This early 20th century garden flat occupies the lower ground floor of a handsome converted Edwardian house in the Muswell Hill Conservation Area, in Highgate. Situated in a particularly green part of London, the apartment is close to both Highgate Wood and Alexandra Palace’s park. An extensive private garden stretches out nearly 100 ft behind the two-bedroom home, with a hidden door and steps behind a summer house providing access to the ancient woodland of Queen’s Wood. The area is characterised by the consistency and character of its Edwardian architecture, as the majority of the Muswell Hill suburb was developed over a period of less than 20 years (1896-1913). Sensitive renovations by the current owners have given new life to the home’s many surviving original features, including an ornately carved mantelpiece now surrounding a working woodburning stove.
Setting the Scene
Muswell Hill Road descends from the iconic Edwardian parade at the top of Muswell Hill down towards Highgate, with distinctive three and four-storey red brick Edwardian Houses lining the eastern side of the road, directly facing Highgate Wood to the west. Situated on high ground on one of the main historic routes in and out of London, the area experienced heavy bombing during WWII, including to the Gothic Revival-style Church of St James, which was nearly destroyed but was later restored and is now Grade II-listed.
Queen’s Wood, which sits behind the apartment, is an incredible ancient woodland which dates from at least 1600 and possibly from prehistoric times. It became a local nature reserve in 1990. One of four ancient woodlands in the borough of Haringey, these woods are thought to be the direct descendants of the original ‘wildwood’ which covered most of Britain about five thousand years ago. The trees, which are mostly oak and hornbeam, provide an incredible habitat for many animals and birds, including three species of woodpecker. Many magnificent flora cover the ground, including wood anemone, native bluebells, wood goldilocks and wood sorrel. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
Steps lead down to the apartment’s main entrance from a terracotta tile front patio, concealing the entryway to this secret garden retreat. Here, distinct elements of Edwardian design intertwine with the owner’s more modern interventions. A door opens onto a hallway which is lined with cheerful teal and white encaustic tiles from Ca’ Pietra and a useful handcrafted pink-painted cupboard, fitted with Art Deco handles and a bench upholstered in a bold floral pattern by House of Hackney. The apartment’s internal windows and open-plan nature mean that light floods the space from both the front and rear elevations, and sight lines are preserved from the entryway through to the garden.
The L-shaped kitchen/dining room has reclaimed parquet flooring, Planet Marble granite countertops, and a white tile backsplash extending all the way to the ceiling. An internal window looks over the reception room. Reclaimed column radiators have been installed throughout.
The spacious living room is home to wide French doors, painted a bright yellow shade by Little Greene, which open directly to a terrace. The yellow complements the mossy green, also by Little Greene, painted walls that in turn complement the verdant tones of the garden. Custom shelving provides extra storage and display areas on either side of the ornately carved original fireplace, where a working woodburning stove warms the room in winter months.
The main bedroom is accessible directly from front entryway, where it is bathed in light thanks to the bay of windows across one wall. The room is painted a soft, pale pink by Paint and Paper Library, set against the deep, rich tones of the reclaimed parquet flooring and the wardrobe constructed with reclaimed timber doors. Bold patterned tiles by Mosaic Factory are found underfoot in the en suite bathroom, where the clever use of mirrors help to further enlarge the appearance of the space.
A second bedroom off the reception room overlooks the garden, with its own built-in wardrobe. The second bathroom with a shower lies adjacent, wrapped in glossy dark green subway tiles that were installed by the current owners who intended to make the space feel like a luxurious Beverley Hills hotel. Banana-leaf patterned wallpaper on the ceiling and a precious marble sink brought back from a trip to Turkey bring in more natural materials which chime with the budding garden outside.
The Great Outdoors
Stepping through the wide French doors in the reception room, hard-wearing herringbone tiles reflect the pattern of the parquet flooring inside. This paved patio space is perfect for entertaining, not to mention the incredible landscaped garden the owner has planted full of flora such as rhododendron, grape vines and roses by Sarah Raven and lovingly tended from seed sourced from Higgledy Garden. A paved pathway winds through the garden, leading towards the 300 sq ft summer house with its own patio area, offering plenty of space to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Clad in timber and well-insulated, the annexe currently houses a study/workshop/library constructed using a variety materials. It is outfitted with Wi-Fi and plenty of seating, including a cosy window seat, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and stained glass. From the garden, two ‘windows’ can be swung open to look out over the woodland, and a door opens straight to a cabana area and a set of steps providing access to Queen’s Wood beyond. The garden is an incredible green sanctuary, with only views of ancient woodland beyond.
