The Bishops Avenue

The Bishops Avenue, Barnet

An ultra-exclusive street running from the northern tip of Hampstead Heath to East Finchley

Royal Mansion, formerly Toprak Mansion

The avenue’s name derives from the bishops of London, who owned a large hunting park in the area in the late Middle Ages. Highgate golf course lies to the east and Hampstead Garden Suburb to the west.

Over the course of the 20th century ever larger and grander properties were built here and this is now probably the most ‘desirable’ address outside central London – at least as an investment, if not as a place to live. Neighbouring Winnington Road is almost as expensive.

One house on the Bishops Avenue, the Towers, sold for around £10 million in 1992 – a phenomenal price at that time. Its features include an island with palm trees in the middle of its indoor swimming pool.

Another, the twelve-bedroom, eleven-bathroom Summer Palace, was built in 1991. It has a brass and crystal glass lift, a comprehensive leisure complex and a central atrium. It is presently owned by the steel baron Lakshmi Mittal but is not his main place of residence in London.

Toprak Mansion (shown above) was sold in 2008 to the Kazakhstani billionairess Horelma Peramam for £50 million. The house had been nicknamed Top Whack Mansion but is now formally known as Royal Mansion.

A modest house, by the standards of the Bishops Avenue

Other properties are owned by members of the Saudi and Brunei royal families.

In May 2013 a High Court judge gave receivers KPMG the go-ahead to sell Carlton House, a £20 million Bishops Avenue mansion that belonged to Mukhtar Ablyazov, who was alleged to have misappropriated billions of dollars of his Kazakh bank’s assets.

London’s resident billionaires mostly prefer to live in Kensington or Belgravia and in recent years several Bishop’s Avenue properties have lain empty – sometimes prompting squatters to move in for a while.

According to a 2014 Guardian investigation, several huge houses (including the Towers) are falling into ruin after standing almost completely vacant for up to a quarter of a century.

Lately, a few houses have been replaced by high-price, low-rise apartment blocks – but one new mansion, Jersey House, was sold for £33.7 million in December 2014.

Successful singers and musicians to have owned homes on the Bishops Avenue have included Gracie Fields, Lulu, Ringo Starr, Sting, George Michael and Annie Lennox.

“Why not talk about Bishops Avenue / I’ve got a lovely house on Bishops Avenue,” sang Elton John in his 1988 parody of ‘Give Peace a Chance’.

Postal district: N2