By Caroline Thorpe
Kicking off FT Residential’s ‘Centre versus suburb’ series, we compare life in South Kensington, central London, with that in the town of Kingston upon Thames on the outskirts of the city.
The centre: South Kensington
An affluent part of the UK capital, South Kensington sits at the south-west flank of Hyde Park and is bordered by the upmarket neighbourhoods of Knightsbridge and Chelsea.
Given the district’s central location, London’s major employment hubs are all less than half an hour away. By Underground train, it takes eight minutes to reach the West End, 15 minutes to arrive in the City and 24 minutes to get to Canary Wharf. An annual Zones 1-2 travel pass costs £1,404.
South Kensington’s globally renowned cultural institutions include the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Geographical Society and the Serpentine Galleries.
The shops sell designer goods — stores include Carolina Herrera and 3.1 Phillip Lim — while workouts take place at private members’ clubs such as South Kensington Club. The 350-acre Hyde Park offers unexpectedly bucolic pursuits such as horse riding and open-air swimming.
The area has well-regarded schools for every age group including the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle de Londres, which is partly responsible for South Kensington’s reputation as the neighbourhood of choice for French expats. It is also home to Imperial College London, ranked ninth in The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019, and distinguished conservatoire the Royal College of Music.
According to Zoopla, the average price paid for homes in South Kensington in the past 12 months was £2,273,762, down 5 per cent on the previous year.
Strutt & Parker is selling a three-bedroom maisonette with access to communal gardens on a quiet residential street for £2,195,000 or £1,672 per square foot.
The suburb: Kingston upon Thames
The name does not lie: Kingston upon Thames sits on the banks of London’s famous river, 12 miles south-west of the city centre. The town is around eight miles from Heathrow airport.
The area is served by Kingston and Norbiton railway stations, from where regular fast trains reach London Waterloo in around 30 minutes. This makes for a 50-minute commute to the West End or Canary Wharf, and 45 minutes to the City. An annual season ticket, including Underground travel, costs £2,568.
The town centre caters to the middle class. There is an Apple store, Heal’s for furniture and a John Lewis department store, as well as the usual high street chains for meals out. The cultural scene includes a small local museum, an Odeon cinema and the Rose Theatre, founded by the late director Sir Peter Hall.
Many of the area’s attractions lie outdoors, with the expanses of neighbouring Richmond Park, Hampton Court Park and Bushy Park combining to offer acres of open space, walking trails, woodland and wildlife. Kingston Rowing Club, founded in 1858, has an active junior membership, and there are two local golf clubs.
Kingston has sought-after schools, notably Tiffin School and The Tiffin Girls’ School, two selective state secondaries that perform well in exam league tables. It is also within striking distance of reputable schools across south-west London and beyond. The highly regarded fee-paying Surbiton High School, King’s College School in Wimbledon and Royal Grammar School, 20 miles away in Guildford, are all targeted by families living in Kingston.
The average price paid for homes in Kingston in the past 12 months was £637,585, according to Zoopla, down 6.5 per cent on the previous year.
Sotheby’s International Realty is selling a five-bedroom house on a private road close to Richmond Park for £2.35m, or £563 per square foot.
Photographs: Dreamstime — Christophe Cappelli, Andrew Vernon, Sung Kuk Kim; Dreamstime; Valerie Sieyes; Sotheby’s International Realty