diamond geezer

 Thursday, February 18, 2016

 is one of London's oddest streets.

It runs for about a mile, almost due north, between Hampstead Heath and East Finchley. The land to either side used to belong to the Bishop of London, hence the name. Although the road is medieval in origin, the houses to either side look anything but. It's easily one of the most prestigious addresses in London, known by the mega-rich worldwide. And yet along much of its length its actually a bit of a dump. If you ever have oodles of cash to splash, you could do much better than pick The Bishops Avenue.

At its northern end the street looks almost normal. That's normal like your average gated detached villa, whereas what's coming up later enters extreme enormous mansion territory. More peculiarly, after only a few hundred yards the avenue is crossed by a wide busy road, and not just any road, this is the A1, so living around here is never going to be quiet. Indeed while you might have expected a thoroughfare for the super-rich to be secluded and private, The Bishops Avenue is actually a bit of a rat run, and even has a bus route running down it. Admittedly that's the H3, which is one of TfL's least frequent minibuses, but then nobody who lives here would ever stoop to catching the bus anyway. Maybe the staff.

The further south you go, the larger, the weirder and the more widely-spaced the houses along The Bishops Avenue become. Home buyers often weren't satisfied with the pile they'd bought and knocked up something even more outlandish in its place, indeed it looks as if every home was designed by a completely different architect. Some homes look classical, others almost Egyptian, and several like a 1930s town hall. At least a couple have a green copper roof, many have columns, and most have a large drive for the parking of several cars (be they for residents or socialite visitors). But don't expect to see the Sultan of Brunei here very often, nor the Saudi royal family at all - they sold up their ten mansions and moved out several years ago.

Where houses are occupied, the owners have often gone to considerable lengths to screen their frontages from public view. High hedges track the edge of the pavement, augmented by iron fencing, and thick leylandii are much in evidence to blot the neighbours from view. Often the only way to see what a house looks like is to peer through a narrow gap in a metal gate, not that this is recommended because there's usually a security camera keeping watch too. A few homes are set back far enough from the road to provide seclusion, but most are close enough to be seen more clearly from across the street, and some are brazen in showing their ostentatious face to the world.

Houses on The Bishops Avenue cost millions, indeed they cost over a million pounds even back in the 1980s, long before the rest of London caught up. The most expensive house ever to grace the UK property market is here, that's Heath Hall, which was put up for sale for £100m a couple of years back. Built in the Arts and Crafts style for sugar magnate William Lyle, this Edwardian mansion boasts six reception rooms, 14 bedrooms, and has swimming pools both inside and out. Its most recent sale followed a period of decay and a substantial makeover, indeed you can still flick through the developer's brochure here, although unfortunately for them it sold for nearer £25m.

Or there's Dryades halfway down, which looks like a 1980s Barratt home gone rogue, and whose most recent owner was a Pakistani government minister. But he fell from grace in 2013 and the bank repossessed, and the house's empty shell is still up for sale even three years later. The plot now has planning permission for an even larger mansion, a 46000 square-footer, but as yet nobody's taken the opportunity to create a 21 bedroom hideaway from scratch. Again the pricetag won't have helped, not many of us have £30m to spare, hence the view through the gate is of an increasingly overgrown front drive and an entirely wasted asset.

It's been estimated that at least a dozen properties in The Bishops Avenue lie vacant, that's a fifth of the total, indeed a sense of decay pervades the whole street. Billionaires have found better places in London to sink their fortune, with a central Zone 1 penthouse now deemed rather more attractive. You'll not see too many boarded-up mega-villas, but look out for the padlocked gates bedecked with security patrol notices, and lifeless windows behind which nothing ever moves. Four adjacent empty houses in the centre of the avenue have been lumped together under the title The Collection, with a pricetag of £35m, again with the assumption that something new will take their place. On such a linear site that'll likely be luxury flats, a property type making increasing inroads at the Hampstead Heath end, and whose density probably ensures an even greater return on initial investment.

Despite the wealth still deeply entrenched here, I never felt uncomfortable walking down The Bishops Avenue, not even when whipping out my camera for a set of souvenir photos. But it is without doubt the least average street in the London borough of Barnet, if you ever fancy a peek at how the other 0.001% live.

» Reports from The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, The International Business Times

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

read the archive
Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards