More For Your Money: Gospel Oak

Affordable abodes beside Hampstead Heath? It's the Gospel Oak truth, says Robert Leibman
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The Independent Online

On the southern edge of Hampstead Heath, between Hampstead and Dartmouth and Tufnell Parks, Gospel Oak is a mostly overlooked haven of period properties that, while not exactly cheap, are a fraction of what similar properties cost nearby.

The discount comes courtesy of the vast council estate to the south, built on land rendered derelict by the Luftwaffe. The major road linking Hampstead's South End Road and Gospel Oak station - Mansfield Road - is a residential dividing line, separating large period homes to the north from the council blocks, one of which is on Mansfield Road itself. The southern section also contains Oak Village, a delightful pocket of period homes. The actor Michael Palin has lived here - in adjacent terraces joined together - for more than three decades.

"When I moved here 23 years ago, Oak Village was supposed to be knocked down and more council estates built," says Dinah Gallop. " Many houses hadn't been modernised and had outside loos. But residents protested and young people moved in and did the modernising themselves. As their families grew, they moved out because the houses were too small."

Dinah says that the area "has gone from homesteaders to young families to downsizers from Dartmouth Park and the larger houses in the area". But no age group predominates. "There are also many singles, people who never married or are separated or divorced, because the houses are manageable for one."

Dinah had been living in a flat in Belsize Park, but, "I wanted work to the property to be done to my agenda, not the landlord's. Gospel Oak had affordable homes, and this little enclave is very friendly. There is a strong residents' association, and people greeted me when I arrived".

A four-year resident in Oak Village, Evelyn Simpson, chair of the Elaine Grove and Oak Village Residents' Association, is a downsizer. "I bought a flat in Muswell Hill but I hated it. It was noisy, and the elderly neighbour upstairs was always leaving the taps on. I wasn't in control. Here, there's no noise and the walls are thick. Oak Village has 74 houses, and I know three-quarters of the people who live here. We look out for each other but aren't in one another's pockets."

How much are the cheapest flats?

A one-bedroom third-floor flat on Mansfield Road is £174,950. By contrast, a conversion studio in a Victorian terrace on Queen's Crescent is £189,950. Both at Hadleigh Residential.

What about private conversion flats?

Conversion flats are numerous but more expensive in the large period houses north of Mansfield Road. A one-bedroom flat in Savernake Road, near the Heath, is £249,950 at Home by Greene & Co. One- and two-bedroom conversion flats in this area can sell for £350,000 or more.

What about houses?

Whole houses rarely come on the market and sell very quickly. A two-bedroom coach house on Parkhill Gardens, just west of Gospel Oak Estate, with a small patio garden and off-street parking, is £599,950 at Buchanan Rae Wilson. A four-bedroom two-bathroom Victorian house on three levels with patio garden on Constantine Road near South End Green is £875,000 at Salter Rex.

How's the transport?

Gospel Oak station is on Silverlink's Richmond-Woolwich North London Line (convenient for the Tube at Highbury & Islington station) and is also the terminus for the Gospel Oak-Barking line. Frequent bus services - 24, 46, C11 -provide access to King's Cross, the West End and Waterloo. Parts of Gospel Oak are convenient for Belsize Park and Tufnell Park Northern Line stations.

What about green spaces?

Gospel Oak borders a section of Hampstead Heath with a running track, tennis courts and swimming pool. Tennis courts are also available in a small recreation ground on Lawn Road near Belsize Park and Parliament Hill lido is nearby.

How's the shopping?

Queen's Crescent Market operates on Thursdays and Saturdays. Evelyn Simpson adds: "We have several small grocery stores that stay open late, and the new M&S food hall in South End Green is a short walk."

How do the local schools perform?

Gospel Oak Primary, on Mansfield Road, had below-average results in English and maths, but above-average in science. However, between 2000 and 2004, the school jumped 21 percentage points in English and 12 in science. Fleet Primary achieved 97, 97 and 100 per cent in English, maths and science respectively. William Ellis secondary on Highgate Road reflects the national average.

And one for the pub quiz...

What is the Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O'Connor's link to Gospel Oak?

Buchanan Rae Wilson 020-7424 8866

Hadleigh Residential 020-7722 9799

Home by Greene & Co 020-7483 2551

(Quiz answer: She recorded an EP entitled 'Gospel Oak', with a cover photo showing the two railway viaducts.)