West Hampstead history
by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms
The name ‘West Hampstead’ didn’t exist until the 1880s: before then, the area was known as West End. The census shows a gradual increase in West End from 212 residents in 1801 to 563 people in 1871. Not much had changed in the intervening years: the few mansions were still occupied by wealthy tenants, workers’ cottages and tenements clustered round the Green with the local farmhouse, the Old Black Lion beerhouse and Cock & Hoop pub nearby. The Cock and Hoop was pulled down and Alexandra Mansions built on its site in 1902. Another small group of cottages stood near Fortune Green. Many residents worked on the land or as servants for the gentry. In later years some had jobs in Potter’s Iron Foundry, (on the site of Welbeck Mansions).
West End Fair
Until it was suppressed in 1820, the daily routine of life in West End was disrupted every summer by hundreds of Londoners who came for the amusements on offer at West End fair. This three-day event started in a small way with toy and gingerbread sellers, but it spread from the Green into fields nearby, attracting many professional showmen. In 1819 a riot occurred, when a mob of about 200 men rampaged through the Fair, robbing and beating anyone they met. Ten people were brought to trial: three young men were hanged and the others were deported to Botany Bay. Little trouble was reported the following year but 1820 proved to be the last time the Fair was held.
Rapid development in the 1880s and 1890s swept away the large houses and the streets were laid out in today’s pattern. A local estate agent in Kilburn claimed that he coined the name ‘West Hampstead’, for one of the local railway stations. Public amenities such as street lighting, gas and electricity were provided and much of the frontage to West End Lane was developed as shops.
West End Station, now West Hampstead, National Rail station was the first to open, in 1871. West Hampstead Station, now the Jubilee Line, followed in July 1879 and West End Lane Station, now the London Overground Line, opened in 1888. Horse buses ran along the Lane and nearby Finchley Road.
House building took up all the available land, leaving just two open spaces, West End Green and Fortune Green. The residents fought hard to save them both. In 1882, when a builder put boards all around West End Green, 200 men tore down the hoarding and set it on fire. Eventually the local Vestry (the equivalent of the Council), bought the land in 1885 and ten years later they also acquired Fortune Green as an open space, following more local protests when it too was threatened by developers.
In 1952, the architectural historian Sir Niklaus Pevsner wrote that West Hampstead was only worth visiting in search of Victorian churches: ‘The houses and streets require no notice’. Opinions change and today this Victorian suburb is considered a vibrant and attractive place to live.
Hello. Today’s final “What have you missed…” comes from both Mark and Jonathan. Why? Sadly, this is the end. WHL has been going for nine years, but all good things etc. etc. We explain all (including what’s happening to the mailing list – don’t worry, we’re not selling your data!) We’ll both be at a […]
The local elections are on May 3rd. This is when you get the chance (and “you” includes EU citizens) to vote for three councillors for the ward you live in. All the ward councillors who are elected form Camden council (or Brent council for those of you the other side of the Kilburn High Road). […]
Liddell Road – a school, some office space and apartments. It was a controversial scheme when it went through planning a few years ago, with Camden acting as developer and approver. There was much talk of how the numbers added up and why there was to be virtually no affordable housing. Three years on, some […]
Actor George Rose travelled an unusual path from Bicester to Broadway. He lived in West Hampstead for the best part of a decade while he learned his craft from great actors and directors such as Tyrone Guthrie, Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook and John Gielgud. And after a very successful career on the stage, he died […]
In April 1977, Tony Drayton moved to London from Cumbernauld, a new town in Scotland between Glasgow and Edinburgh. From 1976 to 1979, Tony was the editor of the early punk zine, Ripped and Torn. He lived in London, Paris, and Amsterdam and had a very varied career, including fire eating. In the summer of […]
On a very cold New Year’s Day in 1962 the Beatles arrived in West Hampstead for their audition at Decca Studios. The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein had several record shops in Liverpool and had a meeting with the marketing people at Decca. They told Dick Rowe – Decca’s A&R (Artists and Repertoire) manager – about […]
Finally it was my time to sample Ham, the new upmarket restaurant on West End Lane, which arrived to plenty of interest, and with a chef with a reputation. Ham kindly invited me to try it out and the welcome from David and the team was very warm. We gazed around at the interior, with […]
The arrival of Mon Way Bistro on Mill Lane seems to have caused a bit of a stir (especially the soups!), and somehow captured the imagination of a broad range of diners. It’s often very busy, sometimes with customers having to wait to get a table, and inside it’s relaxed yet buzzing, with diners really […]
New Year, new round-up of West Hampstead’s fitness and gym options (would you believe, this is our most popular article year in, year out). Most of you will already know about the main local gyms to help you shed those post-Christmas pounds (or kilos): Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Virgin Active at the O2 and the […]
One of the pleasures of writing West Hampstead Life is writing these Insights during which we get to know some familiar West Hampstead faces a bit better, behind the facade even. This month’s is no exception as we caught up with Ellias from David’s Deli. We all know him as Ellias, in fact his full […]
Seaching for a present for your mother (or the mother of your kids, or whoever you want to express your gratitude to)? We have been searching the snowy streets of West Hampstead for inspiration (and bagged you a couple of discounts along the way!) First stop, a WHL favourite, Achillea Flowers on Mill Lane. It […]
