Moving to Greenwich
Are you moving to Greenwich? With a strong maritime history, UNESCO World Heritage Site status and the recent awarding of the title ‘Royal’ to its name, Greenwich is popular with City commuters and tourists alike – as well as being a great relocation choice for expats and their families.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Greenwich report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Greenwich on the map
Greenwich lies approximately five miles south east of central London, on the southern side of a sweeping meander in the River Thames. A steep escarpment rises 100 feet above the river, through Greenwich Park to the village of Blackheath. In the park, at the crest of the escarpment, sits the former Royal Observatory, and this is the place to come for the most spectacular views over the river to Canary Wharf and the City just beyond.
The first signs of human habitation in the area date back to the Bronze Age, while its position on Watling Street, the Roman Road from Dover to London, means that Roman relics are often discovered in the area. By the time of Henry V, Greenwich was a small fishing village on the Thames, noted as a location for safe anchorage in what was then a much wider, faster river. In 1447, the Duke of Gloucester enclosed Greenwich Park and built a tower on the current site of the observatory. Over time this was expanded and became known as the Palace of Placentia; this was the birthplace of both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. In 1616 a final addition to the Palace known as the Queen’s House was designed and built by Inigo Jones, and survives to this day.
By the Restoration, the palace had fallen into disuse and Charles II founded the Royal Observatory there in its place. Later in the same century, Christopher Wren was commissioned to design a Royal Hospital for Seamen on the banks of the river – this is now known as the Old Royal Naval College – and together with the Observatory, these two form the most famous Greenwich landmarks. In 1997, Greenwich was declared a World Heritage Site for its concentration of buildings of historic and architectural interest.
But for all its illustrious past, Greenwich is also valued as a charming residential area by people who work in the City, Canary Wharf and other parts of south east London. Commuting is straightforward, with two railway lines serving the borough: the east-west Greenwich line, which runs to Charing Cross and Cannon Street, and the north-south Docklands Light Railway (DLR), which runs between Lewisham and Bank, traversing Canary Wharf. There is one London Underground station, North Greenwich, on the Greenwich Peninsula, and commuters can even use river transport from Greenwich Pier. Road users do not find Greenwich so convenient, as there can be heavy congestion in the area during rush hours and the major routes out of the south east of London are fairly slow.
Greenwich and Blackheath have a good stock of Georgian and Victorian houses, mainly terraced but also some semi-detached and detached villas, as well as more modern developments and apartment blocks. The most prestigious addresses include Gloucester Circus, Arlington Place and the aptly-named Diamond Terrace; other desirable streets are Hyde Vale, Ballast Quay, Georgette Place, Crooms Hill and Admirals Gate. In Blackheath, the Paragon is a notable crescent of semi-detached properties linked by colonnades, built by Michael Searles at the end of the 18th century. The Cator Estate covers some 282 acres south of Blackheath Village and features Victorian houses as well as some innovative 1960s ‘Span’ houses. This private estate is quiet and well planted with mature trees, making it enduringly popular.
Who lives here and why?
Turning back the clock you’ll find that the most notable residents of Greenwich were kings and queens of England. However, today the people who choose to live in the borough are more varied; all of the following were either born in Greenwich or Blackheath or have lived part of their lives in the area: actor Dominic Cooper, poet Cecil Day-Lewis, musician Jools Holland, dictionary compiler Dr Samuel Johnson, actresses Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson, former Prime Minister James Callaghan and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson.
So what is it about contemporary Greenwich that appeals? As well as a stunning location overlooking the Thames, there is the prestige of the Royal Observatory and the Greenwich Meridian, and the glorious Wren-designed Naval College. But these are obviously tourist attractions rather than reasons to move to the area. So scratching a little further beneath the surface reveals some of the other reasons why Greenwich might be worthy of consideration.
Part of its appeal dates back to Greenwich’s rising popularity as a smart resort during the 18th century. A building boom resulted in a large number of glorious Georgian houses, many of which remain today, and this stock was further added to during the Victorian era. The town centre spreads west of Greenwich Park; this is where the best choice of historic properties remains. The focus of the town has been, since the 14th century, the market which occupies a central, island site close to the Maritime Museum. This is one of London’s most historic markets and currently trades five days a week, specialising in food on Wednesdays, and antiques and collectables on Thursdays and Fridays. The town centre also features an independent cinema, two theatres and a fan museum.
A further attraction down on the riverfront is the newly restored Cutty Sark. This 19th century tea clipper set the record for reaching Australia under sail. To the east of the Naval College and the Maritime Museum, on the site of what was once the East Greenwich Gas Works, the O2 is a huge domed concert venue that started life as the Millennium Dome, London’s exhibition to celebrate the turn of the last millennium – now one of the capital’s major live entertainment venues.