Out and About
It’s no surprise Muswell Hill was named one of the most desirable places to live in London by the Sunday Times in 2020. The fantastic offerings of Muswell Hill Broadway, a lively parade with lots of restaurants, cafes and shops, and views over Crouch End and Alexandra Park, are only a 15-minute walk away. Locals recommend Toff’s for traditional fish and chips, Bob’s Cafe for a hearty brunch, and independent local gastropub The Victoria Stakes for seasonal and sustainable menu offerings. Find specialist teas and coffee at independent merchant W Martyn, now in its fourth generation, and high quality fresh fish at Walter Purkis & Sons, which has been operating for nearly 200 years.
The parade’s most distinctive architectural feature is the Grade II*-listed Odeon Cinema, now Everyman. Built in the Art Deco style in 1935-36, its dramatic curved exterior with contrasting cream and black faience link to the shopping parade curving around the corner, and retains the most elaborate interior of any surviving Odeon cinema.
Just off the parade towards Fortis Green, there are several must-visits, including the weekly Fortismere Food Market; The Phoenix Cinema, one of the oldest continuously running cinemas in the UK; and The Clissold Arms, where notable locals the Davies brothers of The Kinks played their first gig.
The apartment is also short walk from Highgate Village, which has a wide variety of shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants, including wine shop Bottle, popular pub The Flask, and fruit and veg shop Greens of Highgate. There is also The Grocery Post on Archway Road, which serves good coffee and groceries. There are many brilliant pubs in the area, including The Gatehouse and The Angel Inn.
Muswell Hill Road is also close to an array of large green spaces, including Hampstead Heath, Waterlow Park, Highgate Cemetery, Alexandra Palace park, as well as the ancient Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood. Highgate Woods hosts jazz performances every weekend, while Queen’s Wood is home to a fantastic community café, which hosts evenings such as ‘Tea and Toast’ evenings on Sundays, and is set within a living, organic permaculture and aquaponic garden. Both parks is an established forest school offering a wide array of nature-based activities for all ages. Situated nearby the apartment is the Parkland Walk, a disused railway line that has been transformed into a five-kilometre green pedestrian thoroughfare that connects Muswell Hill with Finsbury Park to the south and Alexandra Palace and Park to the north. The incredible Grade II-listed Alexandra Palace, locally known as “Ally Pally,” offers a weekly farmers’ market, boating lake, seasonal ice rink and much more.
There are excellent schools in the area, including St James Primary School, Highgate School, Highgate Primary School, St Michael’s Primary School and Channing. Travel connections are also excellent, as Highgate tube station (Northern Line) can be reached in less than 10 minutes, offering direct access to central London in less than 30 minutes. Overground services run from Alexandra Palace or Hornsey stations, taking 20 minutes to rail services at Moorgate, and good bus connections offer direct routes both to the City and the West End around the clock. The M1 is only a 15-minute drive away via the North Circular Road, allowing easy access to the north of England.
Tenure: Share of Freehold
Underlying Lease Length: 996 years
Service Charge Approx: £113 pcm
Council Tax Band: D
The first evidence of settlement in the Muswell Hill area dates to the 12th century, when Richard de Belmeis, Bishop of London (1152-1161), granted 64 acres of land to the nuns of the Priory of St Mary. The land surrounded a natural spring or well which was believed to have curative powers and is thought to be the source of Muswell Hill’s name, meaning ‘mossy well.’ A local legend tells that Scottish king Malcolm IV was cured of disease after drinking water from this spring or well, drawing visitors as a pilgrimage site for healing during medieval times. Following the dissolution of the Priory, the land was transferred to private ownership.
By the 18th century Muswell Hill was still a largely rural village, consisting mainly of detached villas with large gardens, but known for its incredible vistas over the surrounding landscapes and City of London beyond. One 1787 commentator wrote that “nowhere within 100 miles of London was there a village so pleasant or with such varied views.” The heavily wooded area remained sparsely populated until the end of the 19th century, when the opening of Alexandra Palace in 1873 spurred development that began to transform Muswell Hill from a collection of country houses to the London village it is today.
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