Nice frame at Joy

Shop local: 12 Presents for Mother’s Day

Mother’s day or Mothering Sunday, is the 26th March. Which is soon. If you haven’t got something for yours, or for younger mums something ‘from’ the kids – what to buy?  WHL scooted round the shops in the ‘hood – and this is what caught our eye.

Next decision, which colour...?

Next decision, which colour…?

Season’s Cookshop said “well it depends how pleased you want to make your mum!” and suggested a Le Creuset casserole dish (priced from £99 to £219).  Or for the perfect coffee with the right crema a Bialetta coffee maker (£36.30 with 20% off at the moment).  Otherwise, although your mum might take this the wrong way I quite liked the ‘avocado shark’ – a kitchen tool for avocados.

My heart belongs to ... cocoa-dusted walnuts, or possibly chocolate salami.

My heart belongs to … cocoa-dusted walnuts, or possibly chocolate salami.

Sticking to the food theme, down at Cocoa Bijoux on Broadhurst Gardens they recommended their cocoa-dusted Perigord walnuts at £15 or a selection of home made truffles. Otherwise Selma who was running the shop that day (Stuart the owner’s mum and from South Africa), would like some of their Biltong, but not sure my mum would be that chuffed.

Can't decide? Get all four.

Can’t decide? Get all four.

If wine is more her thing then Avie at Tannin & Oak suggests maybe some vintage prosecco by Nino Franco at £25 a bottle, or a white frizzante Moscate D’Asti at £16.00.  For something with a bit of a wow factor he also has magnums, recommending a rose – Rosado 2015 by Ramon Bilbao at £19.99 or red for £30.00 from Camille Cayron. Andrea at Vini Vici on Mill Lane was a bit more cynical about Mother’s Day, but happy to make a recommendation if you pop by.

Buddha or angel?

Buddha or angel?

North West 6, the gift shop by the tube station offers jewellery – recommending this blue topaz set for £240. It also has range of semi-precious stones (their healing powers are all the rage in L.A. at the moment) so maybe a rose quartz buddha or angel (depending on her religious viewpoint)? They also have a good range of oh-so important mother’s day cards.

Is she a cat or a dog person?

Is she a cat or a dog person?

Something for the younger artier mum? Try Monsters of Art on Mill Lane. Is she a cat or a dog person? Two pictures that caught my eye are these. The cat (£175) is by a local (well, Cricklewood) artist. The photo doesn’t really do justice to the dog picture (£300) – I really liked it, as did a well-known (and cool) DJ who’s already got a couple.

Nice frame at Joy

Nice frame at Joy

Two other options for the younger mum (or young at heart) is Joy which offered this nice picture frame (£12.00) and La Boutique Secret. Both had lots of fashion options but it’s a tricky one, not only does the piece and colour have to be right but the size too. Easier for woman to choose than a man methinks.

Perhaps a pampering present would be perfect? On West End Lane, Healthtown are offering a Mothering Sunday massage voucher for £50 (normally £60). Nearly opposite Nailsuite UK are offering a mani/pedi voucher for £40 (normally £55). As does Beauty Blossom on Mill Lane also £40 (that’s their normal price).

Best Mother's day card in West Hampstead (in our judgement)

Best Mother’s day card in West Hampstead (in our judgement)

Still looking for a card? The Sherriff Centre is another good source, and probably had the best card I saw (in the picture). As for presents it has some reasonably priced clutch bags by Holy Chic at £9.00 – or natural candle sets for £15.95. Ever popular are their individual letters at £1.75 each; so you can spell it out.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Literally, another option is West End Lane Books. Danny had several excellent recommendations; something from the display of gardening books in the window? Shelves full of Persephone and Virago books or ‘Mothering Sunday’ by Graham Swift? A little lower down the literary scale they offer ‘The Mum – how it works’, or ‘Adrian Mole – The Collected Poems’.

Say it with flowers, paper flowers!

Say it with flowers, paper flowers!

The Village Haberdashery has plenty to offer, suggesting cute crochet and knitting kits (£25 to £39). They also offer vouchers for their in-house workshops (£60) or paper flower making kits (starting from £5).

Another handmade option on West End Lane is to take the kids (or just yourself) and paint a mug (£18) or a plate (£18 to £30) at Art for Fun. But better get your skates on as it has be done this weekend since it takes a week to fire, so ready for collection next Saturday evening. In time for Mothering Sunday, just.

Achillea - bloomin' marvellous.

Achillea – bloomin’ marvellous.

If it is real flowers you are looking for then for my money, or should that be for my mummy, you can’t go wrong with a bouquet from Achillea flowers (from £20 upwards).

So there you are – at least twelve suggestions for a mother’s day present on your doorstep. If she doesn’t get anything, can’t say it was because you couldn’t find anything locally.

Inside Ink at Blackburn House Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

Is anyone counting West Hampstead’s job growth?

The reason West Hampstead seems inundated with new developments is that it was designated a “Growth Area” by City Hall. The Growth Area is specifically the part of West Hamsptead around the railway lines. Targets were set for 800 new homes and 100 new jobs between 2010 and 2031. Yes, 2031.

WH Growth area2

Growth Area is outlined in black

Seven years in, we are far ahead of that job target, but there seems to be little joined up thinking about the implications. The whole issue is far more complex than it should be.

For a start, Camden seems to have changed the employment target from 100 jobs to 500 jobs (or 7, 000m2 of business space) in its Core Strategy 2010-2025 document. Yet Camden’s soon-to-be-adopted Local Plan 2016-2031 still talks about the Mayor’s targets of 100 jobs, which is also the current London plan target.

Inside Ink at Blackburn House Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

Inside Ink at Blackburn House – Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

Nido student housing. The first development built in the growth area was the student housing on Blackburn Road that replaced the Mercedes Benz garage. It contains 2,100m2 of office employment space, which at 12m2 of floor space per job should have created 175 jobs. It took a while to let the space out, but now, the magazine publisher Ink Global operates out of the space (if you have ever read the Easyjet Magazine that’s one of theirs), and they sublet some, but in total there are 150 full time jobs on site, and the student housing itself accounts for nearly 20 full-time jobs on site. So at ~170 full-time jobs, this space has delivered as predicted but not quite as planned. And indeed that is the entire London Plan job target met in one fell swoop.

But of course it doesn’t stop there,

West Hampstead Square. Alongside the 198 flats, there’s the M&S (583 m2), which will have ~35 full-time equivalent staff. There is another 300m2 of retail space, which has been taken by the Village Haberdashery, Provenance butcher, and Johns & Co. (Ballymore’s in-house estate agent). There’s also a further five units of 100m2 each for business or healthcare still to be let. There has been early stage interest from a doctor and a dentist for possibly one unit apiece, and other businesses for the remaining units. All told that should result in another 40 full time employees. This would give a total of ~90 new full-time jobs.

156 West End Lane. Employment was a hot topic for this redevelopment given that Travis Perkins would be removed. And of course the 2,400m2 of empty council offices had employees. The new retail space (763m2 divided up into three units, provisionally two retail and one restaurant) should create ~45 jobs, with another ~70 jobs coming from the regular office (593m2) and affordable small business workspace (500m2).

Liddell Road. Liddell Road actually falls outside the Growth Area, but does that mean that its impact should be completely ignored when thinking about local infrastructure? We would argue not.

Yellow = school, blue = housing and red = offices, workshops

Yellow = school, blue = housing and red = offices, workshops

Alongside the residential units to be built there is 3,700m2 of employment space. According to the planning officers report this will create ~280-295 full-time jobs when fully let. And the new school should eventually account for ~50 jobs. 

Iverson Tyres. Also outside the Growth Area – just, as part of its planning permission the developer was required to keep 150m2 of light industrial space, however, it has since applied to convert it to B1 office or D1. This should create a further ~10 jobs.

If we add up all the jobs we know about, then we get to just over 700 new jobs in ~8,700m2 of space (including Liddell Road outside the growth area). Even if you deduct the jobs that have been lost from these sites (a hotly contested number especially on Liddell Road), there is no question that net new jobs in West Hampstead will far far exceed both the London Plan target of 100, and Camden’s revised target of ~500.

And there are still more growth area sites to be developed, such as Midland Crescent, which will add another 100 or so, and of course the O2 car park, which has the potential to dwarf every other site.

But will all the developments deliver the total jobs predicted? Is there demand for office space in West Hampstead? Only a couple of years ago, 65 & 67 Maygrove Road were predominantly office space but agents struggled to let the space and it has since been turned into 91 flats after the developer successfully argued that there was no demand for office space in the area.

Another piece of the puzzle is that much of the new employment space is labelled ‘start-up’ and ‘incubator’ space, both at 156 West End Lane and Liddell Road. Although this sounds trendy, there is no sign of anyone offering, for example, co-working space in the area. If Camden was serious about this approach, it could have tested the waters at 156 West End Lane (the upper floors of which have been empty for years now) as a ‘meanwhile’ space for start ups and creative businesses. It feels a bit like Dad dancing at a family wedding, faintly embarrassing jumping on a bandwagon.

David Matthews of local agents Dutch and Dutch, which is letting the 500m2 flexible commercial space in West Hampstead Square, is unsurprisingly upbeat about the situation. The space hasn’t officially started to be marketed yet because construction isn’t finished yet (no surprise), but he says there has been strong demand.

West Hampstead is changing, and all these new jobs around the stations will change it even more, hopefully bringing more activity during the day though also more commuters using the stations. We looked at the issue of growth area sustainability back in 2013, but nearly four years later it feels that there has been little progress in tackling the inevitable outcomes of increased employment and residential density.

Researching this article has shown how difficult it is to understand exactly how many jobs are being created.  There is no record in the planning applications of how many jobs were lost at the Ballymore site, the Mercedes Garage or even the old Council offices, so it difficult to know the net increase. Is anyone keeping track of this? Things are not helped by confusion on what the actual targets are – with different numbers  in the Camden Core Strategy, and the Camden and London plans for the West Hampstead Growth area. The same plans talk about street improvements and better environment, but when it comes to action there is similar confusion.

139 bus_ft

‘West Hampstead’ to disappear from northbound 139 bus signs

Proposed changes to bus routes will mean ‘West Hampstead’ may fall out of London’s collective consciousness as the words will no longer appear on the 139 bus as it heads north from Waterloo.

Having pulled an earlier consultation on changes to the bus routes that run north on the Baker Street corridor (funnily enough right before the Mayoral elections). TfL consulted again on the same proposals in August, and this time the outcome is to push through the proposed changes, which are due to be implemented from the late spring. A former councillor once explained this approach as being ‘consult and ignore’.

The TfL report reveals that only 32% of respondents supported or partially supported the changes to route 13, even fewer (26%) the changes to the 82 and 25% supported changes to the 189. Changes to the 113 were more popular with 48% support or partial support and there was actually a majority in favour of one change: 52% supported the changes to the 139.

Soon to vanish? destination - West Hampstead

Soon to vanish? destination – West Hampstead

Disappearing signage aside, the changes are probably overall good news for West Hampstead (hence the majority support for the 139 changes). The 139 will now run all the way to Golders Green, which will mean the end of ‘ghost’ buses that run empty along Mill Lane as they return to the Cricklewood depot, and that have been such a bugbear. It will also increase the frequency of buses between Golders Green and West Hampstead.

Proposed changes to 13, 82 , 113, 139 and 189 bus routes. Image: TFL

Proposed changes to 13, 82 , 113, 139 and 189 bus routes. Image: TFL

The other change that affects West Hampstead less directly is to remove route 82, but increase the frequency of the 13. Not that the 13 will be the bus it once was – it effectively becomes the new 82 (still with me?). The 13, which currently terminates at Golders Green, would continue to North Finchley (where the 82 currently ends). Southbound, it would no longer terminate at Aldwych, but instead finish at Victoria (where the 82 currently terminates). To recap: new 13=old 82.

For occasional users of the buses up and down the Finchley Road, the overall loss of frequency during the morning rush hour is likely to be the biggest negative change. More regular users might notice a bigger difference.

The other (minor) proposed change is that the 189 would end at Marble Arch instead of Oxford Circus. This means that neither the 13 nor 189 would run down Oxford Street, helping to reduce the excessive number of buses along there. If you want to come back to West Hampstead from Oxford Street, you either take a bus to Marble Arch and change, or wait for a 113 or 139. The new one-hour hopper fare (or transfer) means anyone using an Oystercard or contactless card does not have to pay again for a second journey taken within one hour of joining the first bus. So no extra cost, but more waiting around potentially.

Meanwhile, we shall mourn the loss of that small sense of pride of standing by Piccadilly Circus as the 139 to West Hampstead hoves into view. And no more will Emma Hignett, the voice of the bus announcments, chime out with, “This is the 139. To. West Hampstead”. End of an era.

Fawley Road leak

Will the Fawley Road leak ever be stopped?

If you live on, or walk or drive down Fawley Road then you won’t have failed to notice the leak that’s been spewing water down the street for the past week. It’s not the only one – Achilles Road and West End Lane also have leaks – harking back to the time a few years ago when West Hampstead leaks seemed to be a weekly occurrence.

One man has been on a personal crusade with Thames Water to try and get this one fixed. Here is his story.

Warning: contains a lot of images of water flowing over tarmac.

Bobby wallpaper2

Bobby F’s timewarp bar opens on West End Lane

Photo: Jane Lucken (model: unknown)

Photo: Jane Lucken (model: unknown)

It’s been a long-time coming. La Brocca closed its doors in June 2015, but its replacement – Bobby Fitzpatrick’s – opens tonight. Bobby’s owners, ULG (who also run The Gallery and The Alice House), have opted for a louche 70s theme for the new bar.

West Hampstead Life was – of course – at the launch party last Friday and the first day of the soft launch on Monday. But what did our various correspondents make of the makeover?

Wow, there’s nothing quite like this in West Hampstead! A throwback bar where you feel like you’re at a party in That 70s show, or in the fully functional underground house-cum-fallout shelter like in Blast From the Past, that film where they thought the world had ended and they lived frozen time, gaudy décor and all.

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

The devil is in the details from old-fashioned hand dryers, amber soap and classic books by Fleming and Tolkien and that’s just in the loos! Clunky speakers and fuzzy, chunky TVs; there’s nothing chic about this shabby place, which all adds to the charm.

The only modern hints were the gorgeous cocktails, with twists and classics and all new Bobby creations, served in old fashioned drinking glasses of course! But they serve beers and shooters too, and unpretentious comfort food and the friendliest staff to make your evening a winner.

I would definitely bring my friends back to this groovy bar, it will certainly leave an impression and have you holding back on all the Austin Power’s quotes!

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

Photo: Shalini Rawlley

I liked it. I was concerned it was going to be over the top and too faddy but actually it went to the edge but not over it. It’s been very well done. I hope for West Hampstead that it does work, ULG has a good track record. It’s doing something different from the prevalent Brooklyn industrial chic, zagging while the others are zigging. As for the food – the burger was good but I’m not sure recreating 1980s deep dish pizzas is such a good idea – they weren’t that good to begin with. And a mention for the staff were friendly and professional and helped create a good atmosphere.

I have many happy memories of La Brocca, so my first ten minutes was spent gasping at how much it has changed. But I’m up for evolution and soon started smiling at how they have brought Bobby’s home to life. I’d have loved the job of sourcing all the crazy bits and bobs – where did they find that hand dryer?! I applaud the owners for moving beyond the too-common industrial luxe aesthetic and creating somewhere genuinely fun and different. The cocktails are excellent, if crazy, just like the whole place really!

Photo: Tom Vanheems

Photo: Tom Vanheems

I can see Bobby Fitzpatrick being a hit with the locals. A huge amount of work has gone into the crazy, amusing and even atmospheric 70s design, so that it feels welcoming rather than just a novelty. I sense this will create a good vibe and an inviting place to hang out; the sense of fun and originality is tangible.

Food is well-priced, with fresh, flavoursome American-style pizzas (think soft-base like Franco Manca rather than the old Italian style of La Brocca) – perhaps would be good to see some sides of fresh greens or something, to balance things out a little? Hopefully the wine list will expand beyond the two reds and two whites currently available, though I can confirm that both are very drinkable!

St. James Church Hall  - they pretty much all look the same!

Venue hire options in West Hampstead (more than you think)

Got a kids’ party to host? Want to run a kindergarten, teach a yoga class or hold a meeting? These all require venues – but where are the rooms and halls to hire in West Hampstead?

Emmanuel Church and the Sheriff Centre are particularly keen to hear from those wanting to start a regular community oriented group. The Hub is also looking to work with partners.

Prices given are indicative – many venues reduce the price for community and regular users.

How big a room do you need? If square metres don’t mean a lot to you, then here’s a guide: a 35m2 room at Emmanuel Church will fit 15-16 for a meeting round a table, or ~25 in rows of seats (“theatre style”) for an AGM or presentation. For a yoga class, the 65m2 hall at Lymington Road can fit 15 (comfortably) to 24 (bit tight). For larger meetings, a rule of thumb is 1m2 per person sitting and 0.5m2 standing, so Kingsgate’s 87m2 main hall can roughly fit 100 seated and 200 standing.

Emmanuel Church
The newest kid on the block is one of the older buildings! As we reported last July, the newly refurbed Emmanuel Church has five spaces on offer: a small meeting room (16m2), three larger rooms (30-35m2 each) and rear nave space (not a near-rave space) that’s 100m2. And it has a small kitchen too.

Cost: £10 per hour for the smaller room; £20-£25 for the larger ones; £35ph for the rear nave space and £40ph to hire the whole church.

Contact: 020 7435 1911

The Sherriff Centre
This trendy venue with a nice atmosphere has a couple of options: the Lady Chapel, which is used for classes and meetings during the day, is £15 per hour and £25 in the evening, though it can be a bit noisy at certain times of day.

For children’s parties (ages 1-8), there’s the popular Hullabaloo play area. Exclusive use is possible on Saturdays 10-12pm, 12.30-2.30pm, and 3-5pm. You can also hire the whole space in the evenings for bigger/bespoke events. The cost will depend on the precise details.

Cost: Non-exclusive use is £275 and exclusive £360. Sundays is £385 for exclusive use only as the building is closed to the public.

Contact: ku.oc1490920297.ertn1490920297ecffi1490920297rrehs1490920297eht@o1490920297lleh1490920297 / 020 7625 1184

St. James’s Church hall, Sherriff Road
Right next door to the Sherriff Centre is St. James Church. The hall is 90m2 plus a stage space and it has not one, but two kitchens. A small niche one and a full-sized one too. And outdoor space, useful in summer.

Cost: £40 per hour, but negotiable for regular/community users.

Contact: 020 7372 6441 (Beryl)

St. James Church Hall - they pretty much all look the same!

St. James Church Hall – they pretty much all look the same!

St. Luke’ Church hall, Kidderpore Avenue
It’s the other side of the Finchley Road so not technically West Hampstead, although its parish extends across to Fortune Green. Anyway it has a church hall available for hire that can hold 60 people

Cost: £20 per hour or £150 for children’s parties (3 hours), plus the bonus of a bouncy castle for hire.

02 Centre
Part of the O2 centre’s obligations under planning consent is that it has community rooms available for hire. It has two spaces, The Art Gallery and The Venue.

The Art Gallery is 40m2 and suitable for small meetings and events.

Cost: £35+vat per hour or £140+vat per day.

The Venue is 200m2 (and has a mirror down one wall) and is suitable for larger events and training sessions. Alas, The Venue no longer accepts bookings for parties (wonder what happened there…)

Cost: £65+vat per hour Mon to Thurs, and £80+vat at weekends. (set up time is charged at £24+vat per hour). Regular events (classes) pay about half the hourly charge.

Contact: 020 7794 7716

JW3 has a wide range of options, although they are a little pricier than others. The facilities are still very new though, and there’s a great café on site. There are “breakout rooms”, a demonstration kitchen, a 60-seat cinema, a dance studio, the piazza and a hall that can seat up to 270 theatre style, or 180 banqueting style. The rate for all rooms varies according to whether it’s a charity, corporate or private event

Cost: the charity rate starts at £36 per hour for room hire – full and half-day rates are also available.

Contact: More details here.

Hampstead Synagogue, Dennington Park Road
Familiar to some as the venue for the Area Forums, the upper hall is a large space that can seat up to 220 people. The Synagogue can also provide tea and coffee, tables and a projector and screen etc. for an additional fee. There’s also a smaller lower hall that seats 60.

The rooms are less glossy than some of the others, though there are plans for redevelopment (these are at a very early stage though!)

Cost: £60 per hour during the week and £70 Friday and Saturday irrespective of which room you choose.
Contact: ku.gr1490920297o.luh1490920297sdaet1490920297spmah1490920297@nimd1490920297a1490920297 / 020 7435 1518

West Hampstead Library
Often used for public meetings and talks, the library can seat up to 70 people, and allows some standing room in a flexible 90m2 space.

Cost: £25 per hour for community use and a rather pricey £100/hour for commercial use. AV facilities are available for an additional cost.

Contact: Camden’s events service ku.vo1490920297g.ned1490920297mac@s1490920297tneve1490920297 or 020 7974 5633

Emmanuel School
The recently built school hall is a biggish modern space (about 180m2) suitable for public meetings (such as the council hustings we held there in 2014!) and children’s parties.

Cost: £40 per hour (£50 per hour including kitchenette). AV equipment is extra.

Contact: ku.hc1490920297s.ned1490920297mac.l1490920297eunam1490920297me@ni1490920297mda1490920297

Fortune Green Playcentre
The playcentre is a popular, if slightly shabby, venue for younger children’s parties with the advantage of outdoor space for play (in summer).

Cost: £40 per hour with a three-hour minimum booking.

Contact: moc.l1490920297larof1490920297ecap@1490920297aloi1490920297

The Hub
If you are looking for something in South Hampstead, there is the Hub on Fairhazel Gardens It’s run as a mental health well-being centre, with a very helpful and clear website, and offer six tree-named rooms for rent. Like Emmanuel and The Sherriff Centre, The Hub is keen to work with other local groups.

Cost: Oak £35ph for 30-50 seated/60-70 standing; Beech and Elm £25ph for 10-15; Willow – a specialist computer room at £25pn for 5-10; Ash and Maple £15ph for 2-3, suitable as a therapy rooms.

Contact: 0207 278 4437

The Community Centres

Lymington Road Residents Association Hall
This is a fairly simple 65m2 room with a small kitchen. It gets quite booked up, especially at evenings and weekends. It’s used in the evenings for yoga and karate

Cost: £20 per hour.

