House Hunter: Clerkenwell

'I want a safe mature-student pad'
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The Independent Online

The problem

JEAN HADLEY OF NOTTS WRITES: Next year, I become a mature student at City University in London. I will be keeping my florist's business but handing it to a manager, as I want to study full-time. I will sell my home and buy a small property close to the university.

I realise that my three-bedroom country home here will allow me no more than an apartment in an area like Clerkenwell, close to the college. Could you please give me an indication of what I should expect to get for my budget of up to £300,000?

I require at least one bedroom (preferably two), plus an entryphone or similar security system, and that the apartment should not be on the ground floor but not above the eighth. It should be in a block, in area not known for crime or rowdiness. I am in my late fifties, live on my own and will be moving to London for the first time, so personal security is important.

The advice

Graham Norwood replies:

Clerkenwell is lovely and has some of the most varied properties in central London. Taking Smithfield Market as Clerkenwell's centre, the area stretches south to Holborn Viaduct and Newgate Street, west to Farringdon Road, north to Hoxton and east to Aldersgate.

In the 1990s, regeneration projects and the emergence of the area as a favoured location for City workers started to turn it into the epitome of urban cool. Clerkenwell is home to concentrations of upmarket bars and restaurants, although without significant problems of rowdiness.

There was much post-war building of flats and houses that were later sub-divided; more recently, industrial buildings and offices have been turned into homes.

I would strongly advise visiting the area at three different times. First, daytime Monday to Friday to see it in workaday mode; then on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening when the nightlife is at its busiest; and at the weekend when much of the area becomes more relaxed.

If you buy in the best areas - towards trendy Hoxton, or adjacent to the City - you must settle for a one-bed flat. In a less glamorous estate or block in "old" Clerkenwell, you will definitely get two bedrooms for your money, but may be near big council estates. Once you have a short list, check with the police about crime. Also, will give you general crime figures; just put in a postcode.

The solution

Property one: The Timber Yard, Drysdale Road, Clerkenwell.

Price: £299,950.

Agent's details: A one-bedroom property with 721 square feet of space in fashionable Hoxton on the northern fringe of the area. The apartment is on the third floor of a gated development designed by Terence Conran, emerging from converted industrial buildings. The flat has a contemporary interior including an open-plan living area with breakfast bar. Car parking is available to rent.

Agent: Hamptons International, 020-7226 4688.

Property two: Newland Court, Bath Street.

Price: £259,950.

Agent's details: A two- bedroom split-level flat arranged over two floors. This eight-storey block with entryphone access was built in 1969 and the apartment has two double bedrooms and an open plan kitchen/breakfast area with a balcony over Old Street.

Agent: Winkworth, 020-7405 1288.

Property three: Imperial Hall, near Old Street.

Price: £269,950.

Agent's details: This is a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a red-brick Edwardian mansion block. As well as the predictable kitchen, bathroom, big store area and large living room there is a galleried bedroom. The block also has a concierge for added security.

Agent: Winkworth, 020-7405 1288.