We sent writer Mary Wilson to walk around one of London's least-known but celebrity-strewn areas, and she came back with a fascinating insight into its historic and unique story. Would you live there?
This week: Tony Gambrill of Chesterton Humberts
“Although Little Venice is only 15 minutes on the tube from Oxford Street, there are many people who have lived in London for years, but have never been there and have no idea where it is,” says Tony Gambrill.
For those who do know, it is a very special area with the picturesque Regent’s Canal, where you’ll find narrow boats, tourist boat trips and even a Puppet Theatre on a barge, at its heart.
Robert Browning, who was resident in the mid-1880s, gave the area the nickname of Little Venice because he loved Italy, where he had several homes including one just outside Venice. Gambrill takes me past the Colonnade Hotel, which has a blue plaque for Alan Turing, the codebreaker, who lived there 1912 -1954; and a very quirky little house, squeezed beside a very much larger white stucco building where the singer, Björk lives.
He tells me, you might also bump into Noel Gallagher (pictured, right) and Paul Weller, who are current residents. “In the sixties, Joan Collins, John Inman and the creator of Paddington bear, Michael Bond lived in Little Venice,” he adds.
In the early seventies, Richard Branson started his Virgin empire from his house boat on the canal (he still owns it) and in the noughties, Irish twinkletoes Michael Flatley had a massive house overlooking the canal, which was floodlit at night (it still is, although he no longer lives there). Even the multi Brit award singer Duffy waxed lyrical about the area in her hit song, Warwick Avenue.
“We have residents here in from the media world to bankers” says Gambrill. “Prices in the last five years have come up dramatically, but Little Venice is still not as expensive as St. John’s Wood, which borders it." It is a very tight little area stretching from Maida Avenue on the canal to Sutherland Avenue in the north and from Maida Vale to Shirland Road in the west.
Little Venice has changed considerably over the last 150 years having been a popular red light district in Victorian times, but it is now highly respectable with some splendid houses – in both size and architecture – selling for many millions of pounds.
“Michael Flatley’s house is worth around £18 million and a new one being built on Randolph Road, one of the several very wide tree-lined roads leading to the canal, around £25 million,” says Gambrill.
The architecture varies from Victorian Italianate mega mansions and large white stucco terraces, where many of the houses have been converted into apartments to areas of 1960s housing, where two bedroom houses cost around £1.2 million and larger 4/5 bedroom houses up to £1.7 million.
We wander past Clifton Nurseries, off Clifton Villas, one of the best gardens centre in London and along a great little enclave of shops in Clifton Road, where you can find restaurants, a supermarket, two chemists, two off-licences, smart clothes shops, organic butchers and deli and even a florists. “Over the Robert Browning pub is Ben’s Thai, one of the best Thai restaurants this side of the river,” he tells me. You can also find good restaurants, a pub and a few shops in Formosa Street.
Along Maida Avenue, which is on the south side of the canal with a mix of large houses and mansion flats, there’s a massive church – St. Mary Magdalen, the last remaining Catholic Apostolic Church in England and currently being refurbished. By Warwick Road tube station, where you can still buy a great bacon sarni from the taxi shelter, there’s the 1970s St. Saviour’s Church with its landmark soaring spire and apartments behind it.
“Another thing people don’t know about Little Venice is that there are several hidden communal gardens,” says Gambrill. These are off Randolph Road, Randolph Crescent and Warrington Crescent and you’ll have to pay 10 to 15 percent for the privilege of overlooking them.
Apartments in Clifton Gardens go from £350,000 for a one bedroom top floor flat to £1.9 million for a ground and lower ground maisonette. These flats benefit from a communal garden and off-street parking. Large apartments in Warrington Crescent sell for up to £3.5 million. In Elnathan Mews, which was built in the 1980’s, you’ll find two bedroom flats for £695,000 up to four bedroom houses for £1.5 to £2 million.
There is only one original mews in the area, Pindock Mews, and here, Goldschmidt & Howland is selling a renovated three bedroom house with contemporary interiors for £2.795 million. The agent also has on its books a two bedroom flat in Formosa Street for £499,950 and a large one bedroom flat in Warrington Crescent for £515,000.
“The area is now totally gentrified and it’s a lovely, central, place to live” says Gambrill.
You might also bump into Noel Gallagher or Paul Weller, both of whom are current residents