South-east London’s prime village has a market, park and period gems – Homes and Property
At the heart of English maritime history, the Royal Borough of Greenwich is these days also home to a family village with a fine choice of Georgian homes in elegant crescents, streets and squares — for those who can afford them.
It sits six miles south-east of central London, alongside the Thames, with a busy centre and market, the hilly green spaces of Greenwich Park and one of the country’s architectural masterpieces: Sir Christopher Wren, Nicholas Hawksmoor and Sir John Vanbrugh’s Old Royal Naval College.
Of course, also among its many claims to fame is the Royal Observatory, site of the Prime Meridian line.
Part of the Maritime Greenwich Unesco World Heritage Site, with its impressive range of classical buildings, the college was once the Royal Hospital for Seamen, commissioned in 1694 by Queen Mary II.
Six years earlier, with her husband King William III from the Dutch House of Orange, Protestant Mary had seized the crown from her Catholic father James II, in the so-called Glorious Revolution.
You’ll find Victorian villas and Georgain townhouses in Greenwich (Daniel Lynch)
The hospital was built with the philanthropic aim of providing a home for injured seamen and Mary saw it as “the darling object of her life” though she didn’t live to see it completed.
Most of the buildings are now used by the University of Greenwich and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, but Wren’s Painted Hall tells a story of royal swagger and one-upmanship.
The hall reopened last year after a seven-year restoration that saw the ceiling and wall paintings brought back to life in jaw-dropping brightness and detail.
Known as Britain’s Sistine Chapel, the paintings are the work of artist Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734) and are one of the most complete examples of British baroque art.
Thornhill worked on them for 19 years between 1707 and 1726 and they show how skilfully he navigated the politics of the time and the demands of his political masters.
On the central ceiling William and Mary take pride of place surrounded by the virtues. William is shown stamping on the figures of Tyranny and Arbitrary Power.
The emphasis is on the Protestant ascendancy and the defeat of Catholic Louis XIV of France is illustrated with an abandoned papal crown and sceptre and a broken sword decorated with a fleur-de-lys.
Two fighting ships on the lower hall ceiling are a reminder of Britain’s growing naval power.
William died in 1702 and was succeeded by his sister-in-law Queen Anne who reigned until her death in 1714.
In Thornhill’s story of the early years of the 18th century Anne doesn’t exist; instead it is the arrival of the Hanoverian George I at Greenwich in 1714 that is celebrated.
On the walls of the upper hall there is a portrait of George surrounded by his extensive family, a sign to everyone that the Hanoverian succession had been secured.
Greenwich sits with the Isle of Dogs across the river to the north; Charlton and Woolwich to the east; Blackheath to the south and Deptford and New Cross to the west.
The property scene
Early Victorian villas and terraces are found in the Ashburnham Triangle conservation area between Blackheath Road, Greenwich High Road and Greenwich South Street, in favoured west Greenwich.
East Greenwich conservation area has Georgian houses around Ballast Quay, while in the Morden College Estate around Pelton Road are pretty, flat-fronted two-storey Victorian cottages, with Arts and Crafts houses in Trenchard Street.
The most unusual home for sale is a four-bedroom wing in listed Vanbrugh Castle in Maze Hill, the house Sir John Vanbrugh designed in Gothic style for himself, on the market for £2.5 million.
Two listed Georgian terrace houses in Gloucester Circus close to the town centre are for sale, one for £2.75 million, the other for £2.7 million.
Two early Victorian three-bedroom, three-storey houses in west Greenwich are for sale, one in Ashburnham Grove for £1,325,000 and the other in Royal Hill for £1.15 million.
Similar houses in east Greenwich are generally cheaper. A three-bedroom house in Vanbrugh Hill is for sale for £895,000 and two-bedroom early Victorian cottages start at around £650,000.
There are also many new-build flats both in Greenwich town centre and on the Peninsula, the most notorious being New Capital Quay, a 992-home development between Greenwich and Deptford where residents recently learned that potentially dangerous cladding will be replaced at no cost to leaseholders.
Greenwich council has identified 28 buildings with potentially dangerous cladding, more than any other London borough.
In west Greenwich Bellway is selling 237 flats at The River Gardens in Banning Street of which 41 are lower cost.
Only 39 three-bedroom flats remain in the current phase, all ready to move into. Prices start at £690,000, with parking an extra £15,000. Call 020 8131 5524.
In east Greenwich, the former Greenwich District Hospital site in Woolwich Road has been developed as Greenwich Square, with 645 new homes and a new library, leisure centre and GP practice, although the silver cladding was found, post-Grenfell Tower, to be potentially a problem and was replaced.
The final phase, Courtyard, a development of 325 homes, is now on sale.
Studios start at £355,000 with one-bedroom flats at £407,500, two-bedroom flats at £555,000 and three-bedroom flats at £695,000. Call 020 8858 4625.
Housing association L&Q is about to launch one-, two- and three-bedroom shared-ownership flats at Courtyard at Greenwich Square. Call 0300 456 9997.
Peabody is also on the verge of launching one-, two- and three-bedroom shared-ownership flats, at The River Gardens. Call 020 7021 4842.
Renting in Greenwich
Greenwich is a university town and shared houses are popular with students, who pay from around £620 a month for a room.
A five-bedroom Victorian house in Ashburnham Place is available for £3,800 a month, which works out slightly more at £760 a month for a room.
Greenwich town centre is particularly well connected to Canary Wharf and the City.
There are Docklands Light Railway services to Canary Wharf from Greenwich and Cutty Sark Maritime Greenwich, plus trains to London Bridge, Blackfriars and Cannon Street from Greenwich and Maze Hill stations.
