Haunted Houses

I couldn’t let Halloween pass without giving you something to get goosebumps over, and since we are Estate Agents in W1 and are all about buildings, let me give you the heads up on some of London’s most haunted.

Let’s start with the Spaniards Inn on the edge of Hampstead Heath – built in 1585 it’s a quaint, oak-panelled pub with a pretty garden.  The story goes that two men fought a dual over a woman, one man was killed and he was buried in the garden and his ghost is said to haunt the pub.  Dick Turpin the highwayman was said to be a regular here and his ghost has been seen standing by the road outside the pub, as well as some of his victims.  Visitors to the pub have occasionally reported that they have felt like they were being grabbed – by an invisible source, but perhaps they might have had just one too many…

Apparently several ghosts have taken up residence at the Tower of London which dates back to 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest;  James I’s cousin Arabella Stuart being the most famous of all.  She was imprisoned in the Tower and said to be murdered, so have your wits about you in the Queen’s House where she is said to stay, I’m sure she’s not a happy ghost…Ann Boleyn was executed here too and there have been sightings of her headless body strolling the Tower’s corridors.   And let’s not forget the mysterious White Lady – she’s said to haunt the White Tower, standing at the window waving to children opposite – so if you want to see your kids scared out of their skins, this is the place to take them!

Handel’s House Museum in Mayfair is dedicated to the works of George Frederic Handel who lived here in Brook Street from 1723 to his death 1759.  There have been sightings here of a ghostly figure of a woman and the strong lingering smell of perfume.  Jimi Hendrix lived next door and is said to have seen her in the 60s.  Again perhaps one too many?

Somewhere that isn’t exactly haunted but might be a sort of creepy place to visit this weekend is the Hunterian Museum in Holborn.  It’s packed full of specimens within jars such as preserved monkey heads and deformed bodies, a prime example pictured here. And more. But be warned – this is very much NOT for the squeamish!

And at 1 Margaret Street, Davis Brown Estate Agents W1, if you want to pop in and visit us, I promise you won’t find anything too ghoulish!



Halloween’s Haunted Room at The Langham

Just moments’ walk from Davis Brown estate agents offices in W1 is the beautiful Langham Hotel in Portland Place. This stunning Victorian building is one of London’s famous landmarks, and remains one of the places to stay in the city centre.  What many do not know is that The Langham is also home to residents of a rather spooky nature! Halloween is just a few weeks away and so we thought we would investigate the history of The Langham a little more, and share our findings with you.

Designed by John Giles and completed in 1865, The Langham was designed in the style of a Florentine Palace.  Giles’ design was picked from a competition and rumour has it that the total cost of the build ended up at £300,000! Opened on the 16th June by the Prince of Wales, at the time The Langham was both the largest and most modern Hotel in London, even featuring the first hydraulic lift in England.

Famous guests such as Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde were regular visitors, and Arthur Conan Doyle even set some of his books such as A Scandal in Bohemia in The Langham.  The hotel has even been awarded a blue plaque for its famous customers, in particular the meeting of Oscar Wilde, Arthur Conan Doyle and Joseph Marshall Stoddart at The Langham in August 1889. 

Following heavy damage during World War II and BBC ownership, The Langham underwent a four year restoration starting in 1987 to the cost of £100 million and proudly re-opened in 1991, returned to its former glory.  

The Langham remains true to its origins as one of London’s most prestigious hotels, despite rumours of hauntings paranormal activity.  During the BBC’s occupation of the hotel, it was suggested that up to five ghosts stalk the halls of the Langham Hotel.  Reports feature a European Nobleman who allegedly fell to his death from an upper storey room, walking through walls and doors before a sudden drop in temperature and a gust of cold air.  Perhaps the most famous of The Langham’s apparitions is located in the famous Room 333!  This hotel room is said to be one of the most haunted in London – legend has it that the room is home to the ghost of a Victorian Doctor who murdered his wife before killing himself during their honeymoon.  A BBC reporter claims he woke in the middle of the night to a bright white ball of light at the end of his bed.  The light grew into a ghostly image of a man in Victorian nightclothes, with severed legs below the knee.  The BBC reporter ran to retrieve a colleague, and when they both returned, the apparition was still there before fading into thin air.  However, the third floor is also haunted by a butler who stalks the corridors at night, frightening staff and guests alike. Famously in July 2014, England Cricketers Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes were so terrified during the night whilst staying on the third floor that they demanded to be moved to another room!

