More For Your Money: West Norwood, SE27

A small town in London
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The Independent Online

West Norwood has good communications, abundant period houses, and an attractive neighbour, Dulwich. The latter has private schools, a gallery, boutiques and restaurants, wild as well as cultivated green spaces - and robust property prices. Sticker shock is milder in West Norwood, which, with its many Dulwich wannabes, is getting more amenities by the day and is increasingly admired for its own merits.

West Norwood has good communications, abundant period houses, and an attractive neighbour, Dulwich. The latter has private schools, a gallery, boutiques and restaurants, wild as well as cultivated green spaces - and robust property prices. Sticker shock is milder in West Norwood, which, with its many Dulwich wannabes, is getting more amenities by the day and is increasingly admired for its own merits.

When Natasha and Oliver Duvall bought a cottage in West Norwood three years ago, they were settling in their third-choice area. "We were renting a flat in amansion block on Prince of Wales Drive in Battersea," Natasha says. "The porter's flat was larger than ours. We spent almost a year looking to buy a property there, but all that we could afford as first-time buyers was a broom cupboard."

Even after they expanded their search, they did not immediately zero in on West Norwood. "It doesn't feature in people's mental maps. Through friends we heard of Dulwich, and we looked in SE21. Then we realised that West Norwood was not far away at all, just on the border, and their boundaries are merging."

For the Duvalls, West Norwood's strong transport links were crucial at the time they were buying. "Oliver was about to move offices and I was working in the City but looking for a new job," she explains.

"Transport was vital and we bought a house on Robson Road, off Norwood High Street, which is equidistant to three train stations: West Norwood, Tulse Hill and West Dulwich. Ironically, Oliver now works in Battersea, near to where we used to live."

They have outgrown this house but are now devotees of West Norwood. "We absolutely love it," Natasha declares. "This sounds twee but it is true: I know the butcher, the dry cleaner, the fishmonger by name. On the West Dulwich side there's a nice pub and an Italian deli, and Norwood High Street has supermarkets, Woollies, a chemist, a florist, a good fishmonger.

"We don't need a car to shop, and numerous friends are here. Some were already here, and some moved in because we did. All our friends here have moved from Battersea."

What is the property scene in West Norwood?

Houses are primarily Victorian and early Edwardian, many converted. Also available are 1930s houses, which are about 10 per cent cheaper than period.

The £400,000 house near West Dulwich that the Duvalls are eyeing would cost around £550,000 to £600,000 in Battersea or Clapham. Volker estate agent Steven Midgley says that a £600,000 house in West Norwood could cost an additional £200,000 only 200 yards away in Dulwich.

What is available for first-timers?

A split-level, one-double-bed conversion on Norwood High Street has a 6ft 7in-wide bedroom, and the upper level contains only the bathroom; £110,000 at Barnard Marcus. A one-bed first-floor conversion in a corner period property is £129,500 at Norwood Accommodation Bureau.

What do two-bed flats cost?

A two-bed, split-level conversion with gated patio entrance is £151,950, and a two-bed flat in a low-rise mansion block convenient for West Norwood and Tulse Hill stations is £157,500, both at My Place. Another two-bed conversion has a small second bedroom, but compensates with a first-floor terrace; £169,950 at Norwood Accommodation Bureau.

What about houses?

The Duvalls' two-bedroom cottage with walled patio garden and loft room is on the market at £199,999 with Volker. A two-bed 1980s mews house with courtyard garden is £219,950 at Townends. Norwood is selling a three-storey, four-bed Victorian terrace for £299,950, and Volker is selling a two-storey three-bed Edwardian end terrace for £330,000.

Any larger properties?

A seven-bed (two in the converted loft), four-reception double-fronted Victorian terrace with 80-foot rear garden is £765,000 at Volker. A four-bed detached house with original features and 180ft rear garden on Chatsworth Way is £550,000 at Aces. Some houses have huge front as well as rear gardens.

How's the transport?

West Norwood station has frequent services (around 35 minutes) to London Bridge and Victoria/ Clapham Junction, as does Tulse Hill station, which also offers Thameslink. West Dulwich station has fast trains to Victoria and peak time service to Blackfriars.

What are West Norwood's amenities like?

Fields and tennis courts are located in Norwood Park to the south and in the larger Dulwich and Brockwell parks to the north; the latter also has a wonderful Lido. Just west, Streatham has a cinema, ice rink and go-karting. West Norwood's great green space is its Victorian cemetery.

And the cemetery?

Not quite in the same league as Highgate, Kensal Green and Nunhead cemeteries, but West Norwood nevertheless has 64 Grade II and Grade II*-listed monuments. Permanent residents include Mrs Beeton (cook books), Sir Henry Doulton (china), Sir Henry Tate (sugar), Dr William Marsden, and Baron Julius de Reuter. The first burial, in 1837, took place in the same year that Victoria became queen.

And one for the pub quiz

One minor celebrity occupant in West Norwood Cemetery is Hiram Maxim (1840-1916). Why is he celebrated?

The American-born Maxim invented the machine gun and was knighted by the Queen in 1901. His company was acquired by Vickers.

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