Contact: moc.l1490920297iamg@1490920297llaha1490920297rrl1490920297

Sidings Hall
Sidings (off Maygrove Road) has a number of rooms and halls (and a kitchen) for rent, although they are fairly busy so availablity is limited

Contact: 020 7625 6260, ku.gr1490920297o.sgn1490920297idis@1490920297ofni1490920297

West Hampstead Community Centre
There’s a small hall (about 50m2) for rent that has just been renovated but is fairly booked up (especially in the evenings) as it is used for a wide range of classes.

Cost: £20 for classes, more for one-off events.

Contact ku.gr1490920297o.hwa1490920297c@ofn1490920297i1490920297, 020 7794 3729

Kingsgate Community Centre

Kingsgate has a number of rooms to hire, including a large hall with stage (£60 per hour for 200 seated/100 standing), a small hall with kitchen (£29 for 100/50), an art room (£30 for 15) and two meeting rooms (£23 for 12). After a big rent increase by the Council, Kingsgate has reviewed hire rates – the rates quoted are for private hire, though it has a sliding schedule for community/regular users.

….And finally, there is possibly one more room on the way as plans for 156 West End Lane include a 65m2 community room. So there you are – fifteen possible venues in West Hampstead, with more than 35 separate rooms for hire.

That’s it!

If I’ve missed any – and I’m sure I have – please let me know. We haven’t covered party venues – i.e., pubs – in this post. We’ll be looking at that next.





Get fit in 2017: The West Hampstead gym guide


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 couple of extra chins in those family photos.

But it’s a new year and you’re ready to get back into shape. There will be times it will hurt and you’ll wondering why you’re doing this to yourself. I’ve already been there and reminded myself, “Because mince pies.”

Where to go and what to do? Here’s our guide to the area’s best options for getting fit and healthy this year.

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre (

At around £55 a month, the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre is a really great value-for-money choice. It boasts a huge pool that’s sectioned into lanes for different abilities, plenty of equipment and a great choice of classes, which actually run at convenient times. It’s also set beautifully, with huge floor to ceiling windows, plenty of natural light, trees and a huge water fountain, which I find helps to really motivate me. You can also see down over the pool from one of the studios and most of the equipment has built-in TVs so you can watch your favorite shows at the same time.

The downside is that actually getting onto a class it really difficult as they are so popular! Despite being able to book easily on the app or website, you need to be ready to book your place within the first hour of the slots becoming available each week or you’ll lose out! Occasionally you can manage to get a last-minute class if there are cancellations, and beware, you are charged if you don’t show up!

Being a public leisure centre, Swiss Cottage can get extremely busy with large groups of kids clubs, but that does mean it offers so much more if you have children or big groups, with choices including a climbing wall, basketball court, squash rooms and more (at additional costs.)

It also offers a flexible, monthly rolling contract, so it’s worth trying out before deciding whether to commit. For all you New Years Resolutioners, Swiss Cottage is offering a January deal of no joining fee and two months free if you pay for 10 months up front.

The Gym (

If you’re looking for great value, all the machines you need, and you can motivate yourself to go to the gym without needing an inspiring setting then this is the gym for you. At £21.99 a month (plus a £20 joining fee) this no-frills gym may be the right compromise. It’s also open 24 hours with automated signing in systems, which is great for all you night owls and extremely early birds! It also offers a few limited classes.

HIIT Gym (

These unique classes mean business! Perfect if you feel like you’ve plateaued going to the gym on your own or if you need extra motivation to see results. And with these classes you will see results. They are pricey (though we’ve got a WHL-exclusive offer below) but effective.

The HIIT gym is a group class-based workout. The instructors are great, and with varied workouts that can work on strength, fat burning and stamina it never gets boring. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, which is designed to help you keep burning fat even after the workout.

There is a downside to it not being a traditional gym in that there is not really the option if you ever did just fancy a workout at your own pace. However, if you arrive a little earlier to a class you could jump on the treadmill if you really wanted to.

A word of warning: personally I have to be at full energy to be able to take part in these classes. They are very high impact, no matter what your fitness level. So working out here can be a little ‘all or nothing.’ However, you won’t be bullied into doing that final burpie or shamed for not increasing the incline to 15 on the treadmill. It’s really important to listen to your own body if you feel it is too much.

The classes can also get extremely crowded at the most popular times (which gets a little worrying when people are swinging weights around). Some people might also feel that the showering facilities are quite limited given the cost, and often I feel I’d rather freshen up at home.

Prices vary according to membership, but if you want the most flexibility then classes are around £20 for pay-as-you-go. However, HIIT is offering a 10% pay-as-you-go discount for West Hampstead Life readers with the discount code: 10january. It’s valid until January 31st. HIIT also offers a one-week free trial, so you can try before you buy.

Virgin Active (

Virgin Active at the O2 Centre is one of the pricier options, but boasts a jacuzzi by the pool, decent equipment and great classes. It also offers spa treatments, which are very good. I’m not sure the price difference vs the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre just up the road is worth it, considering you get almost the same facilities and services. However you do get to avoid the children’s clubs and the service and quality is always great with Virgin. It does offer corporate discounts for many employers so be sure to check at work, as some of the discounts are quite substantial. For this month only it is offering a 12-month contract with no joining fee and a personal training package that works out to £99 a month. It is also offering a flexible rolling month-by-month membership at £106 a month with a £30 joining fee.

You don’t have to go to a gym

Primrose Hill offers exercise without the sweaty floors!

Primrose Hill offers exercise without the sweaty floors!

ParkRun (
Every Saturday, this 5k run across the beautiful Hampstead Heath is a completely free, fun and friendly social project. What could be better than getting some fresh air with with your neighbors and volunteers in this national heritage site we are lucky to have on our doorsteps.

The run starts at 9am – what a way to start your weekend! You do have to register and bring a printed copy of the barcode you’re given, which lets you keep track of your progress and time. However you are encouraged to go at your own pace.

ruNW6 (
An even more social running group that sprung up from West Hampstead Life readers also meets every Saturday. Starting from West End Green, the group tends to head out for a 30-45 minute run with a variety of routes, including the stunning Golder’s Hill park before returning to West End Lane. No runner is left behind! There’s more about this group here.

Public fitness parks: Primrose Hill, Kilburn Grange and Swiss Cottage
Another way to keep fit is to run over to the beautiful nearby Primrose Hill, where there is a substantial outdoor fitness park. The ‘trim trail’ consists of pull-up bars, parallel bars, rings, low bars, sit-up benches and more. Once you’ve had a good work out you could even reward yourself with a very short stroll over to London Zoo where you can often catch a cheeky glimpse of a giraffe!

There are also free outdoor fitness equipment facilities at Kilburn Grange Park and outside Swiss Cottage Library. These are great if you love the outdoors and don’t want to get caught up in gym membership commitments. Personal trainers also use these with clients.

With all these options you should be in tip-top shape for next year’s mince pie blowout!


The Twelve Christmas gifts of West Hampstead

Our Christmas gift guide is back! If you’re looking for gift ideas this year then don’t just head straight to Amazon, check out the shops on your doorstep. It’s likely you’ll get more inspiration and it’s definitely a more relaxing experience than Westfield or Regent Street. We went shopping to see what’s on offer. Don’t forget there’s also the West Hampstead Christmas Market on Saturday, and when you’re tired of shopping, there’s loads else to do in the neighbourhood this Christmas.

1. Copper and Slate Serving Plate, £34.99
Season Cookshop, 166 West End Lane
This hand-beaten copper bowl is made in Scotland and provides an on-trend variation to the classic slate tray. You’ll also find Orla Kiely oven mitts, coloured kilner jars, glassware and everything else you’d expect in a kitchen shop.

2. Faux Fur Collar, £18
La Boutique Secret, 132 West End Lane
You can clip this glamorous collar to a coat, jacket or accessorise a dress and it comes in a range of colours. Chokers (from £9) are also a popular gift this year. This little shop by the tube is bigger than it looks, with more clothes and jewellery downstairs.

3. Dolfin Chocolate Squares, £8
Cocoa Bijoux, Broadhurst Gardens
Twenty-four individually-wrapped chocolates with flavours like Noir Poivre Rose and Noir Cardamome. Cocoa Bijoux has an enormous range of sugary treats that will make great stocking fillers or larger presents. The Chocolate & Fig Pannetone baked at the Padua Prison Bakery is delicious!

4. Dinosaur Sandwich Box, £5
Sherriff Centre, St James Church
Dinosaurs, unicorns or fairies? Take your pick of these eco-friendly sandwich boxes and flasks; perfect for little ones with environmentally conscious parents. The Sheriff Centre has all sorts of other present ideas including candles, evening bags and puzzles.

5. A History of Pictures, David Hockney & Martin Gayford, £29.95
West End Lane Books, 277 West End Lane
In this beautifully produced hardback, the authors examine why humans have made and enjoyed art throughout history. Not the right gift? Ask the bookshop staff for present ideas for the tricky people in your life. You might consider Zadie Frost’s new book, a screenplay of Fantastic Beasts, the Private Eye Annual or a signed copy of Alan Bennett’s new diaries.

6. Bottle of Tridentum Sparkling Wine, £22
Vini Vivi, 35 Mill Lane
This full-bodied, very dry and clear sparkling wine is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes in the Trentino region of Italy using the champagne method. A bottle usually costs £28 but is on offer for Christmas. Vini Vivi has a wide selection of fine and everyday wines. It also imports Italian and Spanish delicacies such as high-quality pasta, pane carasau and sun-dried tomatoes.

7. Solid Silver Bracelet, £60
North West 6, 122 West End Lane
If you’re looking for special, wearable jewellery then take a look at North West 6’s wide selection of bracelets, necklaces and earrings. Did you know that many of North West 6’s customers come in for crystals and tarot cards?

8. Minions Framed Print, £50
Monsters of Art, 112 Mill Lane
Know a Minions fan? These popular prints feature minions in all sorts of characters. Pop into the shop to find your favourite or have a look at the other street-art inspired prints on offer.

9. Cohiba Cigar, from £14.99
Robert Graham Whisky and Cigars, 4 Broadhurst Parade
Think of Fidel and visit our local humidor. Cigar prices vary substantially by brand and age. Did you know that cigars are purchased as investments? A limited edition cigar bought by the shop in 2011 for £34 is today worth £105. The shop stocks gift sets and, true to its name, an interesting variety of whiskys.

10. Chocolate Cherry Figs, £10.20
The Hampstead Butcher & Providore, 244 West End Lane
The butcher offers plenty of christmas treats beyond turkeys, like these delicious chocolate cherry figs. Dig around and you’ll also find chestnut panettone, Prestat chocolates and unusual wines.

11. Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Face Mask, £23.29
Peppercorns, 260 West End Lane
Who wouldn’t want a cleansing facemask with manuka honey, avocado oil, pohutukawa [Ed: what?!] bloom and vanilla pod from New Zealand? It ticks the fair trade, organic and recyclable boxes, as does the rest of the beauty range available in Peppercorns.

12. Christmas wreath, £55
Achillea Flowers, 92 Mill Lane
The Achillea team create stunning Christmas wreaths that would please that impossible person who has already bought themselves everything they’d ever need. If that’s a step of luxury too far you’ll also find Christmassy candles in decked-out pots for £25.

Ho ho ho - it's nearly that time of year again.  Image: Xmas Market

Twelve things to do in West Hampstead before Christmas

With Christmas less than a month away (eeek!),  time to let you know about twelve events in West Hampstead in the first half of December, to get you into that Christmas mood. To be followed by a Christmas survival guide as we get closer to the day.

1. Kingsgate Studio’s Winter Show 2016 (Thu, 1st Dec to Sun 4th – see below for times)

If you like artists or designer-makers and you haven’t been to Kingsgate, you’re in for a treat. Even if you have been it’s worth a return visit.

The Winter Show is a chance to pick up some interesting artwork or ceramics which will make a very special Christmas present. Where is it, you ask? Down on Kingsgate Road.

Image: Kingsgate centre

Image: Kingsgate centre

2.  Christmas Art Workshop @ the Sherriff  Centre – Fri 2nd Dec 3.30pm

Sherriff Centre will be holding a kid’s Christmas Art workshop (4 years and up). Tickets £4.50 in advance from Hullabaloo.

3. West Hampstead Fire Station open day – Sat 3rd Dec 12-6pm

OK, not that Christmassy (except it is red like Father Christmas). The open day is a must for all those kids who want to follow in Fireman Sam footsteps, plus an appearance from a life-sized playmobil fireman.  Celebrating 150 years of the London Fire Brigade, don’t you know.

4. Beckford School Christmas Fair Sat 3rd 2-4pm

On the same afternoon along Mill Lane it’s the Beckford School Christmas fair. Come and support your local school.

Three floors of fun for all the family, including lots of games, Santa’s storytelling, live auction, food and drink stalls. Plus Street Dance Stars, the junior and senior choirs and the Beckford African Drummers.

The school has been tweeting furiously about all the donations from local business for its raffle (think we will need to win a prize from Insight Opticians to read the tiny print on this flyer). Basically, it says lots of great prizes from local businesses.


5. JW3 open air skating rink (opening on Sat 3rd Dec )


Almost the Rockefeller Centre…   Image: JW3

West Hampstead has its own ice rink! And as an added bonus it’s also open on Christmas day. A novel way to work off the Christmas lunch calories.

It’s also a good opportunity to explore JW3 if you haven’t been. It has a great café, Zest, and a cinema too.

The ice rink is even recommended by Londonist as the best value peak time (i.e. evening and weekends) skating rink in London.


6. West End Lane Books – One day Winter Sale Thu 8th Dec (9am-9pm)

Harrods? Forget it? Hamleys? Meh! The real harbinger of the festive season is the advent of West End Lane Books’ one-day Winter Sale. The shop will be offering its customary exemplary range of books, new and classic, plus seasonal stationery, diaries, calendars etc at 20% off…and this includes an extensive selection of signed books! There will be seasonal nibbles throughout the day and the hard stuff will be coming out after 6pm. All free. Gratis gift wrap available on all purchases over £30 and tonnes of Whamp bonhomie and literary banter to boot.

7. The West Hampstead Christmas market – Sat, 10th Dec 10am-4pm

Ho ho ho - it's nearly that time of year again. Image: Xmas Market

Ho ho ho – it’s nearly that time of year again. Image: Xmas Market

It’s the 7th Annual Christmas market, held on West End Green. There will be a range of stalls selling Christmas gifts and decorations, including local businesses such as Monsters of Art, Achillea Flowers and the Camden Society. The organisers have upped the craft element; we are intrigued by leather goods from the Friday club and Japanese knitwear from Fukushima knit. Edible treats will also be available – The Kitchen Table and Welsh teacakes are among the cake stalls.

It’s not all about shopping however – there are fun, free activities for kids in the neighbouring Emmanuel Church. There will be music, dance and storytelling as well as plenty of Christmas crafts including flower making and ‘up-cycled’ Christmas baubles.

Not forgetting carol singing on the Green at 2pm!

8. Emmanuel School Christmas fair – Sat, 10th Dec 2-5pm

Come and support another local school. On the afternoon of the West Hampstead Christmas fair on West End Green, and practically next door, Emmanuel School is holding its own fair (inside the warm school)!

As if there is isn’t enough sweet stuff at this time of year, Emmanuel is having a bake-off. As well as the usual tombola, raffles and mulled wine.

Top draw looks like Santa’s grotto – kids you can let him know what you want for Christmas (but you better have been good).


9. Fortune Green Choir Christmas charity concert – Mon, 12th Dec 7.30-9pm

A relaxed concert with a Christmas touch held in the newly refurbished Emmanuel Church. The choir is singing Broadway tunes, traditional choral pieces and of course carols. Cantereas, the choir within the choir, will be singing a couple of pieces and there will also be carols for the audience too.

Mince pies and mulled wine after the concert.  Festive spirit guaranteed.

Suggested donation £4, as they are raising money for the De Capo foundation, a local charity that encourages music education from toddlers to teens.

Hark! the herald angels sing ...

Hark! the herald angels sing …

10. Wishing you a FoWHL Christmas – Monday, 12th Dec 7.30-9pm

It’s the Friends of West Hampstead Library (FoWHL) AGM, but to lighten the doom and gloom of staff and budget cuts there will be some festive readings by the FoWHL players – how many other libraries friends group have their own acting troupe?



11. Panto at the Sherriff Centre – 16th Dec.

A first this year – panto in West Hampstead, but a travelling not local production – so no chance to see the Linda Snell or Eddie Grundy of West Hampstead. Alas, it has proved extremely popular and it sold out already.  Bah humbug!

12.  Festive Mod and Soul Party at the Railway– 17th Dec 8pm-midnight

Live band Serious Chord Squad playing The Who, The Jam, The Small Faces plus classic Mod & Soul tunes. Soul DJ set to party til late. Free entry.

And finally, looking for a Christmas tree?

They’re on sale outside the Sherriff Centre on the corner of Sherriff Road and West End Lane, and if you’re at the other end of town, you can find a good selection of trees at the Mill Lane Garden Centre.

Potato, chorizio scrambled egg at the Wet Fish

Four best brunches on West End Lane

One of the things that make West Hampstead so special are the incredible restaurants it has to offer, many with outdoor space. Perfects spots for a bit of brunch on the weekend, and is there anything better than a leisurely morning spent enjoying, rather than rushing the best and most important meal of the day?

So where are the best brunch spots in the area? These are my top four picks on West End Lane:

The Petit Corée
What a pleasant surprise the Petit Corée was! Serving French-Korean fusion, this delightful little place serves a variety of brunch dishes, in case you’re looking for something different. The kimchi pancakes with scamorza cheese are a perfect, light and warming dish, it packs a perfect little punch to start your day.

The highlight, however, must be the honeycomb butter that comes with the French toast. It is to die for! The French toast can come with caramelized banana or smoked streaky bacon, either is an absolute treat. You can also get a fresh, sweet orange juice and with good value to boot, this place deserves a score of 10/10

French toast with bananas at The Petit Coree

French toast with bananas at The Petit Coree

The Alice House
No one can deny the Alice House will always be buzzing with energy, drawing many people to West Hampstead. And the brunch is delicious too! The full Alice is sure to cure you of too much merriment from the night before, and satisfy any craving. Highlights include homemade beans and excellent quality sausages. If you can’t quite manage a full Alice, you can pick and choose your favorite breakfast bits!

For those with a sweet tooth (like me!) the incredible stack of pancakes will certainly make it feel like the weekend. The iced coffee is divine and the freshly squeezed orange juice is liquid gold. The major drawback however is that brunch finishes at 12! And I’m sorry, if it’s before 12, it’s not brunch…it’s breakfast! That, plus it’s slightly dear compared to other places gives it a score of 7/10

Brunch options at the Alice House

Brunch options at the Alice House

The Wet Fish Café
Always popular, the Wet Fish Café serves an amazing variety of brunch. The potato, chorizo and egg scramble with refried black beans & toast is simply gorgeous, and can be made dairy free to the delight of my brunch companion. The avocado toast with feta and lime is also recommended for those looking for something slightly lighter.

They also serve Eggs Benedict, which is simply perfect. The main drawback is that it is always so busy, you may need to wait and may not get the table of your choice (the ones by the door are lovely); hardly surprising given the delicious food, beautiful interior and lovely staff. This place deserves 9/10

Potato, chorizio scrambled egg at the Wet Fish

Potato, chorizio scrambled egg at the Wet Fish

If you’re looking for a more economic brunch, Bellaluna is worth a look. Some may argue that what they serve is a full English breakfast rather than “brunch”, but who’s complaining? One might not expect this lovely Italian restaurant to serve English breakfasts, but who can blame them for dipping in to the market of hungry brunch lovers? You can’t go wrong with a fry-up that is good quality and won’t hurt your bank balance, though without the elegance of some of the other establishments in the area. My score is 7/10

Few drinks at One Sixty before heading out for a dinner

Dive into the delights of West Hampstead events

What I love about Whamp events is the brilliant people I have met. Yet without these events, I would have quite happily walked past them on West End Lane!

Of course, I also like the easy exchanges about the streets and roads we live on, recommendations on the best places to go in the area and how long we’ve been living in this mutually-agreed-upon wonderful neighbourhood. Not to mention walking home at the end of the evening with no requirement for public transport. An evening sans social-commute! Bliss! These are enjoyable and indeed essential pieces of the Whamp Life puzzle.

Summer evening drinks at The Black Lion

Summer evening drinks at The Black Lion

However, it is the lasting impression of local characters that leave me bubbling with enthusiasm after every event I’ve organised. From fresh-starters to long-time Whampers; from witty writers to astute city goers; from the famous West End, to West End Lane business owners. Every person has a different story about how they came to be in West Hampstead, yet steadfastly I’ve found them to be friendly, interesting and interested in the world around them. Turning up to an event in the hope of meeting your neighbours is a good filter to find sociable, open people and that seems especially true here. This is what makes West Hampstead Life so special.

Few drinks at One Sixty before heading out for a dinner

Few drinks at One Sixty before heading out for a dinner

What’s the story?
I have my own little personal history of how I came to run the Whamp events. I find myself re-telling the tale when I meet new faces at these socials and the inevitable curiosity about how this unique community came to exist in London. Firstly, I always emphasise that I only running the events! There’s a small team of people who do a fabulous job of the website, emails, reviews and twitter (usually I don’t contribute to the news!).

Secondly, I am not the pioneer! I am continuing the years of work by Jonathan and his supporters who established this concept. I’ve always been a big fan of meeting people in person, so I’m delighted to be carrying it on with his guidance. I will save the rest of the story of how I got involved for face-to-face telling, otherwise you’ll be missing out on the requisite animated hand gestures. All I will say is that it involves a willing bunch of West Hampstead ladies (and one lovely one in particular), a few too many Pimms & Lemonade and a narrow escape from the doomed Lower Ground Bar!

What kind of events?
Whether it’s a sit-down WhampDinner or a more relaxed WhampSocial, we like to mix it up. Since relaunching the events in June this year, we’ve done a Friday night curry at gorgeous Guglee, book-ended by drinks at One Sixty and the Railway; an evening with a steady flow of lovely people round a table or two at the Black Lion; followed by a splendid turnout of old timers and newcomers that found their way to us through the Czech bar, into the beer garden and onto plastic chairs.

Twenty four locals enjoy dinner at Guglee

Twenty four locals enjoy dinner at Guglee

Most recently, a lively bunch met for tasty Vietnamese at Pham House, with a few drinks next door at The Gallery. Next we plan to try the soon-to-open Thunderbird bar on West End Lane.