South of Greenwich, Blackheath is one of south east London’s most affluent suburbs. The area’s name is derived from the open heath land that divides it from Greenwich. Many rather gruesomely believe this land was used as a mass burial site during the ‘Black Death’ in the 14th century; historians, however, suggest this is merely an urban myth. It was however, a rallying point for Wat Tyler’s Peasants’ Revolt in 1381, while in the 17th and 18th century it was a popular spot for highwaymen to attack the stage coaches travelling between London and Dover. However, with the advent of the railway it became a popular commuter town and there are plenty of fine Victorian houses that are ideal for families. Rail links into Cannon Street, Charing Cross, Victoria and London Bridge means it continues to be popular with people who work in central London.
Having come to world eminence as the location of the Prime Meridian, where Greenwich Mean Time was devised, upon which Coordinated Universal Time is based, the area was the only UK destination listed in Frommer’s 2012 Top Ten Global Destinations. And indeed 2012 is another vintage year for this historic borough, as it is one of the six host boroughs for the London Olympics; there are shooting events at the Royal Artillery Barracks, equestrian events in Greenwich Park and gymnastics and basketball at the O2.
The Best Bits
The riverside is a beautiful and exciting place in Greenwich, including attractions like Cutty Sark which is fit to entertain you at any age.
Bringing the Kids
So what’s important when you’re bringing your family to a new city? Finding the right house, obviously, but also the whole new living environment needs to be considered. You want to be assured that there are good schools a reasonable distance from where you might be living; that the area is clean and safe, with open spaces and family friendly facilities. Ideally, you should live close enough to your place of work so an epic commute doesn’t eat into your family time. Greenwich and Blackheath will tick all of these boxes and more.
Education is often the first concern for executives brining their children to a foreign country. A move abroad can be stressful for children and then they have to enrol at a new school where they don’t know a single person, so it pays to do some research to make sure you find the right school from the start. Luckily, Greenwich and Blackheath offer a good range of schools in all age categories. Most expats select private schools for their children; there are 13 independent schools in Greenwich, including several prep schools, a number of secondary schools, both mixed and girls-only, a theatre school and a couple of special schools. In the state sector there are several excellent Church of England and Catholic primary and secondary schools, including the prestigious Blackheath Bluecoat School that was established over 300 years ago. Unfortunately, however, because of the rules of catchment areas, state schools can be extremely difficult to get into unless you already have a local UK address. Greenwich also boasts its own university, some of which is housed in the buildings of the former Royal Naval College.
But it’s not just about education. Weekends and school holidays in Greenwich can be enormous fun. There’s so much to see and do – as well as world class tourist magnets like the observatory, the Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark, there are also parks and gardens, excellent sporting facilities, cinemas and theatres, river trips and, of course, everything else London has to offer right on your doorstep.
Relocating to Greenwich
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has attracted the kings and queens of England to its leafy environs and remains one of south London’s most attractive districts. If you’re relocating to London and bringing your family, Greenwich makes the ideal choice – it has history, culture, open spaces and good schools, and furthermore, it’s within easy commuting distance to the City and Canary Wharf. Your family will enjoy a high quality of life in a beautiful area that has a friendly neighbourhood feel. It also makes a great choice for young professionals making their mark in the financial services industry – some fabulous new developments on the riverside and good transport links to the City make it well worth a look. However, if you don’t know the area, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when looking for a property, and access to someone with good knowledge of the local rental market is virtually essential. Add to that further considerations such as convenience for work, access to suitable schools, transport links for trips back home… This is when employing the services of a relocation agent can really help.
At Saunders 1865, our teams of experts combine local knowledge with first-hand experience to pinpoint the right area and the right property that will tick all your boxes. We know London property inside out, we know how much you should expect to pay and the advantages and disadvantages of choosing different areas. We can bring expertise to all these factors and help to arrange smooth, efficient and stress-free relocations – here or to other parts of London and the UK. Our services include home finding assistance, school finding, lease negotiations, temporary accommodation, move management and immigration assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help you.
The Royal Borough of Greenwich has attracted the Kings and Queens of England to its leafy environs. It is one of south London’s most attractive residential districts. For a assignee relocating to London and bringing their family, Greenwich might be one ideal choice – it has history, culture, open spaces and good schools, and Greenwich is within easy commuting distance of the City and Canary Wharf.
Average Monthly Rents: Greenwich
Average Monthly Rents: Blackheath