There’s a prejudice against outer London. A successful young(ish) restaurateur tells me he’s thinking of emigrating because even with £300K to put down he couldn’t buy a family house in central London. A woman I know has become a kind of stripper to raise enough funds to ward off a move out to Hangar Lane or beyond. But it’s time to get real.
It’s all relative. George Orwell and Evelyn Waugh both lived in Canonbury Square in Islington, not out of choice, but because it was what they could afford. The then-grimy and overcrowded streets of N1 provided Orwell with the inspiration for the London he describes in 1984). After the war planners thought the population of the south east would fall. Instead the UK population is 15% higher than in the days of Waugh and Orwell and everyone wants to live in the south east. Just as in the 60s the Victorian suburbs came back into fashion, in our day, Middlesex looms.
So brace yourself for a plunge into London’s overlooked outer ring — the large slice that would fall between the hands of a centrally located clock standing at about twenty to one. It includes Queensbury, Sudbury, West Drayton, Boston Manor, Pinner, Hounslow, Hendon, Edmonton, Rayners Lane, Brentford, Greenford, Willesden Junction, Kenton, Isleworth, Hanwell, Wembley Park, Edgware, North Harrow… With some exceptions (Pinner, Totteridge, Hatch End, Hampstead Garden Suburb) it’s (relatively) affordable if not glamorous territory… the sorts of places where we at Hoxton Beach work, or live, or buy our supplies (our customers tend to be more central.) This is J. G. Ballard country: the 020 8 area, TfL zone 4 and upwards; to the uninformed it’s a featureless sprawl. But by looking through the unfamiliar prism of the extinct county of Middlesex we hope to reveal its riches and, at times, strangeness.