Property Secrets: Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden

Bim Afolami in the garden of his home, near Harpenden. 

Bim Afolami in the garden of his home, near Harpenden. - Credit: Bim Afolami

Bim Afolami lives in a village “not far from Harpenden” with his wife, Hetti, and their three sons. The Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden shares his property secrets... 

What’s your house like?   

We’re very lucky, we live in a Grade II listed house, it’s very old. As somebody who studied history at Oxford and very much loves historic buildings, that’s a real delight. My wife Hetti and I, we’re hugely into architecture and history, so I think we were always going to live in an old house.   

What do you love most about it?   

It’s got a wonderful garden. In a slightly old-mannish way, I also quite like the fact that there are lots of little rooms where you can read and think, which is quite cool. It’s got lots of little nooks and crannies. We have three young boys, so I describe my time in the house as constantly searching for peace and quiet!   

Do you have siblings?   

I’m the eldest of three, my brother’s three years younger, my sister’s almost 13 years younger. Same parents!   

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Where was your childhood home?  

I spent most of what you would describe as my formative years in a place called Crowthorne in Berkshire.    

What was it like?   

I actually grew up in more modern houses. My parents had me when they were quite young and we moved around a lot. We were in Hertfordshire for a bit but we were mostly in Surrey and Berkshire. We moved because my father was a junior doctor and every time you move up you get a job at another hospital.

My mother’s a pharmacist and my father’s now a consultant for West Herts NHS Trust. They live locally. There are lots of people walking around Harpenden in particular, who have had very serious illnesses and operations, who are still here because of his work as an anaesthetist here in Hertfordshire. 

Did you mind moving around so much?   

Looking back, I think I was always very adaptable. I was at boarding school from age 10. And I loved school. There are those that don’t love it because the environment it not a good fit for them, and I completely understand that.    

Bim Afolami's family home is Grade II listed.

Bim's family home is Grade II listed. "As somebody who studied history at Oxford and very much loves historic buildings, that’s a real delight," he says. - Credit: Bim Afolami

Do you plan to send your children to boarding school?   

I’ll get myself in terrible trouble and my wife will get very grumpy! We are not ruling it out completely. I think it will depend on what is right for them. I’m definitely not one of those parents who say ‘you must go to my old school’, because I see lots of mistakes made that way. 

What do you like most about the Hitchin and Harpenden area?   

Politicians will sometimes lie to you and say that their constituency is the most wonderful ever. And they’re all lying. Apart from me. I’m not lying. It is amazing. Hitchin is a very historic market town. The area has such a sense of place that makes it very, very special.

Bucklersbury, Hitchin. Picture: DANNY LOO

Picturesque Bucklersbury is one of Hitchin's most attractive streets. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Danny Loo.

Then you’ve got these wonderful villages, like Preston, Wheathampstead, Kimpton, Sandridge, Redbourn, which really feel like villages – they are not satellites of their nearby towns, they have their own characters.

Then there is Harpenden, which feels about a third of its size. There’s a real neighbourliness to it. It’s really a large village. That’s a testament to the nature of the people and the place that it’s managed to maintain its character whilst growing over the last 60, 70 years.    

Do you prefer villages?  

I think the most important thing is community – neighbours, green spaces, local civic organisations. It’s the churches, schools, PTAs, local GPs, cricket clubs on a Sunday. It's that community that I think is so special about Hitchin, Harpenden and the villages. I think it’s pretty unique. That’s why I think it’s the best.   

Harpenden high street. Photo: Danny Loo.

Harpenden high street. Photo: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

Do you spend much time in your local community?   

I spend most of my time in London when Parliament is sitting, which is four days out of seven. On Fridays and at weekends I am in the constituency. As a Member of Parliament, I have the most interesting life ever.   

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?   

I’m quite boring. I like England. If it wasn’t England, I’ve always loved Martha’s Vineyard in the US. I’ve got American godparents and when I was a boy I used to spend a month there with my godfather most summers.   

Sounds lovely!   

It was brilliant. I think my parents just didn’t want us over the summer holidays! 

Do you have any interest in interiors?   

No, 100 per cent not (though I do like books and I need somewhere to store them all). Though there is a fantastic gallery in Hitchin called Arkley Fine Art. I have a picture that I got from there, which my wife can’t stand. I think it’s wonderful.

Bim's wife, Hetti, isn't keen on this painting, which he bought from Arkley Fine Art in Hitchin. 

Bim's wife, Hetti, isn't keen on this painting, which he bought from Arkley Fine Art in Hitchin. - Credit: Bim Afolami

It’s a picture of a blonde girl with a very interesting background. Arkley Fine Art is a wonderful gallery, it’s incredibly popular in Hitchin. They have done an amazing job in a very short space of time. The only issue with me buying art is my taste. Apparently. Not just according to my wife, but according to the various people that my wife brings to tell me that my taste is eccentric!   

How does her taste compare?   

I just think that her taste is very boring. She just wants a picture of the sea or something. There’s nothing interesting about that at all. I want either portraits or action. I like art that captures behaviour or character; I like stuff to be going on.