Romans, royals and rifles inform the history of Enfield, a north London suburb where the city meets the green belt.
Enfield was on the route between London and York, and a settlement arose in what is now Bush Hill Park. No longer extant, Elsyng Palace and the still rustic Enfield Chase hunting ground provided amusement for Henry VIII. The grounds today are home to the Jacobean Forty Hall (1629), now a museum.
Numerous new residential developments have sprung up in Enfield in recent years, most notably - with more than 1,300 flats and houses - Enfield Island Village, on the site of the former Royal Small Arms factory. The well-known Lee-Enfield rifle and Sten and Bren guns were made here.
"The further west you go, the more expensive Enfield gets," says Chrissie Pryor of the estate agent Ian Gibbs. "The western side of town is leafier and has better public transport. But for value for money, Enfield Island Village is brilliant. It is north London's answer to Docklands."
The town centre also satisfies old-fashioned tastes. Monica Smith lives in a Victorian terrace originally built in 1880 for railway workers. "I moved here from Southgate when I retired 14 years ago and no longer needed to live near the Tube."
A quiet location was a high priority for Smith, who bought a cottage in a cul de sac overlooking some playing fields. "There's no traffic and it is unbelievably quiet, but I can walk to the library, shops, station and supermarket. It is near the town's best road, Gentlemen's Row, which has Tudor and Georgian houses."
A former chairman of the Enfield Preservation Society, Smith is well practised at obstructing change, but she approves of Enfield Island Village and the other new residential schemes. "On the whole, they have done well with these brownfield developments. A lot of new houses are, in a way, to be welcomed. They stop pressure on the green belt and are a great asset for Enfield, which is surrounded by countryside to the north."
But green-belt protection requires constant vigilance. "Tottenham Hotspur football club is proposing to build a sports academy on 64 acres of green-belt land just north of Forty Hall," Smith notes. "The land belongs to the council, but the public would have no access. Tottenham Hotspur have to go for planning permission, and there will certainly be a lot of local opposition."
How much do flats cost? Small flats in Enfield Island Village start at about £125,000. Elsewhere, a one-bed first-floor flat in a bay-fronted Victorian conversion on Shirley Road is £164,950 at Meadway. Modern flats are considerably more expensive. A two-double-bed garden flat in a refurbished Grade II listed building with garage and garden, near Whitewebbs and Hillyfields parks, is £314,995 at Townends. A three-bed flat with paved patio overlooking communal gardens and garage in Highview Lodge, a luxury development popular with Premiership footballers, is £445,000, also at Townends.
What about houses?
A small plain-fronted two-bed Victorian terrace with conservatory and upstairs bathroom and garden, £220,000 at Meadway. Opposite Chase Green, a three-bed extended and refurbished Victorian terrace with small paved garden convenient for shops and trains is £375,000 at Ian Gibbs. Many three-bed houses are priced between £275,000 and £310,000.
How much do really large houses cost?
In addition to having large rooms, a half-timbered four-bed detached house on Rosewood Drive has a 188ft garden with a pond and a garage containing a sauna; £449,950. A detached four-bedroom Edwardian house on a corner plot has a garden with mature trees, a sun porch and a large workshop; £799,500. Both are at Meadway.
What about Enfield Island Village?
All the units for sale at the former arms factory alongside the River Lee and the navigation canal are second-hand, although some were finished very recently. Flats range in price from about £125,000 to £175,000. Houses start at about £200,000 for two bedrooms, and rise to £300,000 for four. The development has its own shops, gym, restaurants and other amenities - and also, to some residents, problems. The residents' association website makes for interesting reading (www.eivral.com).
How's the transport?
Enfield has numerous stations on three different lines. East of the A10, Enfield Lock station (for Liverpool Street) is convenient for Enfield Island Village. West of the A10, Enfield Town station serves Liverpool Street, and Enfield Chase serves King's Cross and Moorgate. A branch line alongside the A10 has stations at Southbury and Turkey Street.
How's the shopping?
Enfield can boast several large supermarkets and two cinemas. The new Palace Xchange shopping centre is scheduled to open in October.
What about recreation?
There are substantially-sized recreation grounds in and near the town centre. Directly to the north is the 273-acre patch containing Forty Hall, and near by are the Whitewebbs Country Park and golf course, Gough Park and Hilly Fields Park.
And one for the pub quiz...
How did the Sten and Bren guns acquire their names?
"Sten" joins the last-name initials of its designers, Reginald Sheperd and Harold Turpin, with Enfield; the Czech-designed Bren links Brno with Enfield.
Ian Gibbs, 020 8370 4800; Meadway, 020 8449 5544; Townends, 020 8360 8111.