Hardly for Hillbillies
Tue 15 Apr 2014
Hardly for Hillbillies
Hugh Grant brought stardom to its streets - but surprisingly there are deals to be had in this celebrity neighbourhood. By Anthea Masey
Next month sees the 15th anniversary of the release of Notting Hill, the film tracing the highs and lows of a love affair between shambolic bookshop owner William Thacker, played by Hugh Grant, and the world's most famous acrtress Anna Scott, portrayed by Julia Roberts.
It's a charming fairy tale, set at a time in the late Ninetiies when characters such as Thacker and his flatmate Spike, played by Rhy Ifans, could still afford to live in Notting Hill - at a pinch.
Notting Hill's journey from farmland to one of the world's most exclusive neighbourhoods is a tale of shifting fashions and the vicissitudes of the property market. In the 1920s, taking inspiration from John Nash's houses in Regent's Park, architect Thomas Allason planned grand mansions surrounding a circus. However, a financial crisis in 1852 saw the project shelved and it was 15 years before the Notting Hill we know today began to emerge. Allason's gift to London was a series of terraces with direct access to private gardens. The heart of Notting Hill is formed by these concentric circles of terraces at the top of the hill in Ladbroke Grove, with St John's church at the summit.
After the Second World War houses previously lived in by families with a retinue of servants were sold and divided into flats, and in the seedier corners of the neighbourhood the notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman bullied and exploited his tenants in the Fifties annd early Sixties. Many of Windrush generation of immigrants from the Caribbean settled locally and in 1958 provocation from a group of Teddy Boys let to London's first race riots. In the wake of the unrest, the Caribbean community set up Notting Hill Carnival. Staged every August bank holiday, it is now the largest street festival in Europe.
Gentrification followed as a generation of architects - led by David Hockney, who lived in Powis Terrace during the Sixties - discovered Notting Hill. It has continued, to the point where house hunters today need the budget of a millionaire prop star, such Adele or Damon Albarn, both of whom bought locally.
What there is to buy
With some of London's finest homes, Notting Hill has joined the prime property market. There are grand white stucco houses in Pembridge Villas and Pembrdige Square but the houses with direct access to the 15 communal gardens in the terraces radiating out from the summit of Ladbroke Grove, where it meets Stanley Crescent and Lansdowne Crescent, have come to epoitomise Notting Hill. Most of the larger houses are still divided into flats, some laterally across several buildings. There are also smaller mews houses and "right-to-buy" flats in the Latimer Road area and north of Westway around Golborne Road.
Estate agent Maddie Lewington from Douglas & Gordon says the very best houses are approaching 3,000 a square foot, with lesser values for flats.
The most expensive house for sales now is a seven bedroom Lansdowne Crescent property, on the market for 13.25 million (homesandproperty.co.uk/lands). At nearly 5,000 sq ft, it is valued at about 2,700 per square foot. The cheapest house is a three bedroom modern semi in Wesley Square close to Westway selling for 1.1million, or about 1,100 a square foot.
The most expensive flat is a four-bed room maisonette in a former artist's studio with a roof garden in Lansdowne Road, on the market for 9million, valuing it at about 1,800 a square foot. The cheapest is a studio flat in Hurstway Walk, in a council block near Latimer Road tube stationwith a lovely communal garden for sale at 225,000 or 672 per square foot - a bargain for the area.
The area attracts: Homegrown buyers predominate in Notting Hill though European buyers are increasingly interested, especially French and Italian.
Staying power: The cost of trading upfrom a one - or two bedroom flat to a family is often unaffordable, forcing many to look further afield these days to areas they wouldn't have considered previosuly, for example Acton, where prices are far lower and there is the potential to add value.
Open space: Holland Park, the largest local park, has a children's playground, a cafe, areas of woodland, tennis courts, a cricket pitch, a Japanese garden and hosts anannual summer festival of opera. Avondale, a local park in Walmer Road with a formal garden and children's playground, is experimenting with a unique floral lawn, replacingan area of grass with low-growing plants such as chamomole, thyme and mint.
Frederic, Lord Leighton, is the only purpose-built studio house open to the public in the UK. It is currently holding an exhibition of paintings by Jamaican-born Notting HIll artist Rudi Patterson who died last year.
Travel: Notting Hill has five Tube staions: Notting Hill Gate is on the Central, Circle and District lines; Holland Park is on the Centralline. Westbourne Park, Ladbroke Grove and Latimer Road are ont he Circle and Hammersmith & City lines.