Hot Spot: Morden, South London; Wake up to the sleepy 'burb

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The Independent Online
Despite its name, Morden is not at all lugubrious. A bit downmarket and dull, yes - but such factors explain why the area is attractive to young couples and singles who, for the same money that buys a small flat in a trendy or more convenient part of town, prefer a house and garden where boredom is a greater danger than burglary.

Morden has little to offer besides an Underground station - it is the southernmost stop on the Northern Line - and houses and parks. The former are modest in size and price, consisting mostly of three-bedroom houses with a few two-bedroom maisonettes and two-bedroom houses. Bigger properties with up to six bedrooms are available, but these tend to have been extended rather than purpose-built.

Morden remains stubbornly quiescent and dim. In a few years time a tram will link the area to Wimbledon and Croydon, but it hasn't created much of a stir yet.

Nor are defectors from Wandsworth or Clapham likely to make an appearance and shake up house prices. Even if trendy eateries and boutiques were not so conspicuously absent, Morden houses are too small and plain. "This area does not have the Victorian and Edwardian features that the Wandsworth types want," notes Sean Purtill, a partner in Ellison's estate agents.

"Morden's strengths are affordability and transport," says Janet Brooks of Andrews estate agents. "It is not the centre of London, but it is not pure countryside either, and it has the best of both worlds. It is now more urban than it used to be, but without the inner-London problems of a Wandsworth or Balham."

When the Underground arrived in 1926, property developers had a literal field day, transforming Morden's meadows, farms and golf courses into housing. The names of the major builders are still associated with the houses they built - some houses boast the name Blay, Crouch or Selley.

According to Mr Purtill, the scarcity in materials and manpower caused by the Great War were still operative when Morden was developed. With builders in short supply, labour costs were high and houses were consequently smaller and simpler.

"The most sought-after areas are Cannon Hill, Hillcross and Wandle Road, which is near Mitcham," says Mr Purtill. Prices tend to decline with proximity to Mitcham, except near the river, which is "beautiful and idyllic".

Cannon Hill houses tend to be larger than the Morden norm: "The council gave Blay a subsidy to build larger homes, and even the third bedroom is a double bedroom, not a box room," says Mr Purtill. Morden Park contains "classic 1930s black-and-white Tudor houses - pretty, but smaller than the homes in Cannon Hill." Some have uninterrupted views over the park.

Morden's ex-council properties can be found in the 1930s St Helier Estate, which occupies a huge swathe of Morden, south-east of the Underground. Ms Brooks reports that these solid, if undistinguished, houses are about 90 per cent privately owned.

A high proportion of Morden houses are detached or semi-detached and have garages. Eighty-foot gardens are the norm in the better areas, and even in St Helier 40ft gardens are common. "The schools have good reputations," says Ms Brooks. And even when properties turn over, neighbourhoods remain stable: "This is very much a family area. First-time buyers purchase a two-bed house, then buy a three-bedroom house nearby."