Cross and Camden before reaching Little Venice and Paddington. Sections are still run-down but this means new homes are well priced when they do pop up.
The Shoreditch stretch, so close to the Square Mile, has been colonised by creatives — internet, fashion, design and music — as well as City professionals.
Regent’s View is an unusual scheme of “shell and core” duplex apartments in a refurbished Art Deco factory in De Beauvoir Crescent, N1. The original architect was Robert Sharp, who designed the Bluebird building on King’s Road.
It is a chance for buyers to put their personal stamp on an apartment by organising their own fit-out. Prices range from £435,000 to £630,000. Call the developer, Renta, on 020 7499 9294.