Does Anybody Live In London?
Property in London is really expensive, which is a bit odd when you think that it’s a huge city unconstrained by real borders. Manhattan has nowhere to go except up, but London can theoretically spread out. But as prices continue to climb, more and more of the long-term residents are disappearing. Businesses are leaving too, as landlords refurbish and double rents.
So who moves in? Well, as we’ve seen in the piece on the Heron Building further down this page, overseas buyers are purchasing like never before. I attended the open day for a new development this weekend (I wasn’t buying, I was just being nosy) and all 140 new apartments had been sold, mostly to Chinese buyers – but that was because they had been advertised directly in China.
The brochures that sell properties now are likely to have pictures of the Queen, the Changing of the Guard and er, Harrods. So non-residents buy as investments and visit for three weeks a year.
Which brings me to leafy Lonsdale Square in Barnsbury, very near the city’s Square Mile. The square consists of tall town houses with steep gables, mullioned windows and arched front doors. There is a garden filled with mature trees, for use by residents, and lovely old gas-lamp lights. The square was built between 1838 and 1842. The houses go for around £2 million each.
And I have never seen a single living soul there. Not one. Maybe the residents are shy (the wealthy slowly become invisible anyway) or have weekend homes (highly likely) but whenever I cross the square I feel as if I should tiptoe and hold my breath.
I’m a Londoner born and bred, but very few of us ever make it to these wealthy areas, which seem to be ring-fenced for bankers. Go to Brick Lane or Clapham or Kentish Town and you’ll find rowdy Londoners galore – just don’t head for Hampstead, Kensington or Islington, where dreams of Ye Olde Englande are being flogged in far corners of the world.