Perhaps it is the simple pleasure of looking out of the window on to greenery, or the cachet of access to a grand, private open space, but buyers are willing to pay a hefty premium for a home in one of central London’s lovely garden squares.
According to a study today from Carter Jonas, buyers in Mayfair pay an extra 33 per cent on average for the privilege of a home that comes with a key to one of these exclusive green spaces, while in Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Marylebone, the garden square premium stands at more than 20 per cent.
But if you cannot afford a home beside a much-prized square, you do have options. This weekend you can visit and enjoy these charming gardens during Open Garden Squares Weekend, when dozens of private plots and green oases across London will be open to the public.
Or you can buy a garden square home outside central London — the square will be less well known but could be just as beautiful and, by comparison, affordable.
1. ST THOMAS'S SQUARE, HACKNEY E9
Square roots: laid out in 1771-72, the square was built over the burial ground of a former nonconformist chapel. Some of the original headstones are still stacked against the walls.
Why live there? This low-key oasis of green, just off Mare Street, is excellently located for commuter links, Victoria Park, and the area’s bars and restaurants.
The homes are a hotchpotch of Georgian townhouses, Victorian terraces and red-brick ex-local authority flats, so the square lacks the elegant symmetry of a classic garden enclave. But this also means there are realistic first-time buyer options as well as grand houses, which is more than can be said for better-known east London addresses such as Tredegar Square.
Square deal? Debbie Blow, a partner at Keatons estate agents, estimates that prices start at about £420,000 for an “excellently proportioned” two-bedroom ex-council flat. A two-bedroom period flat would cost up to £600,000. Three-bedroom Victorian terrace houses would cost between £950,000 and £1.05 million.
Transport links: the square is a five-minute walk from London Fields railway station, with services to Liverpool Street taking nine minutes. An annual season ticket costs £716.
2. FASSETT SQUARE, DALSTON E8
Square roots: the original inspiration for Albert Square in TV soap EastEnders, this Victorian square has gentrified rapidly along with the rest of Dalston and is now more City trader than market trader.
Why live there? The central garden is very pretty, renovated by the local residents with the aid of a National Lottery grant. It’s a surprisingly quiet little backwater within an easy walk of either Dalston or Hackney.
Square deal? Now for the bad news. An average three-bedroom house in the square costs about £1.1 million.
Transport links: it’s a 10-minute walk to Hackney Downs station, and then a 10-minute hop to Liverpool Street. An annual season ticket will set you back £716.
3. WALCOT SQUARE, KENNINGTON SE11
Square roots: these simple brick terrace cottages were built in 1837-9 — in a shape that’s truly more triangle than square — on land which was once a market garden.
Why live there? Tucked behind the Imperial War Museum, it’s nice and quiet, but it’s also sandwiched between the big regeneration zones of Elephant and Castle and Vauxhall.
“It is charming, well kept by the Walcot Estate and in a great location,” says Tom Floyd, sales manager at Winkworth.
Square deal? Most of the houses have just two bedrooms but cost £1.25 million to £1.3 million, 25 per cent more than similar local homes.
Transport links: it’s a 10-minute walk to Lambeth North Tube station in Travel Zone 1.
4. ADDINGTON SQUARE, CAMBERWELL SE5
Square roots: this mash-up of Georgian and Regency houses overlooks a well-maintained public square with tennis courts.
Why live there? It is peaceful as there is no through traffic, and it opens out on to Burgess Park.
Square deal? It’s a decent walk away from shops, transport, café culture and nightlife, so it’s good value for Zone 2. A two-bedroom flat will cost £550,000-£600,000. There are still a few five-bedroom houses, worth about £1.2 million.
Transport links: it’s a brisk 20-minute walk to Oval Tube (Zone 2).
5. ARBOUR SQUARE, STEPNEY E1
Square roots: this classic late-Georgian square is just off Commercial Road. Arbour Square police station and courthouse, where the Kray twins were once held, is now flats. One side of the square, bombed during the war, was replaced with council homes. Tower Hamlets College has a small campus on the square.
Why live there? The elegant Grade II-listed townhouses overlook a lovely formal garden, with trees, paths and planting which put many west London squares to shame. It is walking distance to the bars and restaurants of Whitechapel and Limehouse, in an area that’s benefiting from a City-fringe location. “It is well connected and in a quiet location with good views,” says Andrew Phillips, operations director at Foxtons.
Square deal? The price range is wide, from £450,000 for a two-bedroom ex-local authority flat, to £800,000 -£850,000 for a three-bedroom townhouse. The largest Georgian homes in the square are priced at about £1.5 million.
Transport links: it’s a 10-minute walk to Shadwell DLR station, in Zone 2.
6. ST DAVID'S SQUARE, ISLE OF DOGS E14
Square roots: this late-20th-century scheme on a former factory site is a modern twist on the garden square, with a central paved garden dominated by a huge water feature.
Why live there? It has an on-site gym, pool, and concierge, direct access to the Thames Path, and it’s walking distance to Canary Wharf and Greenwich.
Square deal? Jason Taylor, sales director of Franklyn James estate agents, is selling a two-bedroom flat for £595,000. Annual service charge is about £3,000 per year.
Transport links: Island Gardens DLR in Zone 2 is seconds away. The Greenwich Foot Tunnel and river bus services from Maritime Quay to central London are also handy.