Today the views from the second floor at Kew Palace overlook Kew Gardens to the south and the river Thames to the north. While many features have changed, one can still imagine the setting in its early 18th-century royal heyday.
Built in 1631 by Samuel Fortrey, a wealthy Flemish silk merchant, Kew Palace was leased by the Royal Family in 1729 to lodge George II’s three daughters and, some years later, George III used the property as a retreat during his bouts of “madness”. In 1759 Princess Augusta, George III’s mother, established a nine-acre botanic garden at Kew, and subsequent amalgamations of the Richmond and Kew estates added to this; the garden continued to expand into the magnificent 132-hectare Unesco World Heritage Site and centre of botanical research that adjoins the house today.
Greg Redwood, head of great glasshouses and horticultural training, is fortunate to live in a house on site. “I like spring when all the magnolias, the camellias and rhododendrons come into flower and everything is green and fresh,” he says.
Although in the spring he is permanently on call, he is aware of the privilege of living in such a special place. “I look out of the bedroom window to watch cricket being played on the green, and love the village atmosphere of the area. And yet it is only 30 minutes from central London.”
Of the 80,000 Friends of Kew, approximately 40 per cent live in the surrounding TW9 postcode. An annual fee of £71 allows unlimited access to the gardens with a guest, while children under 17 get free entry. Friends also get the benefit of summer members-only evenings, when picnics can be shared in the outdoors with just hundreds of fellow visitors rather than the thousands who are normally present.
Around Kew Green sit many of the area’s oldest and most expensive properties. Zoopla records the last sale in February last year at £2.15m for a semi-detached house, while a five-bedroom terraced house fetched the same price in March 2011.
The wide expanse of green, the duck pond, a row of shops, and the elegant Church of St Anne give this patch of London its village feel, although it is the cluster of shops around Kew Gardens station that acts as the more practical centre. “There’s Pethers of Kew, the butchers; an organic health shop that sells vegetables; a fine wine shop – I have everything I need all in one area,” says Jo O’Sullivan, who manages the Kew branch of local estate agents Featherstone Leigh, and has lived in the area for nine years.
The area has good independent and state primary schools, such as Kew College, Kew Riverside, Queen’s and Broomfield House. Those with young families tend to trade up within the area as the family expands. “It’s the story of the area,” says O’Sullivan. “Lots of buyers and not enough stock. People don’t want to sell. Once they are here they want to stay.”
Housing in Kew is mostly terraced, semi-detached and detached period family houses, says Giles Egan of estate agents. “Predominantly Victorian family houses on the west side of Kew and Edwardian and 20s and 30s houses on the east side of Kew. Some purpose-built apartment blocks built in the 60s [are] dotted about, and there are two modern developments: Kew Riverside Park and Kew Riverside, built on reclaimed land next to the National Archives building,” he says. Kew Riverside covers 26 acres and was completed in 2007 with 536 units. Kew Riverside Park is smaller, built on 8.56 acres, and its 192 units were completed in summer 2008.
According to Egan, a two-bedroom cottage could fetch from £450,000 to £800,000, while three-bedroom period houses sell for £850,000 to £1.2m. Larger four-bedroom houses can be bought for between £1m and £3.5m. Featherstone Leigh has a five-bedroom family house for sale on The Avenue for £1.975m, while Anthony Roberts has an Edwardian detached five-bedroom house on West Park Road, close to Kew village, for £2m.
On the east side of the Kew Green conservation area there are some attractive two-storey cottages and houses, such as a four-bedroom Victorian double-fronted house in Gloucester Road, for sale through Featherstone Leigh for £1.475m. At the end of the same road is Kew Grill, a restaurant owned by television chef Antony Worrall Thompson.
Two new residential schemes by developers St George and St James are being built on the north side of Kew Bridge. St James’s Kew Bridge West, which launches in May, comprises 249 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments from £350,000. St George’s Kew Bridge development, with 308 residences, has just launched its third phase, with prices starting at £654,950 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a terrace.
“It’s the tranquillity and stability of the area which is appealing,” says long-term resident and now Richmond borough councillor, David Linnette. He describes it as an affluent area, where the main concerns are the impact of possible expansion of Heathrow airport, secondary school provision and the need for another GP surgery to replace one recently closed.
“Heathrow currently operates a noise reduction scheme for areas beneath the flight path … and part of Kew falls into this category. The scheme offers heavily discounted double or secondary glazing for bedrooms so residents can get a good night’s sleep,” says Linnette.
Richmond council has long been opposed to the expansion of Heathrow, which is seven miles to the west. Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, will examine various expansion ideas, including a proposal by economist Tim Leunig for four new runways to be built to the west of the site. Combined with steeper landing approach angles, this scheme could reduce the noise impact on residential areas in west London such as Kew. The commission will deliver its findings in 2015.
The proximity of Kew to Heathrow does though make it a good option for residents who travel by air regularly. For more local travel, the M4 motorway is close by and there are rail and underground services at Kew Bridge and Kew Gardens respectively.
● The council’s vision is “to maintain Kew’s character as a residential area”
● Richmond has the third-smallest resident population (187,000) of all the outer London boroughs
● The average price of the 214 properties sold from July to December last year in the TW9 postcode was £629,804
● Kew’s crime rate is low, with 4.76 recorded crimes per 1,000 people in February this year
● Census data show old people and families with young children form the majority of Richmond’s population
What you can buy for …
£500,000 A cottage to modernise
£1m A three-bedroom penthouse on Kew Riverside Park
£4m A six-bedroom house on Kew Road