Regular readers will know that West Hampstead nightclub Lately has closed after almost 40 years. We met up with owner Gordon Stevenson. What brought you to West Hampstead? “Buying Lately, that’s what! I opened it 38 years ago after I was offered the club by a friend. Previously it was a called Vincent’s but had […]
The new owner of the student housing block on Blackburn Road, has put in a planning application to add 41 additional rooms (studios) to the block buy adding extra floors on top. The development already has 347 units and has already been given planning permission to add an extension to the internal courtyard and a […]
Following our recent walk down the Kilburn High Road, we took a similar walk up West End Lane. Joining us was John Saynor, chair of WHAT (West Hampstead Amenity and Transport), which takes a keen interest in these matters too. We didn’t really focus on the litter situation, because – dare I say it – […]
West Hampstead is facing yet another large-scale property development. It’s the third proposal to redevelop the site at the former Gondar Gardens reservoir. The history of the previous proposals have been well documented on these pages, but what really caught our eye about this one was that it offers no affordable housing either on-site or as […]
It’s getting hard to miss but the local elections are coming soon. West Hampstead ward looks set to see three new faces as none of the existing councillors are standing again – or rather we know two are not and one hasn’t returned any of our messages. In 2014, Labour took a clean sweep of […]
Last night Camden accepted the recommendation that council tax bills will rise, a decision that will be ratified at full Council on the 26th. For the second year running, it will rise by 4.99%, an increase comprised of a 2.99% council-tax increase and an ‘Adult Social Care’ precept of 2%’. Average Camden band D council tax […]
Cllr Georgia Gould, the relatively new leader of Camden Council, was out and about in West Hampstead this week. She’s visiting each ward across the borough specifically to meet the groups that make Camden tick. She was in our ‘hood with Cllr Phil Rosenberg visiting the Sherriff Centre, which impressed her. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never […]
The Kitchen Table is changing hands. It had been up for sale for a while, and the owners Jennie Vincent and Tom Leslie found a buyer a few months ago (after an earlier offer fell through). However, it has taken a long time to finally dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s (or teas). The Kitchen […]
Sponsored post Forget everything you know about fitness studios – the revolution is coming – and the first in line can get a fantastic pre-opening offer. For the team behind Studio Society, a brand new next-generation fitness studio, there was no other place to launch than West Hampstead which has a tendency to favour specialist […]
This month West Hampstead says farewell to Ladudu, the rather good Vietnamese restaurant by the stations. We will be sad to see it go but, as you will find out, when one door closes another one opens (in fact two). Teresa considers herself a West Hampstead local as she lives in the area – it’s her […]
Sponsored post Every week newspaper headlines vary between ‘house prices rise’ or ‘house prices fall’ – but which headline is accurate? We thought we’d delve behind the headlines for this month’s West Hampstead Life column; we’ll be sharing some interesting stats and sprinkling them with some local insight to bring them to life. First-time buyers […]
Sponsored post It can be easy to generalise when talking about the London property market. However, London has often been described as a collection of villages, each with its own unique style, atmosphere and charms. For this reason, when discussing the London property market, it’s important not to look at the capital as the sum […]
Sponsored post As we move into 2018, there are signs that the property market in West Hampstead is improving. Despite what others may say, there is evidence of a market out there for those looking to sell their home. With changes to stamp duty in the autumn statement and the hesitation caused by Brexit beginning […]
Watch out, there’s a scammer about (and below we have details of how to contact your local police about this and other security issues). The police have now issued a photo of the woman and more details about her. A resident of Achilles Road reported that he was woken up at 6 am on Sunday […]
There was a good turnout at last night’s public meeting on moped-crime. It’s a hot topic that didn’t need any extra emphasis, but even as the meeting was taking place another moped-based phone snatch was happening taking place outside Finchley Road tube station. The first speaker, Judy Thomson, is a public safety officer from Camden, […]
This Thursday, local councillors will host an Area Forum (aka: public meeting) at the Synagogue Hall in Dennington Park Road. Crime is top of the agenda. The meeting starts at 19:00 with the main business from 19:30. Last night two suspects were arrested in Broomsleigh Street following a moped-related stabbing that had taken place earlier […]
Sponsored post As 37 Fortune Green Road – aka Studio Society – nears the end of its 8-week build, this 8,000sqft empty space has been transformed into state-of-the-art group exercise studios. As the physical build draws to a close, the technicians are now taking control, installing multiple projectors and creating a floor-to-ceiling cinematic visual experience […]
Kids are in their element when playing sport. Running around with their teammates, safety is often an afterthought in the excitement of a live game. Parents have to be especially vigilant when their kids are playing contact sports, and though children’s orthodontics may not be at the front of many parents’ minds, thinking about it […]
It’s that time of year again; time to start thinking about undoing some of the damage from treating ourselves a little too much over the festive season. For all those times we said, ‘Oh go on then, it’s Christmas after all!’ Now your clothes are a little uncomfortable and you seem to have grown a […]