A century ago, railway expansion out through north-west London gave birth to Metro-Land, a vast swathe of suburbia mixing modern homes and countryside in the counties of Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex, served by fast trains into town.
This 20th-century idyll, famously celebrated by Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman, is still a magnet for property hunters searching for that elusive combination of an affordable home and a manageable commute.
Today, north-west London is witnessing a new era of railway improvement, while the legacy of the pioneering Metropolitan Railway — perhaps the greatest of the Victorian-era train companies — is still producing property ripples.
How hotspots are created: great-value for commuters
How hotspots are created: great-value for commuters
1/16 Royal Waterside
Flats at Royal Waterside sit between the stylish and dynamic neighbourhoods of Chiswick and Ealing (scroll right...)
2/16 Royal Waterside
There are 265 luxury flats surrounded by green space, elegant waterways and a 20-acre nature reserve (scroll right...)
3/16 Royal Waterside
Homes at Royal Waterside are close to West Twyford Park, Chiswick Green and Ealing Common; there is also a good selection of primary schools to choose from. Call 0203 538 5357
4/16 Queen's Park
Homebuyers priced out of Notting Hill continue to trail north up Ladbroke Grove, across Grand Union Canal and Harrow Road to Queen’s Park, where neat Victorian red-brick cottages built by the Artisans, Labourers and General Dwelling Co cast a spell around the park (scroll right...)
5/16 Salusbury Road, NW6
What’s cooking: the Salusbury Foodstore in Salusbury Road, where only a handful of 40 outlets are big-name businesses.
6/16 Queen's Park Place
From £535,000: Queen’s Park Place is a new-build scheme of 116 apartments close to the Salusbury Road hub in NW6 (scroll right...)
7/16 Queen's Park Place
From £535,000: the family-friendly neighbourhood of Salubsury Road boasts a farmers’ market, bistros, boutiques and delis (scroll right...)
8/16 Queen's Park Place
From £535,000: interiors at Queen's Park Place have been designed by Elle Decor’s Tamzin Greenhill. Call 020 7724 4724
9/16 One Osnaburgh
Fancy new apartment schemes such as One Osnaburgh Street have been built alongside modern office blocks in Euston (scroll right...)
10/16 One Osnaburgh
Situated close to Regents Park and Euston Station, flats on Osnaburgh Street are also only five minutes from Great Portland Street.
11/16 Hendon Waterside
First-time buyer Alex Christou, 25, works for UBS in the City and moved out of rented accommodation, which was very close to th office where he is based, to buy a two-bedroom flat for £410,000 in north-west London, sharing the property with his partner Molly, a school teacher in Belsize Park (scroll right...)
12/16 Hendon Waterside
Christou cherry picked Hendon Waterside, a lakeside development in zone 3. The development is surrounded by 110 acres of open water, woods and nature trails. Call 0844 811 4334.
A £4.5 billion redevelopment of railway lands at Brent Cross and Cricklewood is bringing 7,500 homes, three new schools, four parks and a new Thameslink station giving locals a 12-minute commute to central London (scroll right...)
The project will create a new town centre for the area, including a new high street leading to a revamped shopping district at Brent Cross. The high street will pass through new public squares and over a “Living Bridge”, a new cycle and pedestrian bridge over the North Circular Road (scroll right...)
On a roll: the “living bridge” will be a new cycle and pedestrian crossing over the North Circular Road.
Propelling changes: new homes are promised beside the RAF Museum at Hendon's former aerodrome.
RIGHT CONNECTIONS: NORTH-WEST LONDON
Uniquely, the Metropolitan Railway was allowed by parliamentary statute to develop land it owned for housing. In 1863, its first line connected Paddington, Euston and King’s Cross mainline stations to the capital’s financial heart in the City. But later, the Metropolitan line was extended to Harrow and eventually it reached Verney, Buckinghamshire, more than 50 miles from Baker Street.
Along the way, the company built workers’ estates at Neasden, Willesden Park and Cricklewood and garden villages at Pinner, Moor Park and Wembley. For some areas, well-planned development turned to urban sprawl as London expanded in the early part of the 20th century, which wore away their allure. However, many are back in favour with home buyers who want to put down roots in well-connected areas that are clearly being revived.
ACTION STATIONS: EUSTON
A key infrastructure upgrade is a major overhaul of tired-looking Euston station, designed to make it fit for purpose for the £50 billion HS2 line between London and Birmingham and beyond, due in 2026.
Though close to Regent’s Park, Euston is still largely ungentrified. Traditionally, it has been a place to pass through rather than a place to live, but it is changing. Fancy new apartment schemes such as One Osnaburgh Street have been built alongside modern office blocks, while Camden council, in partnership with Network Rail and Transport for London, has unveiled a strategy for the wider Euston area, proposing building over the new station and “greening” the track all the way to Mornington Terrace to create 2,200 homes.
Euston has strong academic and charitable links, with numerous university buildings and medical campuses — a settled backbone that gives the area character.
Pockets to watch include the patch around Drummond Street, where small-scale residential projects are happening, and Somers Town — a triangle of land behind the British Library in Euston Road — which is ripe for redevelopment.
SUPER-HUB IS ON TRACK: OLD OAK COMMON
In addition to Euston’s transformation, a transport “super-hub” is coming to Old Oak Common, currently a hotchpotch of railway depots and freight yards close to Wormwood Scrubs. The terminus will be bigger than Waterloo station, serving 250,000 passengers a day, and will intersect with Crossrail. Much of this disused land is owned by the public sector.