If all this sounds like its for you, read more about the practicalities (tldr: sign up to the mailing list)

All you need is an email address and a NW6 postcode (or NW2 or 3 if we’re feeling generous), then the Whamp world is your oyster. Throw your name in the hat and maybe yours will be the next Whamp story. If you do, I think you’re highly likely to have an entertaining evening. Because we’ll be somewhere lovely in West Hampstead, happy to meet someone new, surrounded by more people with the same outlook. Long may Whamp Events continue. Come! We’ll make it so.


Good Night, and Good Luck

More than six years ago I tweeted about a hairdresser on Broadhurst Gardens (long gone). It was a bit of an experiment in using Twitter for local news. Would there be enough stuff to talk about? Was Twitter really going to take off? Most pertinently, were people in West Hampstead interested in getting local news this way?

Fast forward to 2015 and we all know the answers to all those questions. It became apparent very quickly that not only was there more than enough stuff to talk about, but actually Twitter was far too restrictive. West Hampstead Life was born with a thrilling opening post on the results of the 2009 European elections.

But West Hampstead Life and the WHampstead twitter account were always about more than just disseminating news. Six years ago, despite having lived in West Hampstead for a long time, I didn’t know anyone here. So the second idea was to see if I could unearth (or infiltrate) the local community. Turns out that Twitter was a great place to get to know locals virtually, but it also enabled the offline meetings, dinners, parties, and general socialising that makes West Hampstead Life stand out from the now crowded world of hyperlocal websites.

Why the reminiscing? Having built this all up – with enormous help and support from dozens of people – it’s time for a change.

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine

Many of you will know – either from me, or through the high-speed grapevine – that I’ve moved out of London. You’ve probably noticed a drop-off in website content, and those of you who read the newsletter will know we’ve taken a break.

Trust me, it’s not because I’ve fallen out of love with West Hampstead. It’s far more clichéd than that. Nicky and I are expecting a baby and we wanted more space. We immediately hit the property market brick wall. To get a nice larger place in West Hampstead was not feasible, and we didn’t fancy moving “a bit further away”. Instead, we moved to Warwickshire.

I know one or two of you who knew felt that I should have announced this immediately, though the majority seemed to understand that it was still possible to publish local news without being in situ all the time; and that I was hoping there could be a seamless handover of the website. Unfortunately, sorting that out is taking a bit longer than I’d hoped (negotiations are progressing, but if you’re interested in buying a successful hyperlocal, I’m still open to offers).

Anyway, six years feels about right. The site first took off with coverage of the 2010 general election, so it was great to be able to repeat the process for this year’s vote – and this time to chair my own hustings. In fact, over six years, we’ve reported on the riots, eaten more Sunday lunches in one day than medical advice would ever permit, analysed every major development from Ballymore to 156 West End Lane and befriended a tonne of amazing people along the way.

There have been humbling moments – such as meeting the parents of Amy Werner, the American student so badly injured in the December 2013 car crash. There have been daunting moments, like interviewing Glenda Jackson. And there have been ridiculous moments, like talking to Paul Ross on BBC London radio about mystery cucumbers. All those moments have added up to this being one of the most fun and engaging periods of my life.

While we sort out a transition, the website will tick over. Expect it to focus more on the features and reviews though. For news, I suggest you head over to the Forum where I’ll post stuff as and when I can, and you can write your own stories. We’ll continue to update the calendar too, so do keep checking that.

The newsletter will go on ice. It has been one of the most popular features of West Hampstead Life. For about the last four years, I’ve published it 50 weeks a year and I can’t deny that getting my Sunday nights back is amazing. Keep signed up though – until we manage the handover we may send out the occasional newsflash e-mail and update everyone on events.

Twitter – I can’t abandon Twitter. It’s where it all began. My @WHampstead account will remain fairly active, much as it has been over the past few weeks. Whoever takes over the site will have the @WHampsteadLife account to play with, but the original @WHampstead account is too personal to me for me to give it up and I fully expect people will carry on sharing news and asking questions for quite some time. Maybe don’t expect quite as rapid a response as you may have become used to. And no, I don’t know why the police helicopter is overhead.

Come together

The most fun aspect of West Hampstead Life has always been the get-togethers. The first whampgather was late 2009. Sixteen of us met in the Alice House (Stephen Fry couldn’t make it) and I was dead nervous. The last few have seen almost 200 people turn up (and I was still a bit nervous).

Dinners, books, films, barbecues, comedy nights, picnics, drinks, and even the occasional bit of dancing… the events have been the glue of West Hampstead Life. They’ve already spawned two weddings, many flatmates, and I’m fairly sure more than a few hook-ups; but also a rich network of people who know they can walk down West End Lane and bump into someone they know. I’ve never bought into the “village feel” of West Hampstead, but I do buy into the idea of a community and that’s what West Hampstead is.

And you don’t need me to keep those connections. The great news is that the events will continue. There’s already been a whampdinner and an NW6 Film Club night since I left and the next whampsocial and whampbooks are in September.

There may never be another whampgather – perhaps that’s one event that’s run its course; but at least the local businesses can breathe a sigh of relief that I won’t be bugging them for raffle prizes any more.

So long and thanks for all the fish

By whatever metric you choose, West Hampstead Life is one of the country’s most successful hyperlocal sites despite only ever being a sideline and – for most of its life – having been run pretty much single-handedly by me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t immensely proud of that. But it’s only because local people keep reading, tweeting, replying and e-mailing (constantly, constantly e-mailing) that it’s thrived.

It would be impossible to thank all the people who’ve helped me along the way. There are literally hundreds of you and it’s a dangerous game to start naming names! I would, however, like to mention that handful of people who got it from the very beginning; the people who were supportive from the start and who still are in different ways. Some have left the hood, some are still there, all were instrumental in getting project #whamp off the ground, whether they realised it or not. They know who they are. Thank you.

Once I have an update on the site, I’ll let you all know. I’m still around from time to time – had that second #whamp wedding to attend this weekend, for example – and I’ll try and swing by a whampsocial or a whampdinner (if my name gets pulled out of the hat) whenever possible.

In the meantime my friends, it’s been a pleasure.

Save West Hampstead Library

Is West Hampstead library at risk?

West Hampstead Library is a vital community asset, sitting in the heart of West Hampstead.

It is about so much more than books. As well as lending books, it serves as a space for community groups, hosts IT facilities for those who do not have them at home, and has various other classes and activities for people of all ages. During elections it serves as a polling station. It is also an attractive building with a good presence on the West End Lane high street. Public libraries are among the last indoor spaces in West Hampstead – or indeed anywhere – where you can sit for free.

However, its future may be in jeopardy – and together with my fellow local councillors – we’re asking for the help of local residents to keep it open.

Because of central government cuts, which are halving Camden’s budget over eight years, Camden needs to cut £800,000 from its library services and it has not ruled out closures.

This coming Wednesday, a 12-week consultation will start on the future of Camden’s libraries. The council has specifically mentioned West Hampstead among the libraries that might be considered for closure.

A lot rests on the response to the consultation. If the public response is a big ‘no’ to closures, it will help them to discount that option.

Of coursse, in light of the current financial pressures, the council needs to look at creative ways to make savings and modernise the service. I don’t think enough work has been done to look at partnerships with local groups – or bringing in other services to share costs and make the library an even better community hub. Closure should not be an option.

The West Hampstead councillors have started a petition against closure, to give an early show of the strength of feeling. If you want to, you can sign it here. Within a couple of days, it has already got more than 200 signatures.

Some of the comments are really quite moving. They show just how much this place means to local people. We need to show the council the strength of local feeling on this and we call on all residents to help.

The campaign already has its own Twitter handle, @SaveWHamLibrary and a hashtag, #SaveWHampLibrary which interested people can follow for updates. (The missing ‘p’ in the handle is due to Twitter’s tight character restrictions.)
As councillors, we are calling on residents to fill out the consultation from Wednesday and urge Camden not to close West Hampstead library.


Local planning initiative seeks strong mandate in referendum

It’s now more than three years since the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) was set up to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan for our area.

The work of the NDF has been covered frequently by WHL in that time, but if you’re new to the concept of neighbourhood planning, it was introduced by the last government in the Localism Act. There’s a short explanation here.

The Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan has been drawn up by local people (all volunteers) and is a result of a great deal work – as well as extensive consultation and engagement. The plan is a long document, but the “Vision” on page 12 gives a good overview of its aims.

The Plan was approved by an independent examiner in January, and is now at the final stage: a referendum of all those living in the area.

It’s the first Neighbourhood Plan in Camden to get to the referendum stage – and only the second in London.

In advance of the referendum, we’ve delivered an information leaflet to every household in the area. This gives people the chance to see the Neighbourhood Plan and related documents on our website and to get in touch with us to answer any questions.

We’ve also had numerous campaign events in the past few weeks – and will be having more in the final few days of the campaign.

The YES campaign is being backed by nearly all the local groups in the area and has cross-party support. Our referendum campaign was launched by our new MP, Tulip Siddiq, who lives in the area covered by the Plan and is backing the YES campaign.

We are urging people to vote YES to the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan on Thursday 9th July to:

  • Promote good design & protect the distinct character of the area
  • Improve public transport facilities
  • Support local businesses & jobs
  • Provide the services our community needs
  • Protect green & open spaces
  • Get funding for local projects from developer contributions

If you have any questions, want to be involved in the work of the NDF, and/or want to be added to our mailing list, please email: moc.l1490920297iamg@1490920297daets1490920297pmaht1490920297sewpd1490920297n1490920297

You can also follow us on twitter @WHampsteadNDF and use the hashtag #WhampVoteYes for the referendum.

We do hope as many people as possible can join us in voting YES on Thursday 9th July – to make sure the Neighbourhood Plan is approved and comes into force a legally enforceable document.
(If there’s a NO vote the Plan doesn’t come into force and Camden Council can disregard it).

Where to vote
Thanks to those who’ve already voted YES using their postal votes. For those voting on Thursday, the polling stations are open 7am to 10pm and are at these locations:

Fortune Green ward: Emmanuel School, West Hampstead Community Centre (opposite Beckford School) & Templar House social hall.
West Hampstead ward: WH Library, St James’ Church Hall & 19 Wedgewood Walk, Lymington Road.

The referendum is being run by Camden Council. All the information about the vote, including contact details for the electoral services department, can be found here.

Thanks very much to everyone for their support so far. Please do turn out to vote YES on Thursday, so we can demonstrate that there’s strong support across our community for people to have a say in the future development of our area.

James Earl
(Chair, Fortune Green & West Hampstead NDF)

La Brocca open for brunch on the Locke's last day

End of an era: La Brocca changes hands tomorrow

La Brocca open for brunch on the Locke's last day

La Brocca open for brunch on the Lockes’ last day

Tonight will be the last time David Locke presides over the bar at ever-popular wine & sports bar La Brocca.

After an incredible 24 years of being open 7 days a week, this West Hampstead institution that’s as well known for its jazz as its rugby nights (and early mornings), will be changing hands.

The Urban Leisure Group, which owns both The Gallery and The Alice House in West Hampstead as well as five other bars, is taking over as of Monday morning. Hezi Yeichel, from Queens Park-based ULG, told us that the company “plans to run La Brocca in a similar way to as it is now”, and will be keeping the pizzas going. The name La Brocca will also continue for the time being.

David and his wife Edda, who have run the place since its inception are not being forced out. They are retiring. David, to the surprise of many, is 71 and the time has come for a change of pace. He is understandably emotional about the end of an era, but will have many fond memories of the bar from England’s rugby world cup win to many of the jazz nights that have livened up West End Lane over the years.

Back in 2011, when West Hampstead Life spoke to David on the bar’s 20th anniversary, he told us, “The jazz is a love but it doesn’t make me money. You want to know how to make a million pounds out of jazz? Start off with two million.”

Simon Whiteside (right), next to David Locke

Simon Whiteside (right), next to David Locke, Chris Lowe on trombone and Dominic Howles on the bass. Photo via Eugene Regis

Today, local jazz maestro Simon Whiteside who has played regularly at the bar for years, put together an impromptu surprise concert for David.

Simon said afterwards, “La Brocca has been a wonderful bar & beanery for many moons supporting jazz musicians by providing a venue where it felt comfortable & inspiring to play. David & Edda have run a great place for more than 20 years and I’ve been privileged to be part of the music scene there. In that time La Brocca has seen births, deaths, marriages & jazz careers born & built. I’m glad I was able to play a tune today in honour of one of the true arts venues founded & run on family principles.”

In the short-term, David and Edda are off to their second home in Cyprus for the summer. Tonight, we can expect a few glasses to be raised in their honour. They have most definitely played an enormous role in making West Hampstead the place it is.

And what of the enormous bull’s head that adorns the wall upstairs? “We only had it on loan,” says David. “It’s going back to its owner”. Just another big gap that the new owners will have to fill as we say farewell and good luck to the Lockes.

David Locke in 2011. Photo Moya Sarner

David Locke in 2011. Photo Moya Sarner

Railway building in Camden Town showing the excavation of the deep cutting at Park Village (by John Cooke Bourne, 1836)

The Navvies are Coming!

Our recent story of a Girls Laundry that was based for a few years in Old West End House, also mentioned the building of the Midland Railway (today’s Thameslink). The engineering work caused immense disruption to the neighbourhood. It changed the face of West Hampstead forever and blighted many people’s lives – we’ve taken a look at how the railway line came to be and the impact the men who built it had on both the local community and the buildings of West Hampstead.

In Dombey and Son (1848), Charles Dickens included a powerful description of the building of the railway line to Euston that cut through Camden Town. Its progress was more destructive than the Midland line but it gives an idea of what the residents experienced.

The first shock of a great earthquake had, just at that period, rent the whole neighbourhood to its centre. Traces of its course were visible on every side. Houses were knocked down; streets broken through and stopped; deep pits and trenches dug in the ground; enormous heaps of earth and clay thrown up. Here, a chaos of carts, overthrown and jumbled together, lay topsy-turvy at the bottom of a steep unnatural hill. Everywhere were temporary wooden houses and enclosures in the most unlikely situations; fragments of unfinished walls and arches, and piles of scaffolding, and wildernesses of bricks, and giant forms of cranes and tripods straddling above nothing. … In short, the yet unfinished and unopened Railroad was in progress.

The Act authorising the Midland line from Bedford to St Pancras was passed in July 1863. The Company began buying land and the track was divided into sections, completed by different contractors. Joseph Firbank was responsible for two sections, around five miles between Kentish Town to West Hampstead (which included the Belsize Tunnel), and on to Hendon.

The line cut a large swathe across Hampstead parish. Along with the excavations came brick making, which was noxious and very smelly. On 27 January 1865, during a snowstorm, the Midland’s deputy chairman laid the first brick on the site of a shaft in the Belsize tunnel. The rails emerged from the tunnel at Finchley Road, where there was a station.

In the early twentieth century the railway created a new entrance to Finchley Road station through an arched entrance and down steps behind a cluster of small shops called Midland Crescent. Some were originally coal company offices where householders could go and order coal, (transported by the railway). In 1990 the shops included a record shop (far left), ‘men’s hair stylist’, café and antique shop (far right). They survived until quite recently behind a hoarding immediately north of the entrance to the O2 shopping centre.

In the early twentieth century the railway created a new entrance to Finchley Road station through an arched entrance and down steps behind a cluster of small shops called Midland Crescent. Some were originally coal company offices where householders could go and order coal, (transported by the railway). In 1990 the shops included a record shop (far left), ‘men’s hair stylist’, café and antique shop (far right). They survived until quite recently behind a hoarding immediately north of the entrance to the O2 shopping centre.

Having passed south of West End village with its cottages and houses centred on West End Green, the line curved northwest under Mill Lane and on to Cricklewood and the Welsh Harp. Extensive sidings were built on either side of West End Lane but there was no local station when the line opened to traffic in 1868. ‘West End’ station was a later addition, opening on 1st Match 1871 in a converted villa on Iverson Road. Access to trains was via a footbridge over the lines. The station was renamed ‘West End and Brondesbury’ on 1st April 1904, but then became ‘West Hampstead’ on 1st September 1905. The new station’s entrance was on West End Lane.

The Midland Railway Company buys local property
Under the Act, the Midland Railway Company was legally required to buy properties that stood close to their line. In West End, there were two recently completed mansions north of the proposed route. John Marrian and William Greenwood were business colleagues and friends. They built their houses on opposite sides of West End Lane; Marrian’s was called Sandwell House and Greenwood’s villa was Canterbury House. The house names recalled the birthplaces of their wives: Louisa Greenwood in Kent and Ann Marrian in Birmingham. A local resident recalled the houses as being ‘in the Italian style of architecture with square towers.’ The two families arrived in 1862 and showed every intention of staying. But when the Midland Railway Act was passed, Marrian and Greenwood were concerned the value of their property would fall. So they took advantage of the fact the Midland was obliged to buy their houses, and left. The properties were subsequently let to a series of tenants.

South of the line, the Midland Railway also bought Old West End House (the mansion used for the Girls Laundry School) and the three villas opposite, on what became Iverson Road. These overlooked the railway cutting and the easternmost villa was eventually converted into the railway station.

Tough men…
It’s almost impossible to visualise today, but the fields on either side of West End Lane, from the Green south to Iverson Road, were more or less on a level until the Midland line was built in a deep cutting. Modern basement excavation has nothing on the hundreds of tons of earth that were shifted by hand. The railway workers were called ‘navvies’, tough, hardworking men who travelled the country, sometimes accompanied by their families. (They were given the name ‘navvy’ earlier in the century when excavating the canals or ‘navigations’ as they were also called).

The muck (the navvy’s word for all the earth and rock) would be removed by wagon; one man could shift 20 tons a day by shovelling over his head into the truck. Where a cutting was concerned, ‘barrow runs’ were created up the steep side of the embankment. ‘Making the running’ was one of the most dangerous jobs a navvy could do and was reserved for the strongest among the workforce. Once it was full of muck, a rope was attached to the barrow and the navvy’s belt, then run up the siding, over a pulley and fastened to a horse. The horse then pulled the man and his barrow to the top of the cutting. A successful run relied on the navvy keeping his footing on the muddy plank and the horse pulling steadily. The return journey was made with the barrow behind the man, with the horse keeping the rope taut as the navvy descended.

Men worked day and night in relays. In 1865 a visitor descended a shaft of the Belsize tunnel. (Some shafts were large enough to accommodate horses, lowered to the tunnel floor to pull wagons). He walked towards a distant light, and after about 80 yards saw a dozen men tearing at the clay, some with pickaxes, others with their bare hands. After 12 feet had been excavated, centre supports were put up and the bricklayers moved in.

Railway building in Camden Town showing the excavation of the deep cutting at Park Village (by John Cooke Bourne, 1836)

Railway building in Camden Town showing the excavation of the deep cutting at Park Village (by John Cooke Bourne, 1836)

Navvies were rarely welcomed and often encountered great hostility from local residents, as they had a well deserved reputation for drinking and fighting. Of course, not all of them were rowdy, but reports of their anti-social behaviour grabbed press attention.

In 1846 a group of Irish navvies were charged with starting a riot during the building of the ‘Round House’, the large railway turning shed at Chalk Farm. Hundreds of English workers were engaged in bricklaying on the site and hundreds of Irish were working near Euston station, (the contractors employed equal numbers of each nationality). The battle between the English and the Irish began with a trivial incident at the Round House gates when an Irishman was refused entry by the policeman on duty. A fight broke out which escalated quickly, and despite the efforts of the police who were called out from several police stations, it lasted three hours. The fight was vicious and bloody and although nobody was killed, many men were maimed and three were crippled for life. Twenty Irish men (but no Englishmen), were arrested and seventeen were found guilty at the Old Bailey and received sentences ranging from three to nine months imprisonment.

During the building of the Midland line in 1867, Hampstead Vestry (the precursor of the Council) received a complaint that; ‘several persons had recently been stopped or interfered with whilst passing along West End Lane, by men having the appearance of navvies, and that greater protection was required from the Metropolitan Police.’

But so far as West End’s experience was concerned, there are no reports of major disturbances. This wasn’t the case further up the line towards Hendon: in 1867, some 300 to 400 navvies ‘took complete possession of the Upper Welsh Harp (public house) and made themselves complete masters of the place, broke the windows and did immense damage.’

The manpower required to build the railways was immense: in June 1865 the Midland advertised for navvies; 500 to 1000 men were required for the Kentish Town section of the line with ‘good wages paid.’ It was in a contractor’s interest to be selective, he needed men who would work both hard and fast. And the money had to be good, to compensate for the poor working and living conditions.

…in harsh conditions…
In an age before Health and Safety regulations there were many accidents. ‘When making the tunnel, from Finchley Road to Haverstock Hill, a man by the name of Dale was working in a shaft at Fitzjohns Avenue when they cut through the Conduit spring and the water rushed in and he only saved his life by clinging to a beam until he was rescued by some of his fellow workmen.’ (No date).

In January 1866 an inquest returned a verdict of accidental death on Charles Austin, age 52. He died when he fell into an unprotected pit at the railway works near West End. There were four shafts, each 30 feet deep, but only two were covered. Charles had worked all night and when he wanted to go home at 5am, found his way blocked by three railway trucks that needed moving. He wouldn’t wait, took another path and fell into the pit. ‘Between four and five feet of water had collected at the bottom. Great difficulty was experienced in extricating him, and when brought upon the line Dr Brown pronounced life extinct from drowning.’ It was recommended the pits be covered at night; the accident took place in December when it would still have been dark at 5am and Austin didn’t see the edge of the pit in time.

Near West End, the main issues centred on the health and sanitation problems experienced by the navvies, the brick makers and their families, including large numbers of children. One old resident recalled the West Enders were unwelcoming: ‘the villagers would not associate with the navvies and not one would take any of the workmen as a lodger.’ So James Firbank built a number of two-room wooden huts in the fields between Finchley Road and Mill Lane. He was one of the better contractors, but it was inevitable that the accommodation quickly became squalid and insanitary. He charged his workers six shillings a week rent, but it’s not clear if this was per family or per hut. In return they got free coal and furniture.

The following information is taken from the Hampstead Vestry Minutes and shows the appalling living conditions of the navvies.

June 1865
The Hampstead parish surveyor inspected 15 temporary huts inhabited by railway labourers in the lower brickfield west of Finchley Road. He reported the huts stood on the edge of two open sewers, but none of the huts had proper drainage or a water supply. Their inhabitants relied on open privies built alongside the sewers. Firbank agreed to provide more privies, better and covered cess pools.