Here at Davis Brown we offer short let stays in The Langham, from hotel rooms, to fully furnished apartments.  You can even request a room on the third floor…and dare we suggest Room 333 itself?! If you are a bit of a ghost seeker, then let us set you up at The Langham over Halloween.  Alternatively, if you are simply looking for a little luxury in the city centre then please do not hesitate to ask and we can send you our full list of properties within The Langham Hotel.

If you are looking for short let properties in Marylebone, Fitzrovia, Covent Garden and W1, contact Davis Brown for more information. 


Friday’s Fitzrovia Facts!

We always have our Chartered Surveyor/Estate Agent ears to the ground when it comes to all things interesting around and about our city, taking an extra special interest in our very own hood of Fitzrovia, W1. So here are few little known facts for you to ponder over this weekend, and you never know – these facts may win you a pub quiz one day..

The Newman Arms on Rathbone Street features in two of George Orwell’s novels – Nineteen Eighty Four and Keep the Aspidistra Flying. It also made an appearance in Michael Powell’s horror film Peeping Tom.   Pies feature heavily in this pub and by all accounts are pretty tasty fayre but don’t just take my word for it, Fay Maschler – food critic from the London Evening Standard says so too.

Bernard Shaw and Virginia Woolf lived in the same house (at different times) at 29 Fitzroy Square. We know all the famous faces past and present from this area, and this brings me to offering you a bit of pop culture.   Those of you down with the kids will be interested to hear that Coldplay formed in Ramsey Hall – a university College London accommodation in Maple Street.  Those of you with a love for all things 60s & 70s will be interested to know that the Speakeasy Club aka The Speak was situated just a stone’s throw from Davis Brown’s Estate Agent’s office at 48 Margaret Street – a late night club for the music industry which entertained until the late 70s.  Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Bob Marley all performed here.  And Bob Dylan made his London debut at the King and Queen pub on Foley Street.    Oh to have been a fly on the wall in those heady days!

Fitzrovia 23.10.15

Something for the weekend!

For those of you fond of a bit of spice in your life, I’ll let you into a little secret .. It’s Curry Week this week and if you love a curry but don’t know where to find one let me point you in the direction of Brick Lane in East London.   Brick Lane is home to some of the best curry houses outside of India and is a real must for any foodie.  Curry – you’ll be surprised to hear is not the main focus of this blog but it does lead me nicely to an interesting exhibition at an interesting space, and being Estate Agents in W1 we love all things interesting, especially when it comes to spaces and buildings!  The Truman Brewery is the interesting space part.  It’s East London’s premier hub for all things creative – including galleries, markets, independent shops and restaurants.

It started life as a brewery (obviously) in 1666 when Brick Lane was flanked by fields, and was set up by brewer Joseph Truman. It’s had its rise, it’s had its fall and more recently it’s had its renewal.  The rise lasted over 250 years based on the success of the beers, pubs and it’s community spirit.  It closed in 1989 but was reborn in 2010 when 2 beer enthusiasts gave it a new lease of life based on the principles it was founded on – great beers and pub culture.

The interesting exhibition part is The Other Art Fair and it’s happening here until Sunday 18th, which gives yet another excuse to head to Brick Lane. As well as guest artists, there will be immersive theatre, live music and an all-important G&T bar.

So you’re sorted for food, history and culture this weekend – don’t mention it!


Diary Of A First Time Buyer


I started looking at properties in local newspapers and on portals such as Rightmove and OnTheMarket at the beginning of the year.  I knew I wasn’t quite ready to buy, but I felt that it was important to start to get a feel for local prices and find out what I was realistically going to be able afford both to buy and maintain.  I signed up to a couple of local estate agents in Fitzrovia, which was the area I was looking in.

My initial searches did not return much and I soon went back to the drawing board to have a think.  I realised that my criteria was too precise.  Firstly, I had only signed up to a couple of estate agents in Fitzrovia which is such a small area.  I soon realised that to maximise the number of properties being sent to me, I had to sign up to estate agents in surrounding areas such as W1 and Covent Garden.  I also started to understand the difference between asking price, and achieved price! I had set my search budget at the maximum I wanted to pay, as opposed to slightly over, with a view to actually purchasing the property at a lower price.

Once I had increased the number of estate agents I was subscribed to, along with my budget, I started to get lots of emails with a larger and better variety of properties.  It was at this point, that I wanted to start going out and taking a look at the properties.

I shortlisted a selection of apartments, making sure that the list contained properties that I simply liked the look of, ‘sensible’ properties (i.e. good price, good location but without the ‘wow’ factor) and properties that were really over my budget.  I wanted to see things that had varying pro’s and con’s to see whether I could love a sensible property or whether the over budget properties really were worth the money / wait to move.  I met with a string of different estate agents in Fitzrovia, W1 and Covent Garden and viewed a total of 25 properties.

