Around 40,000 people make the journey across Tower Bridge every day.
Most of them are tourists, wandering between the two towers open-mouthed for a bit before disembarking when they realise there are better photos to be snapped from the bridge’s not-so-impressive neighbour to the west.
Some are workers, probably cursing the fact their commute involves a river crossing as they hightail it towards office buildings in the City and the South Bank each morning and then back home again in the evenings.
But for a small handful, home is directly in the shadow of London’s most iconic landmarks and, with developers working to bulk up culture and dining options in the area, life is getting sweeter by the day.
What properties are on offer?
Up until recently, residential property directly adjacent to Tower Bridge was primarily confined to the south side in Shad Thames, a Victorian warehouse complex that was at one time the largest in London and housed huge quantities of tea, coffee and spices as they were unloaded from the docks.
The area was redeveloped in the 1990s and many of the warehouses converted into one, two and three-bedroom flats, retaining links to their history with names like Vanilla & Sesame Court, Tea Trade Wharf and Cayenne Court.
According to Chestertons estate agent Alex Hensley, these unique loft-style homes remain among the most popular on the market, although additional new builds have resulted in a fairly good turnover for the area.
He has just listed a one-bedroom flat in the historic Vanilla & Sesame Court building on Curlew Street for £550,000 but says entry-level buyers can get into the area at around £500,000. At the other end of the scale, a three-bedroom penthouse in the riverfront building Butler’s Wharf is listed with Cluttons for £4.75million.
Speaking of that other end of the scale, Tower Bridge is now bookended by two of central London’s most prestigious new developments. On the south side is One Tower Bridge, Berkeley Homes’ recently completed riverfront scheme of 376 apartments with luxury interiors and amenities to match. A four-bedroom home in Blenheim House is currently listed with Chestertons at £7.95m.
Across the river, Barratt London’s Landmark Place is approaching completion, bringing 165 apartments to the north bank, prime riverfront real estate formerly dominated by boxy mid-century office blocks. It’s a position that offers residents views of not only Tower Bridge but also the Tower of London, the Shard and HMS Belfast, which is parked right out front.
Six months off completion, more than 75% of the apartments have been sold, but there are two and three-bedroom homes available for between £1.2m and £9.975m.
Slightly further afield, Bermondsey has its share of warehouse conversions with a few period houses on the south side of the river, while St Katharine Docks and Wapping have loft-style living sewn up in the north. New builds for the latter include the St George development London Dock, which will bring 1,800 new homes, including 486 affordable, to the former News International site in Vaughan Way, and Royal Mint Gardens, a luxury development next to Tower Gateway DLR.
Who is buying?
Professional couples looking for an easy commute to the City or Canary Wharf make up the bulk of buyers in the low to mid-range market, with overseas buyers coming in at the top end for luxury new builds.
The lack of houses tends to push families further east or south, but Alex says plenty return once the kids have moved on. “We have had quite a few buyers who grew up here, moved out to the home counties to raise their families, and then they come back for the food and the culture and easy transport links,” he says.
Neighbouring Borough Market might be known as London’s larder, but Tower Bridge’s culinary credentials have climbed several notches over the last year with a whole host of new restaurant openings at the foot of One Tower Bridge.
Big name tenants include Ivy Brasserie, Tom’s Kitchen, US vegan chain By CHLOE, and a second outpost for Indian hotspot Gunpowder, which opened its doors last month.
Harry Lewis, managing director of Berkeley Homes, says curating a unique restaurant offering for the former coach park site that “offered nothing to the public” was key to the success of One Tower Bridge.
“Rather than taking the easy route and letting the restaurant spaces to national brands, we decided to build a more authentic offering, with handpicked cuisines from around the world.
“Many of the restaurateurs have opened their first or second restaurant here, such as Tom Simmons, Prosecco House, or Gunpowder; and the famous Brighton restaurant The Coal Shed chose One Tower Bridge for its London debut.”
Elsewhere, French restaurant Le Pont de la Tour is a Shad Thames stalwart, while Sargeant’s Mess does British classics with a view of the bridge on the north bank. Maltby Street Market has a great vibe on weekends with food stalls and small batch gin distillery bars in the railway arches.
On the north side of the river, Tower Hill Tube station is serviced by the District and Circle lines while Tower Gateway offers easy access to Canary Wharf via the DLR.
London Bridge station is an easy stroll on the south side, with Underground services on the Northern line plus trains to the south-east. There are also bus routes to Shoreditch, Liverpool Street and Dulwich.
Arts and leisure
Tourist trappings of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London aside, cultural offerings in the immediate vicinity include the new Bridge Theatre, home base for National Theatre-alumnae Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr’s London Theatre Company.
Further along the South Bank you’ll find Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, British Film Institute IMAX, the Design Museum, and British War Museum.