Just south of the hurly burly of Camberwell, Denmark Hill is an oasis of period houses with a national rail station, two large hospitals - the Maudsley and University College - and Ruskin Park. A resident for several decades, the writer and art critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) decamped to the Lake District after his mother's death in 1871 - and after the railways ruined his view.
The station, the altered view and handsome houses are Denmark Hill's main attractions today. The hill is high enough to afford panoramic views of London's skyscrapers and helps explain the prevalence of well-preserved Georgian and Victorian houses.
Beginning in the late 1700s, wealthy merchants and bankers built mansions in Denmark Hill, attracted by the proximity to the City, the decent water and, thanks to the hill, the clean air. Dr John Coakely Lettsom built and lived in Grove Hill mansion east of Camberwell Grove for nearly three decades. After he sold the massive estate in 1810, numerous large Regency and early Victorian houses were built on the site.
Later in the 19th century, slums appeared, providing homes for the workers employed by the many canalside businesses. The canal is no more, and the slums have been transformed into council estates. Although Denmark Hill itself is genteel, its dawn chorus often consists of police sirens.
Richard Pace has been technical support manager at Camberwell Arts College for six years, and a Denmark Hill resident for three.
"Denmark Hill is more upmarket, leafier and quieter than Camberwell. I was renting in Kensington, wanted to buy and could afford round here," says Pace, who bought a one-bed flat above a convenience store. "Communications are excellent, even though there is no tube. We have a real sense of community. I know all the shopkeepers to say hello to, and they greet me. The whole area is improving and if feels safer than a few years ago. Camberwell gets bad press but I feel safer here than in Camden, Shepherd's Bush, even central London."
His son and daughter visit at weekends. "My children were shocked at first," he admits, "but they like it now, particularly some of the food places. Jasmine is 18 and doing A levels, and Jake is 16 doing GCSEs. If I were ever to leave London, I would keep this flat for my children, who could use it as a base during their university years."
What's available for first-timers?
A one-bed conversion flat on Ivanhoe Road is £159,950; a one-bedder with balcony in the grittier Coldharbour Lane is selling for £95,000. Both at Andrews & Robertson. A one-bed starter home with front garden and parking in Grovelands Close is £184,995 with Ludlow Thompson.
What about larger flats?
A two double-bed flat in the purpose-built five-storey Ruskin Park House is £178,000; a two double-bed first-floor flat in a three-storey Victorian conversion is £189,950; a three-bedroom ex-council maisonette on Camberwell Grove with two double bedrooms, a west facing balcony and communal gardens is c.£225,000; a four-bed split-level ex-council flat in a small block on Grove Lane is £239,999. All at Andrews & Robertson.
How much do family homes cost?
A two-bed modern house with patio garden in Grovelands Close is £229,500; A three-bed 1920s terrace on Bushey Hill Road on the eastern edge of Denmark Hill is £325,000. Several four- and five-bed period homes are available on Shenley Road for between £390,000 and £430,000. All at Andrews & Robertson.
What about larger homes?
Hamptons are selling three houses which graduate in bedrooms, garden size and price. A four-bedder on Grove Hill Road with two receptions and a 53ft garden is c.£500,000. A five-bedder on Denmark Hill with three receptions, "scope for updating" and 92ft garden is c.£645,000. A six-bedder on Grove Park with three receptions and a 117ft garden is c.£875,000.
What is on the top rung of the ladder?
A six-bed, four-storey semi with conservatory and walled garden on De Crespigny Park opposite the Maudsley Hospital is £995,000 at Andrews & Robertson.
Denmark Hill station has service to London Bridge, Victoria and Blackfriars. Numerous bus lines serve the West End and the City.
What about shopping and dining?
A large Sainsbury's is located at Dog Kennel Hill.
Tadim for Turkish food and Mozzarella e Pomodoro for Italian are popular eateries.
What about culture?
The Camberwell Arts Festival runs from 10-25 June. Live jazz is on every Friday night at St Giles' Church Crypt on Camberwell Church Street. St Giles' architect was Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878), grandfather of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960), he of Liverpool Cathedral, the red telephone box and Battersea Power Station.
How about green spaces?
Ruskin Park has a pond and tennis courts. Lucas Gardens is a small park near Peckham Road. To the south, Greendale Playing Fields and St Olave's Recreation Ground have a football pitch, tennis courts and large open spaces.
And one for the pub quiz
How did Denmark Hill get the "Denmark" part of its name?
The name is in homage to Queen Anne's husband, Prince George of Denmark.Estate Agents
Andrews & Robertson, 020 7703 2662; Bushells, 020 8299 1722; Hamptons, 020 7738 7622; Ludlow Thompson 020 8299 8300Reuse content