Primrose Hill is a beautiful hill rising 256 feet or 78 metres above North London. From the top, stunning views across Regent’s Park and Central London can be seen. Look in the other direction to the north and the vista is of Hampstead and its famous heath and Belsize Park. While the hill itself is an undeveloped beauty spot, the area around it with the same name is one of the capital’s favourite residential locations. It’s close enough to the centre for residents to be able to take advantage of all that the city has to offer as well as far enough out to enjoy a slightly slower pace of life. Little surprise then that Primrose Hill is a favourite with many notable individuals.
Primrose Hill was originally covered in forest and formed part of Henry the Eighth’s hunting ground. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the trees were cleared to create a meadow and it’s the appearance of primroses in the meadow which gave rise to its name. At this time there wasn’t so much as a village on or near the hill and few ventured this far out of London. Primrose Hill did attract attention in the 17th century for the wrong reasons when a murder took place and the body of the victim, Edmund Godfrey, was found on the hill. Godfrey had suspected three Catholic men called Green, Berry and Hill of plotting to kill King Charles II and he paid the ultimate price for his suspicions. His body was discovered in a ditch impaled on his sword and with strangulation marks around his neck. The three men were subsequently executed and the hill was nicknamed ‘Greenberry Hill’. The furore surrounding the case sparked anti-Catholic riots and many innocent Catholics were forced out of London and never allowed to return.
The history of Primrose Hill was no less peaceful after the Greenberry incident as it became a popular spot for fighting duels. One of the most notorious incidents took place in 1803, when a captain from the Navy named MacNamara killed Colonel Montgomery in a duel sparked by an argument over a pack of dogs. MacNamara was charged with manslaughter but the jury acquitted him, probably because the Colonel was an arrogant man and senior navy officers vouched for the accused.
In 1792 the radical Welsh poet Iolo Morganwg, or Edward Williams, held a druid-like ceremony on the hill to mark the launch of a new community of Welsh bards called the Gorsedd.
In 1842 the hill became a public park. The land had been owned by Eton College, which had planned to build houses on the hill, but the project proved too ambitious because of the steepness of the hill. The land was bought by the Treasury in 1837 and within five years Primrose Hill had been secured for the people.
The hill became a popular meeting place for activists and radicals before the creation of Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. Primrose Hill was a huge draw for creative people, as can be seen by the large number of blue plaques on properties in Primrose Hill. These include one for the poet WB Yeats, the composer and founder of the Proms Henry Wood and Ted Hughes and American Sylvia Plath, who as a married couple raised their children in their Primrose Hill property.
The leafy streets around the hill are elegant and date from Victorian times, and much of the property in Primrose Hill is influenced by the Regency architecture around Regents Park. There is also a good selection of Victorian terraces. This is a part of London where buyers can find substantial properties with gardens and good views, but Primrose Hill property is highly sought after as this one of the capital’s favourite residential locations.
The average price of a Primrose Hill property is therefore high at £1.06 million. 2013 saw on average a 5.04% rise in value of property in Primrose Hill
Rental prices are competitive considering the popularity of the location. Studio flats to rent in Primrose Hill start at around £450 per week, whereas a one-bed property in one of the area’s fine streets, such as Gloucester Crescent or Chalcott Square, would start at around £650 per week. Prices vary depending on the location and the type of property. For example a one-bed garden flat in a location such as King Henry’s Road would rent out for slightly less at £595 per week.
Rental prices for two-bed flats begin around £1000 per week, though a price of £1500 is common for character homes in desirable streets such as Elsworthy Crescent and Oppidans Road. There’s a good choice of interior-designed rental apartments among property in Primrose Hill, such as Parkwood Point on St Edmunds Terrace where a two-bed flat can be rented for £1500 per week. The property comes with underground parking, a porter and a private summerhouse.
There’s an even better choice of property for those looking to buy property in Primrose Hill. One-bed homes start at £575 for a flat in a converted Victorian stucco-fronted house in a street close to Chalk Farm station such as Adelaide Road. Other property in Primrose Hill with similarly priced one-bed flats can be found in Eton College Road, King Henry’s Road and Winchester Road.
For those wanting a luxury Primrose Hill property, there is plenty of choice. The purpose-built development 50 St Edmunds Terrace, on the road of the same name, is close to Regents Park and a few moments stroll from Primrose Hill. The development includes a natural stone swimming pool, a spa and gym, underground parking, a landscaped communal courtyard and apartments with many hi-spec features. One-bed apartments here are on the market for £1.25 million.
