Secrets of London part II: Our homebuyer's guide reveals more hidden gems

The Puppet Theatre Barge, near Amberley
In the second part of our series on hidden London, we reveal the secrets and ancient artefacts living side-by-side with some London’s newest and most innovative residential architecture.
Here are just some of the treasures future homeowners will be living alongside, including Ernest Hemingway’s favourite riverside pub in London, a tribute to the criminals transported to Australia, a puppet theatre on a barge and a stone lion.
The Puppet Theatre Barge, near Amberley Waterfront, Maida Vale
Developer: Redrow London
Prices from: £1.25m for a three bedroom apartment
Tel: 020 3538 1512
One of the capital’s most overlooked arts venues lies in the watery shadows of Redrow London’s newest development along Regent’s Canal, among the chic communities of north London. The Puppet Theatre Barge, moored along the tranquil canals of Little Venice, is a unique 55-seater marionette theatre on a converted barge. Delighting visitors of all ages for over 30 years, the barge has hosted thousands of performances, but remains a quiet gem on the water. It uses shadow puppets and marionettes to perform tales from traditional children’s books, such as Br’er Rabbit and Aesop’s Fables, to serious classics like Shakespeare and Lorca.
Residents of Amberley Waterfront will be well-placed to be regular visitors. The new development will bring a collection of 47 luxury new one, two and three bedroom homes to the area, as well as six duplex penthouses. All apartments come with a private terrace or balcony from which to enjoy the canalside views. Apartments feature open plan living areas, which use natural materials, oak and eggshell paint throughout, giving interiors a natural, light and contemporary feel. Residents will also have access to a communal courtyard garden, basement level parking and cycle storage. Due to be completed early next year, the apartments are close to the trendy west London suburbs of Maida Vale, Notting Hill and Westbourne Grove. Transport links are in abundance, too, with overground rail services from Paddington station and nearby underground stations include Royal Oak (Metropolitan and Circle line) and Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo Line). And there’s always the canal, of course.


Riverside Walk Garden, Westminster

Riverside Walk Garden, near Abell and Cleland, Westminster
Developer: Berkeley Homes
Prices from: £1.56m
Berkeley Homes’ luxury Westminster development Abell & Cleland provides 275 new homes, surrounded by the capital’s most prestigious and historic landmarks including Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. The scheme is set across two buildings separated by John Islip Street. The development was designed by Stirling Prize nominated architects, DSDHA.
Just a six minute walk away from Abell & Cleland, Riverside Walk Garden is an attractive landscaped green space on a triangular site bounded by Millbank and the Thames. Although the site today is a peaceful stretch of parkland in the heart of Westminster, the area holds a much greater significance in British history and the establishment of the British Commonwealth. Used as a dock in the 19th century, it was from Riverside Walk Garden’s location that British criminals were loaded onto ships that transported them to Australia. A pillar on site, which prisoners passed before boarding the boats to Down Under still stands today, with an inscription commemorating this moment in history.
The public gardens were created in 1965 when Riverwalk House was built. In 2004, the space underwent a complete re-landscaping, with the new design reflecting the site's historical associations with the river as a primary route of trade and transport. The renovation also repositioned Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture Locking Piece, which has been on loan from the Tate since 1968. The artwork’s abstract linked design and metallic sheen is perceived by some as an homage to the prisoners who once stood at the site prior to leaving for Australia.


The Dove pub, Hammersmith

The Dove pub, near Sovereign Court, Hammersmith
Developer: St George
Prices from: £964,950 for a two bedroom apartment
Tel: 020 8741 2400
The pub near St George’s Sovereign Court development has hundreds of years worth of stories to share with its newest residents. The Dove has sat on the banks of the Thames since the 17th century. Over the years, it has accommodated some of the finest figures of English history, from the coarse behaviour of Regency writers, to the delicate conversations of pre-Raphaelites. Scottish poet and playwright James Thomson composed the familiar strains of Rule Britannia there, while English monarch Charles II romanced his mistress Nell Gwynne at The Dove, too. American author Ernest Hemingway and English literary critic Graham Greene have also been known to frequent the premises. So famous are its patrons that a framed list of them hangs over the lower bar’s fireplace. In addition to the impressive clientele, the building itself has its own, albeit quirky, claim to fame. A small space to the right of the bar, reached through a hidden entrance that only regular visitors are likely to spot, entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest bar room in the world. Inside this alcove, a brass plaque marks the height that the waters of the river Thames reached in the great flood of 1928 almost 100 years ago. Owned by Fullers since 1796, the pub remains a thriving local hotspot, while retaining its prestigious status as a monument to history.
The newest stage in that history is the arrival of landmark development Sovereign Court, which will provide 418 one, two and three bedroom apartments and a collection of penthouses at its west London location in Hammersmith. Designed by architectural practice Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, the development’s buildings are arranged around a series of landscaped courtyards. Montpellier House, the latest wave of new build homes at the development, was launched in early March following founding blocks Lancaster and Clarence. There are 77 apartments in the red brick Montpellier House – a mix of one, two, three bedrooms and penthouses.


Lion's Head, near North West Village

Lion’s head, near North West Village
Developer: Quintain
Prices from: £295,000
Tel: 020 7016 3793
One of Wembley Park’s hidden gems is the lion’s head stone. Saved from the former Palace of Industry, which was built for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Park in 1924, the proud lion’s head now resides permanently on top of a plinth reminding visitors of the destination’s rich history. Attracting 27m visitors, the British Empire Exhibition showcased the wonders of early 20th century engineering, arts and commerce. It’s also where King George V made his first broadcast speech, which led him to visit the famous linguist, Lionel Logue, recently made famous by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech. The lion will soon be standing tall beside the first residential development at Wembley Park, Emerald Gardens, which comprises 475 one, two and three-bedroom apartments, situated around a beautifully landscaped private garden. This first phase of North West Village is part of a collection of over 1,000 new homes.