A Brief History of Property in London

An Early History of London’s Houses

London has always been a bustling hub, a melting pot of humanity. It has attracted the wealthy and impoverished, the fashionable, and those who like to be at the centre of affairs, almost since it was Londinios during the Roman invasion. More information about London’s infancy and how it came to flourish under the Saxons, may be found here. During the Great Fire of London in 1666, over 10,000 homes were raised to the ground, and in some senses this presented an opportunity for the city to be reborn like a phoenix from the flames. This century witnessed the emergence of modern London.

Straight, wide and airy streets with Roman proportions came to be favoured towards the end of the seventeenth century. There were fashionable houses with gabled windows, many of which can still be seen today, and they are evident in Bloomsbury, Knightsbridge, and Chelsea too. Typically the demographic of the city throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries favoured the affluent dwelling to the south and west of the Thames. To the east, working class inhabitants of London resided in less favourable conditions, in areas such as Bethnal Green. During the nineteenth century East London was home to many back to back houses, and there were workhouses at Lambeth, Bethnal Green and Camberwell.

Suburbs of the city began to spring up rapidly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Often, industries would be the veins that supported communities and the construction of property. French Huguenots made their homes around the silk industries they established at Spitalfields. There was a flourishing clock and watch industry at Clerkenwell, so that these places both supported the fashionable homes of wealthy merchants. Furthermore, London was at this time the largest port in England, handling three quarters of the country’s imports and exports. Workers dwelt nearby according to their status. Many Victorian properties around areas such as Wapping and Blackwell survive to this day and have been converted into sought after flats.

Growth of London’s property markets in the nineteenth & twentieth centuries

The nineteenth century witnessed suburbs such as Acton, Chiswick, and Ealing becoming incorporated into the metropolis. In the South, Greenwich, Dulwich and Lewisham came to be widely regarded as part of London. The completion of London’s sewage system in 1875 represented a major innovation that boosted the value of properties within the city, and prompted a steady stream of immigration from the surrounding countryside.

Food, drink, leather, breweries and furniture making were all important industries during this time, supporting the housing market.

During and after the Second World War, authorities came to feel that London was becoming overcrowded. This involved the construction of a ring of satellite towns around London, at a distance of 20 – 30 miles around, and the first flats were also built by the council in 1948. The 1960s witnessed an increase in the number of high rise flats available to rent in London, and there was a comparatively new problem of expensive rental and labour rates. An opposite trend arrived: that of leaving the city.

Today, London life has never been more popular. The 2012 Olympics emphasised the city’s long and colourful history, and districts at London’s centre, particularly those boasting old fashioned town houses, support the most expensive rents. Formerly an Anglo-Saxon village, historically the home of the humanist Sir Thomas More, the playwright and poet Oscar Wilde and the novelist George Elliot, Chelsea has never been more popular. Property to rent in Chelsea ranges from airy town houses, to stylish studios supporting professional lifestyles.

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