Bigger properties with three or more bedrooms start from £1.5 million, with the exception of ex-local authority properties. For example, a three-bed home in a refurbished tower block on Fellows Road would cost around £425,000. However, three-bed flats in popular roads such as Prince Albert Road and Gloucester Crescent cost between £1.5 and £2.5 million, depending on the size, the type of building and the views. A large art deco mansion block on Prince Albert Road has a number of interesting properties available of varying sizes, starting from £2.5 million for a three-bedroom apartment. Some of the properties in the blocks on the road have as many as five bedrooms and cost around £4.5 million. It’s worth looking at apartments because often these properties are often more spacious than a house.
The range of houses among the selection of Primrose Hill property available varies from modest terraces to grand town houses with views of parkland. £1.25 million would buy a compact terrace on Hartland Road with three bedrooms. A similar sum would buy a maisonette in a converted townhouse on Oppidans Road. A five-bed semi on the highly desirable Elsworthy Road would market at around £7.5 million.
Purchasing a Primrose Hill property means buying into an exclusive part of London. The largest properties on Elsworthy Road fetch a premium. This particular road has been a magnet for the rich and famous in the past. For example, a six-bed luxury home with three receptions, a study or games room, three bathrooms and staff accommodation recently came on the market for £16 million. Not only did it have everything anyone could wish for in a family home, but it came with a bit of history. It was a former home of Wallace Simpson, the American divorcee who married King Edward XIII, who gave up the throne to be with her.
Another desirable location for a Primrose Hill property is Regents Park Road, offering views of the famous royal park. Houses don’t often come on the market. A newly refurbished period detached home came up for sale with a substantial garden and views of both Regents Park and Primrose Hill but the price tag was £13.5 million.
Local schools at primary level include Primrose Hill Primary and St Paul’s Church of England School on Elsworthy Road, both of which come under the jurisdiction of the London Borough of Camden. The area has some excellent independent schools for the under 11s, including the Cavendish School for girls and St Christina’s, which is mixed. North Bridge Prep School is a mixed school taking both boys and girls up to the age of 13. At secondary level, non-fee-paying schools include the UCL Academy and Haverstock School. There is also a very small but successful independent school called the Fine Arts College on Lambolle Place.
Primrose Hill village centre lies on Regent’s Park Road. It’s a smart leafy road with a wonderful selection of boutiques, cafes, bars and restaurants. Eateries offer flavours from all over the world as well as menus for vegans. In good weather there’s plenty of potential to sit outside. In fact, Primrose Hill lays claim to being the spiritual home of the cupcake, with no fewer than three specialist cupcake shops. The village also offers some of the best cakes on offer in London, the likes of which you won’t find in the supermarkets. The village centre has many independent shops, including organic food delis, retro furniture shops and art galleries. Exclusive hairdressers, spa treatments and gift shops can all be found here.
Even though there is a railway tunnel running under the hill, a major engineering feat of its time, Primrose Hill station shut in the 1980s. However, the tube connections are excellent, with the nearest stations being Chalk Farm and Belsize Park on the Northern Line. These connect to mainline railway stations in central London such as Euston and Marylebone. Travelling into London by road is straightforward along the Outer Circle of Regents Park and access to the rest of the UK is easy using the A41 Finchley Road, which connects to the A406 North Circular at Brent Cross and shortly after that to the start of the M1 motorway.
Despite its proximity to great transport links and the centre of London, Primrose Hill maintains a village-style atmosphere, perhaps because of the fantastic green spaces on the hill and in Regents Park. From the top of the hill there are excellent views of the London Eye, Canary Wharf and St Paul’s Cathedral. The views from here are among the best in London. While the hill is primarily an open space, it does offer a play area, sports facilities and public toilets.
Regents Park has all this and more, including the Hub, a new sports pavilion offering showers and changing rooms, indoor studio space for classes and outdoor facilities such as tennis courts and pitches for cricket, football and softball. The park has several wonderful cafes as well as an outdoor theatre and one of capital’s most popular attractions, London Zoo. Hampstead Heath, with its famous swimming ponds and open-air lido, is also not far away and nor is the tranquil Regents Canal, where boat trips or a cycle ride along the towpath can be enjoyed.
Such is the quality of life in Primrose Hill that many famous names either live or have lived in and around the neighbourhood. They include novelists Kingsley and Martin Amis, actors John Cleese, Simon Callow and Helena Bonham Carter and the film director Tim Burton.
It’s hard to find a location so close to central London which offers so much — all the convenience of the city yet also a substantial amount of green open space. The views from the top of Primrose Hill are so good that it’s no surprise that they inspired several of Britain’s great poets to put pen to paper.