Friday 8 November 2019 2:03 pm

Focus on Barnsbury: An elegant oasis between Islington and King's Cross

Barnsbury counts bustling King’s Cross and lively Upper Street among its neighbours. But if you were blindfolded and dropped in the middle of one of its streets you’d probably think you were in a sedate suburb rather than the heart of N1.

Firstly, it is very quiet – so quiet that, in 2013, one of its streets was named the quietest in London by a bed company. It’s also pretty: think elegant, tree-lined crescents filled with tall sandstone townhouses, punctuated occasionally by manicured garden squares.

“Barnsbury has many fine examples of Victorian and Georgian houses. In fact much of the area is known as the Barnsbury Conservation Area because of its special architectural and historic interest,” says Will Cracknell, manager at Dexters.

It started out as a 13th-century manor owned by the wealthy Berners family, but homes were not built in greatnumbers until the 1830s when Frenchman Henri Baume set up a co-operative for tailors and shoemakers. The Holy Trinity Church was built in the same decade, having been designed by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament.

Today, the area is becoming “increasingly gentrified year-on-year” according to James Hyman, head of residential at Cluttons, who says it is close to being considered a prime central London address. It has been home to celebrities including Tony Blair, who lived on Richmond Crescent before becoming prime minister in 1997, and X-Files star Gillian Anderson, who snapped up a townhouse in Barnsbury for £4.65m in 2018.

‘London’s smallest nature reserve’

“Barnsbury is attracting money from both domestic and overseas buyers, many of whom would have previously bought in Marylebone or Kensington,” Hyman adds.

In terms of amenities, the area has benefited hugely from the transformation of King’s Cross from an industrial wasteland into a hub of offices, shops, restaurants and culture. But it is in no danger of being swallowed up by its sprawling neighbour, and has a thriving independent food and drink scene all its own. It is even home to London’s smallest nature reserve.

“The locals’ secret is Barnsbury Wood,” says Grant Bates, associate director at Hamptons International.“I couldn’t possibly tell you more about it – if you know, you know.”

Read more: Once just a station, Victoria now has an identity all its own

So how much does it cost to live in this inner-city oasis? Cracknell says the starting price for a one-bed flat is around £450,000, while you can expect to pay upwards of £1.3m for a three-bed family home.
According to Savills, the average second-hand sale price in Barnsbury was £896,627 in the year to August; higher than the Islington average of £730,879 and the London average of £606,956.

In common with other high-end postcodes it has seen steep price drops in the last few years. Second hand house prices have fallen by 10 per cent in the past three years compared with 6.8 per cent growth in the whole of London. But the worst might be over – Frances Clacy, research analyst at Savills, says she doesn’t expect prices to fall much further “given the rate at which [they] have already corrected.”

If you’ve got your heart set on one of Barnsbury’s grand Georgian terraces, though, you might need to bide your time. Flats made up three quarters of sales this year, and Clacy says that prime houses are not coming to the market often as families in large properties are “opting to put their moving plans on hold until there’s more clarity” surrounding the UK economy.

For lots of buyers, though, the prospect of peace and quiet in central London might make Barnsbury worth waiting for.

On the market in Barnsbury this week

Barnsbury Road, £1.35m

This two bedroom maisonette is located on the ground and lower ground floors of a Georgian mid-terrace dating from the 1820s.

Call Cluttons on 020 7354 6666

Ripplevale Grove, £1.15m

This three-bedroom upper maisonette is being offered with a 966 year lease, and has lots of original features.

Call Savills on 020 7354 6701

Hemingford Road, £2.95m

This three-bedroom upper maisonette is being offered with a 966 year lease, and has lots of original features.

Call Savills on 020 7354 6701

Area highlights

One of the most interesting spots on Barnsbury’s culinary scene is Little Georgia, where you can try the country’s traditional cuisine (and chacha, the popular grape vodka) surrounded by Soviet-era memorabilia. Sunday inspires the biggest brunch queues at the weekend thanks to its friendly vibe and famed lentil and coconut curry, while The Cuckoo Pub bills itself as a ‘gastro hub’. There are breweries aplenty too, including Hammerton Brewery, a hip spot on an industrial estate, and Two Tribes Brewery. The latter sits within Tileyard Studios; a huge co-working and studio complex where Mark Ronson recorded the single Uptown Funk. For techie types, Meltdown London is a bar dedicated to electronic gamers, with consoles to play and eSports on the big screen. Away from food and booze, fringe venue The Pleasance Theatre is within easy reach, and Caledonian Park offers sports and play areas, meadows, woodland and a working 19th century clocktower.