London is a series of villages — and Barnes, in the south-west of the capital, is one of the loveliest. Sitting on a great curve of the Thames it has a two-and-a-half mile river frontage stretching from the London Wetland Centre and Barn Elms in the east to Barnes railway bridge, the last landmark on the annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race, in the west. At the centre of this picture-postcard community there is a duck pond and the popular Sun Inn, with its outside terrace.
A favourite celebrity spot, familiar faces seen on its streets include residents Tim Rice, Aled Jones, Anneka Rice, Chris Patten, Patricia Hodge and Peter Snow. More macabre but no less famous is the tricky point on Queen’s Drive, now a place of pilgrimage, where Seventies pop star Marc Bolan of T Rex died in a car crash.
Narrow lanes lined with cottages are a feature of this part of London, as is traditional shopping: Saturday morning has a timeless feel about it as residents with proper shopping baskets visit the butchers and bakers, and have coffee with friends.
This favoured London village has good primary schools and high-achieving private schools, loads of owner-run little shops and restaurants and is a quick and easy commute into central London via Clapham Junction, Vauxhall or Waterloo. The presence of the Swedish school in Lonsdale Road has made this a popular destination for expatriate Swedes, which has given Barnes a detectable Scandinavian flavour.
Barnes has homes from several eras. There are Georgian houses overlooking the Thames and around St Mary’s Church. Further waves of development followed the opening of Hammersmith Bridge in 1827 when fine Regency villas with their own carriage drives and coach houses, which now sell for up to £5 million, were built along Castelnau.
There are also later Victorian and Edwardian houses including the famous lion houses in The Crescent, Glebe Road and Hillersdon Avenue with their fine detailing and proud lions looking down from their rooftop perches. These now sell for £2 million upwards. On the Lowther estate around Ferry Road there are spacious Twenties houses, which sell for £1.5 million-plus, and where Barnes merges with Mortlake there are roads of pretty terrace cottages in the area known as Little Chelsea.
Those in the Barnes primary school catchment area are particularly sought after and prices now start at £700,000. Close to Hammersmith Bridge and Barnes Bridge station there are large mansion flats overlooking the river. In Elm Bank Mansions close to Barnes Bridge, one-bedroom flats sell from £375,000.
The conversion of the Harrods depository into flats brought loft living to Barnes, while the nearby development of the old waterworks site brought new roads of townhouses and large detached houses.
The area attracts: Chris Carney of local estate agents, Chesterton Humberts, says people come to Barnes for the village atmosphere and the easy commute into the City. “We get a lot of young families moving from flats in Chelsea or Kensington to a house in Barnes. There is also a strong local market with people trading up and down.”
Renting: according to Chris Carney, young professionals like the flats near Hammersmith Bridge. “They will walk over the bridge and commute from Hammersmith Tube station which is on four Tube lines. We also get a lot of Swedish bankers who may only be here for a few years and who prefer to rent.”
Postcodes: Barnes enjoys the favourable SW13 postcode, although it does stray into SW14, where it meets Mortlake on its western boundary.
Best roads: Scarth Road is a private road where large Victorian detached houses sell for as much as £7 million; otherwise the best roads are Castelnau, parts of Lonsdale Road, Glebe Road, Hillersdon Avenue, Nassau Road and Kitson Road.
Up and coming: the Henry Boot houses in north Barnes are the area’s most affordable homes. More than 50,000 of these houses were built across Britain after the First World War. They now have to be reconstructed after faults were found in the original building method. The so-called “unreconstructed” houses can only be bought for cash, but even after work has been carried out, the “reconstructed” houses represent the best value in the neighbourhood.
Schools: Barnes and Mortlake have a good choice of top-performing primary schools. Barnes in Cross Street is judged “outstanding” by the government education watchdog, Ofsted. St Osmund’s RC in Church Road, Lowther in Stillinghurst Road and St Mary Magdalen’s RC in Worple Street are all judged “good”. Scattered along the length of Lonsdale Road or close to it there are two top private schools: the highly academic St Paul’s (boys, ages seven to 13 at Colet Court — the prep school — and ages 13 to 18), and The Harrodian (co-ed, ages four to 18) in Stillinghurst Road. The Swedish School (co-ed, ages three to 18) has brought many Swedish families to Barnes.
Shops and restaurants: Barnes has shops, restaurants and cafés along the high street, on Church Road opposite the lion houses, and then again at the junction with Castelnau and Rocks Lane. In the high street there is a butcher, a baker, fishmonger and a Swedish grocer, but also a surprising number of charity shops. There is a popular Saturday farmers’ market in Station Road close to the pond.
In Church Road opposite the lion houses look out for Nina, which sells clothes and interior accessories with a Scandinavian flavour. At the junction of Church Street and Castlenau find the Barnes bookshop, while Caravan, a large furniture store, has its own café. Luma, an interiors store, has an interesting eco and shabby-chic collection, and Melanie Drake boutique also sells art. There’s a Mary’s Living and Giving Shop, one of Mary Portas’s chain of ultra-chic charity shops raising money for Save the Children. Also in Church Road is the long-standing, popular restaurant Sonny’s, now rebranded Sonny’s Kitchen, and Riva, among the favourites of Evening Standard restaurant critic Fay Maschler.
White Hart Lane, where Barnes meets Mortlake has the ever-inventive Tobias and the Angel which combines antiques with its own block-printed textiles; the Dining Shop, specialising in everything for the dining room, and one of only three branches of Marilyn Moore for printed dresses and cashmere cardigans.
Open space: Barnes is on the Thames Path and from Barnes Common follow the Beverley Brook Walk to the river at Putney in one direction and Richmond Park in the other. The London Wetland Centre in Queen Elizabeth Walk is the place to go birdwatching.
Leisure and the arts: The historic Olympic Studios, where generations of musicians from the Rolling Stones, to Madonna to Oasis recorded, is about to be reopened as a cinema showing both main release and art house films. The Old Sorting Office Community Arts Centre on the common, near the pond in the centre of the village, puts on plays, films, exhibitions and hosts music events and workshops. The nearest council-owned swimming pool is at the Putney Leisure Centre in Upper Richmond Road. Rocks Lane Multi-Sports Centre on Rocks Lane is a private sports club offering tennis, football and cricket.
Travel: Barnes Bridge and Barnes railway stations (Zone 3 annual travelcard £1,368) have services to Waterloo which take between 19 and 27 minutes; the trains stop at Clapham Junction (between nine and 12 minutes) for connections to Victoria, and Vauxhall (between 15 and 18 minutes) for connections to the Victoria line. Driving into central London during the rush hour is not to be recommended unless you get up with the lark. Traffic along Putney High Street and Putney Bridge is very slow-moving.
Council: Richmond (Conservative-controlled); Band D council tax for the 2012/2013 year: £1,594.11.
Average prices- Buying in Barnes
One-bedroom flat: £300,000
Two-bedroom flat: £707,000
Two-bedroom house: £515,000
Three-bedroom house: £1.08 million
Four-bedroom house: £1.62 million
Average prices- Renting in Barnes
One-bedroom flat: £1,200 to £1,750 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £1,600 to £3,250 a month
Two-bedroom house: £2,000 to £3,000 a month
Three-bedroom house: £3,000 to £3,950 a month
Four-bedroom house: £4,000 to £5,000 a month
Five-bedroom-plus house: £4,500 to £10,000 a month
Source: Chesterton Humberts