Fulham on the frontier of a fantastic future with new waterfront homes
Fulham has all the characteristics of a tightly packed little village, with its fashionable terrace homes sitting hugger-mugger in narrow streets with frustrating parking restrictions guaranteed to create congestion at peak times. But there is more to this popular riverside location.
Within a few frantic years Fulham has transformed itself with new bars and bistros and impressive riverside developments that attract families happy to cash in and migrate west from their posh Kensington & Chelsea homes. In Fulham they find more square feet for their money yet can still enjoy an “affordably prime” address on the preferred north side of the Thames.
A seventies revival
The drift of buyers across the border into Hammersmith & Fulham repeats an early Seventies trend, which triggered the first round of Fulham gentrification. In came young, middle-class professionals, displacing the area’s older skilled workers. Now the area is changing again bringing in a new wave of young professionals, many married and starting families. The number of highly regarded primary schools, including the new French Lycée at Parsons Green, has helped to boost Fulham’s allure for parents.
“Fulham prices are significantly lower than in Kensington & Chelsea, typically £800 to £1,000 a sq ft against £1,800 to £2,200 a sq ft — so there are buying opportunities,” confirms Jo Eccles of agent Sourcing Property.
The wide sweep of the Thames forms Fulham’s southern and western boundaries. Here, at the frontier with Chelsea, is Imperial Wharf, a former gas works turned into a giant, security-patrolled housing complex, which despite its position in an isolated bend of the river, has proved a hit with buyers and spurred developers to unlock sites further west on the once-industrial Fulham waterfront.
Fulham Reach is a new 744-home scheme between Putney Bridge and Hammersmith Bridge, a remarkably tranquil section of the river favoured by scullers and oarsmen.
What was previously an out-of-bounds location for homebuyers is now a convivial residential address. Developer St George has created a new riverside promenade, called Hammersmith Embankment, and put in a new park. A community boat club and jetty are also part of the scheme.
Apartment blocks have expanses of glass and big balconies to make the most of the river outlook. Residents have exclusive use of a spa, screening room and wine cellar as well as a 24-hour concierge. River Café, the lauded restaurant where Jamie Oliver cut his teeth, is in an adjacent wharf. Prices from £749,950. Call 020 7870 9500.
Like a London bus, another large-scale development has come along at the same time. Fulham Riverside, between leafy, polo-playing Hurlingham Park and the sought-after Peterborough Estate, used to be a Sainsbury’s depot. The 8.5-acre site will have 463 homes split either side of a central piazza and boulevard leading to the river. Prices from £500,000. Visit fulhamriverside.com
This stretch of west London waterfront is a “mini Nine Elms” in the making, echoing the transformation of Vauxhall. Neighbouring landowners have worked up a masterplan for redevelopment of Whiffen Wharf, Hurlingham Wharf and Carnworth Road industrial estate.
Originally the area was open land sprinkled with grand riverside mansions: Hurlingham House is the only one to survive. During the early 20th century, the riverfront became industrial, covered with factories, breweries, oil storage depots and power plants — a presence that continued until the Nineties, when manufacturing declined, wharves became derelict and council planners spotted an opportunity for a fashionable new residential and recreational district.
Fulham’s eastern boundary is the main railway line running from Kensington Olympia to the river, by the new Imperial Wharf train station. And for most residents and estate agents, the northern edge of Fulham ends at Lillie Road, the SW6 border.
Until 1880, most of Fulham was market gardens, but the arrival of the District line brought street after street of often-modest new terraces. Peterborough Estate, a conservation area between Parsons Green and South Park, was always a cut above, famous for its red-brick “Lion houses” adorned with lion statues.
This is where the Fulham renaissance began in the Seventies, with houses gutted and reconfigured. The area’s cachet continues to grow with the influx of bigger-budget buyers. “Prices have motored in recent years and are not that far off some parts of Chelsea,” says Robert Sturges of Chesterton Humberts.
The best family houses sell for about £2 million to £3.5 million, the same as a prestige apartment in one of Chelsea’s best roads. Savills is selling a four-bedroom Lion house in Studdridge Street that needs modernisation for £1.9 million. Call 020 3641 5133.
“A few years ago, a lot of upsizing young families were looking to move out of Fulham to be nearer top schools, but now they’re staying put,” says Knight Frank’s Mark O’Neill.
Down on the farm
Developer London Square is aiming to capture movers from SW3 at its Farm Lane scheme of townhouses. The two-acre site, once stables for Hackney cabs, is set to become a traffic-free retreat with 40 homes. Residents will park their cars in an underground private garage with direct access to their home.
“Our inspiration came from Wellington Square, off King’s Road in Chelsea, and the design reflects that square’s elegant proportions and symmetry,” says Adam Lawrence, chief executive. Four-storey Georgian-style terrace townhouses are grouped around communal gardens and have large front doors and railings to give a sense of grandeur. Pedestrians arrive via a listed Edwardian double-arched entrance, flanked by smaller, two-storey houses. Construction is under way. No prices yet. Call 01895 627 300.
Union Lofts is for a different group of buyers — singles, couples and downsizing fiftysomethings who want to be close to the central London action. An art deco furniture warehouse in Dawes Road has been split into nine apartments. Prices from £450,000. Call Hamptons International on 020 7717 5299.
Coming soon is a conversion of listed Sloane School on Hortensia Road, a handsome Edwardian building being turned into loft-like apartments. Call Savills on 020 7409 8756.
Chelsea Walk, in busy Fulham Road, is a rare restoration of a complete Victorian terrace — an entire block, with 56 flats above 14 shops with refurbished shop fronts.
Located just along from a trendy strip known as The Beach, “it has given this patch a much-needed facelift, with houses in nearby streets, such as Fernshaw Road rising in value on the back of it,” says Simon Rose of estate agent Strutt & Parker. Prices from £695,000. Call 020 7373 1010.
'Now we want to trade up'
Albert and Amy Bitici are aiming to trade up to a house after the birth of their daughter, Ava, 15 months ago. They live in a 1,024 sq ft, two-bedroom Victorian maisonette in fashionable Munster Village but have outgrown the space, despite the splendid open-plan kitchen-lounge with full-height, bi-folding doors to a garden. The property is on the market for £825,000, through Chesterton Humberts (020 7731 4448).
“We moved here three years ago and didn’t plan to put down roots but now we want to stay in Fulham,” says Albert, 29, who commutes to his workplace in Mayfair by Vespa. Amy, 29, works part-time at the BBC.
“Ideally we’d like to buy a run-down house that we can add value to by refurbishing. Parsons Green is too expensive for us, so we’re looking at the ‘Alphabet Streets’ (a ladder of roads near Bishop’s Park), which is a lovely family neighbourhood .
“We’ve seen prices shoot up in the past 18 months. Agents say that buyers priced out of South Kensington, especially French families with children at the Lycée, are moving to Fulham as it’s relatively cheap. But there is still more growth to come.”