|The Bishops Avenue|
The Bishops Avenue in the London Borough of Barnet is one of London's most exclusive residential thoroughfares. It is named after the Bishops Wood through which it runs, originally owned by the Bishop of London. The road connects the north side of Hampstead Heath at Kenwood (Hampstead Lane) to East Finchley and is on the boundary of the Borough to the London Borough of Haringey.
The road is a favourite with the international ultra-rich and is often referred to by its nickname of "Millionaires' Row" (although recently, it has been referred to as "Billionaire's Row" in keeping with inflation), and each property occupies a 2-3 acre plot, which is relatively palatial for London. During the mid 1990s, the street came to resemble a building site with many of the original houses being re-built. Properties on the street now have a vast array of individualistic architectural styles.
Property prices on the street sailed past the £1 million mark in the late 1980s, with house prices now typically starting from about £5,000,000 ($10 million USD), with no upper bound. Turkish tycoon Halis Toprak's 30,000 sq ft (2,800 m2) home, styled around a Greek temple, sold for £41 million ($81 million USD) in January 2008, making it one of the most expensive houses in the world, as listed by Forbes magazine.
Amongst the road's rich and famous residents are the Saudi Royal Family, whose London residence is situated there, although details of other residents and their addresses are kept relatively sketchy. Construction is constantly underway on the road and prospective residents will purchase large properties as they become available, only to raze them and construct their own from scratch. Another practice is to purchase any available property on the road, with the intention of moving to another non-available site, and to subsequently move when the more desired plot becomes available: however, there has been some recent press attention into whether the road has entered something of a decline. This has been mainly attributed to the fact that the road often appears to be very 'dead', because many of the residences do not appear to be primary residences, with the owners often residing abroad. Property switches hands frequently between the road's existing residents, and prominent corner positions are popular, as are some of the sites which are completely concealed from the road with gardens.
The Avenue is noted for the number of entrepreneurs and tycoons residents on it—the sudden influx of self-made billionaires is a recent phenomenon in London, and the Avenue is therefore markedly different from the highly exclusive but much more subtle and subdued character of areas such as Belgravia or Knightsbridge.
The fairly lax planning regulations on the road have resulted in some astonishing, and certainly unconventional, constructions as residents vie for attention and prestige. The exact details of properties on the avenue are not readily available although it appears that swimming pools, tennis courts, elevators and even private bowling alleys are popular.
The designs of some of the houses, nearly all of which are surrounded by high fences and security gates, have been criticized by various local and council groups. However the road's wealthy residents, with their enormous houses eligible to very heavy taxation, usually gain planning permission from the local council. Given the developments which have already been allowed to take place, the architectural blend of questionable taste has become the Avenue's signature style and it would therefore be pointless to try and restrain or restrict future development.
- Dame Gracie Fields
- Lakshmi Mittal
- Billy Butlin
- Saudi Royal Family