Streets of London: Malden Road, NW5
Time Out looks for signs of gentrification among the council houses of Gospel Oak
Malden Road is one of the trunks that run through the thick undergrowth of Camden Council social housing in NW5. Just about every type of domestic architecture can be seen along its length: majestic Victorian terraced villas (especially along Quadrant Grove), throw-’em-up high rises, would-be utopian blocks. It’s one of the cheapest places to live if you want to call Chalk Farm or Belsize Park your nearest tube. You can walk to Hampstead Heath or cut across Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park, and you’ll be in town in less than an hour, barely seeing a car on the way.
There’s a good racial mix with a lot of Indian, Bangladeshi and Somalian families. The sort of people looking to buy around here are those who want to get on the property ladder in a swanky part of town, but are a long way off affording it. If you buy in an ex-local authority block, be sure to check it out at different times of the day for noise and anti-social behaviour.
Although bordered by poshness, Malden Road remains stubbornly down-at-heel. Why? Because great swathes are still council-owned. The shops are more practical than aspirational, but it’s great to find such old-fashioned usefulness so close to the boutiques of Hampstead Village. At the top end, nearest Mansfield Road and Gospel Oak (technically it’s Southampton Road at this point) is a run-down gallery, a junk shop, a dusty antiques bazaar and Party Party, selling everything you’ll ever need for a knees-up. Walking south past St Dominic’s Priory Catholic church and on to Malden Road proper, things get even more random. The fishing tackle shop next to the funeral parlour looks like it might have seen Dickens stop there on his way to drop a rod into Hampstead Heath’s ponds. The delightful Kentish Town Farm is also a short walk away.
Up at this end there’s a newsagents, cab firm, off-licence, bookmaker, MOT garage, curry house and Londis mini-market. Nearer the Chalk Farm end, there’s some sort of market every day except Sunday. There are loads of cheap vegetables and clothing, a stationery stall, a flower seller and a man the locals call Mr Lightbulb. Bordering the market is every service you could possibly need: a post office, a launderette, a butcher, a baker and Franks, one of the best mini markets in north London.
Tiny signs of gentrification are emerging. One off-licence has a good selection of wines, including some organic lines. The upholstery shop has changed hands and is selling more interesting fabrics. And the market sells organic bread on Saturdays.
Insurers will tell you the area has a high crime rate and you’ll pay more for car and contents cover. But residents find it much friendlier than nearby Camden or the snootier parts of Hampstead and Belsize Park. Parking is a big problem, though, so make sure you read the signs at least six times if you don’t want to have to fetch your car from the Kentish Town pound.
Estate agentsHunters (020 7267 3737/www.hunters-kentishtown.co.uk).Matthew James & Co (020 7284 4343/ matthewjames.co.uk).Olivers (020 7284 1222/www.oliversnw5.com).Robert Lehrer Properties (020 7482 8842/www.robertlehrerproperties.co.uk).Salter Rex (020 7482 4488/www.salter-rex.co.uk).Stickley & Kent (020 7267 1010/ www.stickleykent.co.uk).
TransportChalk Farm or Belsize Park tubes (both in Zone 2 and on the Northern Line) are ten minutes’ walk away. The 24 bus takes you directly into the West End. Gospel Oak BR is also nearby, running west to Richmond and east to Woolwich.
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