Funnily enough, I had seriously considered offering on a couple of properties when I viewed an apartment that I fell in love with.  It was originally in my ‘sensible’ category and if I am honest I was not particularly excited to take a look around.  I hate to sound cliché but it was a case of love at first sight.  I immediately felt at home in the property and from the moment I walked through the door, I was already visualising my things in the flat.  It was in desperate need of a lick of paint, and a bit of TLC but liveable.  When I had initially begun looking, I had visions of taking on an absolute wreck of a property and making my fortune doing it up.  However, I soon realised that it was going to be rather impossible to work full time and then come home and continue working on a property.

Offer and negotiation

I took some guidance from estate agents in Fitzrovia and W1 on making an offer on a property.  They all suggested that I should offer low which would leave room in my budget for a counter offer and further negotiations.  I did just that and then when a counter offer was put forward, I accepted it and the deal was done! The negotiation for my property was really simple, although I know that this is not always the case so it’s a must to keep your wits about you.

Memorandum of Sale and Exchange

The memorandum of sale was the important bit to get signed after having had the offer accepted.  The estate agents in W1 sent me over both an electronic copy via email, and a hard copy which I was instructed to sign and return, along with my solicitor’s details.  I was lucky enough to have been recommended a solicitor by chartered surveyors in Fitzrovia and so it didn’t take long to complete the memorandum.  However, I took my time to read everything through and seek help for anything I wasn’t sure about.

At this point I also discussed with the vendor, the estate agents in Covent Garden and my solicitor when we could all expect to exchange.  Once we had agreed a date and my solicitor had completed the searches etc., we exchanged contracts and everything went quite quiet! It was a bit unnerving at first as I thought I should be doing something, however I was reassured by the estate agents in W1 that between exchange and completion, there isn’t a lot to do apart from get ready for the move!


Our completion date was a couple of months later and when the day finally arrived I was so excited.  I was called by the estate agents in Covent Garden who confirmed that they had received the paperwork and were ready to hand me the keys to my new property.  I met up with the vendor and the estate agents in Covent Garden, just to double check everything over and once they left, the property was mine!


Our Favourite Buildings…By The Davis Brown Staff!

The very fact we are estate agents means that bricks and mortar are a big part of our lives, we eat sleep and breathe the stuff of course!  We all have our favourite buildings and I’m going to let you into the minds of some of us who work here at Davis Brown estate agents in Fitzrovia.

DB-144 - Lisa WLet’s start with The Shard, designed by Renzo Piano as a spire –like sculpture emerging from the River Thames, housing 87 storeys – modern architecture at its best as is the thinking of our residential property manager Lisa.

DB058-1B - John EdenJohn our graduate surveyor and newest recruit chose 1 Canada Square, this skyscraper in Canary Wharf was the tallest building in the UK from 1990-2010, standing at 770 feet and containing 50 storeys. Then The Shard was built and knocked it off the tallest spot!

DB-190 - Tony HThe Old Palace at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire is a favourite of Tony, one of our Directors.  It was built in 1485 by the Bishop of Ely and was one of the foremost examples of medieval brickwork in the country.  Henry VIII owned it and Elizabeth I spent most of her childhood here.  Steeped in history and exceedingly beautiful it’s easy to see why this would be in the mix!

Our other favourites include 20 Fenchurch Street AKA The Walkie Talkie building, it stands at 525 feet tall making it the 13th tallest in London.  The Natural History Museum – nothing not to love there!  St Pancras Station, the Cathedral of Santa Maria in Palma,  Windsor Castle and the Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa.   As you can see we have diverse tastes – always good for a discussion in the office!

A guide for Commercial Landlords letting their property

Considering letting your commercial property? Davis Brown – a firm of Chartered Surveyors and Estate Agents in W1 are here to help you with the process. We are regulated by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors so you can take full advantage of our professional expertise. Here are a few criteria that you should consider first of all:

  • The user clause, size and condition of the property
  • Location of your property and proximity to transport links and amenities
  • Market Trends
  • The Unique Selling Points of your property

You need to ensure that your property complies with all relevant Health & Safety Regulations (ensuring gas, electrical and asbestos reports are up to date). You will also require an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). It is a legal requirement that Landlords must provide before the property can be put on the market to let or sell. Ensure that you have Building Insurance and ask your solicitor to check any lease restrictions which may prevent you letting to certain tenants. Davis Brown’s Commercial Lettings Department in Fitzrovia will be happy to assist you here.


