You’ll find Park Village West just off Albany Street in Camden Town, though you may not realise at first that it’s there, as the little street bends away and meanders back again, leading nowhere except to some of the most charming houses in London. Built by John Nash’s architectural practice in the 1820s and 1830s, these cream stucco villas occupy their own peaceful enclave, with an atmosphere as remote from the rushing traffic of Albany Street as a country village.
One of the attractions of Park Village West is how varied the houses are. Some are Gothic, some Italianate, some like Swiss chalets, others like a village street. Some were designed by John Nash himself, others by architects working in his office at the time, like James Pennethorne (later Sir James, architect of the west wing of Somerset House).
It was James Pennethorne who designed the villagey terrace at numbers 1-7, wrapped round the corner of Park West and Albany Street.
Number 8, set well back from the road, was designed by Charles Lee. Its first resident was the cartographer and geographer James Wyld, founder fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. From the gate you can just see the classical portico and the radial pattern fanlight over the door.
Number 10, with its asymmetric frontage and Tudor-like chimney stack, is one of the prettiest houses. The artist Robert Walker Macbeth lived here from 1866 to 1867.
Number 11 has little balconies on the ground floor windows. It was leased to Adam Duff in 1836.
Number 12 is the most interesting of these quirky buildings. Topped with a three storey octagonal tower, it served as the offices of John Nash from 1834 to 1837. In 1847 it became the home of the artist William Frith before he moved to number 12 in 1848. It was quite the Frith family enclave as the artist’s brother lived at number 14.
Number 13, with its ornate vases, was leased to Dr James Johnson, a naval surgeon who became physician extraordinary to William IV, in 1837.
Number 14 isn‘t strictly in Park Village but on Albany St. It’s an imposing building, given character by the bay windows on the ground floor, central stairs and shutters to the upper windows. Dr James Johnson leased this house too – he must have had a large family.
Number 17 is the most fun. Uncompromisingly gothic, it could easily be transported to Strawberry Hill, home of the Neo Gothic movement, without anyone spotting it as an intruder. It has a blue plaque saying In this home on March 26th 1845 was founded the first Religious Sisterhood in the Church of England since the Reformation.
Number 18, with its bay windows and battlements, could almost be one of the mock Tudor villas that John Betjeman loved so much, except that it was built a century earlier.
Park Village West is Grade II listed. How much would a house here cost? It’s hard to say, but something in the region of £5 to £10 million should do it.