July 1865
It was reported there was; ‘No special disease as yet’ among the ‘great influx of navvies and artisans which the railway operations had brought into the Parish.’

October 1865
Hampstead’s Medical Officer of Health (MOH) informed Firbank that many of the large number of children living in his huts still needed to be vaccinated.

November 1865
Firbank gave notice to the hut dwellers, forbidding them to take in more than six lodgers, (previously eight had been the limit and in some cases more). As a result more accommodation was needed for his workers. So Firbank ‘fitted up four houses on the West End House estate as room tenements for the workmen, their families, and lodgers.’ (These were the Iverson Road properties previously mentioned). Firbank also agreed with the parish surveyor to improve the paths in front of his huts; ‘with a view to the regulations respecting over-crowding and other matters being strictly carried out, a Police Constable from Scotland Yard had been engaged for this special duty.’

January 1866
Overcrowding was still rife among the hut dwellers and in some cases they operated a ‘hot bed system’ where; ‘relays of men appeared to occupy the beds by day that had been occupied by night.’

June 1866
The MOH appeared overwhelmed in the face of so many problems. He reported that; ‘the crowded and ill constructed huts used by the navvies and brick makers still caused him much alarm, and demanded constant vigilance’ but went on, despairingly, ‘One dreaded to touch the huts of navvies and brick makers, and could only hope that some good angel might keep disease far from their doors.’

The ‘good angel’ did not appear and unfortunately small pox broken out in the huts near Mill Lane. The MOH recommended that the ditches and privies near the huts be disinfected.

…but with kind hearts
A resident recalled the help offered by a local vicar: ‘the navvies had a champion in the Reverend Henry Sharpe.’ He was minister of the Holy Trinity Church in Finchley Road, then working from a temporary mission church in Belsize Lane.

‘Both Mr and Mrs Sharpe would go down in the clayey railway cutting and speak to the men, encouraging them and helping them. A great many would get Mr Sharpe to mind a part of their wages, so that it was impossible for them to spend the whole in drink as some of them did.’

The North Star pub on Finchley Road was their watering hole, by choice in this instance. While some contractors insisted their workers take part of their wages in beer, Firbank gave them water and oatmeal. It didn’t stop them drinking: Firbank recorded that on average, one of his navvies consumed 2 pounds of meat, 2 pounds of bread and 5 quarts of ale every day, while ‘he once knew a man to drink seventeen quarts in an afternoon.’

Rev. Sharpe gave the men tea in his church: ‘some of the navvies would say, look at our dirty clothes, Sir. Mr Sharpe would reply, never mind your clothes, come as you are’. He did however provide some washing facilities before they all sat down to tea. On the spiritual side, Reverend Sharpe took the church to the navvies, preaching to them in the Belsize tunnel, 60 feet underground. ‘The roughest among them would not hear one word spoken against Mr Sharpe, for if anyone attempted to do so, they had to expect a very rough time of it.’

In 1867, Reverend Sharpe was presented with a gift by officials and navvies: ‘a handsome pianoforte (the cost of which was 55 guineas) and a music stool, “as a token of their high regard and esteem for his services as chaplain to the company.” ’

After the line opened
Once the line opened in 1868, the temporary huts and cottages were quickly cleared away and the navvies moved on to other jobs. But the April 1871 census shows the Midland Railway was still using the old mansion and two of the Iverson Road houses as accommodation for railway staff and their families; 45 people in all, with the men working as platelayers, signalmen and porters. The third house had become the railway station which had only been open a month and doubled as home to stationmaster Thomas Beswick and his wife.

The Railway Company soon moved its employees out of the Iverson Road houses and rented them to private tenants and the old mansion was demolished. By 1874, the company had built Midland (Railway) Cottages on Mill Lane, 10 small properties perched high above the railway cutting, to help replace the lost accommodation. The 1881 census shows five families had moved there from Iverson Road. In the 1890s the Company built a further 10 houses, Heysham Terrace on Iverson Road, providing more housing for their employees.

Today, Ellerton, a block of flats, occupies the site of the Mill Lane cottages. The two Iverson Road houses were demolished in the early twentieth century. Heysham Terrace still stands, renumbered as part of Iverson Road. The extensive railway sidings on either side of West End Lane have been redeveloped as housing or retail space and West Hampstead station has been relocated – back in Iverson Road!

Phil Rosenberg: "being knee deep in muck is the best thing I've been able to do"

Netherwood Street: Residents take rubbish into their own hands

If you’ve ever had cause to walk from West End Lane to Kilburn High Road via Sherriff Road, you will have been on Netherwood Street. You probably hurried by trying not to notice the unsightly dump between the pavement and the railway line. All manner of refuse, including builders waste and evidence of rough sleeping, combine to give this otherwise pleasant area a distinctly grotty feel.

WHGARA, the local residents association for that part of West Hampstead, has decided to reclaim this abandoned council-owned site, and turn it into a small park.

Cllr Phil Rosenberg, who ran a very informal consultation on rubbish hotspots in the area via West Hampstead Life, took Cllr Sally Gimson, who’s responsible for such things in Camden, on a walkabout to see the worst offending places – including Netherwood Street.

Phil Rosenberg: "being knee deep in muck is the best thing I've been able to do"

Phil Rosenberg: “being knee deep in muck is the best thing I’ve been able to do”

Camden was able to bring WHGARA together with local charity, Camden Green Gym, and national campaign CleanUpUK to make a difference to the area. The three groups joined volunteers from the Webheath estate, and the two councillors to clear the site earlier this month. Working for three hours, the 20+ volunteers moved heavy debris including mattresses and discarded builders’ material, and more than 50 bags of flytipped waste.

Netherwood St Group Photo

WHGARA secretary Brigid Shaughnessy said, “It was a real success. The community really rallied behind it and we are hopeful that it can be restored as a creative new green space for residents”.

Netherwood Street clean-up before...

Netherwood Street clean-up before…

... and after

… and after

Once the space is cleared of waste, campaigners hope to turn the plot in to a micro-park, and the possibility of new allotments is being discussed. Ms Shaughnessy paid tribute to the “sustained and positive support” of the councillors, which had helped get the clean-up off the ground.

Netherwood St Litter Pick

Phil Rosenberg said, “It sounds strange to say it, but being knee-deep in muck is the best thing I have been able to do since becoming a local councillor. It just shows that when the community, council and local charities come together, we can achieve amazing things.”

The campaigners are hoping to do another round on the weekend of May 9th/10th, which we’ll publicise on these pages – do get involved in what’s a great community initiative. However, Camden has a long way to go to win over residents who are dissatisified with the rubbish on our streets (especially the Kilburn High Road end of Netherwood) and the performance of contractors. This feels like a step in the right direction, though hopefully not every initiative will require residents to become quite so closely acquainted with the problem they want solved!


Show your support for The Naz & Matt Foundation Walk

The death of Dr Naz Mahmood last year shocked the West Hampstead community, and as the details emerged around his death, that shock and sadness only grew deeper. On Saturday, Naz’s partner, Matthew Ogston, begins a 130 mile walk in his memory at the cemetery on Fortune Green Road and everyone in West Hampstead is invited to see him off. Matt’s aim is to raise awareness of the issues that ultimately led to Naz passing away, and to raise money to help set up the support networks that could help prevent the same situation happening again.

Naz died after he came out to his family, who rejected his sexuality. There is no better explanation of the story than the extremely moving article in The Guardian last month. It was a piece that took months to write as Matt, who still lives in West Hampstead, struggled to begin to come to terms with what happened. I urge you to read it.

Matt has now set up the Naz & Matt Foundation, a charity that aims to raise awareness of the devastating impact of homophobia within communities that are heavily influenced by religion; specifically he hopes that its work may prevent another young person feeling that the only way forward is to take their own life. Matt writes:

To raise awareness of these issues and to help fund a range of special projects and initiatives with the aim of changing attitudes and increasing acceptance of gay, lesbian and trans young people born into religious families, and to offer support to LGBTQI individuals affected by the issue, I will doing a 130 mile sponsored journey, mostly walked, from London to Birmingham.

“The Journey to Find Acceptance” will be spread over eight days, starting on the 18th of April. I will be joined by friends on the journey, and I am inviting members of the public to join with me to walk part of the route, to help me ‘carry a message of love and acceptance along the way’.

Many of you will have heard or read about Matt asking our parliamentary candidates what they would do to stop religiously-driven homophobia at the recent hustings. It was an emotional moment that cut through talk of mansion tax and public services and reminded us all of what it is to be human; to love and to be loved.

You can be a part of this, and show your support for Matt and this cause.

The walk starts at Hampstead Cemetery on Fortune Green Road, where a bench in memory of Naz was recently installed. Matt wants as many people as possible to turn up (“dress fabulous”). The throng will assemble from 10am and the walk itself begins at 11. By all means join in the walk, but even if you can just turn up to send Matt on his way that would be a huge boost for him.

Over the years that I’ve been running West Hampstead Life, I’m always amazed at how our community rallies around people who need us at the most challenging times of their lives, whoever they are and whatever they need. We saw it after the terrible accident on West End Lane a couple of years ago, lets see it again on Saturday.


“Vote Yes”: Neighbourhood Plan referendum campaign gets started

It’s now more than three years since we started work on the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan. It’s been through eight drafts and numerous rounds of consultation.

The Plan successfully passed its independent examination in January – an important step. The examiner recommended a number of changes to the Plan, which have now been agreed between the Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) and Camden Council, as the local planning authority. The final version of Neighbourhood Plan has now been published and can be seen here.

The last stage of the process is a referendum on whether to adopt the Plan. All those on the electoral register in the area covered by the Plan, which is the two wards of West Hampstead and Fortune Green, will be able to vote. The referendum date has now been set for Thursday 9th July and the NDF committee is starting work on planning for the referendum campaign.

We’ve already agreed the designs for our referendum publicity, which you can see below. Thanks to our local graphic designer, Purni Gupta, for her work on this.


We’re now looking for help with the ‘Yes’ campaign, so if you would like to be involved in any way, please let us know.

We’re also looking for sponsorship for events and the cost of the campaign. If you are a business or individual who would like to help out financially, please get in touch!

We plan to hold several events in the run up to the campaign, including the next NDF meeting on Tuesday 12th May; a workshop on how to promote the Plan on Saturday 30th May; and a launch event to start the campaign (early June, date tbc). If you would like to be kept up to date about our work, please ask to be added to our mailing list. Our various contact details are below.


Thanks to everyone for your support so far; we do hope you can join us in campaigning for a YES vote on 9th July!

James Earl
(Chair, Fortune Green & West Hampstead NDF)


Disco Soup London 1

Disco Soup: Tackling food waste through, er, dance

Disco Soup, according to local organiser Thomas Fassnacht, is a “global movement tackling food waste with free festive culinary events.” Sounds bizarre, but it’s actually a innovative way to get people both thinking about and acting on what is becoming a major global issue. And now you can get invoved in West Hampstead.

According to Thomas, a third of the food produced in England goes to waste. Disco Soup tries to do something about this. The idea is that markets and supermarkets give fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded. This could be due to superficial imperfections, a wrong order, or wrong best before dates.

Disco Soup participants, armed with some chopping boards and peelers, then prep the food, which cooks then turn into lovely dishes. Musicians and DJ keep the beats going during the chopping, and then continue the entertainment after dinner.

Disco Soup London 1

London’s Disco Soup in January. Photo: Thomas Fassnacht

Disco Soup London 2

Photo: Thomas Fassnacht

The 6th London Disco Soup will be held at 6pm on Monday April 13th, at the Mazenod Social Club on Mazenod Avenue. Everyone’s welcome, and the organisers ask that you bring your own peeler and chopping board if possible.

Find out more via Facebook and this Time Out article.


Should parking revenue be spent on Fordwych road safety?

The Fordwych Residents Association (FRA) has been calling for road safety improvements in our area for a number of years. Residents have raised a number of issues, and we’ve requested that Camden Council take action to:

  • Stop the rat-run through our area, which runs both ways along Westbere Road – Minster Road – Fordwych Road – Mill Lane
  • Stop HGVs – and especially skip lorries – using residential streets in our area as a short cut
  • Reduce the speed of traffic in our area and enforce the 20mph speed limit
  • Make road junctions and crossings safer – especially for children walking to and from Hampstead School and for the young children attending nurseries in our area.

One of things we’ve been told by the council is that money is tight and they may not be able to afford to act on our suggestions.

However, it’s been pointed out that the council receives large sums from the sale of parking permits. The money raised by the sale of permits is meant to be ring-fenced for transport and road safety spending.

The FRA thought it would be interesting to find out how much is raised in the zones in our area: CA-P (Kilburn) & CA-Q (Fortune Green).

You can see the PDF map of the council’s parking zones here

We asked for the figures since the permit scheme was introduced (around ten years ago) – but were told the figures were only available from 2010/11. The figures include funds raised from the sale of all permits – residents, visitor, e-visitor, parking permission, business & doctors.

  • 2010/11   £774,463
  • 2011/12   £754,083
  • 2012/13   £820,251
  • 2013/14   £870,466
  • 2014/15   £807,090 (to date)

These seem like significant sums to us. We also asked for a breakdown of how the money has been spent in our area. Unfortunately, we weren’t given this information – but instead were directed to the council’s annual parking reports, which can be seen here.

Although the reports give some useful information, there is no breakdown of how the money is spent. We think the council could be a lot more open and transparent about what these funds are used for so that those paying for the various charges and permits can see where their money is going.

James Earl
Chair, Fordwych Residents Association

Mamacita West End Lane

Adios to businesses on one block of West End Lane

The rapid rise of the West Hampstead Square towers is the most visible sign of change in the neighbourhood, but the retail landscape is changing fast too. Foxtons in, Mamacita and Social out, Holistic… no-one seems quite sure.

Most of the changes are happening on the strip of West End Lane bookended by Tesco and Sainsbury. Clothes shop Social closed its doors for the last time on Monday after 10 years.


Next door to Social, hair salon Holistic has been told it may also have to close and find new premises. Hakki, the manager at Holistic, said that the landlord, who also owns Social’s premises, has a potential tenant interested in taking both units and turning them into one large double shop (the unconfirmed rumour is that this might be a chain bakery). However, Hakki hopes to hear in the next few weeks that the salon will be able to renew its lease and continue operating where it has been for 19 years, but this is yet to be confirmed.

Finally, Mamacita announced on Twitter that it was closing, after less than two years in West Hampstead. The owners have told West Hampstead Life that although they can’t reveal the identity of the new tenant, it should be another independent business.


What would you like to see opening on West End Lane? Over to you in the comments below or on the forum.


West End Lane could soon be clear of agents’ boards

Last February, we reported on local resident Alan Grogan’s campaign to rid West End Lane of the large number of estate agents’ boards that were attached to many properties along the road. Many agents responded swiftly to our article and, within a couple of weeks, had voluntarily removed their boards from buildings. However, quite a few of the signs still remain up more than a year later.

This week, just as Foxtons added to the glut of estate agents on West End Lane, Alan got the news he’d been hoping for. Camden Council has submitted the Regulation 7 Application to ban all estate agents’ boards for the stretch of West End Lane between the tube station north to David’s Deli. This means that barring any major objections, the proposal should pass in the next few months.

Alan said that he is hoping the ban will come into effect “in time for the summer and we’ll have a very, very nice looking high street”.

Two of the signs still on West End Lane that would have to come down if Camden’s proposal is passed




West Hampstead women

West Hampstead’s remarkable women

West Hampstead women

The incomparable Edward Petherbridge has put together a wonderful short film about the women of West Hampstead, focusing on the early part of the 20th century.

It’s well worth watching and has some great old photos and some local history you may not have known… such as the West Hampstead building that was the first physical training college in England.

There’s also mention of Eustace Miles, who we wrote about last year.

Edward’s own website also refers to another West Hampstead woman, the “prominent socialist and feminist”, Dame Margaret Postgate Cole.

Soon to vanish?  destination - West Hampstead

139 to… Golders Green? TfL plans to shake-up local buses

139 bus

Surely we all get that flush of pride when you’re in central London and a 139 heading home sails into sight? Destination West Hampstead.

All that may be about to change according to plans by TfL, which are up for consultation.

Based on analysis of passenger flows, TfL is proposing that the 139 would continue up to Golders Green, following the route of the 328 (which is out of the scope of these plans). Many locals would be delighted if this meant that the 139 no longer trundled empty along Mill Lane on its way back to the depot.

The much bigger change proposed affects buses running from town up Finchley Road. TfL wants to scrap the 13 bus. Completely. Over on the Forum, this is already being discussed. Alex Gollner has delved into the details:

Currently there are 52 scheduled bus departures between Platt’s Lane on Finchley Road between 7am and 9am made up of buses on the 13, 82 and 113 routes. That’s 26 buses an hour.

The new plan mentions the frequency of the 113 increasing to 10 buses an hour during peak hours. The information given doesn’t say that the 82 will be increased to 16 buses an hour during the peaks in order to maintain current frequencies – “no changes to the day 82 service.” The 82 runs 10 buses an hour in the morning peaks at the moment so it looks like those on waiting for buses Finchley Road south of Frognal Lane in the morning rush hour will have their service cut by 20%.

TfL Bus consultation

Other notable changes are that the 189 would stop at Marble Arch rather than going on to Oxford Circus and a nightbus N189 would replace the 24h service, and the 82 would become a 24h service.

TfL’s full webpage on the consultation explains more of the detail and hints at the rationale, while not going into quite enough detail to satisfy those really keen to understand whether the proposals make sense. If they do come into effect, one thing is very clear… those top deck front seats are going to be a whole lot harder to get for West Hampstead residents.

Abi at Tori & Ben's Farm's prize-winning stall

Some locals have beef with market sign; others just like beef

Last Saturday, Tori & Ben’s Farm was awarded this year’s prize for “Customers’ Favourite Stall” at the West Hampstead Farmers’ Market. The stall sells lamb and Longhorn beef from their farm on the Derbyshire / Leicestershire borders.

Abi at Tori & Ben's Farm's prize-winning stall

Abi at Tori & Ben’s Farm’s prize-winning stall

The runner-up was last year’s winner, Brinkworth Dairy, which sells milk and cream at its stall, as well as takeaway coffee, to a steady queue of customers each week.

It’s good news for the stallholders, but latest statistics show that customer numbers have dropped since the market opened on the Thameslink forecourt in 2012. In its first year, the average footfall at the market was 3,558, but by 2014 the average had fallen to 2,477.

In an effort to boost customer numbers and raise awareness, London Farmers’ Markets, the organisation behind West Hampstead’s Saturday market, has applied to Camden for planning permission for its promotional banner to be placed between the trees on the Thameslink forecourt for a period of six months. There have so far been nine objections to this proposal, with some residents criticising the “unsightly” proposed banner, but Camden has received many more messages in support of the banner, 56 in total, including one from the West Hampstead NDF committee.

Cheryl Cohen, of London Farmers’ Markets, explains the need for a banner in the covering letter to the application, stating that it is “necessary to draw the farmers’ market to the attention of those who may not know that it exists,” in an area with a high turnover of residents. Why this method of advertising? From a survey carried out at the market, “47% of people said that they had found out about the market via the banner.”

Abi, who was manning Tori and Ben’s stall on Saturday, said that they had noticed a slight “six-month slump” in customer numbers, but that things seemed to be picking up again. She said it was still very much worth the trip to West Hampstead each week, due to the stall’s many loyal customers who return to buy their meat each Saturday.

What could explain the drop in footfall at the market? The shopping landscape of West Hampstead has changed since 2012. In the past twelve months, West End Lane has had new shops open selling fresh, good-quality produce. West Hampstead Fruit & Vegetables is always busy, and open late every evening. The Hampstead Butcher & Providore has a wide range of good-quality meat, Cook! sells freshly-cooked convenience food, and how could we forget the new Waitrose opening?

What do you think – are you loyal to the farmers’ market, an occasional customer, or do you use other shops or supermarkets? And do you support the organisers’ proposal for a banner to help restore customer footfall? Comment below or join the discussion on the Forum.

Steve Strange

Steve’s Strange moniker from West Hampstead postman

Steve Strange, frontman of 1980s band Visage, has died in Egypt following a heart attack. He was 55 and best known for the Visage hit Fade to Grey.

Local historian Dick Weindling recalls how Strange (real name, Steven Harrington) picked up his unusual name:

“In 1978, Jean-Jacques Burnel the bass player with The Stranglers lived in Tower Mansions, 134-136 West End Lane. He had been with the group since they formed in 1974. Steve Strange had just arrived from Wales where he had previously met JJ Burnel at a Stranglers gig. Steve and Billy Idol squatted in the basement of Tower Mansions. One day the local postman saw Steve and his girlfriend Suzy with their dyed spiky hair and said, ‘You two are an odd looking couple, you’re Mr and Mrs Strange’. They liked the idea and called themselves Steve and Suzy Strange. After playing in several other bands, Steve formed Visage in 1979.”


Locals objecting in numbers to Liddell Road plans

Camden has extended the deadline for comments on its Liddell Road redevelopment planning applications to February 12th. In practice, if you still want to comment, then submissions will be considered right up to the time of the vote, which is likely to be in early March.

Of the non-statutory responses Camden has published so far:

  • Objections: 32 (including two residents associations)
  • Sitting on the fence: 1 local organisation (WHAT)
  • In favour: 1 (a WHAT member)

The nature of the objections vary; many are about the scale of the development, but some are very specifically about the details of the school, including the admissions point problem.

The Neighbourhood Development Forum’s response is not online yet, but West Hampstead Life has a copy. It’s long but the key message is in the final paragraph.

“Overall, it is clear to us that this scheme – as reflected in the two planning applications – is in breach of a number of key policies in the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework], the London Plan, Camden Council’s LDF [Local Development Framework], and in the Neighbourhood Plan. The two proposals must therefore both be refused as together neither are planning policy compliant. The NDF remains committed to working with Camden Council and local residents to bring forward a scheme that is compliant with adopted and emerging planning policy – and which reflects the wishes of our community.”

If you wish to read the whole submission, it’s embedded below.

The statutory responses from Thames Water and London Underground give the developers (that’s the council remember), no cause for concern. The response from TfL concludes, however, by saying:

“There are some question marks about how the mixed uses’ ‘shared’ needs will work in practice in a way that does not create extra activity at the kerbside especially in view of the increase in vulnerable road users associated with the Primary School and nursery.”

It also states,

“Unfortunately the applicant has not responded to pre-application advice that its blue-badge [disabled parking] space allocation is wholly inadequate and does not meet London Plan Standards (aminimum of one space per ten residential units).”

