More For your Money: Nunhead, SE15

From the cradle to the grave
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Nunhead has its own train station and a Nunhead Road, Grove, Lane and Passage. Despite the absence of an official border with Peckham, " Nunhead Green is the centre of Nunhead," Woollacott says.

Now a Grade II*-listed landmark, the cemetery itself had a near-death experience. "I grew up in a house opposite and worked in a post office near it," Woollacott says. "In my breaks I would walk through the cemetery and I started exploring the backgrounds of the people buried there. It became my hobby.

"We started the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery 24 years ago to stop the council from demolishing the monuments. They razed about 1,000 before we put an end to it. We work well together with the council, and in 2000 we got £1.25m from the Heritage Lottery for the cemetery." Thanks to the grant, 50 memorials and the Anglican Chapel, designed by Thomas Little, were restored.

Similar tales of destruction averted occurred elsewhere in Nunhead, some of them involving Woollacott. "My childhood home was compulsorily purchased and demolished in 1976. The council rehoused us in flats, then we moved to our current house. That second house was also scheduled to be pulled down, but the council changed its mind. Initially we were tenants, then we bought under right-to-buy. The original deeds are gone but the house is on Ordnance maps from 1870."

Other old houses were less lucky until concerned locals applied some muscle. "I'm a member of the Nunhead Residents Association, and we saved a lot of houses, including almshouses and large mid-Victorian terraces," Woollacott says. "Several small blocks are being developed in Nunhead and we are resisting a four-storey block. We have nothing against new properties, but this block is twice as tall as the properties around it. We are seeking conservation-area status."

What are prices like here?

One-bed flats start at about £125,000, but expect to pay £150,000 or more for flats in good condition and location. A one-bed starter home with small garden on Barset Road near Nunhead station and the cemetery is £180,000 at Wooster Stock.

What about family homes?

A bay-fronted period house on Kimberley Avenue (about 1,000 sq ft and 55-foot rear garden) is £305,000. Slightly larger (1,355 sq ft, £320,000) is a period house on Homeleigh Road with three bedrooms and three receptions; both at Roy Brooks.

Anything needing real renovation?

A four-storey period terrace just west of Nunhead Lane on Fenwick Road in Peckham, currently arranged with two kitchens and bathrooms, can be converted into a four/five-bed house; £399,950, Roy Brooks.

What about new properties?

Some new Nunhead blocks offer amenities normally associated with trendy riverside developments. A split-level two-bed flat with 23ft reception is in the gated Pioneer Buildings in St Mary's Road. The development has a swimming pool, tennis court and gym; £229,950 at Roy Brooks. Similarly bright and spacious in a period conversion is a three-bed mews house with mezzanine bedroom, circular stairway, and oversized windows in a former Victorian tannery in Farriers Mews; £339,500 at Wooster Stock.

What about transport?

Nunhead station serves Victoria and Blackfriars, and Queen's Road serves London Bridge.

What about shopping?

Nunhead's pride and joy is its local village's parade of shops, including a bakery, a fishmonger, greengrocer, two butchers, two florists, eateries and other retailers.

How good are the schools?

Ivydale primary and Waverley secondary both achieved below-average results. The area is rich in independent schools.

What about the great outdoors?

Nunhead Cemetery has birds and butterflies in addition to attractively ageing Victorian monuments and memorials, and the Friends conduct tours. Two large and adjacent but (locals insist), distinct green spaces are to the south, Peckham Rye Common and Peckham Rye Park; next to the latter park are tennis courts and a golf course.

Tell me more about Nunhead Cemetery...

Consecrated in 1840, it is one of seven great Victorian cemeteries in a ring around central London. Today, much of it is a nature reserve, home to 16 species of butterfly and nesting sites for woodpeckers, warblers and jays. Burials still occur in a different part.

Can I be buried there?

You can, if you already own a plot in the part of the cemetery where interments are still allowed. Plots were originally sold in perpetuity, Woollacott says, but the rights were removed from plots in the conservation area. Burial rights still apply in the relevant section.

And one for the pub quiz!

Can you name the other six major Victorian cemeteries in London?

Kensal Green (opened 1832)

West Norwood (1837)

Highgate (1839)

Brompton (1840)

Abney Park (1840)

Tower Hamlets (1841).

Roy Brooks, 020-8299 3021; Wooster & Stock, 020-8299 5310

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