Marylebone Ups Its Game
Marylebone Ups Its Game

Published FT July 16 2011

Larger homes are tempting cash-rich buyers away from Mayfair and Knightsbridge.

In the London version of the game Monopoly, Mayfair and Park Lane occupy the top-value property slots, and the four mid-points of each side of the board feature mainline railway stations. In a more recent limited edition of the game, Cavendish Square and Portland Place are the most highly prized and Wimpole Street, Devonshire Place and Wigmore Street are other big names in the set. The game was commissioned by the Howard de Walden Estate and if its staff play it after hours, it’s a “busman’s holiday” because during the day they play it for real.

The Howard de Walden Estate owns the freehold for 92 acres of London’s Marylebone, which stretches north of Oxford Street to the south side of Regent’s Park. To the west of its landholding towards Paddington is the Portman Estate, with 110 acres, and to the east, towards Tottenham Court Road, the Langham estate is the big player with just under 14 acres.


Marylebone, a corruption of “St Mary by the Bourne”, was just a few houses near today’s Marylebone High Street in the early 1700s. The development potential of this farmland north of Oxford Street had been spotted by the Earl of Oxford, who commissioned architect John Prince to draw up the masterplan with Cavendish Square as the focus. After his death, his daughter married the Duke of Portland and the building continued, with streets being named after members of the family.

As the wealthy moved into Cavendish Square, the doctors who attended to them started to congregate on Harley Street. It was the start of a medical connection that remains strong in the area. Marylebone is home to the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, General Dental Council and British Veterinary Association.

Another local landmark is Hertford House, situated on Manchester Square. Once the private residence of Sir Richard Wallace and his predecessors, it now houses the Wallace Collection, best known for its impressive range of 18th-century French furniture, paintings and porcelain.

More recently, larger properties have been less likely to be used as residences, but with the influx of cash-rich buyers from abroad, there are new opportunities. The Cloister Property Consultants has a 7,000 sq ft house for sale in Manchester Square for £16m, for example. Another large 9,500 sq ft Georgian mansion house in Devonshire Place on the market for £11.75m with Sandfords comes with its own mews property. Meanwhile, Cloister have a £17m former office building, ready to convert back into a 10-bed home, currently under offer in Cavendish Square.

“There’s a lot of international money chasing a current shortage of stock in London at the moment,” says Rachel Webster of buying advisers Property Vision. “Many foreign buyers are surprised at how little they can get with their money and are tempted away from the better-known areas – Belgravia, Mayfair and Knightsbridge – into Marylebone, where their outlay goes a little bit further.”

Marylebone prices have not matched the recovery of prime central London more generally, but it remains one of the city’s most expensive neighbourhoods.

“Smaller Georgian townhouses can be found for £1.4m-£1.9m, mid-range from £2.5m to £4.5m,” says Tim Fairweather of Sandfords. Mews houses are a popular choice, with almost 50 mews streets to choose from.

“Apartments range from £450,000 for a small studio [or one-bed] in east Marylebone to mid-range two- to three-beds near the high street for £900,000 to £2.5m with luxury lateral conversions between £2m and £3.5m,” Fairweather says.

The architecture of the neighbourhood is a considerable draw for buyers but residents cherish the high quality of life too. Transport links are excellent, with Paddington station and the Heathrow Express on your doorstep and the green spaces of Regent’s Park and Hyde Park nearby.

Janice Liverseidge lives and works in the area and is also a qualified Blue Badge tourist guide. “There is a great sense of community – you get to know people in the area.” She cites a mixed community of young professionals taking advantage of the easy commute to the City and Canary Wharf as well as longer term residents. “And the restaurants are fantastic,” she adds.

The café culture and independent boutique shops along Marylebone high street contribute to its distinctive village feel.

But it wasn’t always like this. “In 1995, about a third of the shops on Marylebone high street were either vacant or occupied by charity shops,” says Simon Baynham of Howard de Walden. “You could fire a cannonball down the street with no risk of hitting anyone.”

The estate set about changing this and, in the process, has been writing the manual on how to regenerate moribund urban areas. The transformation began with two large spaces rented to flagship stores – a Waitrose supermarket and a Conran shop. Then it started a programme of improvements to the high street by buying out some smaller tenants to increase the estate’s holding to about 70 per cent, allowing it to wield more overall control of the reshaping of the high street. It is currently working on a plan to create a continuous shopping link from the southern end of Marylebone high street towards Oxford Street.

There are concerns Marylebone could become a victim of its own success. As more offices are converted to private residences and as absentee owners buy up the neighbourhood, some fear the area’s liveliness and charm may evaporate. Others, however, are confident the diverse high street, with its mix of up-market shops and a thriving street market scene, will continue to attract a wide range of local residents.


Buying guide


Marylebone high street and its shops

Close to Regent’s Park


The houses lack gardens

Growing numbers of absent homeowners

What can be bought for ...

£1m : four-bedroom apartment in Hyde Park Mansions, on the market with The Cloister

£100,000 : A garage

Copyright Financial Times 2011

Working... Please wait