Some of the most sought after properties in London are those Notting Hill houses that back onto private garden squares. The cinema-going world’s spotlight was shone on them during Richard Curtis’ 1999 hit Notting Hill when Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts climb over the fence into Ladbroke Square; shortly thereafter began an explosion of interest for properties in Notting Hill.
I witnessed this rise in popularity first hand, as I joined Knight Frank’s Notting Hill office as a selling agent shortly after the film’s release. For the next fourteen years, until moving over to TBS, I negotiated the sale and purchase of a multitude of the very best of Notting Hill’s garden square houses.
There are almost 200 private garden squares in London but what sets those in Notting Hill apart is that the houses back onto the garden squares rather than face them. Many other garden squares in London—Onslow in South Kensington, or Montagu in Marylebone, for example, don’t have this advantage. For families with children, this is a major plus as access doesn’t involve crossing a road—it’s just a question of opening the garden gate.
It’s also the whole package that makes these garden square houses so attractive. Not only are you buying a classic London townhouse but also the lifestyle that comes with it–the luxury of having a lovely house and nice town garden as well as the benefit of a rather grand private park, too. It’s where children can play with other children and out of that a community and social life is created. The residents of these garden squares organise events including annual fireworks parties where everyone gathers in the garden with sparklers and glasses of mulled wine to watch a spectacular display as well as summer garden parties. It’s that buy-in that everybody wants; I’ve often said in the past that what people are paying for when it comes these houses is the communal garden, the house is almost an after-thought.
Not all squares in Notting Hill have this access, however. Ladbroke Square garden, for which it’s possible to apply for a key if you live within a certain distance, is only directly accessible from the houses on Kensington Park Gardens; those houses on Ladbroke Square face the garden and have to cross the road. Garden squares to look out for therefore include: Elgin Crescent, the south-side of Blenheim Crescent, Arundel Gardens, Lansdowne Road and Crescent and Stanley Gardens and Crescent.
Notting Hill has a reputation of being slightly more Bohemian chic than other parts of prime central London such as Belgravia. In the early days of the rise in popularity, the best houses were bought by those in the City and finance but that’s changed and now there’s a mix of buyers from IT and the media, as well as new wealth and family wealth. While prices have come off their 2014 peak, the average for a prime property would be around £2,000 per sq ft.
The premium of buying a house with direct access to one of the private garden squares is somewhat difficult to quantify but as a guide, I’d suggest it’s 20% to 25% more than an equivalent-sized property without the access. This is why I always tell clients to think seriously about buying such a house if there aren’t young children in the family—is there a real need to spend this much more for an amenity that might not be used?
Of course, the attraction of buying in Notting Hill isn’t just about the gardens squares. There are some good private prep schools within easy reach—including Pembridge Hall for girls and Wetherby School for boys. As well as an ever-growing number of shops and restaurants, many of which line both sides of Westbourne Grove.