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The lottery of London’s historic postcode system

I’ve never read anything by Terry Pratchett but I do like the idea that two streets in Somerset have just been named after places in his books.

Treacle Mine Road and Peach Pie Street sound more Beatrix Potter than wizards, trolls and sci-fi to me but it’s right that the naming of our streets should reflect current culture and events.

But for any property it is the postcode that really matters – and take it from me the phrase ‘postcode lottery’ equally applies to property values as it does to whether or not Aunt Betty will get her hip replacement before the London Olympics.

A number of years ago I had a canny client who owned a house fronting Holland Park Avenue in London W11.

Attached and part of the same property was a mews which fronted a street I won’t identify but that runs at right angles to Holland Park Avenue and is in neighbouring W8.

My client carried out an extensive scheme of refurbishment during which he quite legally altered the main access to be via the mews and not the house.

This resulted in his postal address becoming W8 rather than W11, as it had been previously.

To those in the dark let me shed some light. W11 is a fine upstanding postcode comprising pretty stucco-rendered houses arranged around Notting Hill and large family houses in Holland Park but from a valuation point of view W8, being gorgeous Kensington, always shades it.

My canny client, simply by altering his main access, had added thousands to the value of his property, all tax-free.

Clever, don’t you think? Some of London’s postcodes now have almost iconic status and in a number of districts, values differ depending on the codes. The origin of London’s postcode system is interesting. It was the idea of a man called Sir Rowland Hill, who devised the scheme in 1850 as by that time the expansion of London meant that there were many streets in different areas all with the same names and post was regularly being lost.

Hill divided London into 10 districts that were further defined and simplified in 1917.

This was to help the women sorters who, it was thought, didn’t have the geographical knowledge of their menfolk who were being blown to bits on the Somme.

At first glance London’s postcode system seems bizarre and it does have its anomalies.

Why, for instance, are there N and E codes but not an S? And on the subject, why is there an NW code but not an NE? But there is method to the system because codes are largely in alphabetical order.

Take SW for instance. SW1 is Belgravia, SW2 is Brixton, SW3 is Chelsea, SW4 is Clapham and SW5 is Earls Court all the way down to SW19 and 20 which are Wimbledon.

Learnt something today haven’t you?


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