Landlord Considerations:

Once you have the above information to hand, contact Davis Brown – your commercial agent and discuss what you are looking for in a tenant. Also consider the following details and discuss them with your agent so that they can give the prospective tenants as much information as possible before viewings take place and time is wasted, to ensure your incoming tenant has full knowledge of the facts of the lease their company will be taking on:


  • Lease length (are you willing to take a short lease or do you require 10 years +?)
  • Break Option (do you wish to grant a break, will this be mutual or landlord only and what notice period do you require?)
  • Service Charges (are you willing for the incoming tenant to “cap” their service charge or not and what does the service charge cover?)
  • Rent Deposit (how much do you require)
  • Dilapidations (what are the incoming tenant’s responsibilities?)
  • Building Maintenance (when are the next works to the building both internal and external being undertaken and what are the incoming tenants contributions?)
  • Lease Restrictions (do you wish them to have the option to assign or sublet the lease, do you have any other restrictions which they should be made aware of – i.e. building works or changes to the premises they are letting?).
  • Additional Charges (ensure the incoming tenant is aware of all additional charges which may not have been advertised – these will normally include their building insurance contribution and possibly a “sinking fund” contribution).

Tenant References and Credit Checks:

All prospective tenants will need to provide full company accounts. Bank details and current landlord details of any prospective tenant will be obtained by your commercial letting agent here at Davis Brown so that references can be obtained. We can also discuss together the rental deposit that you will require.

Legal Requirements:

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

All new lettings will legally require an EPC. It is the landlord’s responsibility to provide a valid EPC and this must be available before the property is marketed. Contact your agent to arrange an EPC if there is not a valid certificate for the premises.

Gas Safety

The 1998 regulations place a legal duty on Landlords and agents dealing with rented properties. The regulations require all gas appliances, pipework and flues from the appliances to be checked annually by a qualified Gas Safety Registered engineer. A valid Gas Safety Certificate must be issued each time and updated every 12 months and a tenancy cannot commence without the appropriate certificate. Failure to comply is a criminal offence for both the Landlord and the Landlord’s agent.

Electrical Certificate

You need to ensure that you have a valid certificate for any common parts of the premises. Your tenant is responsible for providing this for their demised area.

Asbestos Report

You need to ensure that you have a valid certificate for any common parts of the premises. Your tenant is responsible for providing this for their demised area.

Building Insurance

You also need to make sure that the building is covered by buildings insurance. When the building is tenanted this cost will usually be covered by the tenant.


Accepted Offer:

Once an offer has been accepted, your agent will send out Heads of Terms to all relevant parties and their solicitors, setting out the draft terms of the lease. Once the Heads of Terms have been accepted your agent will place the property “under offer” and further viewings of the property will cease. Davis Brown will then request that draft contracts are sent to the relevant parties and will liaise with your solicitor to ensure a swift timescale to completion.


On Completion:

On completion of the lease your solicitor will collect any monies due. Once the monies have been cleared and the lease has been signed by all parties, your agent will then arrange with the incoming tenant a suitable time to collect the keys. If your agent manages the premises on your behalf, they will also take meter readings (gas, electric, water etc) and contact all suppliers, including the local authority (business rates) to notify them of the new tenants.


Break Clause:

If your lease has a “break clause” which allows either you or the tenant to terminate the lease before the lease expiry date, ensure that your agent makes a note of the date this must be completed by. Should you wish to terminate the lease, notice must be given in writing. Your agent will be able to assist you in this matter.


Expiry of the Lease or Exercising your Break Clause:

Around 3 months before your lease expiry, it is advisable to contact your agent and request they commence marketing the premises for a new tenant. Your agent will then visit the premises to take marketing photos and possibly new measurements. Your agent will liaise with the current tenant with regard to access for any viewings.


Schedule of Dilapidations:

Generally, 1 or 2 months before the current tenants vacate, we would suggest that you appoint your agent/surveyor to visit the premises to undertake a “Schedule of Dilapidations”. This will provide the outgoing tenants with a step by step guide of all works that must be undertaken to the premises before they leave, this will ensure that the premises are left in a good state of repair and condition.


Moving Out:

If you agent manages the property, they will visit the outgoing tenant to undertake meter readings and to collect all keys to your premises.  They will also inform the current suppliers (gas, electric, water) of the tenants “moving out” date and inform the local authority in relation to their business rates.


For more information, please contact Davis Brown – your Estate Agents and Chartered Surveyors based in W1 – who will be happy to help you every step of the way.



One for the Cineastes – Snippets of history from the world’s greatest capital city!