Read the full TfL response.

Whether the councillors on Camden’s planning committee, who include West Hampstead councillor Phil Rosenberg and Fortune Green councillor Richard Olszewski, will be swayed by the antipathy to the details of this proposal remains to be seen.

The one thing they should not be swayed by is the argument that the development of 156 West End Lane will deliver substantial affordable housing and that this mitigates the dire lack of it at Liddell Road. Whether this turns out to be the case or not, no scheme has yet been brought forward for 156, and thus a decision on one proposal cannot be made on the basis of a hopeful promise.

If you feel strongly about any aspect of the development – whether it’s for or against – do submit your comments to Camden and/or contact one of the West Hampstead or Fortune Green councillors: James Yarde, Phil Rosenberg, Angela Pober, Lorna Russell, Richard Olszewski and Flick Rea [firstname.lastname @].

NDF Response to Liddell Road Consultation by WHampstead

Mobile hair & beauty provider swishes into West Hampstead

At this time of year, when it’s grey and freezing cold, any excuse to stay inside is a good one. We all indulge a little more in the convenience of just being at home – ordering a delivery from a favourite restaurant, doing a yoga class at home not the studio, or curling up on the sofa to watch a film instead of going to the cinema. And lucky for us, 2015 is set to be the year of the on-demand service – with start-ups offering everything from easy food delivery, to on-demand laundry pick-up and on-demand pet care.

One of the most exciting to come to West Hampstead is CitySwish, offering on-demand massage, beauty and hair, direct to your doorstep in as little as an hour’s notice. There’s no need to have any of the equipment or to have a large space available as CitySwish therapists can work anywhere from the kitchen table to a hallway! Book online and have someone show up with everything needed to relax, pamper, style you to perfection. And with a very simple pricing scheme (£60/hour for massage, £45/hour for beauty), CitySwish is certainly providing some competition for the high street!

While CitySwish started its operations in Kensington and Chelsea (where it has seen huge success), the idea was born in West Hampstead where Leisha Olandj, one of the co-founders, lives. Now that CitySwish has expanded its reach to include West Hampstead, it hopes to become a core West Hampstead staple. Leisha is generously offering all West Hampstead Life readers a 20% discount for any bookings made before the end of February. Book online at and use code WHLife to try it out.

Treatments: Massage, Hair, Beauty (nails, waxing, spray tan)
Where: They come to you!
Discount: Use coupon WHLife to receive a 20% discount through February.

West Hampstead Life Forum header

Have your say: WHL Forum is up and running

West Hampstead Life Forum header

Heaven knows the people of West Hampstead have opinions. You hear them expressed loudly at every local meeting, anyone with a local twitter timeline will be drowning in them, and they fill the WHL inbox.

But not everyone can attend (or enjoys) those meetings; Twitter is a noisy place littered with sunset photos and hashtags, and my inbox can’t take much more! Time for a place where locals can debate and discuss both great matters of import and the banalities of modern life in a civilized fashion.

Welcome to the West Hampstead Life Forum.

To participate in the Forum, you have to sign up. It’s a small hurdle to jump over but helps to create a genuine virtual community rather than a room where people pop their heads in, shout an obscenity, and disappear back into a hole.

How to register

Go to the Forum homepage and click on Create Account. This is top left on a desktop and accessed via the three vertical line drop-down menu on a mobile.

WHL Forum Create Account


WHL Forum Create Account mobile

Fill in the usual questions. You don’t have to use your real name, though we’d prefer it if you did.
Answer the very easy security question to prove you’re a real person (hint: both a single word and two words will work, capitalisation irrelevant)

In the bottom right of your browser, a message pops up telling you to confirm your e-mail address. Don’t click the “resend again” button until you’ve gone to check your mail and confirmed. The mail may be in your Junk or Promotions folder but it’s from West Hampstead Life.

WHL Forum confirmation

Once you’ve clicked on the link in your e-mail to confirm you’ll be taken back to the Forum page with a thank you message and after a few seconds you’ll be taken to the main page

How to use the Forum

It’s pretty simple. The main page lists the categories we have at the moment with a brief description.
WHL Forum Screenshot 1

Clean mobile design

Clean mobile design

Clicking on any category title takes you to the discussions or threads in that category, and then click on any thread title to read the latest posts.

The first time (and only the first time) you click on a discussion, you get a summary of the rules. You may not get this on a mobile. The rules are simple:

1) no commercial advertising. Anything that the moderators deem to be advertising will be removed and membership will be revoked for persistent offenders.
2) if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face or in a crowded room, don’t say it here. Robust debate is absolutely fine, insults, or language that is deliberately used to cause offence are not. We trust you to use your judgement, but we will happily use ours if need be. Anyone publishing anything potentially libellous will of course be removed immediately and that user blocked until we have investigated.

Close that pop-up and you can read/reply etc. with all the usual formatting you’re used to.

To reply, hover your mouse over the comment and “Reply” pops up at the bottom of the comment; click to reply. On a phone, just tap the comment to get the same option. Or just fill in the text box below to add a comment to the thread.

To simly like a comment, hovering over/tapping also brings up a heart icon you can click on.

If you want to start a brand new discussion, then click “Start a New Discussion” (we’re tricksy like that), or on a mobile click the three vertical dots top right to get the drop-down menu.

WHL Forum Screenshot New Discussion mobile

Make sure you assign the comment to the right category and away you go.

There are some other bells and whistles, but that’s the basics. If you write something you want to change, you have about 10 minutes after posting when an “edit” option appears.

If you want to get e-mail notifications when someone replies to your comment, go to Preferences, which are under “You / Edit Profile / Set Preferences”.

Play around with it – leave comments, start threads, lets see how it goes. Any problems, drop us a mail moc.e1490920297filda1490920297etspm1490920297ahtse1490920297w@mur1490920297of1490920297.

Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but we will be monitoring them closely and anything we believe violates our very simple rules will be removed without warning.

Let us know your thoughts on the forum… on the forum.


Alliance fundraising appeal to help Natalia Czekaj’s mother

On January 6th, Natalia Czekaj was found dead at her home in Harrow. Natalia worked behind the bar at The Alliance pub on Mill Lane where she was much loved. A 34-year-old man has been charged with her murder.


Locals are raising funds to help Natalia’s mother repatriate her daughter’s body to Poland, which she otherwise cannot afford. In a tragic coincidence, Natalia’s father, who was a policeman, was apparently also killed when she was young.

Michael Keating, landlord at The Alliance, is collecting money behind the bar, but a bank account has also been set up so people can contribute directly:
Account name: Natalia Fund
Account no. 63772314
Sort code: 20-74-63

Donations can be made online, or in person at any Barclays Bank. Barclays will transfer the money to Poland free of charge, and any other admin costs will be covered by the campaign’s organisers.

West Hampstead Life understands that some £600 has been raised already, but the target is £3,000.

One of the campaign’s organisers said “Let’s show Natalia’s family that we, as a community, sympathise with their tragic loss and stand beside them in their time of need. She was brave enough to try to make a life in our city and we should be generous enough to send her home with dignity.”

It would take only small contributions from all our readers to reach this target, and I can’t begin to imagine the emotions Natalia’s mother is feeling right now having lost her daughter in such a manner, and being unable to bring her home.

If you feel able to help, please do make a donation.


T.S.Eliot’s “gloomy” West Hampstead home

T.S. Eliot – arguably the greatest poet of the 20th century – lived for two years in Compayne Gardens.

Local actor and writer Edward Petherbridge has put together a short film, While the Music Lasts, about Eliot’s time in West Hampstead, which is well worth six minutes of your time.

In 1915, Eliot married Vivienne Haigh-Wood in Hampstead Registry office and the couple moved in with Vivienne’s parents in Compayne Gardens. “A house Eliot found rather gloomy, with long dark corridors”.

It was during this time that The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was published, although Eliot had written it a few years earlier and – the video claims – the seeds of The Waste Land were sown during his time in West Hampstead.

Edward Petherbridge’s original article is here.


Only one hurdle left for Neighbourhood Plan

The West Hampstead and Fortune Green Neighbourhood Development Forum has had two good pieces of news in the past week. Yesterday it announced a £6,000 grant from the Lottery, which will help enormously in setting up a sustainable Forum that can last beyond the delivery of the plan. Secondly, and even more importantly, the draft plan was passed by an independent examiner – a critical step in the process.

The Neighbourhood Development Forum has been featured on these pages for so long that some readers must be wondering whether the plan it has been developing is ever going to come into force. However, last week’s decision by John Parmiter, an independent planning examiner, to pass the plan means that it’s now assured of going to a referendum later this year.

The independent examination, to which all Neighbourhood plans must be sumbmitted, tests whether or not the plan [latest version] meets certain basic conditions that are in line with planning law. It is not a test of the plan itself and whether it’s “good” or not; more whether it is viable. The examination of the West Hampstead plan, rather unusually, took the form of a public hearing. These are used only when the examiner feels there are issues that need to be discussed or specific views that need to be heard – generally from people who have submitted comments in the consultation phase.

That meeting took place in December and the findings were published last week. You can read the full report here. The tone of the examiner’s remarks is notably constructive and although there is some criticism of the lack of supporting evidence for some of the plan’s policy recommendations, the report talks positively about the level of community engagement and the attempt to reflect the community’s aspirations.

The examiner has recommended (which is code for “insisted on”) some wording changes, some of which inevitably water down NDP policies that simply won’t work as they stand because they are not in line with national or local planning policy. Both building height and the protection of views are affected by this though the spirit of the NDP’s proposals stands.

For most people, the most signifcant change the examiner made is to strike out completely the policy on basements. The plan said there should be “a presumption against basement development more than one storey deep or outside the footprint of the property (excluding lightwells)”. The examiner found “no, or insufficient, evidence to support the… policy”.

Overall, however, the examiner’s report is good news for the NDP. Once the changes are made and Camden gives final approval, the plan will go to a referendum of people in the area – that’s everyone living in West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards. A simple majority of the people who vote is all that is needed to pass the plan. Although it would seem to make sense to combine the referendum with the general election on May 7th, Camden apparently does not like this idea, so the vote may now be in early July.

West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Plan map

The boundary of the area covered by the plan, which is the same as the two wards of West Hampstead and Fortune Green


Old West End Hall, Girls Laundry Training School

The struggles of West Hampstead’s 19th Century laundry school

West End House was built in the mid-17th Century and was originally the home of the Beckford family. It stood approximately where Rowntree Close is today, opposite the Thameslink station, and has an interesting history, including a four year spell as a philanthropic laundry school.

Don’t confuse this West End House with another building of the same name, which was the home of the Miles family near West End Green. To help distinguish between the two, locals sometimes called the Beckford property Old West End House and the Miles’, New West End House.

West End House, 1865 OS map

West End House, 1865 OS map

The Beckford house was much modified by successive owners and stood on a low hill. In 1842, West End House was described as a three-storey building with nine rooms on the top floor and seven on the floor below, with a balcony. There was a drawing room and a study on the ground floor plus kitchen and servants’ hall – and a water closet. The house came with upwards of 20 acres but by the 1850s it was available to rent with just a small amount of land.

Daniel Whittle Harvey
In 1855 the last tenant to rent the mansion as a home moved in. Daniel Whittle Harvey had been a radical MP who founded The Sunday Times, and now held the prestigious post of Commissioner of the City of London Police. But the neighbourhood was changing and he stayed only a couple of years. After Whittle left, the property’s slow decline began and by June 1857 it stood empty.

The setting of West End House was irreparably damaged by railway building. What we now call the London Overground was originally promoted as the Hampstead Junction Railway in 1853. By 1856, the railway company had purchased five acres of land immediately south of West End House. The Act authorising the Midland Railway’s extension to St Pancras was passed in 1863 and its route lay in a cutting immediately opposite the old mansion. Railway building was very disruptive and unlikely to appeal to most tenants.

The philanthropic brewer

Under these circumstances, landlords looked for alternative rentals, maybe a school or similar concern.

Robert Culling Hanbury

Robert Culling Hanbury (1823-1867) was an extremely wealthy partner in the old brewing firm of Truman, Hanbury and Burton. At one time their brewery in Brick Lane was said to be one of the largest in the world. He helped set up the Reformatory & Refuge Union in 1856, and the following year the Union decided to create the Girls’ Laundry & Training Institution for Young Servants. Then as now, many households sent their laundry away to be done. The Institution was the idea of “some ladies who had considerable experience in the work of female reformation”, so this training was aimed at a specific group.

In November 1857, The Times published an appeal for £500, which was needed to set up the laundry “for the employment of females from the London refuges and reformatories, who are of sufficient age to leave these institutions, but require further training or protection from bad parents.”

The Institution was described as an “industrial home” – not a reformatory or a refuge – it would provide the trainees with “protection, employment and prepare them for future service”. Girls from poor and broken homes could look forward to, at best, marriage and children; and at worst, prostitution. The difficulty in “reclaiming” girls who had “left the path of virtue” was mentioned, as was the fact that there were few opportunities for any woman to earn a regular and living wage. If the girls could be trained, in this case for laundry work, they’d have a skill to offer, “as would enable them to undertake engagements either in families or in washing establishments, or as wives. It is proposed that the girls should be properly cared for, and receive necessary teaching of other descriptions”.

Needlework, housework and plain cooking were also on the curriculum. It was hoped the Institution would gain a reputation such that respectable working men would also send their girls for instruction. As was common for the time, religion and strong moral beliefs pervaded the running of the Institution.

There were regulations governing the selection of girls to be admitted. Nothing was free. A girl certainly couldn’t just turn up and ask to be trained. The Ladies Management Committee, which almost certainly included Mrs Hanbury among its members, vetted the entries. Admission was £10 for each girl, payable quarterly in advance, unless there were special circumstances or she had worked in a laundry before. The intention was for the girls to earn enough to cover their day to day expenses and make the business self-supporting. A few critics raised doubts – at least one recent attempt by another philanthropic organisation to train girls for laundry work had failed.

By January 1858, £268 had been raised and the committee searched for premises. This took some time. It decided West End House was the most suitable “on account of its airy situation, (good for laundry and inmates’ health), distance from surrounding buildings and capability of accommodation in the house”.

A lease was signed, but the rent was higher than the committee had intended paying, at £150 a year. Given the known proximity of the Hampstead Junction Railway and the dirt associated with steam engines, the committee’s decision to rent West End House was questionable, especially as more money had to be spent to create the girls’ accommodation. Then there were the further costs associated with providing laundry facilities and equipment, all this before the business could be launched.

Old West End House, Girls Laundry Training School

Old West End House, Girls Laundry Training School

The Training Institution took possession of West End House on 5th July 1858, and began building the wash house. The first three girls were admitted a week later on the 12th. In January 1859, an article in The Philanthropist described progress so far. The number of girls had risen to just seven, as it was decided not to admit more until all modifications had been completed. The plan had always been to open the enterprise with a few girls who already had laundry experience, get a few clients and then take in trainees. As regards their moral welfare, the girls sometimes attended services held at Christ Church in Hampstead; the Reformatory and Refuge Union had given books for a library and the Bible Society had likewise donated a number of bibles. But the article concluded with the ominous statement that “the sum which was generously contributed last year is entirely exhausted”, spent on fitting up the wash house and furnishing the Institution to receive 40 girls. And as yet, no laundry work had been done; for the past six months the girls had been doing needlework “necessary for the house and laundry”.

There were more appeals for pecuniary aid. In April 1859, Hanbury said he believed the enterprise would “realise very favourable results”. That September, when the laundry business had barely got underway, the entire estate, including the house, was put up for sale. But as the Institution’s lease still had an unexpired term of 28 years to run, it continued working while the land around it was slowly developed.

The greatest care had been taken in selecting a matron who would not only instruct the girls in laundry work but also be responsible for their moral training. Accordingly, the Union advertised for “a person of sound religious principles, influence and tact.” Miss Sarah Woodhams was the matron in January 1859 but by 1861, the laundry was being managed by Susan Beech, a 50-year-old widow born in Islington. Her live-in staff comprised two assistants and a porter. Mrs Beech was in charge of 25 girls, far fewer than the 40 originally intended. Of these, 21 were “under training for laundry services”, and the remainder, “under training for domestic services”. Their ages ranged from 14 to 17.

The laundry folds

A track off West End Lane became Iverson Road, and in 1862 three large houses were being built there. In March that year, the laundry was in trouble with the local authorities over a blocked drain, but the committee blamed the builder working on the land opposite, saying he had diverted the drain. In May, a bazaar was held to raise funds for the Institution but by September 1862 West End House stood empty once again. Matron Beech, her staff and the girls had gone. There is no record of the laundry relocating elsewhere, so almost certainly it had closed. Presumably the business had been unprofitable, which meant that unless expenses and salaries were covered by donations, it couldn’t keep going. Inadequate funding appears to have been a problem from the very start.

The Midland Railway Company bought West End House and the three large houses built opposite, and used them as temporary accommodation for its workers, the navvies who built the line to St Pancras. The mansion was demolished around 1873.

Today’s visitor to Iverson Road will find no trace of West End House or the three Victorian villas. It took 25 years for the site of the mansion and the land round it to be built on and the area has undergone extensive redevelopment in recent years. Two of the villas were demolished around the turn of the 20th Century; the third was adapted for use as the first Midland Railway station and demolished after the station was relocated on West End Lane.

Back in East London, Robert Hanbury was well known for supporting good causes. He had donated £100 of his own money to help establish the West End Laundry. But his wealth couldn’t protect against personal tragedy. In September 1863, two of Robert’s sons, Francis (11), and Herbert (7) contracted scarlet fever and died while on holiday in Eastbourne. Robert’s wife Caroline died just a week later. Press reports of her death give no cause of her death other than to say that it was not scarlet fever and that it followed what one paper called her “unwearying nursing” of her sons. Robert Hanbury married again and died in 1867, after suffering from rheumatic fever for several weeks.

Truman Hanbury and Buxton Brewery in Brick Lane, 1842

Truman Hanbury and Buxton Brewery in Brick Lane, 1842


The 2015 West Hampstead & Kilburn gym guide

The 2017 version of the West Hampstead gym guide is now available.

New Year, new fitness regime? It may be a cliché, but the statistics bear out that January is the most popular time to join a gym. If you want to make sure you’re not part of the other cliché – giving up in February – then make sure you choose the right gym for your budget, lifestyle and fitness needs. Here’s the third annual West Hampstead Life gym guide to help you.

The biggest change from last year is that Gloves Boxing Club, on Broadhurst Gardens, closed in March. It’s been replaced by HIIT Gym, which took over the premises and opened in October.

Luxury (£££)

Virgin Active, O2 Centre Swiss Cottage


Spacious and well-equipped, with multiple fitness studios and a pool, this is more health club than gym, which is reflected in the membership cost. I can imagine just going for a dip in the pool followed by a spell in the sauna or steam room, and a rest in the café afterwards. Mmm. Not that I’m recommending this as a viable fitness regime, of course.

NB There’s also a Virgin Active in Cricklewood, for those based that side of West Hampstead.

Prices have gone up a little from last year’s rates, and this year there’s no “get the rest of January free” joining offer. Both memberships include access to the gym, classes in the studio, pool and sauna.

  • Full Flexi Monthly (rolling monthly contract): £102/mth + £30 joining fee
  • Minimum 12-month contract membership: £95/mth  + no joining fee

Movers and Shapers, 148 West End Lane, West Hampstead
Positioned as an alternative to a conventional gym, Movers and Shapers offers 30-minute intensive classes in small groups using Power Plate machines, and they have also recently added a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) studio with TRX suspension equipment. Free trials are available if you want to find out more. Read about my experience at Movers and Shapers here.

  • Course of 10 classes: £149 (limited offer; classes valid for 3 months)
  • Course of 20 classes: £259 (limited offer; classes valid for 6 months)
  • Full Monthly membership – £125/mth (access to unlimited classes at any time)
  • Off Peak Monthly membership – £99/mth (access to unlimited classes at off-peak hours: 12pm-5pm Mon-Fri, and all day Sat and Sun)

No joining or admin fees; includes initial and ongoing health consultations.

CrossFit Evolving, 50-52 Kilburn High Road (under HSBC bank)
CrossFit is a fitness philosophy that began in the US and has now spread to hundreds of CrossFit gyms (or “boxes”) across the world. It claims to help you work on all aspects of fitness through tailored workouts using a wide variety of different exercises. It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking for a serious training regimen, this may be the club for you. There are free taster sessions on Wednesday evenings if you want to see what you’re getting yourself into!

  • Full, peak-hours membership: £170/mth
  • Off-peak membership: £140/mth (Off-peak hours: 8am-6pm; after 8pm)
  • Single, off-peak WOD (workout of the day) session: £15

Mid-range (££)

Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre, Adelaide Road, Swiss Cottage
A Camden-run sports centre with plenty of equipment – I visited on a Saturday afternoon and thought it was busy but didn’t notice queues for any machines. There are lots of classes too, though the popular ones get very booked up. The standard membership covers access to gym, classes and pool. There’s also a climbing wall, sports hall and squash courts, for all of which sessions can be paid for separately. See the full price list of memberships, concessionary rates and pay-as-you-go prices on the Better website.

  • Standard monthly membership, with access to gym, pool and classes: £54/mth (£55/mth from February)
  • Premium monthly membership, as above + access to sauna, steam room, and other gyms and spas in the network: £77.50/mth

There’s also a joining fee of £35, though it was unclear from my phone enquiry whether this could be waived or not: “Yesterday we charged it, today we didn’t”… so it’s probably best to drop in to the centre and negotiate in person.

Bannatyne’s, Marriot Maida Vale, 4 Greville Road (just off Kilburn High Road)
This is quite a good-value choice if you’re after a gym membership that includes extras like a sauna and swimming pool. There’s also a fitness studio, and classes are included in all memberships.

  • 12-month minimum contract – Off-peak (Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm): £29.99/mth
  • 12-month minimum contract – Peak (valid any time): £39.99/mth
  • Flexible contract (on a rolling monthly basis, with 30 days to cancel) – Off-peak (Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm): £36.99/mth
  • Flexible contract (on a rolling monthly basis, with 30 days to cancel) – Peak (valid any time): £47.99/mth

On top of this, there’s a £25 one-off joining fee (though apparently they’ll give you a goody bag and possibly some sessions with a personal trainer “to soften the blow”) and if you want to use the gym towels, add £6 to the monthly membership fee.

