Iconic streets: A guide to Putney

Ruth Bloomfield discovers an enviable riverside location and substantial family houses in her guide to Putney

For almost 200 years, Oxbridge rivals have tested their mettle on the water with the annual Boat Race. The action starts just below Putney Bridge, and in early April, thousands of supporters will gather in this usually peaceful south west London stronghold to cheer on their crew from one of Putney’s fine riverfront pubs.

To many, leafy Putney is Fulham’s sensible sister: less frenetic and fashionable, but very comfortable, and brilliant for families. But things were very different until the Victorian era. The birthplace of Thomas Cromwell, antihero of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy, was a small village which became a popular spot for city-fatigued Londoners to take a day trip, whiling away their time playing bowls, watching horse racing, or hunting. Queen Elizabeth I visited regularly. 

After the arrival of the railways Putney evolved into what it is today: an affluent suburb of substantial but not showy houses, popular with the professional classes. 


At first glance 

Alight at Putney’s redbrick railway station and you will almost certainly be confronted by the sight of four lanes of stationary traffic – congestion is the bane of Putney residents’ lives.

The High Street, which leads down to Putney Bridge, is lined by shops, more useful than exciting, but the big sky views from the bridge are spectacular and worth the walk. The side streets are filled with neat Victorian and Edwardian terraces – the sheer volume of timber shutters and front doors painted in 50 shades of Farrow & Ball are a nod to local demographics. 

Closer to Putney Heath and Common are streets of rangy Victorian villas with massive, by London standards, gardens. 

Buyers converge on Putney from more expensive postcodes on the other side of the river. Sophie Sharman, for Hamptons estate agents, says many of her younger buyers have been renting in Fulham but “can’t quite afford to buy there”, while others have been born and brought up in the area and want a first home close to the folks. Older buyers are following a similar path, moving out from Fulham, Clapham, or sometimes Chelsea or Belgravia. “For them Putney represents green space and fantastic schools,” says Sharman. 

Why is Putney iconic? 

Putney Bridge is the second oldest in the capital (beaten only by Richmond Bridge). It is thought that prime minister Robert Walpole agreed to pay for the construction of a timber bridge after struggling to cross the river by ferry because the ferryman was indisposed, drinking in The Swan Inn. The bridge was built in 1729. 

In 1795, the early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, suffering from a bad case of a broken heart, flung herself off the bridge in a suicide attempt. She was fished out and revived by a passing boatman. She went on to marry the philosopher William Godwin and their daughter, Mary Shelley, became a novelist and wrote Frankenstein. 

Today’s residents include, as well as City workers and recent graduates newly arrived in London, a sprinkling of non-showy celebrities. Simon and Yasmin le Bon have a family home here, as does John Deacon, the Queen bass player, and comedian Jack Whitehall.

Eating out in Putney



SW15 is not fine dining country, but what it does very well is atmospheric neighbourhood cafés and bars. Kickstart your day with a speciality brew at Ground Coffee Society, brunch on brioche French toast at homesw15 (below) or sip Swedish tea while picking up stylish homewares and furniture from young Nordic brands and designers at Blåbär concept store. When it’s time for dinner, take your pick from Gazette, an authentic French restaurant on Upper Richmond Road, Sicilian local, Soffice, MaGoa, a Putney institution serving home-style Goan cuisine, or unfussy pub food and Sunday roasts in the airy dining room at the Duke’s Head (a great spot from which to view the annual Boat Race). 

Property in Putney

Property varies, from chunky Victorian villas with spacious gardens to modern penthouses with views of the Thames. Key streets include Gwendolen and St Simon’s Avenues, close to Putney’s High Street and station. “For West Putney they have big gardens, and they are very attractive late Victorian and early Edwardian villas,” says Alex Howard Baker, joint head of Savills’ Putney office. He recently sold an unmodernised house on Gwendolen Avenue for £4.7m (£1,000 per sq ft). Fully modernised, with a basement extension, houses on these streets can sell for around £1,500 per sq ft.

On Putney Embankment buyers must pay up to £1,750 per sq ft for a home with a front row view of the Boat Race. On Deodar Gardens, gardens run down to the river allowing owners to keep a boat.

Buyers looking for outdoor space should explore Lower Common South, where houses overlook Putney Common. Detached, Victorian gothic houses sell for £1,250-£1,500 per sq ft. There is also Heathview Gardens, part of a tiny enclave of leafy streets right in the middle of Putney Heath where gardens measure up to around an impressive third of an acre.

Sophie Sharman at Hamptons estimates that Putney prices increased by 5 per cent in 2021. The rise was mainly supported by houses, with many buyers vying for more space and pushing their budgets to secure a house as their first purchase. 

Schools & Shops

A great range of state and private options make Putney popular with parents. Brandlehow Primary School, St Mary’s C of E Primary School, and Our Lady of Victories Catholic Primary School are all rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. The very smart Hurlingham School takes students from two to 11-years-old and many pupils go on to Ibstock Place in Roehampton or Emanuel School in Battersea. But it is Putney High School (girls) which is probably the most sought after independent school in SW15 – it regularly scores amongst the top performing schools in the UK, although it is highly selective. In the state sector Saint Cecilia’s Church of England School and the Ark Putney Academy both hold “good” Ofsted reports. 

Although the High Street is heavy on chains – Oliver Bonas, L’Occitane, Waitrose – there are some independent gems in Putney. Pick up a pot plant at Grow, on Upper Richmond Road, shop the latest Korean beauty products at Aigoo, browse the rails at Adornments, and choose gifts at Huttons or Farrago. 

A stroll along the river, stopping off at one of the waterfront pubs, is a particular delight of Putney living, and the whole area really comes alive on Boat Race weekend in April. The 400-or-so acres of Putney Heath offers ample wide open space. There is an Odeon Cinema on the high street, or you could take in a show at the Putney Arts Theatre. For something more active, along with all the regular gyms and sports clubs, you could learn to row at the Hurlingham Yacht Club. 


On the market


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