London’s De Beauvoir Town: area focus
De Beauvoir Town is a village, says restaurateur Harry Davies. “Many people who grew up here stayed and opened businesses. Lots of old warehouses and industrial buildings have been turned into artists’ studios. There’s a nice energy, with lots of young families.”Davies grew up in De Beauvoir. Now 31, he has two businesses on Southgate Road – the De Beauvoir Deli, selling locally produced jam, cheese and Sipsmith gin, and Sweet Thursday pizza restaurant and wine shop, opened with childhood friend Rosie Wesemann.
Located between Dalston and Islington, De Beauvoir Town forms part of a conservation area in Hackney borough. Local residents include artists Rebecca Warren and Cedric Christie, and singer Beth Orton. The quiet, tree-lined streets feature semi-detached Victorian houses. Those around De Beauvoir Square, with distinctive Dutch gables and mullion windows, are particularly tall and elegant.
Southgate Road, with its artisan shops, has a touch of Primrose Hill. A corner newsagent has been turned into the 52A Coffee House, while the Flower Appreciation Society florist has created arrangements for fashion houses Roger Vivier and Marc Jacobs.
De Beauvoir offers peace and privacy with the benefits of city living. Roads are wider than in Islington, and there’s no through traffic on some. The “town” was created in the 1820s as a middle class, residential enclave, says Julia Porter-Pryce, vicar of St Peter De Beauvoir church. “But the neighbourhood has been socially and culturally mixed for over 150 years.
The Benyon Estate, descendants of the De Beauvoir family who first developed the land, still manages more than 300 properties. The Rosemary Branch pub theatre in Shepperton Road is much loved, and the Royal Court staged Circle Mirror Transformation, with Toby Jones and Imelda Staunton, at the Rose Lipman community hall in De Beauvoir Road. The Millinery Works gallery in Southgate Road stocks Arts & Crafts furniture and contemporary craftwork, while 2 & 4 Gallery is a retro furniture shop and café. Davies has seen the area change in the last few years. “It has become very chi-chi. All the cars are super-expensive.”
Light industrial buildings along the Kingsland Basin and Regent’s Canal have become studios and cafés, including the Towpath café, which the New York Times praised for its boho-chic.
Harry Davies at his popular De Beauvoir Deli. Image: Graham Hussey
Meanwhile, the fashion pack are moving in. “Simone Rocha has a studio opposite my flat,” blogs Hayley Davies, 29 (mydebeauvoirdiaries.com). “And local designer/maker Rob Goodwin made a leather cape for a Madonna.”On the corner of Southgate Road, the Hunter S pub, named after US counterculture writer Hunter S Thompson, has the air of a Fifties speakeasy. Microbrewery Duke’s Brew and Que is run by rocker Robert Plant’s son Lino. The St Peter’s church crypt hosts exhibitions and the annual Hackney Debate, while the De Beauvoir Association puts out a free monthly newsletter and holds a July Party in the Park. Annual flower and dog shows are hotly contested.
Transport: Haggerston Overground station offers access to the Victoria line at Highbury & Islington and Canary Wharf via Canada Water, and buses to the City are frequent.
You won’t see change from £1.5 million for the four-bedroom houses in De Beauvoir Square. In Englefield Road, Victorian family houses fetch £1.2 million. However, the Reliance Wharf scheme at Kingsland Basin has flats from £400,000 to £600,000. The Benyon Estate has rental properties from £300 a week.
There are good local nurseries and state primary Our Lady and St Joseph RC is well-regarded. Hackney New School, a free school, opened in September and the new Open School East art school is in the Rose Lipman Building. Arty eccentricity flourishes in N1. When he lived there, chef Mark Hix smoked his salmon in his garden. “Now Selfridges sells his De Beauvoir smoked salmon,” laughs Davies.