HIIT Gym, 198a Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead

The recently-opened HIIT Gym is located in Gloves’ old premises, a cool industrial-style building that was originally the ticket office of the Metropolitan Railway. The gym’s instructors lead small classes in HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts, mixing it up with a variety of different techniques and equipment. There’s also the option to monitor your progress with  a heart-rate monitor belt (available from the gym at £50). There are three levels of membership available, all on a rolling monthly basis with no contract. Free one-week trials are available if you want to try before you buy.

  • Primary: £39 for 4 sessions a month 
  • Standard: £49 for 8 sessions a month
  • Champion: £69 for unlimited sessions a month

My Fitness Boutique, West Heath Yard, 174 Mill Lane, West Hampstead
My Fitness Boutique, up by West End Green, offers some 50 classes a week including Zumba, spinning, yoga and circuits. All are pay-as-you-go, so if you like trying out different classes without having to commit to a contract, this is a good choice. Prices haven’t gone up since last year.

Example prices (from website):

  • Introductory 5-class package (intro offer only): £25
  • Single class: £12
  • 30-day pack (unlimited classes): £75
  • 90-day pack: (unlimited classes) £165

Budget (£)

The Gym Group, Unit D2, 41 Fortune Green Road, West Hampstead
No-frills budget gym open 24/7 with card entry. There’s no need to sign up to a minimum contract.

  • £20.99/mth (+ £20 joining fee)

Fit4Less, 34a-36 Kilburn High Road
Another gym with functional workout equipment and none of the luxury extras. As well as free weights and cardio machines, there’s TRX equipment and kettlebells. Personal training is available too.

  • Anytime gym membership: £22.99/mth + £29.99 admin fee
  • Anytime gym membership + locker hire: £32.99/mth + £29.99 admin fee

Outdoor gyms: Kilburn Grange Park, Swiss Cottage, Maygrove Peace Park

I must admit I haven’t tried these, but they look like a great idea. According to Camden’s website, they are “suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels”, so give them a go next time you’re out for a run! Best of all, they’re free!


Kebab shops and Question Time: Tweet of the Year winner

The votes are in and have been independently counted and verified. Which means I looked at them.

With a staggering 42 percent of the vote, we had a runaway winner for Tweet of the Year. Congratulations Freddie Gavita.

You know you're in West Hampstead when

We had a tie for second place, both with 11 percent of votes. Well done Shirley Cooney and Daniel Walker.

Freddie joins the Hall of Fame:

WHL will be catching up with Freddie to give him his (very local) prize as soon as possible. Congratulations to everyone who made the shortlist.


16 glorious West Hampstead sunrises and sunsets

As the sun sets on 2014, we thought you might like a little reminder of some of the best sunrise and sunset photos taken and tweeted this year.

West Hampstead sunset

James Taylor, March

West Hampstead sunrise

Michael Sheehan, March


@SteveWhamp, April

West Hampstead sunset

@RicksterLondon, May

West Hampstead sunset

Michael Hadwin, July

West Hampstead sunset

Joanna Miller Betts, July

West Hampstead sunset

Steven Tart, September

West Hampstead sunset

Daniel Walker, September

West Hampstead sunset

Morten Schultz, September

West Hampstead sunset

James Taylor, September

West Hampstead sunset

Matt Beveridge, September

West Hampstead sunset

Sean Patterson, October

West Hampstead sunset

@okeely, October

West Hampstead sunrise

Michael Sheehan, November

West Hampstead sunrise

Michael Sheehan, December

West Hampstead sunrise

@RicksterLondon, December

Tweet of the Year logo

Vote now for Tweet of the Year

It’s as much a part of the Christmas holidays as being left hanging under the mistletoe or getting the gristly bit of the turkey… the West Hampstead Life Tweet of the Year competition is back for 2014. Who will join the roll of honour that stretches back to Jon Kelly, Heather Wilson, and Corinne Gladstone?

First up – the tweets, read them all, then vote at the end. They are served in chronological order. Voting closes on Sunday at 10pm.

And now the vote

This poll is closed! Poll activity:
start_date 30-12-2014 19:23:13
end_date 04-01-2015 22:00:00
Poll Results:
Which tweet should be crowned Tweet of the Year


West Hampstead Life Review of the Year

West Hampstead is changing fast (too fast perhaps for some). Lets take a look back at the stories that made the news in 2014 (click the images to go to the full story)

“The driver didn’t get out, but reversed half a metre and tried again, hitting the building again, and then did the same. It took three or four attempts to get through, doing more damage each time.”

12 months later, the building still hasn’t been repaired. The year began with a violent storm that ripped down the tube station sign and a brewing pharmacy war in Mill Lane.

Estate agents have to remove boards no more than 14 days after the advertised property has been let or sold. In reality they are often left for months or even years. In fact, some have been there so long they are rotting away with just the frame left attached to the buildings.

West Hampstead made the news over some pebbledash and some street “art”. We also featured on Location, Location, Location, though an important detail was omitted from the programme.

The trees were controversially felled in February, construction began in March, and the cranes went up in September. West Hampstead Square is due for completion mid-2015

Thankfully everyone got out of a Broadhurst Gardens house fire, though one woman jumped and broke her leg. Smokehouse One Sixty opened its doors, and we contrasted the sale of Stephen Fry’s former house with the cheapest flat for sale in the area.

Where possible, produce at West Hampstead Fruit & Veg is sourced from the UK, so expect to find apples from Kent and UK-grown mushrooms, as well as other local fruit and vegetable varieties in season.

There was a false security alarm at JW3 that closed the Finchley Road, West End Lane Books celebrated its 20th anniversary, and an eviction on Lymington Road drew protestors and police.

Labour managed the clean sweep in West Hampstead (something residents will hope they can do to the streets as well), with the shock being the removal of Keith Moffitt.

The elections dominated May’s news, as Labour won five of the six seats across West Hampstead and Fortune Green from the Lib Dems. At the pre-election hustings, it was UKIP who predictably stole the headlines after its candidate questioned whether women should have the vote.

As well as doing pieces to camera, Sachin Tendulkar also spent time with Hampstead Cricket Club’s colts batting and bowling with them. Although some of the younger players may not have been aware of Tendulkar’s prowess, their parents were suitably bowled over.

Local vicar Father Andrew Cain married his partner Steve Foreshew. The Church of England grumbled, but for many the surprise was less that the local vicar was gay and more that his new husband was an atheist.

Most of the early arrivals to the post office / café/ shop/ playarea / church seemed impressed. For many, it was their first sight of the transformed space. It is believed to be the first full-time post office located in a functioning church and certainly the first in London.

The first of two tetchy Liddell Road development meetings conveyed locals’ displeasure with the plans as they stood. Vintage jewellery shop Passionate About Vintage opened on Mill Lane.

The Tricycle, Kilburn’s highly regarded theatre and cinema, found itself embroiled in controversy after announcing that it would no longer be part of the UK Jewish Film Festival.

Three men were found guilty of murdering Sabrina Moss last year.

September Having been a West Hampstead commuter, Alexandra Gee noticed that “I’m always tired and hungry after a long day at work, and end up going to Tesco for the same old pasta. I thought it would be great to be able to pick up something different and tasty on the way home.”

It was a quiet month!

Local resident and early-riser Mandira Bhimjiyani was excited by the new store. “I love a good Waitrose,” she said. “Any supermarket that thinks tiramisu is essential is ok with me.”

The Railway closed until March 2015 as the upper floors are converted into self-contained flats. A spate of burglaries started with a break-in at Toomai. Foxtons got permission to open in the former post office building in West End Lane. Kilburn made it into the Financial Times and The Economist. Capital City motorbike shop failed to comply with an enforcement order (and has since been evicted from its Fortune Green premises). Oh, and the Hoff turned up to the Kilburn Nando’s.

Love & Liquor is so keen not to be in Kilburn - depsite the fact that Kilburn is surely edgier and more "street" than posh residential Maida Vale - that it gives its address as "34 High Road, Maida Vale". That would be 34 Kilburn High Road to the postman

After years of clamouring, a butcher finally opened in West Hampstead. A rail replacement bus caused some major damage to parked cars in Broadhurst Gardens, and a snake was spotted (and captured) in Parsifal Road. The portacabin classrooms were finally rmoved from Lymington Road ater two years.

Locals have objected to the height of the Liddell Road tower block and the lack of affordable housing (which was initially zero), when the council is expecting to make a £3m surplus from the development

Liddell Road wasn’t the only major planning application to go in over Christmas; the Overground station plans were also submitted. Posh frozen food shop Cook opened, and the air ambulance came twice to NW6 within an hour. The 85-year-old driver convicted of killing Desreen Brooks on West End Lane in November 2012 was given an 18 month jail sentence and was banned for driving for life.

Photos via West Hampstead Life, Mark Amies (Ballymore cranes), Richard Clegg (Waitrose), Dan Hiral (Travis Perkins lorry), John Mennis (Sachin Tendulkar), John Oris (Tricycle)

West Hampstead Overground station plan looking north

New Overground station should absorb growing passenger numbers

West Hampstead Overground station

The planning application for the redevelopment of the Overground station has been submitted. The Overground network has seen an enormous increase in passenger numbers over recent years. West Hampstead’s position as a major interchange point means that 13 million people pass through each year, of whom 5.6 million used the Overground station (TfL, 2012 estimates), the new station has been designed to cope with even more passengers than pass through today.

The plan is for a modern station frontage just to the south of the existing station building that will lead to a wide walkway running broadly perpendicular to West End Lane that connects to stairs and lifts down to the platforms. The existing staircases will be retained but will be for emergency access only but the existing station building will be removed and turned into a retail unit.

West Hampstead Overground station plan looking north

West Hampstead Overground station plan looking north

West Hampstead Overground station looking south

West Hampstead Overground station looking south

The number of ticket barriers will rise from the three standard and one oversized gates today, to eight regular and two oversized gates, which should ease congestion at rush hour. In addition, the footbridge over the platforms is believed to be the widest on the Overground network, with enough room for multiple wheelchairs or pushchairs as well as pedestrians. There will also be a lift down to each platform.

Part of plan - click for larger version

Part of plan – click for larger version

Tree campaigners will be disappointed to read that the tree that they successfully lobbied to be given a tree preservation order in early 2014, will have to be removed if the station development goes ahead.

Comments are being accepted up until January 14th.

West Hampstead O2 Centre gift tree

Give local foster kids a gift this Christmas

The O2 centre and Camden council are collaborating again to encourage shoppers to give a small present for one of 129 children who are in foster care in the local area this year. Last year, the scheme distributed more than 100 presents.

Homebase has donated a “Gift Tree”, whichi is standing proudly on the upper level of the O2 centre. The tree is decorated with gift tags that have the name and age of a local foster child. Choose a gift tag and then buy a present – pretty simple, and with Tiger and Waterstones both on hand, there’s really no excuse. Gifts can be dropped off at the centre management offices (easy to find) and will be distributed in time for Christmas Day.

Jason King, who runs the O2 Centre said, “We hope the ‘Gift Tree’ will help bring some Christmas magic to more children and young people within our local community, many of whom will have had a tough year. As shoppers are picking up gifts and stocking fillers for their friends and families, we hope that many of them will also be inspired to pick up one extra gift that will make a big difference to a child in foster care.”

129 children and young people are currently in foster care within Camden for a wide variety of reasons. Some may have been affected by an illness in the family, others have suffered abuse or neglect, or a breakdown in family relations, while others have come to the UK unaccompanied from abroad.

West Hampstead O2 Centre gift tree


West Hampstead Christmas survival guide

With just two weeks to go, it’s beginning to look a LOT like Christmas in West Hampstead. Here’s our seasonal guide to what’s going on around the neighbourhood in the next couple of weeks, including December 25th.


Christmas trees and wreaths outside St James’ Church

Still need to get a Christmas tree? They’re on sale outside The Sherriff Centre, on the corner of Sherriff Road and West End Lane, and if you’re at the other end of town, you can find a good selection of trees at The Mill Lane Garden Centre.

In other shopping news, there are many places locally to buy last-minute presents – see our gift guide for ideas. If you’re sad you missed last weekend’s Christmas Market, put a date in your diary to go to The Sherriff Centre this Saturday, December 13th – there will be several stalls selling crafts, scarves, bags, jewellery, and other ideal gifts. West Hampstead Food & Flea market is also open from 4pm-8pm Wednesday-Friday with craft stalls and edible treats.

The West Hampstead Life Christmas drinks will be on December 18th – we’ll be getting some dinner from the Christmas Food & Flea market before heading to The Gallery for drinks. More details coming up soon.

If you can’t imagine Christmas without a seasonal sing-song, check out our guide to local carol services and concerts.

Santa is taking time out of his busy schedule to make a couple of visits to West Hampstead. He’ll be putting in an appearance at Paramount’s grotto from December 16th-18th. He’s also finding time to drop in to The Village Haberdashery on the 22nd. Both of these events are free, but please book ahead.

Another fun activity for kids is The Village Haberdashery’s Christmas ornament making workshop on December 23rd. There is a materials fee of £5 per person.

The Community Association for West Hampstead (CAWH) is putting on some free activities for children at West Hampstead Library. There’s a storytelling session on Saturday 13th, a Christmas decoration making workshop on Friday 19th, and a gift-wrapping session on Saturday 20th. Check the calendar on CAWH’s website for details and times.

There’s no panto on in the area, but The Tricycle as usual has a family show, which this year is Lionboy. There’s more seasonal family entertainment at JW3 as part of their Chanukah programme, with Lemony Snicket’s The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming.

As for Christmas Day itself, is anywhere going to be open? There will of course be church services: St James’ and St Mary’s are both holding a Midnight Mass as well as services on the 25th. Emmanuel Church also has a guide to its Christmas services online. St Luke’s, on the Fortune Green side of West Hampstead, is holding a Midnight Communion from 11pm on Christmas Eve, and an 11am Christmas Day service for all the family.

What are the eating out options? Mill Lane Bistro and The Alice House are both open with special Christmas menus. Guglee and Toomai will also be open from 4pm to 10.30pm for dine-in, home delivery and collection.

The Christmas Day drinking scene is going to be pretty quiet I’m afraid – The Alliance, The Black Lion, The Gallery and La Brocca are all closed, so The Alice House looks like your only option.

Onto more prosaic, but just as essential things. Rubbish collections will be rescheduled if your normal collection day is Thursday or Friday – see Camden’s revised schedule here.

What about parking? Camden has confirmed that bank holiday enforcement will apply on the 25th and 26th – here’s a reminder of the parking restrictions that do not apply on public holidays.

The main supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose – are all closed on Christmas Day, and both Waitrose branches (West End Lane and Finchley Road) are also closed on Boxing Day. If you need an emergency item on the 25th, Nisa Local (on the corner of West End Lane and Broadhurst Gardens) will be open, as will Western Food & Wine opposite. Neither of these convenience stores stock whole turkeys though.

If it’s a pharmacy you need, the Christmas opening times rota for the area has not been fixed yet. Contact details for local pharmacies can be found here.

Local GP practices are closed on the 25th and 26th, but if you need urgent medical help you can dial the NHS 111 service, or of course 999 in an emergency.

If you need to travel during the festive period, be aware that tube and train services tend to wind down earlier than normal on Christmas Eve. There is no public transport on Christmas Day, and there will be a limited service and engineering works to contend with during the rest of the period – see here for TfL’s festive travel updates from December 21st to January 4th.

Thameslink services will also not run on the 25th or 26th, and engineering works will affect services between December 27th and January 2nd.


Festive fun and freebies at West Hampstead Christmas Market

The West Hampstead Christmas Market takes place tomorrow, December 6th, between 10am and 4pm on West End Green.

Images from

Images from

There will be a range of stalls selling Christmas gifts and decorations, including local businesses such as Monsters of Art, The Village Haberdashery and Achillea Flowers. Edible treats will also be available – The Kitchen Table and Bake-a-boo are among the cake stalls.

It’s not all about shopping however – there are fun, free activities for kids in the neighbouring Emmanuel Church. There are music, dance and storytelling activities as well as plenty of Christmas crafts including balloon modelling and snowglobe-making.

Look out for these festive freebies around West End Lane and Mill Lane, too:

  • Hot mulled wine from Alexander’s estate agents
  • Free mince pie at The Black Lion – Say ‘Christmas Market’ at the bar
  • Tastings of two festive wines and cheeses at The Hampstead Butcher & Providore
  • Father Christmas courtesy of Chelsea Square Partnership, at their office (11am – 1pm)
  • Hot chicken soup tasters on West End Green, courtesy of David’s Deli, plus a discount on soup and bread when you eat at David’s Deli (12pm – 3pm)
  • Falafel tasters on West End Green courtesy of Chicken Schnitzel & More (12pm-3pm)
  • Mince pies and hot mulled wine at Passionate About Vintage, plus a 10% discount on everything in the shop (1pm-6pm)

Local promotions on West End Lane and Mill Lane

  • The Alliance, Mill Lane: Free glass of wine with Christmas menu 1st-24th December
  • Bengal Spice: 20% discount on 6th and 7th December
  • Crystalise Salon: 20% discount all services 6th-13th December
  • La Brocca: 50% off mulled wine on the day
  • The Eye Cube: 20% discount on everything
  • Headmasters: 10% discount on all treatments
  • Insight Optician: 10% off glasses 1st-31st December
  • Mill Lane Bistro: Free glass of house wine with a meal 6th and 7th December
  • Peppercorns: 10% discount on all food

Check out the full list of happenings at the West Hampstead Christmas Market website.


Shop local: Twelve West Hampstead Christmas presents

Finished your Christmas shopping yet? If panic is starting to set in, fear not. West Hampstead Life has scoured the shops in the area to bring you these twelve hand-picked local presents. Instead of getting into fist-fights at Westfield, why not have a leisurely shopping trip without leaving the neighbourhood. And if you’re out and about on Saturday, there’ll be more gifts – and mulled wine – available at the West Hampstead Christmas Market.

1. Build A Robot kit, £14.99
West End Lane Books, 277 West End Lane


For inquisitive children – or adults for that matter – this cool kit contains all you need to build your own wind-up robots and learn about them in the process. It’s unclear whether the robots can cook or clean up after the Christmas lunch though.

2. Craft beer selection, £14.99
Brooksby Wines, 278 West End Lane


This selection of craft beers is great value and includes two chalice glasses in case you’re feeling fancy. While you’re there, Brooksby also sells a good range of champagne, wine and spirits for all your Christmas drinking requirements.

3. Gourmet hamper, prices vary
Sherriff Centre, St James Church, Sherriff Road


The Sherriff Centre has plenty of delicious treats for your foodie friends and relatives. Either pick a custom-made selection or create your own hamper of artisan goods – post boxes and bubble wrap are available at the attached post office if you need to post your gift. Also look out for Moleskine notebooks and other covetable stationery, as well as a good range of children’s gifts including pencil sets, friendship bracelet making kits, notebooks, bookends and cute cushions.

4. Vintage brooch, £95
Passionate About Vintage, 66 Mill Lane


Passionate About Vintage is a treasure trove of beautiful and unique gifts. This quirky gold-plated peas-in-a-pod brooch caught my eye. It’s a genuine Trifari piece from the 1960s and is bound to be a talking point. And on Small Business Saturday, the shop is offering a 10% discount.

5. Venison marrowbone cracker, £6.99
Nutts 4 Mutts, 108 Fortune Green Road


This cracker “for paws only” contains a satisfyingly chewy venison treat, as well as a silver hat and a joke (which your dog may or may not get). Nutts 4 Mutts, despite the name, also stocks a good range of treats for cats.

6. Silver strand bracelet, £79.95
North West 6, 122 West End Lane


Delicate strands of silver beads catch the light in this pretty and fluid bracelet, made by Navajo craftspeople. North West 6, next to the tube station, has a big range of silver and amber jewellery and is well worth a browse.

7. Ms Marmite Lover’s Secret Tea Party book, £20
Order from West End Lane Books, or buy online from the publisher


Ms Marmite Lover‘s, (aka Kerstin Rodgers) legendary supperclubs at her house just down the road in Kilburn, have made her a star of the food world not just locally, but far beyond NW6. Who better to pick up tips from on hosting your own tea party? This would be a good gift for a baking or tea fan, with the bonus that you might get invited round in the new year…

8. Beanie hat, £16
Social, 184 West End Lane


If there’s a hard to buy for, but fashion conscious man in your life, Social has some good ideas. There are wallets, scarves, shirts and jumpers, and these hats from Danish denim label Revolution.

9. Wine tasting vouchers, from £25
North London Wine School, Cotleigh Road


The North London Wine School is opening in West Hampstead in the new year, at the old library on Cotleigh Road. It will offer wine tasting courses for beginners or just for fun, as well as the more serious industry-recognised WSET qualifications. You can buy vouchers (with no expiry date) on the website.

10. Frog slipper socks, £10
JoJo Maman Bébé, 258 West End Lane


These slipper socks are perfect for keeping tiny feet warm and cosy – and with their anti-slip suede soles are perfect for first walkers. Available in sizes up to age 4-5 (Sadly, adult versions not available.)

11. Chocolate covered walnuts, £20
Cocoa Bijoux, Broadwell Parade, Broadhurst Gardens


You can find all sorts of delights at Cocoa Bijoux, including these sophisticated French walnuts coated in chocolate. There are many less expensive items too. The shop carries a great range of chocolate, conserves and other gourmet products you won’t find in the supermarket.

12. Nutcracker, £27.99
James Nicholas, 166 West End Lane


According to the shelf sticker, this is “the world’s best nutcracker”, and at that price you’d hope so. The shop staff kindly let me try it out, so I can vouch for its effectiveness at cracking an almond shell. It’s very solid and stylish, too.

Happy shopping! Let us know in the comments if you have any more local present-shopping tips.

TfL Oystercard

Are fares fair for West Hampstead travellers?

Here it comes, as seasonal in its way as twinkling fairy lights and Christmas shopping: TfL’s annual announcement about ticket price rises.

How will the changes affect the average West Hampstead resident in January? If you commute by tube into central London each day, a weekly Zone 1-2 Travelcard will increase by 2.2%, meaning a 7-day pass will now cost £32.10 instead of this year’s £31.40. The Zone 1-2 one-day travelcard is abolished, and the minimum one-day card is now for zones 1-4, which comes in at £12, as TfL tries to get even more of us to use Oystercards.

The cost of a 1-2 monthly travelcard will be £123.30, up from the £120.60 it is today. Don’t forget that if you use travelcards, it’s cheaper to buy it to start before January 2nd!

