the rise of postcode snobbery
Londoners obsessed with what an address says about them lie about where they live.
The Evening Standard (London, England); 5/3/2006
Byline: JONATHAN PRYNN
MILLIONS of Londoners routinely lie about which areas they live in to make their address sound more prestigious, research shows today.
The phenomenon has been dubbed "the new class system" by property experts, who say people are obsessed by what their neighbourhood or postcode says about them.
Today's survey shows 42 per cent of Londoners are prepared to be deliberately misleading when they are asked: "Where do you live?" The proportion is higher than for any other part of the country.
The poll of 2,044 people also found that address affected people's sense of selfworth. Two thirds said a home in a good neighbourhood was more important than owning a "dream house".
The research demonstrates how London's complex patchwork of rich and poor areas has made it easier for residents - and estate agents - to make claims that often do not stand up to scrutiny.
For example, the scruffy area around Wormwood Scrubs becomes "Ladbroke Vale" and residents of bleak Raynes Park say they live in "West Wimbledon".
But other findings suggest some Londoners prefer to "trade down" their address to give it an extra urban edginess.
One respondent who lives in Stoke Newington village said he would admit only to living in Hackney because it sounded cooler. Similarly, Kilburn, a once unfashionable area residents would pass off as "West Hampstead", is now gaining a respectably edgy chic. Even Conservative leader David Cameron has been accused of getting in on the act by describing his address as North Kensington rather than elitist Notting Hill.
Property psychologist John Gowlland said: "Our personalities and our homes seem to be more inextricably linked than ever before. If we have a desirable postcode, somehow we are seen as more desirable personalities. But the thing about our property is we can change everything about it - except its location. I'm always getting people saying, 'If only my house was in Notting Hill or Chelsea, everything would be okay.' But there is very little evidence they would be any happier."
The survey, by insurer Norwich Union Direct, also shows the social map of London has changed the reputation of some areas dramatically. Two decades ago, Battersea was a working class post-industrial area. Now it is one of the most aspirational names in south London.
Here we look at some adjacent neighbourhoods where estate agents are apt to blur the boundaries.
Shepherd's Bush or Brackenbury Village?
Shepherd's Bush (W12) Famous residents: Writer Toby Young, pictured, cricket commentator Simon Hughes and mailorder entrepreneur Johnnie Boden.
House prices: [pounds sterling]415,000 for three-bedroom house, [pounds sterling]180,000 for two-bedroom flat.
Landmarks: Loftus Road stadium, home to Queens Park Rangers football club, Janet Adegoke pool and Phoenix leisure centre, [pounds sterling]3.10 for an adult swim. Was the fictional setting for Albert Steptoe's junkyard and Arthur Daley's lockup.
Brackenbury Village (W6) Famous residents: Broadcasters Adrian Chiles and Jeremy Vine, pictured, writer Hanif Kureishi and Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell.
House prices: [pounds sterling]650,000 for three-bedroom house, [pounds sterling]215,000 for two-bedroom flat.
Landmarks: Anglesea Arms, one of the best gastropubs in London. Specialities include boudin of duck confit accompanied by carrot puree and roasted skate wing with puy lentils and spinach. Mains about [pounds sterling]12.
Lewisham or Hilly Fields?
Lewisham (SE13) Famous residents: Singer Gabrielle, diarist Samuel Pepys and Russian Czar Peter the Great.
House prices: [pounds sterling]180,000 for three-bedroom house, [pounds sterling]120,000 for two-bedroom flat.
Landmarks: Horniman Museum (short bus ride from central Lewisham). Set up by tea merchant Frederick John Horniman for objects he collected from around the world. Exhibits include natural history, musical instruments, tribal artefacts and tea-making paraphernalia. There is also an aquarium and miniature zoo. Open daily, free entrance.
Hilly Fields (SE4) Famous residents: King Kong author Edgar Wallace and actor David Haig.
House prices: [pounds sterling]240,000 for three-bedroom semi, [pounds sterling]160,000 for two-bedroom flat.
