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.
West Hampstead tube station is still not on the shortlist to get a lift. The student housing block on Blackburn Road has applied to add 41 extra rooms – which means a new storey, or two. We got the full story… The new restaurant replacing Brioche is going to be Hām. Like the Wet Fish […]
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 […]
Many local organisations have been pushing for step-free access to West Hampstead tube station over the past few years – even if opinion diverges on what the solution should be. It was therefore disappointing, as local residents association WHGARA pointed out recently, that West Hampstead was not included in the recent batch of stations to […]
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 […]
It’s Thanksgiving in America, so what better time to dig into the link between Kilburn and the man behind one of the most iconic landmarks in the US. American artist and sculptor Gutzon Borglum lived and worked at Harlestone Villa in Mortimer Road, Kilburn from about 1897 to 1902. The property was later renumbered as […]
Frank Vosper was born in December 1899, just two weeks before the turn of the century. He was born at 24 Gondar Gardens in West Hampstead – the house where Nobel prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing lived for more than 30 years before her death in 2013. Vosper’s father Percy was a surgeon at Kings College […]
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 […]
Curled Leaf is a café on Mill Lane that has a cool, quirky, health-conscious vibe. It’s run by Alketa Xhafa-Mripa and her husband Luli Mripa and is very much a joint effort. Alketa has lived in the area for 20 years, arriving in 1997 to study art at St. Martins. When the Kosovan war broke […]
A visit to Nona on Fairhazel Gardens seemed a decent idea, as it meant stopping off for drinks beforehand at The Arches, the most charming bar in the area and a venue of even more stature and importance since the closure of the much-missed La Brocca. And so, after a really excellent glass of Sauvignon […]
Andy Williams might have sung ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’, but for most of us it’s the rack-our-brains-for-a-present time of the year. If that describes you here are some present ideas from just down the road. First stop, Seasons the Cookshop, it’s a small independent kitchen store with a really nice range of […]
Sponsored post Danilo Cortelleni, the head chef to the Italian Ambassador and Masterchef: The Professionals finalist, cooked up an Italian feast at the Scavolini Store West Hampstead, on the edge of Fortune Green on Tuesday evening. Danilo took centre stage in the wonderful Diesel Social kitchen, where he created a host of delicious Italian food […]
Among the ebb and flow of businesses on Mill Lane there are a couple of constants; Mill Lane Barbers is one of them. To get the view from the barber’s chair, WHL popped in to as Prod, the owner, was preparing for the day. Prod’s family is Greek-Cypriot by origin, although he was born and […]
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 […]
West Hampstead residents are hardworking and hungry, which goes some way to explain the platoon of Deliveroo bikes we see around the neighbourhood and congregating around West End Green. We are about to see a lot more of them. Hong Kong, Dubai … West Hampstead In its quest for world domination, Deliveroo has been […]
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 […]
Tulip Siddiq MP romped home with a clear victory in Hampstead & Kilburn, getting 34,646 votes and more than half of all votes. That was a margin of 15,560 over her Conservative opponent Claire-Louise Leyland. There was a swing to Labour of 14.6%, which transformed Tulip’s slim margin of 1,138 seats in 2015. Far from being a […]
As the incumbent MP, and a very active one at that, Labour’s Tulip Siddiq has a higher profile than the other candidates for Hampstead & Kilburn. It is hard to believe she has only been our MP for two years – she has packed a lot in to that time (including this recent interview with […]
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 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 […]
Sponsored post The new year will see the official opening of Johns&Co’s estate agency office at West Hampstead Square, bringing with it a fresh, new outlook on the property market in West Hampstead and surrounding areas. If the name sounds familiar to you, it might be because we’re the preferred partner of West Hampstead Square […]
After many people – including West Hampstead Life – made a fuss about the lack of affordable housing provision in the Liddell Road scheme, Camden promised that the 156 West End Lane scheme would meet the 50% affordable housing quota by floorspace. The development, which was given the go-ahead by the planning committee on Thursday, […]
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 […]
Residents of Broomsleigh Street were woken in the middle of the night by the sound of police helicopters and cars in action. The police were chasing two suspects on a moped who had been involved in a mobile snatch earlier in the night, that had involved a stabbing. The suspects were 17 and 18 years […]
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 […]