As longstanding Estate Agents in W1, we know a great building when we see one!   And the Curzon Cinema in Mayfair is undoubtedly (well, in my opinion anyway) the best post war cinema in London.  It is housed within a beautiful (OK – you can debate that one with me) Grade II listed building and was built in 1963 by HG Hammond of Burnet Tait & Partners, replacing the Modern Dutch cinema built in 1934 by the same firm.

From the outside – on Curzon Street, it appears as a windowless stone panel and around the corner by the entrance in Hertford Street as windowless brick sections.  The interior features illuminated coffered ceilings designed by Victor Vasarely, these contrast with the rough fibreglass murals by W Mitchell & Associates.  It boasts a 530 seat auditorium, a vast 43 foot by 20 foot screen and two royal boxes, and in 2002 the rear stalls were converted into a second screen so they could offer a wider selection of film.  and it was one of the first cinemas to show foreign language films in the UK.  One of the most prominent art-house cinemas in London (being one of the first cinemas to show foreign language films in the UK), with plush seating and a refurbished bar, this cinema is a treat for any cinephile.

As autumn is now upon us and the nights are drawing in, why not go and experience the cosy Curzon Mayfair for yourself while catching up on the latest blockbusters?  I’d say that was quite the plan!

Curzon Cinema

A brief review of the UK property market from August/September 2015

As fully qualified chartered surveyors, the team at Davis Brown, London takes an avid interest in both the residential and commercial property markets. With September marking the end of the third quarter of the financial year, it is a good time to reflect on the situation. The below is a brief summary of the recent Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) reports on the subject.

Commercial Properties

The trend for demand over-running supply continues across the country, with demand for leasable space growing for the eleventh consecutive month. The continued lack of space relative to demand is set to increase rental prices in the next quarter. As commercial property agents in W1, we note that the gap between supply and demand and ergo the rental increase, is more pronounced in the London area. This is mirrored by 50% of the London surveyors questioned who believe that commercial space is overpriced (a 5% increase on the respondents with the same answer in the prior period).

The retail sector as a national average has grown; however, it remains notably lagging behind the office and industrial sectors. This discrepancy is most notable in the North of the UK.

Investment levels have been growing steadily, as have the number of overseas buyers. When paired with the continued lack of property for sale, the capital values for commercial properties have risen notably in the period. An interesting note on the topic of foreign investment/policy is that 44% of the respondents stated the belief that if Britain opts to leave the European Union in the upcoming referendum, it would have a significantly negative effect on the commercial property market.

Residential Properties

In a similar story to the commercial market the residential market show continued growth in terms of interested new buyers but a lack of new instruction is damaging the rate of sales growth. This is further compounded by the continued (but less pronounced) decline in the number of vendor listings (which have failed to increase significantly since 2013). Again, with demand outstripping supply, house prices are set to rise and as consequence house price inflation will also rise. The RICS suggests that there will be a significant growth in sales across the UK in the next twelve months, but with particular effect in Scotland and Wales.

Again mirroring the commercial property sector, respondents from London gave a 50% view that the prices were fair, in comparison to 68% of respondents from other parts of the country.

In the lettings market the RICS predicts that rental prices (UK average) will increase by 4.5% over the next 5 years. This reflects the increased tenant demand, which is paired with a mild increase in Landlord instructions.

As a macro point the Loan To Value (LTV) values remain relatively settled across the buyer categories (First time, Buy to Let and Existing).

For more information about the property markets in London, why not contact Davis Brown, we are quality driven residential and commercial property agents in London.


Davis Brown – your favourite Estate Agents in W1, has a fantastic property new to the market so we wanted to give you the heads up right here, right now!

A stunning Victorian mid terraced building in Fitzrovia, its adjoining neighbourhoods of Soho, Bloomsbury, Mayfair and Marylebone, makes this prime central location incredibly sought after. This freehold conversion/refurbishment opportunity has the added bonus of recently being granted planning consent.

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Fitzrovia is at the forefront of several new and exciting developments, and as local Estate Agents we are welcoming the growth that the area is enjoying. Some of these developments include brand new luxury flats on Margaret Street, Fitzroy Place – a 95,000 square metre office, residential and commercial complex which has been developed from the former Middlesex Hospital building site. Several fabulous hotels –the beautiful boutique London Edition Hotel is super place to visit for a delicious meal or cocktail, and the Sanderson Hotel is perfect for afternoon tea, as well as the newly refurbished Berners Street Hotel. Rathbone Square is another new development nearby made up of 38,300 metres of office, residential and retail space.

This property is served well by great transport links from Oxford Street, including buses and Oxford Circus tube station just steps away. All sounds pretty perfect to me! I would advise early viewing on this amazing property in the centre of one of the best capital cities in the world! Please contact Emma How or David Green on 020 7637 1066 to arrange a viewing.