Living up to its name, Forest Hill, in the south-west corner of Lewisham, has some of London’s steepest roads. Driving over the summit of Canonbie Road has all the thrill of a roller coaster when you start the stomach-churning descent. Looking north, the view sweeps across from the City to Wembley Stadium, taking in planes landing at Heathrow, while to the south lies Croydon, the South Downs and beyond.
This leafy south London district’s quick commute to the City and many Victorian houses have long attracted young families, but the world-class Horniman Museum and Gardens put it on the map. It was donated to the people of London by Victorian tea merchant and philanthropist Frederick John Horniman, whose mission was “to bring the world to Forest Hill”.
Housed in a fine Art Nouveau building, the museum opened in 1901 on what is now the busy South Circular road. It was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend, who also gave London the Whitechapel Gallery and the Bishopsgate Institute, and its 16-acre garden has an aquarium and a dinosaur exhibition. There is a large collection of artefacts from around the world plus musical instruments, a conservatory, a sundial walk and a nature trail, not forgetting the popular Saturday farmers’ market.
Seven miles south-east of central London, Forest Hill has Honor Oak and Brockley to the north; Catford to the east; Sydenham to the south and Dulwich Village to the west.
Local estate agent Javaid Ahmed, of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, says the neighbourhood is often overlooked. “People travel through it on the South Circular and don’t stop. If they did, they would find a remarkably pleasant place with the advantage of the Horniman Museum, good schools and fast transport links.”
Some of Forest Hill’s Victorian houses and terraces are the work of Lewisham-born master builder Ted Christmas, renowned locally for his work here and in Sydenham. The area also has many larger houses from the Victorian period, most of which are divided into flats. There is a handful of Georgian houses, along with Thirties semis, Art Deco flats and live/work mews houses.
Dickens Developments, a local firm, launched The Red House SE23 in Gaynesford Road last month. It is the conversion of a large Victorian house into six one-, two- and three-bedroom flats. The house was once owned by Ted Christmas. Prices of the one-bedroom flats start at £350,000 and the two-bedroom homes start at £485,000. Through Pedder — call 020 7737 1464 (theredhouse23.com).
The nearest large development is Catford Green, a Barratt Homes scheme in Adenmore Road, Catford, overlooking the 54 acres of Ladywell Fields. The development has 588 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats, starting at £314,000 for one-bedroom homes, with two-bedroom apartments from £379,000. Call 0844 225 0032.
London Help to Buy is available at Catford Green (see above). The minimum deposit is five per cent, the minimum mortgage is 55 per cent of the value of the flat and the remaining 40 per cent comes in the form of a government-backed equity loan, interest free for five years.
WHO RENTS HERE?
Shelley Matczak, rental manager at Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward, says Forest Hill is so popular with tenants that homes are snapped up in under a week. Young professionals, couples and sharers working in Canary Wharf rent here, along with students who find it cheaper than nearby Brockley and Dulwich.
The area is becoming more popular with renting families. Matczak says of home owners she dealt with recently, who only wanted to let to a family: “Other agents told them they would only get sharers but we found them a family almost immediately.”
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