Landmarks: Honor Oak adventure playground, Turnham Road, SE4: offers a range of safe activities for children aged five to 16, including rope swings and climbing structures. Organisers also arrange a programme of offsite day trips and residential outings. The playground is open all year, including school holidays.
Archway or Highgate?
Archway (N19) Famous residents: Singers Ms Dynamite, pictured, and Mel C, DJ Jo Whiley and actor Clive Owen.
House prices: [pounds sterling]330,000 for a three-bedroom house, [pounds sterling]210,000 for two-bedroom flat.
Landmarks: Suicide Bridge: Victorian bridge with ornate lamps overlooking the A1.
Since 1996, 16 people have jumped to their deaths from it.
Archway leisure centre pool, Macdonald Road, has a wave machine and water slide.
Family ticket: [pounds sterling]10.10, adult: [pounds sterling]3.40, child: [pounds sterling]1.90.
Jackson's Lane community centre - an arts centre housed in a converted, listed Edwardian church in Archway Road. It contains a 167-seat theatre, big dance studio, cafe and bar.
Highgate (N6) Famous residents: Singer George Michael, pictured; actors Connie Booth, Art Malik, Steve McFadden, Terry Gilliam and Sean Bean.
House prices: [pounds sterling]490,000 for threebedroom house, [pounds sterling]250,000 for twobedroom flat.
Landmarks: Highgate Cemetery, Swains Lane the 19th-century "Grade II-listed park" is home to the grave of Karl Marx, which visitors flock to see.
Open seven days a week, [pounds sterling]2 entrance fee, [pounds sterling]1 camera permit.
Highgate Wood & Queen's Park -70 acres of woodland, nature trails, playground and nature hut are popular with children. At the centre is the vegetarian Oshobasho cafe.
Free admission, open daily until an hour before dusk.
Whitechapel or Hoxton?
Whitechapel (E1) Famous residents: Artist Tracey Emin, pictured, John Merrick (The Elephant Man), George Bernard Shaw, Lenin and Jack the Ripper.
House prices: [pounds sterling]340,000 for three-bedroom house, [pounds sterling]155,000 for two-bedroom house.
Landmarks: Whitechapel Art Gallery. Britain's first purposebuilt art gallery, founded in 1901, shows the work of contemporary artists and hosts retrospective exhibitions. Open every day except Mondays. [pounds sterling]7.50 for adults, [pounds sterling]2 for 16-to 18-year-olds, under-16s free. The Rhythm Factory: bar, nightclub and restaurant that has hosted Razorlight and The Libertines.
Hoxton (N1) Famous residents: Actor Fay Ripley, fashion designer Steve McQueen and singer Jarvis Cocker, pictured.
House prices: [pounds sterling]600,000 for a three-bedroom house, [pounds sterling]250,000 for a two-bedroom house.
Landmarks: White Cube gallery, Hoxton Square Admission is free, open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm.
Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen - for celebrity spotting.
Shoreditch town hall - recent [pounds sterling]2.3million renovation. Now one of the most fashionable venues for civil ceremonies.
Shoreditch fringe, but it's really just the Mile End Road LIVE in Mile End Road? It might be Whitechapel to you and me, but it's the "Shoreditch fringes" to estate agents and Hoxton wannabes.
Tiffany Stringer, 28, above, manager of a boutique on Rivington Street, said: "It's sad if people feel they need the postcode to be cool because Whitechapel is nice as well, but it's a bit like people in Islington wanting the N1 postcode there's a definite snobbery in these things."
Jen Floyd, 27, right, a PR for a fashion shop in Curtain Road, said: "This neighbourhood was where west London people would never come but now it's really trendy and people can't afford to live here, so they're forced to live further east in places such as Whitechapel.
Although it's not as hip as Shoreditch, it is coming up.
Whitechapel Market on a Sunday is getting really trendy - it's an alternative to Portobello Road."
Dressmaker Ross Hancock, 29, right, of Shoreditch, said: "It won't be long before the Shoreditch culture has merged into Whitechapel as house prices go up." Med Lacoste, 18, a sales assistant from Whitechapel Road, said: "I say I live in Shoreditch or Brick Lane because that's where I hang out."
COPYRIGHT 2006 Solo Syndication Limited