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.

Three stations

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.

Open spaces

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.

No step closer to step-free access for West Hampstead tube station

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 […]

It was 56 years ago today, Decca said the Beatles couldn’t play

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 […]

Mt Rushmore

From Kilburn to Mount Rushmore: The story of Gutzon Borglum

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 […]

No nonsense for Tom at Nona

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 […]

20 exciting and unusual Christmas presents from West Hampstead

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 […]

Italian embassy chef cooks live at Scavolini Store West Hampstead

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 […]

Luxury retirement development ‘can’t afford’ to pay for affordable housing

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 […]

Labour leader visits West Hampstead

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 […]

Council listens to Maygrove parking problems

If you’re following the Maygrove Road parking story, then you’ll be interested in this update from MILAM (the local residents association) chair Monica Regli. Monica presented the MILAM deputation on parking and traffic issues to Camden’s environment and cultural scrutiny meeting at the town hall. She says that councillors were largely sympathetic to the problems […]

Developments pile pressure on street parking

Some residents of Maygrove and Iverson Roads are fed up with the increasingly difficult parking situation they face in light of all the new developments on these roads. The local residents association, MILAM, wants to see a review of parking hours and is suggesting a sub-zone that has different rules to the CA-Q zone in […]

Liddell Road school to open with spare capacity

Liddell Road has a new name. After much careful thought and consideration it has been renamed, wait for it…, “Liddell Place”. Someone suggested an alternative, but for some reason Camden didn’t like it. Where’s Liddell Road? It’s the former council-owned light industrial estate just off Maygrove Road that’s being redeveloped to house an infants school […]

Residents concerned over Beckford School road closure plan

Camden Council has announced plans to implement a temporary road closure near a primary school in West Hampstead, angering many local residents. There are public meetings to discuss the proposals this Thursday. The affected area is around Beckford School on Dornfell Street. Camden’s proposal is to close Broomsleigh Street at the Mill Lane end at […]

How rich must you be to afford “affordable” housing?

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, […]

Crime tops the agenda at upcoming public meeting

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 […]

Finishing line is in sight as Studio Society nears completion

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 […]