If you are looking for the perfect family-friendly neighbourhood in the capital, you ought to consider the many former villages which make up South London, and more often than not retain some of their characteristics and charm. There are heaths and commons, grand landmark buildings… it feels very different from the rest of the capital. Most (but not all) of the places listed below require crossing one of more than twenty bridges spanning the length of the Thames in the Greater London area – which can be challenging at rush hour, if you’re driving. There are trains aplenty though, and riverboats which make the commute to work so much more interesting. Here’s a part one of our two-step guide to South London for families:
It used to be a somewhat run-down part of town along the river, but Fulham has been spruced up over the past few decades, and there’s great choice of housing to buy or rent; it’s become the destination of choice for those priced out of neighbouring Chelsea, or coming to London from abroad. There are City-types, yummy mummies, and French families attracted by the Marie d’Orliac, a primary school linked to the French Lycée which has a bilingual section. There are many other schools to choose from, both independent (Fulham Prep, St James’) and state options such as St Augustine’s primary school (judged to be “outstanding” by Ofsted.) There are also some extremely popular and oversubscribed secondary schools, like The London Oratory and Lady Margaret. In terms of green spaces, Bishop’s Park takes the biscuit – make sure you visit Fulham Palace, a Tudor gem.
This neighbourhood has a rural je ne sais quoi about it, especially when you’re standing on top of the hill… blink, and you could be in the countryside! The woods and heaths are secluded spots to go for walks in, do sport, relax. And of course there’s plenty to do by the river, too… there are riverside walks, bars and restaurants, and a whole range of new-ish property, too, if Thames-side apartment living is what you’re after. Many families tend to go for Victorian and early 20th centuries houses, either near the river or by the heath. There are some “outstanding” primary schools, such as Our Lady of Victories RC, All Saints CofE and Brandlehow , and an “outstanding” comprehensive, Ashcroft Academy. The senior girl’s school Putney High is a very popular private option.
It’s retained a distinct village feel – allotments, cricket pitch et al – just across from Hammersmith Bridge, and about 15 minutes by train from Central London. Barnes attracts families seeking a country idyll within a stone’s throw from the capital. It has a strong sense of community, and many independent shops, cafes and restaurants. The London Wetland Centre is a great place for a family day out… or you can choose to walk along the towpath – follow the Thames’ bend – or on the common. Barnes school is an Ofsted “outstanding”-rated primary school, and there are several independent options: Colet Court and St Paul’s School right by the river, the Harrodian just up the road, the Swedish School (popular with Swedish expats who are in London for a limited time reriod.) The independent prep and senior schools in Hammersmith and Brook Green are easily accessible by bus and car.
It’s just over 8 miles from Central London, but Richmond has enduring appeal for families who are looking for a more relaxed life in upmarket surroundings. The area has everything you could possibly want in terms of shops, restaurants, pubs, and the magnificent Richmond Park, with its resident deer and splendid views of London. Nearby Kew Garedens is also great for a family day out. There are lovely Georgian and Victorian properties to buy and rent, but they come with a hefty price tag – you need deep pockets to get your hands on a decent family-sized house. On the upside, it’s only a 20 minute commute to the City, and there are a lot of high-performing schools, both state and private (state schools in this borough tend to have a very good performance track record.) There are prep schools nearby, too, too – e.g. King’s House, Falcons and Old Vicarage – and state primaries such as St Elizabeth’s RC, Marshgate and the Vineyards. Tiffin School and Tiffin School for Girls are grammar schools in nearby Kingston-upon ThamesTop, and private senior schools like Lady Eleanor Holles and Hampton School are also within easy reach.
Families tend to move here from Richmond and other south London boroughs in order to upsize – you get more for your money in Twickenham, and there is a wide array of Victorian and 20th century properties to choose from. It’s a quiet and residential suburb, with a sense of community much valued by residents; there are independent shops, bakeries, fishmongers and cafes, as well as chains and supermarkets along Church street and Richmond Road, and near St Margaret’s station, where you can catch the train into town (30 mins to Waterloo.) Of the local state primary schools, St James’ RC, St Mary’s CofE, Bishop Perrin CofE and Orleans are judged to be “outstanding” by Ofsted, as are comprehensives Waldegrave Girl’s School and Orleans Park. There are three prep schools – The Mall School, Twickenham Prep and Newland House – and two private senior schools, Radnor House and St Catherine’s School.
An interesting mixture of the old and new new, Battersea is a neighbourhood which has seen plenty of change in recent times; its riverside has been transformed by a series of flashy developments, and Battersea Power station will surely add to the buzz of Thames-side living. There are of course the old traditional mansion blocks and Victorian houses which have long been drawing families to the area, along with Battersea Park, a wonderful green space by the river which has a lovely children’s zoo. Chesterton Primary School is “outstanding,” and state secondary schools St john Bosco College and Bolingbroke Academy are newcomers to the area. There is a good choice of prep schools, such as Thomas’ Battersea, and Newton Prep and Eaton House the Manor schools in Clapham are a short distance away. Some families semd their children to private or state faith schools across the river in Chelsea.
Sandwiched between Putney to the West and Clapham to the East, Wandsworth is a very popular family area, particularly the ‘Nappy Valley’ roads between the lovely green spaces of Wandsworth Common and Clapham Common. There are some fabulous (and also fabulously expensive) houses here, and should you have any cash left you can go shopping, eating and drinking options on St John’s Hill, Southside or Bellevue Road. Clapham Junction is one of three train stations – a major transport hub and one of the quickest links to Central London and the City. There are a number of Ofsted “outstanding”-ranked state schools here: Allfarthing, St Ann’s CofE and St Faith’s CofE are primary schools, and Ashcroft Technical Academy is a comprehensive secondary school. Emanuel School is a co-ed private senior school right by Wandsworth Common.
Clapham Common, the best known of the South London parks, is the jewel in the crown of this urban and highly prized neighbourhood. There is a sense of space here, and variety too – you have elegant residential roads of multi-million pound houses, but only a short walk away there’s the hustle and bustle of Clapham High Street and Abbeville Road, with their bars, restaurants, and very diversified shopping opportunities. The farmer’s market is a popular Sunday family meeting place. Clapham has a nice, lively atmosphere, and is also a convenient area for schools: there are three outstanding state primaries (MacAuley CofE, Clapham Manor and St Mary’s RC) and Wix, a state primary, has a bilingual arrangement with the French Lycée’s primary school Wix Lane (the latter is extremely popular with French families, and accounts for the major influx of recent years.) Many parents favour prep schools such as Eaton House the Manor and Parkgate, and travel further afield for senior schools (e.g. to Dulwich or Central London.)