Located where city meets suburbia in south London, Mitcham has attractive residential areas alongside council and industrial estates. Over the centuries, the Wandle River, which flows through the town, attracted a series of mills and factories. Chemicals, metals and gunpowder factories came and went. Mitcham was also a centre for snuff, watercress, lavender and textiles
The town's historic buildings include the 1680 Canons (originally home to the monks of Merton Priory, now the Merton Heritage Centre), the Queen Anne Eagle House (1705) and Mary Tate's Almshouses (1829). Although the sugar magnate Sir Henry Tate's mansion was in nearby Streatham, the library and museum founder is not connected with these buildings.
Mitcham got many standard Thirties family homes before the Second World War, and council estates after it: the large-scale industrial activity attracted the attention of the Luftwaffe, which rendered large areas ripe for redevelopment. Some estates are located near large parks, and those in the Phipps Bridge area have a tram station.
"Not many people heard of Mitcham when I began as an estate agent here 22 years ago," says Kim Teague, of Toomeys. "It suddenly came alive in the mid-Eighties because it was cheaper than Colliers Wood, Tooting and Wimbledon. The tram has made it even better known, and with its CR4 postcode it is still cheaper, even though we are five minutes from London."
The combination of affordability and accessibility worked for Ruth McCallion, who works as a nanny in Balham. "I moved to Mitcham four years ago. I owned a nice but rundown flat in Earlsfield which I couldn't afford to repair. I sold it, made a good profit, bought a modern, two-bed terrace here and reduced my mortgage."
With her social life still concentrated north of the Surrey-London border, she had her fears: "I'd thought that Mitcham was the back end of beyond, but I was pleasantly surprised. I do a lot of my socialising in the Wandsworth Common area, and it takes me less than 10 minutes to drive. I can walk to Colliers Wood underground." Now with a partner who yearns to return north of the river, McCallion is selling so they can move to Kilburn. "My house might appeal to a young professional couple who want access to the Tube, can't afford to live right near it, and are young enough not to mind the 15-minute walk to Colliers Wood."
What are prices like?
With small flats available for less than £100,000, and three-bed homes rarely topping £300,000, Mitcham appeals both to first-timers and families alike. One-bed flats sell for about £125,000 and one-bed houses for about £150,000.
What's available for first-timers?
A purpose-built studio flat near Mitcham Junction station has a lounge/bedroom that is nearly 17ft long, a separate kitchen and allocated parking; £99,950 at Goodfellows. One-bed ex-council flats in Phipps Bridge sell for about £110,000. Two-bed properties generally sell for between £150,000 and £200,000, and the latter is the starting point for local three-bedders.
And larger properties?
A two-bed, ground-floor maisonette with private garden is £159,950. A period house in a conservation area, with 50ft garden, is £199,950. Ruth McCallion's two-double-bed, modern mid-terrace with patio garden has off-street parking to the front; £194,950. All at Goodfellows.
What if we have another world war?
An extended end-terrace, now with five bedrooms, additional reception, detached garage and air-raid shelter, in a private cul-de-sac, near the Cricket Green Conservation area, is £399,950, at Toomey.
What about unusual properties?
Unusual in appearance as well as - for this area - price (£550,000), a three-bed live-work unit is available in a converted Grade II-listed schoolhouse. Renovated in 1991, the unit has a 38ft studio/workshop and two roof terraces. In another conversion, two garages were razed and replaced by a three-bed, attached house; £269,950. Both at Toomey.
What about transport?
Mitcham Junction station has rail services to Victoria and Thameslink. The tram stops at Mitcham Junction, Mitcham, Belgrave Walk and Phipps Bridge en route to Wimbledon to the west, and Croydon and East Croydon (for Gatwick) to the east.
What about green spaces?
The 460-acre Mitcham Common, which is protected by an 1890 Act of Parliament, is managed primarily as a nature reserve. One chunk is a public golf course, and it also has a few ponds - and pubs.
What about local schools?
Gold stars for some Mitcham primary schools; "must try harder" for the local secondaries. Cranmer Primary is above average in English, maths and science; and Peter and Paul RC Primary is average in English and maths, and five points above in science. The nearest comprehensives are below average.
And one for the pub quiz
Which two famous names in textiles are also linked with Mitcham?
Artist-designer William Morris (1834-1896) and Regent Street retailer Arthur Lasenby Liberty (1843-1917).
Townends, 020 8640 1500; Toomey, 020 8715 9333; Goodfellows, 020 8646 8686Reuse content