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London villages: Highgate

Old money mingles happily with new in Highgate. Its Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture has drawn many City lawyers, bankers and advertising executives, but the village is also popular with those in the entertainment industry, counting George Michael, Victoria Wood, Clive Owen, Kate Moss and Geri Halliwell among those who live here.

Bet you didn’t know

The boundary between London and Middlesex used to run through the hall of The Gatehouse inn, and, when this was used as a courtroom, a rope divided the room so that those being tried couldn’t escape into another jurisdiction. This problem continued in one form or another until 1993, when the boundary was finally moved a few feet. Until then, the pub had to get two separate licences, but now, the entire building comes under Camden Council’s remit.

Blue plaques

Highgate boasts the childhood homes of Sir John Betjeman (31, Highgate West Hill), Peter Sellers (10, Muswell Hill Road) and Mary Kingsley (22, Southwood Lane), as well as former homes of J. B. Priestley (3, The Grove) and Indian patriot Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (65, Cromwell Avenue).

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Morning papers

‘Brooksby is our only news-agent and has an impressive, eclectic mix of reading material,’ according to Chris Underhill of estate agents Prickett & Ellis Underhill. His own estate agency was established in Highgate in 1767 and is thought to be the oldest in the world.

Parish church

St. Michael’s, in South Grove, offers both traditional and modern services and has a strong musical tradition, with choral Evensong held on the third Sunday of the month.

Village pubs

The Flask (77, Highgate West Hill), The Angel Inn (37, High-gate High Steet), The Red Lion and Sun (25, North Road), The Wrestlers (98, North Road) and The Prince of Wales (53, High-gate High Street) are all popular with the locals.

For everything you need

Highgate Butchers (76, High-gate High Street) is renowned for the quality of its meats. Highgate Village Fruiterers (3, Highgate High Street) isn’t only the local greengrocer, but it is also the best place to buy flowers.

And for things you don’t

Highgate has many independent shops stocking unusual items that you may not get easily elsewhere. Among others, you’ll find the bespoke furniture and creations of Walter Castellazzo in WCD (84, Highgate High Street). Next door at number 82, Nawar provides a fine selection of clothing and jewellery.

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The Corner Shop (88-90, Highgate High Street) has an eclectic mix of world foods and, says Mr Under-hill, is run by ‘the ever-popular Raj’. Village Deli (8, South Grove) is where you can find ‘the best sandwiches in the village’, according to Mark Newton of Taylor Gibbs estate agents.

Eating out

‘The Angel Inn does a great weekday lunch and Sunday roast. Most of the pubs do excellent food and there’s Kip-lings (2, North Hill) for Indianfood lovers and Strada (4, South Grove) for great Italian cuisine,’ says Mr Newton.

Afternoon tea

There are several popular tea shops, including the cafe at Lauderdale House, which has indoor and outdoor space overlooking the gardens, and the recently opened Le Pain Quo-tidien (86, Highgate High Street), which is favoured by Kate Moss. But, according to Mr Underhill, ‘the best place is the award-winning High Tea of Highgate (50, Highgate High Street), which offers traditional cakes that are all baked on the premises-my favourite is its delicious carrot cake, still warm from the oven.’

Charity shops

The area abounds with charity shops that have good-quality stock. The Cancer Research and Oxfam shops on the High Street (at numbers 72 and 80 respectively) carry designer labels, and Oxfam also has a separate bookshop (47, Highgate High Street). On Archway Road are Mind (329), RSPCA (335) and the Green Room (192). The latter has been described by Time Out as ‘the most unusual shop in London’ and you can find cheap books and vinyl or chance upon some truly unexpected offerings, which, in the past, have included dinosaur dung and one of Tony Benn’s pipes (signed by the politician).

Village fair

The Fair in the Square takes place each year in Pond Square in mid-June. The 2012 event attracted 7,000 visitors and had 130 stalls, as well as children’s activities, competitions for bakers, florists, jam makers, gardeners and dogs, plus entertainment including bands, choirs, dancers, circus acts and gymnastic displays.

Out and about

Upstairs at the Gatehouse (at The Gatehouse) markets itself as London’s ‘top’ theatre-it’s 446ft above sea level. The fringe theatre has an in-house company, Ovation Productions. The auditorium at the pub was opened in 1895 as ‘a place suitable for balls, Cinderellas and concerts’. It has been used as a Victorian music hall, a cinema, Masonic lodge and, in the 1960s, as a jazz and folk club (Paul Simon once played there). The Highgate Contemporary Art gallery displays the work of local artists.

Green spaces

Highgate borders Hampstead Heath and has more than 1,000 acres of green space. Waterlow Park’s rolling pathways give access to Lauderdale House, which holds year-round attractions, including gallery showings and stage productions.

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