Home Front with Jenny Knight
There was a time when black cab drivers refused to go south of the river and north Londoners made jokes about ‘sarf” London. For the smug northerners South London was a sort of badlands populated by retired gangsters from the Richardson Gang, says Jenny Knight.
By and large that has all changed now, although Robert French of Knight Frank Clapham says: “There is still a certain amount of the attitude that South London is not as attractive as north and central London, but it is an increasingly old fashioned point of view. The migration of white-collar workers completely changed the area: that and all the amenities that followed them.
“Looking back 10 or 15 years ago who would have thought that there would be Knight Frank offices in Clapham and Dulwich and that Knight Frank would be selling flats in Peckham.
“The huge migration north to south started in search of better value and as a result prices were driven up as more and more people looked to buy here. Yet, this difference in value still exists. In some cases you would pay double for the same property north of the river so for people looking for a big family house with five or six bedrooms and a good garden the opportunities south of the river in Wandsworth or Dulwich are incredible. Similar houses that Knight Frank has on sale in Hampstead or around Regents Park are going for £45 million, which demonstrates what good value south London offers.”
Among the wonders of south of the river are the masses of green spaces, including parks and commons. In the south west there are the huge expanses of Richmond Park, with deer roaming free and horse riding, then there is Wimbledon common where visitors regularly loose themselves, over to the east where Peckham Rye and Sydenham Hill wood provide green lungs.
Robert adds: “If you look on a map the green spaces look very similar but they all have different identities. Clapham Common has lots of sports and is probably one of the busiest green spaces in South London. On a hot day you can hardly see the grass, while Wandsworth Common is more for dog walkers and people pushing pushchairs or entertaining small children. Battersea Park has the river and formal flowerbeds and is quite grand.
“Green spaces are a great attraction and you can normally expect to pay more for a house that backs onto a park or common.”
This green space premium is particularly marked because it is often the grandest period houses in the area which line the commons. Those with sizeable rear gardens that back onto a common are especially desirable.