Playing the imitation game
- By Bertie Russell
- 07 September 2018
Take a boat trip down the Regent’s Canal towards Camden Lock and you might think that you are taking a journey through the past, albeit an idealised version of it. Branches of willow trees trail in the water; there is plenty of bustle on the canal boats moored along the way and mid-Victorian white-stucco mansions line the route. The area, a part of Maida Vale, is said to have been nicknamed Little Venice by either Lord Byron or Robert Browning, revealing that either poet had a talent for rebranding gentrifying neighbourhoods in a way more associated with estate agents of our own age.
The waterway is a reminder of the explosive growth of London in the 19th century. Built in 1820 by John Nash, the architect and town planner, and named for his patron, the Prince Regent, the canal’s purpose was to take coal from the north to King’s Cross station. At that time, the location was anything but smart, yet development followed in the 1860s and today Little Venice is close to the top of London hierarchy, thanks mostly to the lush neoclassical architectural style, and it exudes money.
However, not all of the houses are as old as they seem. One double-fronted property on Randolph Road, a street that runs down to the canal, is only six years old, but identical to its grade II listed neighbours in almost every way. Only a purist could spot the difference, such was the care taken to ensure that every aspect of the exterior of the four-storey house, built on the site of a smaller property, matched the style of the location. Inside, the imitation game continues: the high ceilings and cornicing mirror those in the adjoining properties.
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