Architect Sir Terry Farrell, whose master plan for the area envisages up to 10,000 new homes and oceans of offices, shops and amenities, says: “Few people know where Old Oak is, or realise it’s only about three miles from Oxford Street. The site is bigger than the whole of the Royal Docks in east London. It is Stratford and Canary Wharf combined, but on the west side of London, and will have connections to airports, the Channel Ports, provincial cities and to all parts of metropolitan London.”
David Cameron announced that Old Oak Common will be one of the locations for the 200,000 starter homes to be offered to first-time buyers at a minimum of 20 per cent discount.
Neighbouring Park Royal industrial zone is already reinventing itself as a place to live. A branch of the Grand Union Canal passes through it, providing an opportunity for waterside living. For Zone 3, it is cheap, with two-bedroom flats about half the price of the inner London average.
Redrow’s Royal Waterside has 265 apartments alongside a 20-acre nature reserve with lakes, waterfalls, bridges and cycle paths. Prices from £376,000. Call 020 3538 5476.
Case study: ‘Half an hour from work I got much more for my money’
First-time buyer Alex Christou, 25, works for UBS bank in the City. He left rented accommodation, which was close to the office where he is based, to buy a two-bedroom flat for £410,000 in north-west London, sharing the property with his partner Molly, a school teacher in Belsize Park.
He cherry-picked Hendon Waterside, a lakeside development in Zone 3. He says: “With my budget, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford central London, but I was amazed to discover how much more I could get for my money by moving further out.
“It takes me about half an hour to get to work. I didn’t think it was possible to live in London and own a property next to a lake, and I certainly didn’t expect to see one from my balcony.”
The development is surrounded by 110 acres of open water, woods and nature trails. Call Barratt on 0844 811 4334.
AREA WATCH: BRENT CROSS AND CRICKLEWOOD
A £4.5 billion redevelopment of railway lands at Brent Cross and Cricklewood is bringing 7,500 homes, three new schools, four parks and a new Thameslink station, offering a 12-minute commute to central London.
The 20-year project is soon to start. It will create a new town centre for the area, including a high street leading to a revamped shopping district at Brent Cross. The high street will pass through new public squares and over a “living bridge” — a new cycle and pedestrian crossing over North Circular Road.
The railway looms large in Cricklewood’s history and topography. The area came of age in the 1880s when Midland Railway moved its locomotive works from Kentish Town to the new Brent Sidings and built an estate of railway cottages, now coveted private homes, for its workers.
Today it attracts people who have outgrown their Kilburn or West Hampstead flat and want more space for their money, as they seek to settle down in a good-value family house with a credible-sounding postcode less than four miles from Marble Arch. Cricklewood numbers former London mayor Ken Livingstone among its residents.
As a general rule, prices sag in the centre of Cricklewood, and rise expectantly towards its borders with Barnet, Brent and Hendon.
Check out the quieter streets and conservation areas either side of the bustling Broadway, including Mapesbury Estate and “the Groves” — Yew Grove, Elm Grove and Ash Grove — plus roads surrounding 86-acre Gladstone Park, close to Dollis Hill.
Home buyers priced out of Notting Hill continue to trail north up Ladbroke Grove, across Grand Union Canal and Harrow Road to Queen’s Park, where neat Victorian red-brick cottages built by the Artisans, Labourers and General Dwellings Company cast a spell.
These delightful, if fairly modest homes — originally cheap rental accommodation for manual workers — are now sought-after yet still relatively well priced.
Knight Frank, which tips the area as a hotspot this year, is selling a three-bedroom period gem in Sixth Avenue with a garden and renovated interior for £795,000. Call 020 3813 5864.
The wider district’s late-Victorian and Edwardian houses, particularly those in the conservation area ringing the eponymous park with its bandstand and tennis courts, often attract sealed bids. Values in the area range between £700 and £1,100 per square foot, making homes cheaper than places such as Chiswick and Barnes. Queen’s Park Place is a new-build scheme of 116 apartments close to the Salusbury Road hub, a family-friendly neighbourhood that boasts a farmers’ market, bistros, boutiques and delicatessens. Interiors have been designed by Elle Decor’s Tamzin Greenhill. Prices start at £535,000 and rise to £2,095,000 for a penthouse. Call estate agents Aston Chase on 020 7724 4724.
HENDON AND MILL HILL
It is hard to imagine that when Hendon Central Tube station opened in 1923 it was surrounded by open fields. But this busy and congested suburb still offers plenty of green space, leafy avenues and good schools — and, above all, rail and road connectivity.
A reminder of its past is the amount of land devoted to the armed services, which is now being freed up for large-scale housing projects, including former Hendon Aerodrome and the Metropolitan Police College, where there are plans to create 2,900 homes. Meanwhile, Mill Hill, north of Hendon, has a pond, pubs and an old village that sits quiet and imposing at the top of the hill. The area is part of an ancient route called The Ridgeway, off which are the area’s best addresses.
Churchill Place in Bunns Lane is a new scheme of apartments and houses. Prices from £780,000. Call Taylor Wimpey on 020 3772 5403.
Also check out Temple Fortune, a cheaper alternative to Hampstead Garden Suburb, with a village high street and quick Northern line links to the City and West End.