TfL does attempt to sweeten the pill with a nod to flexible and part-time workers by cutting the pay-as-you-go daily fare caps from £8.40 (peak) and £7.00 (off-peak) to £6.40 for journeys within Zones 1 and 2. However, this will not make any difference if you simply travel to and from work each day and do not make any additional journeys, as a return journey will come in at £5.80, which is less than the daily cap anyway. There’s no great benefit for most people of opting to use only contactless by the way – it generally costs the same as Oyster fares apart from in some particular circumstances.

There’s an increase of 3.4% on bus fares, with a pay-as-you-go single fare on Oyster rising to £1.50. TfL is also reintroducing a one-day bus (and tram) pass for £5, but you can’t buy it on board.

For those who only take the occasional trip into town at weekends and off-peak times, the cost of a single Tube journey on Oyster will go up by 10p to £2.30.

The full table of new fares can be found here. For a broader analysis, The Diamond Geezer blog has an excellent and detailed overview of what these changes mean for Londoners generally.


Pan-Asian food definitely Toomai liking

Toomai was a long time coming, with delays over both planning permission and building works (an entire wall had to be reclad). When it opened it was overwhelmed with customers and the service groaned under the weight of expectation. Now, several months in, and having finally formalised its menu, has it found its feet? It’s definitely popular; it’s busy every night with a youngish crowd taking advantage of the relatively low prices and the obligatory jam jar cocktails. But is it good?

The industrial pared back design works well in what is a surprisingly large space. As with sister restaurant Guglee, the kitchen is visible at the back, which is always a nice touch. The Moroccan tiles on the floor are very Instagrammable and a mix of individual tables and shared seating helps create a buzzy informal atmosphere.

Chicken satay

Chicken satay

Any attempts at reviewing incognito didn’t last long as Toomai kindly gave us a welcome drink on the house. I can confirm that they make a good vodka martini. We ended up trying pretty much all the starters between us, with the chicken satay and the paneer chilli being the stand-outs, though I have a soft spot for the pepper chilli lamb too. Service was prompt and friendly, even if some customers can be hard to reach depending how packed the restaurant is.

The main course options are reasonably limited, allowing for the fact that many come with the usual beef, chicken or prawn options. I went for chicken thai chilli kaprow, which had a kick but nothing overwhelming.

Toomai menu

Toomai likes to big up its streetfood credentials, which always implies fresh, hot and cheap. It is, whatever it claims, a restaurant not a food shack on the Khao San Road. Nevertheless, the food definitely has fresh flavours, the place is bustling and open enough to make it lively rather than staid, and with not a single dish over £7 it’s not going to break the bank. It’s a great addition to West Hampstead, and I’m glad to see that it doesn’t seem to have hurt Banana Tree either.

Toomai combines all the essential ingredients for a good night out with a group of friends. There’s a list of good strong cocktails (and fresh fruit smoothies for the abstainers), a great selection of appetising and very shareable dishes, and a relaxed-but-buzzy ambience. Why take a group? That way, you get to sample as many of the tasty little morsels as possible. My highlights were the fresh papaya salad – crisp slivers of fruit anointed with a spicy dressing; fiery paneer chilli; and green curry with tofu and vegetables. Grab five of your best friends and go.

Green and red vegetable curries

Green and red vegetable curries

This was only my second visit to Toomai and my first since they’ve expanded their menu so I was keen to find out if the quality of the food that made my first visit so enjoyable had suffered at all now that they have more dishes on offer.

Just to prove the point about the size of the new menu our first course was very much a shared dining experience as we managed to end up with every available starter on the table in front of us. A personal favourite was the Honey Chilli Veg, bite size vegetable patties with a wonderfully sweet and sticky coating – these were balanced out well by some suitably light and crispy vegetable spring rolls.

For a main I opted for the red curry with vegetables and, for the second time in as many visits, was suitably impressed. As a non-meat eater you often have to contend with vegetable curries that mostly rely on carrots and whatever tinned veg happen to be to hand. Happily this is not the case at Toomai – my curry was reasonably mild and jam-packed with both flavour and copious chunks of fresh veg. I counted at least six different types of veg in there – happy days indeed! If you want a bit more of a kick then a taste of Nicky’s green curry proved that to be the spicier of the two.

Our hosts were determined not to let us leave without sampling dessert which was just as well, the delicately battered apple and accompanying coconut sorbet was a very light and refreshing end to what had been another hugely enjoyable and flavoursome meal.

toomai_green_smoothie300Eschewing the selection of beer, wine and martinis I started my evening with a fresh green smoothie (I’m taking my reviewing seriously here!). It was served with the flourish and care usually reserved for a signature cocktail and the concoction is well balanced and delicious, a theme which continues throughout the evening. Since its opening weeks, Toomai now seems to have got into its stride and found a welcome niche in West Hampstead. My calamari starter is a beautiful bowl of crisp and succulent bites which I am enjoying until I discover the paneer chilli and realise that this is a real winner. I went for the Penang chicken curry for my main. A good sized portion with a lovely thick fragrant sauce, the crunch of the green beans makes a pleasing contrast and stops it feeling too heavy. The menu describes this dish as ‘hot’; mine was more on the mild side and could have been spicier, but it was still enjoyable. I will happily be making this a regular destination. Toomai offers a good selection of dishes with great flavours and an enjoyable atmosphere with professional and attentive service at a reasonable price.

You visit for the tiles but you stay for the food. Toomai has already established itself as a Whamp landmark due to the imported Moroccan tiles that decorate the floor. These colourful tiles contrast well against the stripped back walls and industrial (yet stylish) lighting.

Photo via Barry McGee

Photo via Barry McGee

A particular highlight for me was the paneer chilli starter. I’m a fan of paneer but had never tried it combined with chilli which is an interesting blend that works really well. I was also impressed that the calamari and chicken satay were both tender and each cooked “a su punto” as we say back home meaning, tender and cooked to their optimum point. Honourable mention goes to a rather moreish chilli lamb starter. I had a red curry main with equally tender chicken and vegetables. Portions were generous and the staff friendly and attentive. The fact its location is very convenient is not the only reason I’ll be going back.

First thing to comment on is the design inside Toomai; it is absolutely superb. The subtle lighting in the ‘bar’ area, the filament bulbs all over a maze of piping on the wall (brilliant!), the modernity offset by colourful floor tiles (which Mark learned were from Morocco)… all genuinely impressive.

Equally so, the starters; lots of variation, vibrant colours, satisfyingly unctuous textures, and a feeling that everything had been cooked with enthusiasm and panache (even though that’s “pan ache” if split into two words). My favourites: the paneer dish and the veggie fritter type things. Delicious.

Pad Thai was nice, with fresh, soft prawns. Flavours were subtle, and I’ll perhaps try something spicier next time. Enjoyed the house white, too; a South African Chenin Blanc which worked with everything. A clever dessert of lightly-battered apple and a soothing sorbet rounded things off very nicely.

Hampstead Butcher_sausages

Butcher and deli opens on West End Lane

Hampstead Butcher_meat

The Hampstead Butcher and Providore opened its doors this morning fulfilling the wishes of many people over the years who’ve demanded a butcher return to West End Lane. It’s the second bite of the cherry for owner Philip Matthews, who came close to opening in West End Lane a couple of years ago.

The business, which continues to operate its Rosslyn Hill branch in Hampstead, has taken over the greengrocer’s site next to The Wet Fish Café. Alongside the fresh meat, the shop also has a charcuterie and cheese section (which I suspect may outperform the meat), a selection of deli items both fresh and tinned, and a reasonable selection of wine and beer (predominantly from popular local brewery Camden Town).

Photo via Simon Whiteside

Photo via Simon Whiteside

There was a steady trickle of people investigating the shop on this drizzly morning though it was noticeable that the farmer’s market was positively busy, while owner Philip Matthews prowled around with his snagging list clipboard. The floor apparently isn’t right, and the original floor tiles need an additional treatment (though the casual observer would never know).

Hampstead Butcher_wine

The great challenge the Hampstead Butcher faces is whether enough West Hampstead residents are willing to pay frequently for the high quality traceable meat it sells. Matthews will be hoping that the clamour for a butcher over the years will marry with the tough economics of delivering high quality fresh meat. He also offers a home delivery service. For West Hampstead, it’s another sign that the area is increasingly seen as one of growing affluence.

Hampstead Butcher_sausages

Sensibly, the shop will stay open reasonably late in the evenings to capture the commuters returning from work. The opening hours are 10am-8pm weekdays, 9am-8pm Saturday and 9am-6pm Sunday. Due to a lack of space, the butcher’s popular tasting sessiona and events will be available only in its Hampstead branch for the time being.

The site of the school in 1866 marked in red

Teachers are now pupils at former West End Lane school

The London Diocesan Board for Schools has taken over the old St Mary’s School in West End Lane to use as its training centre. Over the years St Mary’s School has occupied four different buildings, all within a short walk of each other.

The West End Lane school site today

The West End Lane school site today

Until the mid 1870s all new churches provided their own day school. The foundation stone for St Mary’s Church in Abbey Road was laid in 1856 in the midst of open fields. When the main building opened in 1862, the neighbouring streets were still being built. Once the money was raised, the church tower and spire were added ten years later.

The first St Mary’s School was established near the corner of Upton Road and Kilburn Priory, backing onto the railway line. Upton Road was the original name given to the stretch of Belsize Road between Abbey Road and Kilburn Priory. The school appears in the 1861 census as St Mary’s District School and on the 1866 OS Map as St Mary’s National School. It occupied rooms that stood behind 1 Upton Road, today’s 195 Belsize Road. The OS Map made the unsubstantiated claim that this had been the site of Kilburn Priory.

The site of the school in 1866 marked in red

The site of the school in 1866 marked in red

Scenery painter Charles Marshall lived at 1 Upton Road from at least 1853 to 1855. He was employed by several theatres, including Drury Lane and Her Majesty’s. He originated and developed transformational scenes and is credited with introducing limelight on the stage. Marshall also exhibited his paintings at the Royal Academy. His studio was the space referred to in the 1859 sales particulars for the property, when specific mention was made of a ‘large school room or studio’ adjoining the house. This was the space occupied by the first St Mary’s School until Spring 1868.

In 1869, £510 was paid for the freehold of an existing ‘incommodious’ school that served St Paul’s Chapel in Kilburn Square. The school stood at the Kilburn end of West End Lane. The old building was demolished and the second St Mary’s School was built on its site by Manley and Rogers, at a cost of £1,648. Until it opened in 1870, pupils were taught in rented rooms in Priory Mews. When the school opened the school mistress originally lived on site: in 1871 it was 24 year old Emma Watson, when the school roll was 162 boys, 70 girls and 80 infants.

Over the years the buildings were extended and improved but the site was very restrictive and finally a new school was opened at the corner of Quex Road and West End Lane in November 1991. Costing £1.75 million, the school was designed by Professor Hans Haenlein and was one of the most modern in the country. The hall is in a central covered courtyard with a slide back roof, the classrooms opening off the hall on three sides. Ex-pupils of the old school include the actor Peter Egan and Fred Housego, the taxi driver, who won Mastermind.

The old building at 2 West End Lane was taken over by ‘Teddies Nursery’ in 2004 for about 100 children. This was one of a chain of nurseries run by BUPA. In 2014 the London Diocesan Board for Schools (LDBS SCITT), took the building to train teachers. It works with more than 70 Church of England schools in London to provide school-based training for students.

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

Jack Bruce: the Cream of West Hampstead’s musical talent

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

Jack Bruce in Hamburg, 1972. Photo Heinrich Klaffs

The great singer, songwriter and bass player, Jack Bruce died age 71 on Saturday 25 October. Jack was best known as a member of the supergroup Cream. He lived in and around West Hampstead in the 1960s.

Born in in Bishopsbriggs, north of Glasgow, Jack was the son of Charlie and Betty Bruce, who were working-class parents with strong left-wing convictions.

My mother sang Scottish folk songs and my father was a huge traditional jazz fan of people like Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong. But my older brother loved modern jazz. There’d be literally, physical fights in my house between my father and brother arguing about the role of the saxophone in jazz or something, real punch-ups.

As a teenager, Jack sang in a church choir, and won a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music to study the piano and cello. Classically trained, Jack also played jazz and blues. To earn money he played in the Jim McHarg’s Scotsville Jazzband, but The Academy disapproved. Jack said; ‘They found out, and said you either stop playing jazz, or leave college. So I left college.’

In 1962, soon after he arrived in London, he shared a flat with trombonist John Mumford on the top floor of Alexandra Mansions on West End Green. Jack joined Alexis Korner’s ‘Blues Incorporated’, which included Graham Bond on organ, Ginger Baker on drums and Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax. In 1963, Jack and Ginger joined Graham Bond, with John McLaughlin (guitar), to form the ‘Graham Bond Organisation’ (GBO). They were very popular and played numerous times at Klooks Kleek in the Railway Hotel, West Hampstead. A session at Klooks was recorded by Decca next door and released as ‘One Night at Klooks Kleek’.

On 26 September 1964 Jack married Janet Godfrey, who was the secretary of the Graham Bond fan club. They moved to a flat at 25 Bracknell Gardens, just off the Finchley Road, and not far from Jack’s old home in Alexandra Mansions. The phone books show they were still there in 1968. Later, with the success of Cream, they bought a house in Chalk Farm.

During their time in GBO, Jack and Ginger had a very fiery relationship both on and off stage, and in 1965 Bruce left the band. He briefly joined John Mayall’s ‘Bluesbreakers’ with Eric Clapton on guitar. In 1966 Bruce was with Manfred Mann’s band when they had a Number 1 hit with ‘Pretty Flamingo’.

In May 1966 Ginger Baker had approached Eric Clapton about forming a band. Eric suggested Jack should join them, not fully understanding how difficult they had found it to work together in the Graham Bond Organisation. However, Ginger agreed to try it out and the three of them rehearsed at his Neasden home, 154 Braemar Avenue.

#3166524 / 20th August 1967: (from left) Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton

Cream was formed and they played their first gig at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel on 29 July 1966. Then on Sunday 31 July they played at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival and although it poured with rain, the band caused a sensation. Their manager Robert Stigwood thought Cream would have a similar appeal as the GBO and had already booked them into a number of clubs on the Blues circuit. So two days after their success at Windsor they played their first London gig – again at Klooks Kleek in West Hampstead on 2 August 1966.

Geoff Williams who ran Klooks Kleek with Dick Jordan, remembers Ginger asking him how much they would get for the evening. He expected a grumpy response to the reply “£89”, instead, Ginger expressed surprise and thanks, as the bands he played with previously at Klooks had usually been on about £50. Maybe Ginger felt good because Cream were about to embark on their first US tour playing stadia for five-figure dollar sums each night. Cream’s popularity grew very quickly and the only other time they played at Klooks was on the 15 November. This gig was recorded next door at the Decca Studios. Planned as an EP it was not released, as the band saw LPs as the future.

After great success, Cream spit up in July 1968, with a farewell concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 November 1968. In 1993, Cream were inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ and they reunited to play four sellout shows at the Albert Hall in May 2005, and three in New York in October.

After Cream split up Jack began recording solo albums such as, ‘Things We Like’ in 1968 and ‘Songs for a Tailor’ in 1969. He played in several bands but struggled with his heroin addiction. In 2003, Jack was diagnosed with cancer, and underwent a liver transplant. Although his immune system initially rejected the organ, he recovered and kept playing. But his poor health finally caught up with him in 2014 and he died at his Suffolk home.

Harry Shapiro has produced a very good biography, Jack Bruce: Composing Himself (2010). For more about Klooks Kleek, see our book, Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek.


Witch Halloween party is right for you?

‘Tis the season to be… scary, so here’s a roundup of Halloween happenings in West Hampstead.

First you’re going to have to get a tasteful costume sorted in time for Friday. Party Party on Kilburn High Road or Oscar’s Den on Abbey Road are your friends here. And if you go to Oscar’s Den on Friday or Saturday, staff are offering free face painting if you quote “SCARY” (this may be more aimed at young trick-or-treaters though).


The next task on your list must surely be pumpkin carving, and where better to find a good specimen than West Hampstead Fruit and Veg?

In terms of going out, Mexican restaurant Mamacita is celebrating Day of the Dead all week with a special cocktail and food menu – details on its website.

The Black Lion on West End Lane is opening until late on the 31st and promises “all things unholy” including Halloween-themed ales.

The Alice House of Horrors party is on Saturday November 1st, and fancy dress is, er, strongly encouraged. “Those not in costume will suffer an unspeakable fate” apparently. There’s a prize for the best costume and a DJ from 9pm.

Also on West End Lane, La Brocca is offering “tricks and treats all night” on Friday, and a DJ from 11pm.

Over on Kilburn High Road, nightclub Love & Liquor is putting on a night of surprises at its “Rehab”-themed night on both Friday and Saturday until 3.30am. Entry is £20, and a costume is required. Find full details on the Facebook page.

If you were planning to go to The Gallery‘s Halloween party on Friday, unfortunately it’s been cancelled. Refurbishment work in the bar has overrun, so it will now re-open on November 5th.

Finally, if you want to avoid the trick-or-treaters with a spooky night at the cinema, keep an eye on the film listings page (updated Thursday) for local horror highlights. And of course don’t forget WHalloween Food Fest on Thursday night.

Store manager Nicky Clifford-Goss, flanked by Jane Brown and Geoff Berridge and assorted staff (sorry, partners)

The waiting is over. Waitrose is here


You’d think it was the second coming. Excitement levels on Twitter – where usually everyone is so level-headed and calm, right? – have been reaching fever pitch. But even yesterday it looked as if the fitters had their work cut out to get West Hampstead’s newest supermarket ready in time for this morning’s 7am opening. The mad dash to get the place finished has been disruptive for local residents, who have complained about lorries blocking access to the mews to the side of the building during the works.

Photo courtesy of Richard Clegg

Photo courtesy of Richard Clegg


Spit & polish…


Hoovering up the crumbs


The store manager is now open

Jennifer Brown, Chair of the West Hampstead Women’s Centre, and Geoff Berridge of the West Hampstead Community Centre were there for the ribbon cutting. Waitrose West Hampstead will share £6,000 and 100 staff working hours a year between these two organisations and the C4WS Homeless Project.

Store manager Nicky Clifford-Goss, flanked by Jane Brown and Geoff Berridge and assorted staff (sorry, partners)

Store manager Nicky Clifford-Goss, flanked by Jane Brown and Geoff Berridge and assorted staff (sorry, partners)

The new store, which has taken over from Pizza Express (causing the buggy brigade to both fret and rejoice simultaneously), does not, unsurprisingly, have a fresh meat or fish counter. So, the Hampstead Butcher & Providores should manage to cling on to that business when it opens across the road in a week or so’s time. There is coffee though, out of a machine and free to myWaitrose card holders, and some seating outside at the front, which may not please West Hampstead’s café owners, despite Waitrose’s development director Nigel Keen stating that he welcomes the chance to “play our part in ensuring [West Hampstead] remains a vibrant village”.

Local resident and early-riser Mandira Bhimjiyani was excited by the new store. “I love a good Waitrose,” she said. “Any supermarket that thinks tiramisu is essential is ok with me.”

Inside, one quickly realised how rarely you see a fully-stocked supermarket. The shop seemed to have a reasonable range of products, including a few things for the anti-Waitrose brigade to mock, such as milk alternatives and the world’s pricest mac & cheese.

Full fat also available

An oddly precise price

An oddly precise price

Little Waitrose, as the retail chain’s convenience store format is branded, has been some time in the offing. It’s never entirely clear why the levels of reverence Waitrose elicits are directly proportional to the dislike heaped on its rivals – especially Tesco. Yes, it probably sells slightly better quality food but perhaps people are genuinely impressed that even though it’s a chain, it’s a chain owned by its employees. We wrote about the original John Lewis, whose son lived in Kilburn, back in May.

The store’s opening hours are 7am to 10pm daily. Deliveries – always a bane for local motorists – have been planned to cause less disruption than Tesco’s, though will be early for local residents.


Is it a posh hotel? A boutique? No, it's a Little Waitrose. Photo via @bubela

Is it a posh hotel? A boutique? No, it’s a Little Waitrose. Photo via @bubela

Wet Fish Clement Regert

Jazz night at The Wet Fish Café

Wet Fish Clement RegertThis month the Wet Fish is draped in guitars so owner André Millodot decided to invite a talented guitarist to lead his latest mid-week music night and say thank you to his guest Stephen Marlow, who made the guitars. French jazz musician Clement Regert brought along the rest of his trio, a drummer and a keyboardist who filled in the bass and harmonies.

We arrived for the second sitting just as the trio was kicking off. These music dinner events are very relaxed, as you’d expect from the Wet Fish, so you are seated and order when you are ready. The band played while we ate but diners were able to chat quietly and everyone paused to clap with gusto after each piece. In true West Hampstead-style we happened to be seated next to our real-life neighbours so took the opportunity to get to know them a bit better.

Mr Regert entertained everyone with his dry, young-Parisian humour and his playing was note perfect. The drummer carried the set despite softening the volume for the second sitting. A rousing and unexpected rendition of the theme of Pirates of the Caribbean finished off a very enjoyable, chilled midweek night out.


Wall of sound: Art guitars on display at local restaurant


The Wet Fish Café on West End Lane often showcases artists’ work on its tiled walls but, for another week, there’s a different kind of artwork on display.

West Hampstead resident Steven Marlow, builds professional-quality guitars for musicians, celebrity clients and collectors from all over the world, working closely with each customer to create bespoke instruments to their specifications. His guitars are in many celebrity collections, including those of Queen’s legendary guitarist Brian May and The Kooks’ frontman Luke Pritchard.

For his ongoing Art Guitars project, he collaborates with established and up-and-coming artists, most notably leading British artist Stuart Semple, to create these unique and striking works.

Steven said the Wet Fish Café was the logical place for his latest exhibition as “I’ve been going to the Wet Fish for years”.

For anyone interested in seeing Steven’s work, you have until 30th October to go and check out these beauties over brunch…


Steven Marlow, guitar maker, with Wet Fish Café owner André Millodot

Steven Marlow, guitar maker, with Wet Fish Café owner André Millodot


24-hour tube: Mind the gap between PR and reality

From September 12th 2015, the tube will run all night on Fridays and Saturdays on the Jubilee, Victoria and most of the Piccadilly, Central and Northern lines. Around six trains will run every hour on the “night tube”.

Map from

Map showing where the 24-hour service will run (image from

No doubt many West Hampstead and Kilburn residents will rejoice at the arrival of a more convenient way to get home from town after a night out, but what about the noise disruption to those who live near to the station or tube line?

