Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jenny Agutter House !! Why cut-glass Jenny is a 'Sarf' London girl at heart... Railway Children star sells £1.8m home but stays in area she loves

If you wanted a 3,500sq ft Georgian house in Chelsea, you would need at least £5million and in somewhere like Islington, in North London, about £3.5million. But south of the River Thames, it's a different story.

After 11 years living in a grand and beautifully designed five-bedroom Georgian townhouse in Camberwell, actress Jenny Agutter, 58, is reluctantly selling up for £1.8million.

Jenny and her husband Johan Tham, a 67-year-old Swedish hotelier, are switching focus to live in a five-bedroom cottage they own on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, which they visit every other weekend.

Happy memories: Jenny Agutter is selling her £1.8million townhouse but praises the Camberwell area

Happy memories: Jenny Agutter is selling her £1.8million townhouse but praises the Camberwell area

They are downsizing their London base, and have already bought properties nearby. Although Jenny is renowned for her cut-glass West End enunciation, her heart appears irretrievably lost to 'Sarf' London.

'I raised my son Jonathan here and I have many happy memories, so I'm reluctant to sell,' says Jenny. 'But now he's at university and we don't need all this space just for two of us.'

Because it is sandwiched between crime hotspots Peckham and Brixton, property prices in Camberwell have always been reasonable. Indeed, over the past 18 months, incidents of stabbings in the area have been so numerous, the ward has topped the borough of Southwark's monthly list for violent crime rates as many as five times.

Home improvement: Jenny Agutter and her husband spent £500,00 on their Camberwell property

Home improvement: Jenny Agutter and her husband spent £500,00 on their Camberwell property

This gives an impression somewhat at odds with the attractive, tree-lined road and the graceful period interiors of Jenny's London idyll.

'I would not dream of going anywhere else and I have had no personal experience of crime here,' she says. 'We moved from Chelsea because our house there was burgled, my car was stolen and I had my car windows smashed on more than one occasion.

'Guns are available in any postcode and muggings take place all over London, but Camberwell has a really positive local community. Our neighbours are friendly, the local shopkeepers are helpful and there are some lovely green spaces.'

Other celebrity locals undeterred by the area's reputation are pop singer Florence Welch, of Florence And The Machine, and BBC correspondent Jeremy Bowen.

The daughter of an Army officer, Jenny was just 11 at boarding school when she was picked out of her dance class by a Walt Disney scout.

Aged 15, she played Roberta in the 1968 BBC television production of The Railway Children and reprised the role two years later in the famous film version.

Hollywood roles in The Eagle Has Landed and Logan's Run followed, but she let her career play second fiddle after marrying Johan in 1990, aged 37, and having a son.

In recent years she has been back on our television screens in Spooks and is currently filming Call The Midwife, a new series, also starring Pam Ferris and Miranda Hart, due to be screened next year. She has also landed a small role in a big-budget movie version of The Avengers, anticipated to be next year's summer blockbuster.

Attracted to the area by the reasonable prices, Jenny and Johan bought their Camberwell home in 2000 for about £900,000. The previous owner had allowed its condition to become tatty, so before moving in they spent an estimated £350,000 renovating and extending, using top-quality materials throughout.

Child star: Jenny Agutter, far left, in the classic film The Railway Children

Child star: Jenny Agutter, far left, in the classic film The Railway Children

They pushed the house out at the back to make a larger basement kitchen and longer reception rooms on the first two floors.

Johan installed two lovely fire-places taken from hotels he had renovated and the couple rewired and replastered each room, repairing and restoring all the sash windows and window shutters.

Three years later, they spent another £150,000 building a separate house, with a vaulted ceiling, behind the courtyard garden.

They divided the space into a double-height studio room with beautiful maple panelling, an en suite bedroom and an office space above.

'Initially it was for my mother, who was using a wheelchair before she died,' says Jenny, 'but now it makes perfect guest accommodation and adds another 500sq ft to the home.'

Jenny says she adores travelling to the couple's Cornish property for its contrast to London living - the stillness, slow pace of life and wonderful views over the sea she can enjoy on the clifftops of the Lizard Peninsula.


Price: £1.8million

Bedrooms: Five

Receptions: Five

Bathrooms: Three

Outside: Courtyard, one-bedroom mews house

Agent: Roy Brooks, 0208 2993021

She has even become a patron of a local theatre, Hall for Cornwall in Truro, 25 miles from the cottage. 'But I couldn't live in Cornwall all the time,' she adds. 'I'm the sort of person who needs to have a lot on the go and I love the buzz of the city - I can't be away from London for long.'

Because Jenny feels at home in Camberwell, the couple have snapped up three two-bedroom flats in a luxury new-build scheme in the area, each costing about £500,000.

This year they worked with developers to knock two flats together, making a spacious three-bedroom apartment. The other flat is for Jonathan when he returns home.

'Camberwell is only a 15-minute bus ride from London's theatres so it's almost as convenient as living in Central London,' says Jenny. 'But prices are so much more reasonable here.'

Ed Mead, of estate agents Douglas and Gordon, says: 'Camberwell appeals to those who would like to live in Chelsea and can't afford it but who also want to live somewhere more architecturally interesting than Wandsworth or Clapham.

'Unfortunately, it was largely town-planned by the Luftwaffe and the crime is a turn-off.'

Local agents Bairstow Eves claims prices have risen by about 12 per cent on 2007 levels, except among one-bedroom flats, which aren't selling.

A strong rental market sees eight per cent returns for ex-local authority or modern flats. Victorian flats in prettier roads achieve smaller yields, about six per cent, but they have a better chance of capital growth.

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