All stations, except Maze Hill, are in Zone 2 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,444. Maze Hill is in Zone 3 and an annual travelcard is £1,696.
Families fall in love with Greenwich for its architecture, the river and the green spaces, and they live there for generations.
SE10, the Greenwich postcode, extends to include Maze Hill and Greenwich Peninsula.
In west Greenwich the best roads are in the Ashburnham Triangle conservation area — such as Ashburnham Place, Ashburnham Grove, Guildford Grove, Egerton Drive and Devonshire Drive, where there are early and mid-Victorian houses.
East Dulwich has lots of small two- and three-bedroom cottages but there are also slightly larger Victorian semi-detached and terrace houses in Annandale Road and Humber Road.
Up and coming
East Greenwich is generally cheaper than west Greenwich and the little two-bedroom Victorian cottages in the Morden College Estate around Pelton Road are popular with first-time buyers.
Greenwich council is Labour controlled. Band D council tax for 2019/2020 is £1,489.55.
Greenwich Park is the most historic of London’s eight Royal Parks (Daniel Lynch)
Shops and restaurants
Greenwich has a busy town centre if you don’t mind dodging the traffic and the milling tourists. Greenwich Market, open every day except Monday, is a huge pull especially at the weekends and the recently opened food stall court is a welcome addition.
In recent years there has been a big influx of chain restaurants; there are now branches of Bill’s, Byron, Café Rouge, Franco Manca, GBK, Peyton and Byrne, Pizza Express, and Zizzi.
Lush is well-known for its unusual printed lampshades; Jen Rowland designs and sells her distinctive stationery and homewares; Sophia & Matt sell handbags made from their distinctive printed coated cotton fabrics; and Paul Rhodes sells lovely bread and cakes.
Local sausage maker Heaps has a shop and café in Nevada Street opposite the theatre. On Royal Hill there is a pretty row of shops that includes a flower shop, a butcher, a cheese shop, and a fruit and vegetable shop.
Greenwich has many pubs. The Old Brewery is a large Young’s pub in the Old Royal Naval College; the Pelton Arms in Pelton Road puts on live music; there are two riverside pubs — the Trafalgar Tavern in Park Row and the Cutty Sark in Ballast Quay.
The Guildford Arms in Guildford Grove is the best gastropub with the advantage of a lovely garden.
Greenwich Park is the most historic of London’s eight Royal Parks.
Home to the Royal Observatory and the Greenwich Meridian, it has impressive views over the river towards Canary Wharf; there is also a deer park, an herbaceous border; the Queen’s Orchard which is open every Saturday from 1pm to 4pm from Easter to October, and the Pavilion Café.
The park has recently won a grant of £4.5 million from the National Lottery Heritage and Community funds for the Greenwich Park Revealed project that will include a new learning centre.
East Greenwich Pleasaunce in Chevening Road is a small park on the site of a former seamen’s cemetery; there is now a café, a children’s playground and a community centre.
Leisure and the arts
Royal Museums Greenwich brings together the National Maritime Museum which puts on talks, lectures and family fun days; the Royal Observatory with London’s only planetarium; the Cutty Sark, the famous tea clipper; and the Queen’s House.
Greenwich has its own theatre and three cinemas: the Greenwich Picturehouse in the town centre and the Odeon, an 18-screen multiplex with an IMAX screen and Cineworld at The O2, both on the Peninsula.
Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance puts on regular concerts at Nicholas Hawksmoor’s St Alfege Church and the chapel in the Old Royal Naval College.
Greenwich itself is dependent on state schools; there is a wider choice of private schools in nearby Blackheath and beyond.
State primary schools rated “outstanding” by Ofsted are Halstow in Halstow Road; Millennium in John Harrison Way on the Peninsula, and Tidemill in Giffin Street in nearby Deptford.
The following primary schools are scored “good”: James Wolfe in Randall Place and Royal Hill; St Alfege with St Peter’s CofE in Creek Road; Meridian in Old Woolwich Road; St Joseph’s RC and Christ Church CofE, both in Commerell Street.
The one “outstanding” local comprehensive school is St Ursula’s RC (girls, ages 11 to 16) in Crooms Hill.
The John Roan School (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Westcombe Park Road and Maze Hill fell from being rated “good” in 2013 to “inadequate” in 2018.
Addey & Stanhope (co-ed, ages 11 to 16) in New Cross Road in Deptford and Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College (co-ed, ages 11 to 18) in Pepys Road and Jerningham Road in New Cross are both judged to be “good”.
Nearby all-through state schools, both rated “good”, are Prendergast Vale (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Elmira Street in Lewisham, and St Matthew Academy RC (co-ed, ages four to 16) in St Joseph’s Vale in Blackheath.
Christ The King Sixth Forms RC (co-ed, age 16 to 18) is a group of sixth form colleges in Blackheath, Brockley and Sidcup, judged to be “good”.
The private primary schools in Blackheath are: Blackheath Preparatory (co-ed, ages three to 11) in St German’s Place; The Pointer School (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Stratheden Road; and Heath House (co-ed, ages three to 11) in Wemyss Road.
Blackheath High (girls, ages three to 18) in Vanbrugh Park is an all-through school; and parents wanting an alternative education for their children often choose Greenwich Steiner (co-ed, ages three to 14) in Mycenae Road.
Two other local popular all-through private schools are: St Dunstan’s (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Stanstead Road in Catford and Colfe’s (co-ed, ages three to 18) in Horn Park Road in Lee.
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