At just 23 miles northwest of London, Beaconsfield in south Buckinghamshire is an easy commute to the capital, with the fastest train into London Marylebone taking just 25 minutes. Surrounded by the rolling hills of the Chiltern countryside, it is unsurprising that, according to Savills, Beaconsfield is seldom out of the top five most expensive towns in the UK. “It fell behind our neighbour Gerrards Cross a few miles away in 2011, but only because of a few mega-sales to international buyers,” says Andrew Cronan of Savills.
Beaconsfield is a town of two parts – the Old Town to the south, and the New Town to the north – with the most expensive area in the latter known locally as the “Golden Triangle” that surrounds Furzefield Road. New or modernised five-bedroom houses sell here in the region of £2m to £3.5m and are in high demand.
The town came to prominence in the late 1870s when it was the constituency of prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, who was made the 1st Earl of Beaconsfield by Queen Victoria in 1876. The New Town was established in earnest after the railway station was built in 1906 and grew further in two bursts, once in the 1930s and again between the 1960s and 1970s. Beaconsfield was also where former prime minister Tony Blair contested a seat in the by-election of 1982 – and lost for the only time in his career.
Despite its proximity to London, the town is relatively quiet of tourists, with its biggest attraction being the quirky Bekonskot Model Village.
“The closer you are to the station the more you pay, currently around £500 to £550 per sq ft,” says Cronan. “Everyone wants to be within walking distance of the station and the schools and you’ll often find people buying houses worth several million pounds and sending their children to state schools because they are so good.” Commentators suggest this is due to Buckinghamshire’s decision to retain the selective grammar school system. Top local state schools include Beaconsfield High School for girls and the Royal Grammar School for boys (in nearby High Wycombe); good independent schools include Davenies prep school for boys and Wycombe Abbey for girls.
Another draw to the area is the National Film and Television School. “Because of the film school and Pinewood Studios, which is only 25 minutes away in Iver, there is a good rental market with people in the TV and film industry coming here for a year or two to learn their craft,” says Cronan. International buyers come from Russia, Spain, France, Italy and Holland, partly because of the film school and the international school at Norwood (15 miles away and easily accessible by coach), and partly because south Buckinghamshire is cheaper than Surrey, another county often chosen by overseas purchasers who work in London. Americans prefer to rent, particularly in the gated developments at Ledborough Gate and Park Grove.
In the picturesque Old Town the many coaching inns, built as the first stopping point for coaches from London to Oxford in the 17th century, have now mostly been converted into offices or shops. The majority of housing stock comprises two- and three-bedroom Victorian terraces, which sell for about £400,000.
Property in the New Town – a mix of Victorian, 1930s, 1960s, 1970s and brand new buildings – is favoured by commuters and families moving out of London for more space and a less frenetic way of life. Savills is selling Tide, a 6,114 sq ft, seven-bedroom house in Burkes Road, one of the premier residential streets, for £2.95m, down from £3.3m. In Ellwood Road, Hamptons is selling for £1.595m a seven-bedroom, 3,132 sq ft house, with half an acre and planning permission to extend.
Just beyond the Golden Triangle is St Michael’s Green, which has seen prices rise by £150 per sq ft in the past two years. “It’s a quiet residential area, which will never be as ‘prime’ as the area around Burkes Road, but it’s close to the station and shops, and you get more for your money,” says Joanna Cocking of Hamptons. There are also a number of older properties that could, when they come to the market, be knocked down or substantially improved.
One of the largest new developments in Beaconsfield is Queens Acre. This gated scheme by St James consists of 32 large apartments and houses set around the Victorian walled garden of Butlers Court. The mansion itself is being converted into five two- and three-bedroom apartments and one three-bedroom wing, priced from £1.05m to £1.5m, with two of the apartments having been sold off-plan last year.
The demand from local, national and international buyers has kept the property market pretty flat in what elsewhere has been a turbulent few years. In 2012 there was a glimmer of movement in house prices, which rose a couple of per cent for the best properties. “There is more momentum from local buyers, many of whom are buying large, newly built houses as it is the only way people can get the open-plan interior space they want today,” says Cocking. These new properties, which appear traditional from the outside but have contemporary interiors, are also being bought up by overseas families and British expats: typically, they buy for investment, letting out the property while they are abroad and returning when their children are of school age.
David Wright of independent agency the Frost Partnership is also starting to see more international buyers, including Russian families who like the location and the schools. “Beaconsfield has a proven track record and is good value. Their money will buy an awful lot more here than [in] London,” he says. The agent is marketing a newly built thatched house (one of only two thatched properties in Beaconsfield), built by BEP Developments “in order to stand out from the crowd”, says Wright. Theccon House in Penn Road has five bedrooms and is for sale for £2.15m.
● Population of 10,700, which has risen little over the past 20 years The average house price is £500 per sq ft
● Average prices in the Golden Triangle are £2m to £3.5m
● No great surge of tourists in the summer as the only significant attraction is the Bekonskot Model Village
● There are very few gardens of more than ¾ acre
● The yearly crime rate is 8 per cent lower than the national average, at 64.5 per 1,000 residents
What you can buy for ...
£500,000 A two-bedroom apartment near the station
£1m A three-bedroom new-build apartment
£5m A large six-bedroom new house in a ¾-acre plot