Gospel Oak: Down-to-earth Heath-side living
- Credit: Archant
A pocket of Victorian terraces, Edwardian mansion blocks and Modernist estates, Gospel Oak is a family-friendly area, which backs on to the famous Parliament Hill Lido and is home to a cluster of some of Camden’s top-performing schools.
Gospel Oak is situated in the heart of the borough of Camden and lies across the NW5 and NW3 postcodes. It is in the Holborn and St Pancras Parliamentary constituency. The smallest properties in band A should expect to pay a total council tax bill of £906.25. The average band D property would receive a bill for £1,359.38 and the most expensive homes in Band H would pay £2,718.76.
Buyers can still snap up three-bedroom apartments in the red-brick mansions of Lissenden Gardens for less than £1million, whilst terraced properties closer to Gospel Oak station are gradually undergoing conversions to make way for more spacious village-style living.
The average price tag for a two-bedroom apartment is £661,703 and a typical terrace will set you back £1,824,026. Homes on the market are mostly found in the quaint surrounds of Oak Village, Elaine Grove and Rona Road, where pastel-hued Victorian terraces hark back to the area’s historical roots as a rural village. A short step further from the station will take you to the low-rise social housing of the Kiln Place estates, which stretch westwards towards the Dunboyne Road development, a Grade-II listed estate of Modernist housing from the early 1970s.
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Gospel Oak Primary School on Mansfield Road opened in 1905 and has grown to be one of the largest primary schools in the borough; it received an Ofsted rating of outstanding at its most recent inspection. Nearby Carlton Primary School is being rated ‘good’ by Ofsted. Fleet Primary is an average-sized school which has an Oftsed rating of ‘good’. Secondary schools in the area are equally sought-after, with William Ellis School for boys on Highgate Road rated ‘good’ and just a stone’s throw away, Parliament Hill School for girls also has a ‘good’ rating.
Gospel Oak train station is on the London Overground, with direct trains running to West Hampstead and Highbury and Islington (where passengers can connect with the Underground), Stratford and Clapham Junction. Gospel Oak also enjoys excellent bus links to north and central London and the area is a ten minute walk from Belsize Park and Tufnell Park stations on the Northern line.
Landmarks and history
The area, which borders the traditional parishes of Hampstead and St Pancras acquired its name in the 1700s, when rural parishioners would gather for gospel readings beneath a cherished oak tree on the corner of Mansfield Road. The famous tree has long since vanished, but rumour has it that the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, preached from beneath its boughs.
Parliament Hill Lido opened its doors to excited swimmers in 1938 and has since been fitted with a one-of-a-kind stainless steel lining.
The Victorian era brought rail links to Gospel Oak, connecting it to the trade and industry springing up around King’s Cross and St Pancras.
The period character of many Victorian and Edwardian cottages in Gospel Oak is safeguarded by the Mansfield Conservation Area, bordered by Roderick, Savernake and Mansfield Roads. The red-brick mansions of Lissenden Gardens are spotted with blue plaques commemorating former residents and have their greatest claim to literary fame as the birthplace of John Betjeman.
Shopping and culture
While Gospel Oak is not a prime shopping location, its quant village atmosphere can be found in a number of charming independent shops dotted around Oak Village and Highgate Road. Kristin Baybars, 80, has run her famed toy emporium on Mansfield road for over 30 years. The curious mix of dolls’ houses, toys, traditionally-made bears and exquisite hand-made dolls’ house furnishings creates a colourful and nostalgic world which is well worth a knock on the door.
Closer to Dartmouth Park, Bazaar and Beyond is brimming with gifts, furnishings, rugs and tapestries for those looking to update their home with rustic charm and ‘rare treasures’.
Eating and drinking
The residential corners of Gospel Oak feature a smattering of cosy corner cafés, but those looking for more substantial fare after a hike on the Heath should head to the gastropubs and growing number of chic restaurants on Highgate Road.
Luca Meola’s Ristorante Rossella is a firm favourite with the locals who often book peak tables weeks in advance. This cosy, family-run trattoria offers a warm welcome and simple authentic cuisine inspired by Luca’s native Sicily and Naples.
Locals flock to cash-only Southampton Arms for its Dickensian decor and fine selection of beer and ciders sourced exclusively from independent UK breweries. Also popular is the Bull and Last, an award-winning gastropub offering hearty roasts and lovingly created puddings in the wood-panelled surrounds of a 19th-century coaching inn.
Sports and leisure
Fitness fanatics and leisurely strollers alike have plenty of choice in this southernmost point of Hampstead Heath.
A stone’s throw away from the train station is the famous Parliament Hill Lido, a 61-metre unheated open-air pool open all year round. With swimmers able to take a dip for £2 and OAPs and under 16s entitled to free early morning swim sessions, there is no excuse not to splash out on a swim with the locals.
There is a huge variety of independent and group sports activities on the Heath including scenic walks and 5 and 10k park runs for the more seasoned jogger.
Good for kids
With the Heath on their doorstep, children and families in Gospel Oak have a wealth of natural opportunities to play in the fresh air and enjoy downtime in London’s most treasured ‘back garden’. With a dedicated children’s adventure playground on Highgate Road and Gospel Oak Children’s Centre in Lismore circus offering early years care, tots are well provided for in the community.