Gareth Powell, London Underground’s Director of Strategy and Service Development, told us: “We will of course work with residents to help resolve any problems. However, as our services already run for up to 20 hours each day and we carry out engineering work overnight, the potential for disturbance from night time services at weekends is expected to be limited.”

This rather assumes that those late night/early morning services, and the engineering work aren’t already disturbing the sleep of those who live right alongside the railways or by stations. Indeed, it’s unclear how much TfL has considered the possible impact to people living in areas such as West Hampstead, which is relatively unusual with both station and tracks located above ground and very close to a densely-populated residential area (tube-facing apartment in West Hampstead Square anyone?).

As well as the (admittedly relatively quiet) noise from trains running along the line, will there be irregular bursts of sound coming from platform announcements and raucous passengers disembarking in the early hours.

Of course, for central London businesses, there is little downside. Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said: “This move will give more customers the chance to enjoy a drink or meal out in the city centre with the peace of mind that they will be able to get home safely and quickly.” and also makes the point that “a later-running London Underground will offer more chance for the gradual dispersal of customers from the busy city centre.”

How do West Hampstead locals feel about this? Nervous about the potential for disrupted sleep, or looking forward to late nights out in town without the exorbitant taxi fares? Over to you in the comments below.


Middlesex star opens relocated Mill Lane pharmacy

Former Middlesex and England cricketer John Emburey came to West Hampstead to cut the blue ribbon at a Mill Lane business this morning.

Aqua Pharmacy moved from its former premises at 102 Mill Lane to number 59 a few months ago, causing some controversy at the time. No. 59 used to be home to upholstery business Escott’s.

Business owner and cricket fan Sanjay Patel invited the former Test bowler to the pharmacy’s official opening today. Emburey has a vested interest in boosting Mill Lane’s appeal; his daughter Clare owns popular Mill Lane florist Achillea Flowers.

After the ribbon was cut, Emburey stayed to chat to customers and staff, even signing a cricket bat for a starstruck young fan.

Pharmacy owner Sanjay Patel with John Emburey

Aqua Pharmacy owner Sanjay Patel with John Emburey

John Emburey cuts the ribbon

John Emburey cuts the ribbon



Deliveroo brings local restaurants to your door

Deliveroo is a new food delivery service that allows you to enter your location and order dishes from a list of your local restaurants. Sound familiar? Deliveroo claims to be different from the other food delivery platforms you already know, love and feel faintly guilty about using quite so often. Its approach is to curate a selection of good local restaurants rather than overwhelm you with lists of takeaways you’ve never heard of, or that in some cases may not even exist.

The Deliveroo people kindly offered us a complimentary trial run of the service, as it’s recently expanded its delivery zone to include West Hampstead. So one chilly Wednesday evening, when quite frankly I had no inclination to shop or cook, three of us got together at West Hampstead Life HQ to put it to the test.



First impressions were very positive. The website has a clean, user-friendly interface. After entering the postcode, the list of restaurants that appeared was not overwhelmingly long and contained only names we recognised. Favourite West End Lane haunts such as La Brocca, LaDuDu and Banana Tree were there, as well as a couple of O2 Centre places, such as Falafel City, and a surprise appearance from Bake-a-boo for those weekend cupcake cravings.

After a bit of deliberation we decided to order from Locanda 311 (formerly known as Hidden Treasure) on West End Lane, as it’s a restaurant that doesn’t offer its own delivery service. As Deliveroo uses a fleet of its own drivers, even restaurants not usually geared up for home delivery can take part, which is a great service if you fancy eating something a little different from the usual takeaway options.

Indeed, there are some ambitious-sounding dishes offered for home delivery on Locanda 311’s online menu. We resisted the temptation to go for the “Superbia di Crostacei” to see how an elaborate seafood platter – with a centrepiece of a whole lobster – would be packaged up for home delivery. (Is this now a contender for poshest takeaway in West Hampstead?) By contrast, La Brocca has opted for a shorter, more transit-friendly menu, offering mainly pizza and baked pasta dishes. Probably a wise move.

As we started to add dishes to our virtual shopping basket, a delivery fee of £2 and a card fee of 50p appeared, along with the option to tip our delivery driver. This is where Deliveroo starts to feel a little pricey – £2 is a fairly low delivery charge, but many restaurants offer free delivery for a minimum spend. For example, Bengal Spice (a Deliveroo restaurant) will deliver an order of £10 or over for free if you order directly.

All our details entered, we settled in to wait, wondering if the promised 30-minute delivery time was a bit ambitious.

fishermans_basketHowever, just 28 minutes later, dinner arrived. A slight technical hitch (my fault) had meant that we had to enter our order twice, and the (very friendly) driver’s tip wasn’t automatically re-added even though our food was, so we gave him a cash tip in person. Our main dishes of pasta, gnocchi and aubergine parmigiana were good, but the tempura seafood starter was a bit less successful outside a restaurant setting. It turns out that fried calamari and accompanying chips go a bit soggy in sealed plastic containers. Errors like this aren’t Deliveroo’s fault, but the company encourages feedback and promises to “help rectify the situation”.

Overall, we found the Deliveroo experience smooth, and were impressed with the list of good-quality restaurants and takeaways. The delivery charge is reasonable when ordering from restaurants that wouldn’t normally deliver, or placing an order that comes in under the restaurant’s minimum spend. I can see time-pressed local professionals using the service after a long day at work, when something more reliable and decadent than the average takeaway is called for.

One final thing to mention is that Deliveroo doesn’t seem to deliver alcoholic drinks, so you might still need to pop out to the corner shop for a bottle of wine to go with that lobster.


West End Lane Acts on Sunday October 12th

Next Sunday, a new West Hampstead event is taking place on West End Green. West End Lane Acts is the brainchild of newish resident Julia Testa.

Her aim is to get people meeting and talking over a range of events on the Green, and to encourage locals to support West End Lane businesses, with whom she’s negotiated various offers.

Expect to see the posters springing around the area this week. As part of the build up, Julia was offering face painting for kids at the market today.

The kids activities on the green next Sunday include face painting, acting classes and “Games with Antidote” (more details here). For adults, there’s mindful meditation, movemement training, zumba/salsa classes, those Games with Antidote again, and massages. All the events are free (although donations are requested for the massage), and you’ll be able to sign up on the Facebook page.

There are various offers from Oddbins, Art4Fun, Toomai, Health Town, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Peppercorns, Pizza Amante, and La Brocca. Julia’s hoping to sign up other local businesses this week.

Fingers crossed for good weather.

You can find out more on the Tumblr page, Facebook page, and Twitter account.


Neighbourhood Plan_final draft cover_ft

West Hampstead’s Neighbourhood Plan enters final phase

After two and half years work, the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum has produced the final draft of the Neighbourhood Plan for our area – which has been formally submitted to Camden Council.

The Plan is based on extensive consultation, engagement and research – as well as the previous seven drafts of the Plan drawn up before this version.

The final document has been amended to reflect the comments submitted during the consultation period on the “pre-submission (7th) draft” during January and February, help from Camden Council planning officers and advice from independent planning consultants.

The Neighbourhood Plan – and supporting documents – can be seen in full on our website:

The Plan covers the two Camden Council wards of Fortune Green and West Hampstead (see Map 1 in the Plan). The main focus of the Plan is set out in the Vision and Objectives (see page 10). The objectives cover six areas: housing, design & character, transport, public & community facilities, economy, and natural environment.

The Plan contains 18 policies (in blue boxes) on a range of issues from housing to business, from cycling to trees. If the Plan is adopted, these policies will be used in deciding planning applications in area – so could have a direct impact on your street, as well as the wider area.

What happens next?

  • Camden Council will carry out a six week consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan from 18 September to 31 October – when further comments can be submitted.
  • The Plan, and comments received, will then be submitted to an independent examiner – who will write a report and decide if the Plan can proceed to a referendum.
  • If all goes well, the referendum on the Plan will take place in early 2015 – everyone on the electoral register in the area will get a vote.

The NDF will keep people posted as to how things progress over the coming months:

We’re also looking for people who can help with the referendum campaign – if you’re interested, please let us know.

Finally – a big thank you to everyone who’s played a part in helping the NDF and the Plan reach this important stage.

James Earl
(Chair, Fortune Green & West Hampstead NDF)

Neighbourhood Plan_final draft cover

Hampstead Butcher

A butcher arrives in West End Lane – finally

It’s a cry that has reverberated round the streets and social media networks of the area for years: “Why can’t West Hampstead have a butcher?” Now the (non-vegetarian, at least) residents of West Hampstead have reason to celebrate.

Beef ribs will be aged and matured on the premises (Photo:

Beef ribs will be aged and matured on the premises (Photo:

The Hampstead Butcher and Providore, a well-known fixture on Rosslyn Hill in Hampstead, has announced that it will open a second branch on West End Lane in October. The shop will be situated at the site next door to the Wet Fish Café, which is currently a greengrocer’s.

Like its Hampstead shop, the West End Lane branch will stock fresh cuts of meat as well as a range of prepared terrines, pies, pâtés and convenient “oven-ready choices”. Those who place importance on the provenance of the meat they buy will be pleased to hear about the company’s ethos, which promises “British, fresh, traceable, ethically-reared meat”. It will also sell wine, which may soften the blow of nearby Brooksby Wines closure.

Philip Matthews, owner of the business, said that West Hampstead was the logical choice of area to open a second shop: “It’s always been number one on our shortlist of London villages – many of our customers travel over from West Hampstead anyway, so the demand for quality meat is clearly there”. The business had investigated opening here a couple of years ago, but the deal fell through, much to the anguish of many locals.

Philip is keen for the business to engage with and become a part of the local community, with plans for wine and food tasting events in the future. He commented “Now it’s time for West Hampstead residents to uphold their end of the bargain and come in and shop with us”.

Let’s hope the carnivorous locals cries for a butcher translate into support for the new venture. The meat stalls at the farmers’ market are always busy, and with Waitrose soon to open just across from the new butcher as well, the demand for good quality meat may just about be sated soon.



Amelias crepes

Streetfood market opens to praise

Yesterday was the first day of a new West Hampstead venture. A daily streetfood market by the Thameslink station, aimed at the evening commuter crowd.

Up to eight stalls will be on site, and the selection will change slightly each week. This week, commuters can choose from Jamaican specialities, gourmet burgers, Indian curries, falafel wraps, sweet and savoury crepes, and roast meat sandwiches. Fresh bread from Tomi Bakery is also on sale.

Feedback yesterday was positive, and the Mumbai Mix stall tweeted proudly that they’d sold out of chicken curry before 8pm when the market closes.

Amelias crepes

Alison and Max at their crepe stall (Amelia not pictured)


Falafel fresh from the fryer

Mumbai Mix

The chicken curry was a hit at Mumbai Mix

Sticky Beaks

Sticky Beaks setting up

Streetfood market

Some early customers to the market

The market is on every weekday from 4pm-8pm. It will be interesting to see if it can sustain momentum after the novelty wears off, especially earlier in the week – but with a good selection of stalls and customers willing to support an innovative idea, it could become a West Hampstead institution.

Food and Flea

Weeknight street food market targets commuters tired of Tesco

West Hampstead is getting a new street food market on weekday evenings, starting tomorrow September 1st. The market will be on the Thameslink forecourt (where the farmers market is) Monday to Friday evenings, timed to meet the home-time rush-hour crowd between 4pm and 8pm.

Alexandra Gee, who runs the West Hampstead Food & Flea market on Sundays, is also the driving force behind this new street food venture. Having been a West Hampstead commuter herself, she noticed that “I’m always tired and hungry after a long day at work, and end up going to Tesco for the same old pasta. I thought it would be great to be able to pick up something different and tasty on the way home.”

The plan is that each evening, between six and eight street food traders will pitch their stalls along the forecourt. According to Alexandra, a number of diverse traders have already signed up, serving food including wood-fired pizza, Indian street food, Malaysian, and West Indian barbecue. Market traders have been briefed to serve their wares in easily-portable containers for those planning to take food home to eat.

If you’re passing the market tomorrow, why not drop in to check out the selection of dinner options available – and let us know about your visit using the comments form below.


Foxtons starts process of moving into former post office

It’s been a persistent rumour ever since the post office announced it was moving from its site on West End Lane to St James’ Church. Now it looks like the rumour is true. Estate agent Foxtons – it of the ubiquitous green and yellow Minis – has applied to the council for a change of use for the post office site so it can open there.

Those who argue that West Hampstead already has a lot of estate agents might find it hard to come up with strong objections – taking over an empty site is always going to be an easier sell to the council. Objectors would have to hope that Camden considers the claim that “the occupation of the unit by Foxtons would contribute to the vitality and viability of the town centre” is nonsense and that instead another estate agent on a street that already has about a dozen instead contributes to the creeping homogenisation of the town centre and adds very little to what is already a crowded market.

The supporting documentation for the application can be found here, and is the most interesting read. The full application is here. Consultation runs until September 9th. If consent is given, expect Foxton’s “modern, café-style, open environment” to be appearing on West End Lane very soon.

Robin Williams

Robin Williams’ impromptu gig at The Railway in West Hampstead

Robin Williams

To add to the current wave of global misery, Robin Williams was found dead yesterday morning, suspected of committing suicide after well-known bouts of depression. Deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

The story I was told shortly after I moved into leafy West Hampstead was that Robin Williams occasionally visited da hood because he was mates with the owners of The Railway pub in West End Lane, back when it was a much respected, if somewhat down-at-heel, venue. The Railway sits a few yards from the tube station and next door to the English National Opera rehearsal studios in Broadhurst Gardens which previously housed the Decca recording studio where, famously, the Beatles failed their audition in 1962, and where the great John Mayall albums with Eric Clapton and Peter Green were recorded.

In those days, West Hampstead was mostly students in bedsits and artists who couldn’t afford Islington or proper Hampstead. It wasn’t called “East Kilburn” for nothing. Great parties, though.

Anyhow, apparently Robin was visiting his mates when he was overcome by the urge to do an impromptu set. Like a bird that has to sing, he got up and did loads, presumably secure with a relatively small no-pressure audience that loved him.

No pix, no video, just happy memories of a very lucky audience. We need a blue plaque.

Reader Lisa Minot was at the gig.

He turned up at the end of the weekly Comedy Club that was held in the back room (and we were very loyal regulars, went every week) – he had asked to impro to a UK audience before a Princes’ Trust concert. When the normal comedy acts finished, a guy came on and just said: ‘Some American guy wants to try some new material, if you stay, we’ll keep the bar open’

Easy choice and when Robin walked out on stage, our first thought was: ‘Hey, that’s the guy from Mork and Mindy’

He then proceeded to perform, non-stop, for nearly two hours, seemingly without any material, just improvising and interacting with the very small audience of mainly students. It was utterly brilliant and even now, nearly 26 years on, I can remember knowing that night was special.

A few months or year later, Good Morning Vietnam came out and the rest is history.

RIP Robin Williams — one of the funniest and saddest guys ever.

[Ed: This is an updated version of a post that first appeared on Anna’s blog here.]

Full rack of pork ribs (sauce yet to be added!)

Review: One Sixty does its own thing – and does it well

One Sixty is no longer the new kid on the West Hampstead restaurant scene since the arrival of Toomai. But has the novelty of the smokehouse concept worn off for locals yet, or is the quality of One Sixty’s food good enough to sustain it.

We decided that a few anecdotal meals wasn’t enough to judge – it was time to give it the full whampreview treatment, which meant unearthing at least a couple of local die-hard fans of this genre of food.

Lets clear one thing up right away. One Sixty does not really cater to vegetarians. There are vegetarian options (mac & cheese, for example), and they’ve expanded these since opening, but at One Sixty, the carnivore is king. You may feel this is an awful misjudgement, or you may feel that as long as people know in advance, then it’s up to them. We deliberately didn’t take any vegetarians along because why would you want to take them somewhere where there wasn’t much for them to eat. That’s just cruel.

The menu isn’t a straightforward starters/mains menu, though in reality the side orders function just fine as starters. The menu also changes a bit every time, though a few stalwarts are always there and the specials have been the same the past few times I’ve been. I’m a sucker for the chicken wings, which started off in the restaurant’s early days as juicy but fairly mild, but are now definitively hot. And good. A bowl of these and a pint of the new Meantime Brewery Fresh beer (the one that’s pumped through the amazing silver tanks installed at the entrance) would make a good lunch for anyone. We tackled the wings (£6.50) and crubeens (£6, a snack made from pig’s trotters – a little fatty for or some, but good flavour).

The Meantime tanks by the front door

The Meantime tanks by the front door

Beer can be piped "Brewery Fresh" to your glass

Beer can be piped “Brewery Fresh” to your glass



Mains are served in white enamel trays, which maybe looks a tad gimmicky but suits the low-brow smokehouse decor quite well, and is infinitely better than putting everything on chopping boards, especially given the sauces!

I had the full rack of pork ribs (£14), this time ordered with the sauce on the side to test how tender they were when served dry and what the rub was like on its own (the answer is “pretty tender”, and “maybe not as interesting as you’d hope”). With the sauce on, however, these become a sticky delicious treat.

Full rack of pork ribs (sauce yet to be added!)

Full rack of pork ribs (sauce yet to be added!)

Dishes come with a side – the chips are pretty good, the pickles are outstanding – in fact between One Sixty and Chicken Schnitzel & More, West Hampstead may just be the pickles capital of London. With all the meat available, you’re unlikely to go hungry unless you have a voracious appetite (or perhaps the burger, which as you’ll see below couldn’t satisfy Tom).

The tarte tatin is apparently for two. I conclusively and single-handedly proved that this must be a mistake on the menu.

It’s worth mentioning the drinks – the bar at One Sixty (where you can also eat the full menu if you wish, though there is a separate smaller bar menu), has an impressively extensive range of craft beer. So extensive in fact, that you wonder whether they have the turnover of some of the more obscure beers to keep them reasonably fresh. There’s also plenty on tap – more from London brewers Meantime, Fullers and Camden Brewery as well as one or two more exotic options such as Sierra Nevada.

The wine list isn’t particularly long and pricewise could probably benefit from one or two more wines at the lower end. It’s a shame there’s not slightly more wine, because actually the rich, complex, smoky flavours of this slow-cooked meat (One Sixty refers to the Fahrenheit temperature all the meat is cooked at) match with many robust red wines very well. We went for a Malbec (£22) that worked well, but a few south-west France wines would also hold their own and might be better value.

Wiping our hands from the enormous roll of kitchen paper plonked on every table, the consensus was that One Sixty delivers memorable, if not always perfect, food. I think it’s an excellent addition to the neighbourhood and it deserves to do well.

In whampreview tradition, I’ll hand you over to the others to give you their verdicts

Barbecue is always local for its partisans, many of whom pride themselves on being “downmarket” – all about the familiar, as in family, tribe and region. That, and taking your time. Smoking and slow cooking can’t be hurried, so its’ provincial culinary traditions steep and thicken. The chefs stare into the pit, ruminate on burnt tips, smoke and fire. It’s elemental; don’t overthink it.

So, when I read that the owners of Pied a Terre had decided to open a ‘smokehouse’ in West Hampstead, I sniffed, “What will this pricey Bloomsbury haute cuisine landmark dish up on West End Lane? Will it be Barbecoa without the view?“ But the basics at One Sixty bode well. There’s no hush puppies, cornbread or baked beans, but their red cabbage slaw is top notch, and the hot chicken wings are better every time I try them.

The darkened interior keeps your attention on the fare, and these are not expensive morsels plated on oversized porcelain and set against crisp white tablecloths. Pound for pound, the price points please, with ample portions served on the wooden tables, dining in the rear, and some tables on the street in these blissful long summer evenings. One Sixty has doubled up on its smokers as well, as demand has risen. If they stay the course and double down on their high volume/medium price strategy, everybody wins. Chef Andrei Lesment’s menu triangulates between the Carolinas (a succulent pulled pork sandwich), Texas (beef ribs) and some comfort food from here, the isle of the Angus and the Durham Ox. The ox cheeks at One Sixty are their specialty, served up like a brisket, flaking on the fork, a generous portion of tender meaty fibre.

Ox cheek on mash with gravy and pickles

Ox cheek on mash with gravy and pickles

Many of the dishes come served with solid no-nonsense mash, that British Sunday staple, and Paris, Texas doesn’t do puddings like One Sixty’s spongey, elegant profiteroles. One Sixty gets high marks for being itself, and knowing its customers.

First thing to say, delightful Malbec – would definitely have that one again. The cheaper of the two on the wine list, and available by the glass, this was soft and supple, with sweet notes of chocolate (my dullard taste buds) or caramel (Nicky’s more subtle ones)

I opted for the burger, and although the bun had gone soggy underneath, the patty itself tasted good. Perhaps a little small though, to be honest. A nice touch was the refreshing, simple slaw with fennel seeds, and a light vinaigrette. Definitely a sensible match for all the richness of the main meals.

Chips were of an enticing, golden colour, and although not especially crispy, were nicely done, though for me personally I didn’t take to whatever they’d been cooked in. This is probably just me; the most adventurous I get with such things is goose-fat roasters at Christmas. I’m a bit traditional with potatoes, me; fry them in olive oil or butter, and I’m happy.

Desserts thoroughly smile-inducing. A rather fun, wonderfully-flavoured banoffee cup thing, and a pleasing tart tatin.

Service was excellent and there’s a really great atmosphere there. Good fun!

Feeling woefully inadequate sitting next to the Barbeque-ipedia that is Will, I chose Pulled Pork for my main, so I didn’t have to comment in the ribs/rubs debate! I swapped the chips for the great slaw – no mayo and with the zingy addition of fennel seeds. The pork was moist and I liked the fresh red cabbage topping. I’d have been happy with a few more crunchy bits of pork and a well toasted brioche bun, as it was a little soggy, but it was a well executed dish and I didn’t suffer from food envy! For dessert, just order the drunken banoffee, you will find room for it!

Pulled pork in a bun

Pulled pork in a bun

I have to admit that a hearty, industrial-style smokehouse restaurant isn’t my natural habitat. Although no longer vegetarian, I’m usually happier tucking into a tofu steak than a ribeye; and a colourful lentil salad is more likely to get my pulse (ha!) racing than a plate of sticky pork ribs.

However, I really enjoyed our evening at One Sixty. Yes, the menu is unashamedly focused on flesh, and you’d need to be in a carnivorous mood to fully enjoy a visit here, but unlike in the macho “dirty rib” joints beloved of certain sections of the food blogosphere, these dishes feel high-quality and well thought out.

Beef shortrib - small but mighty

Beef shortrib – small but mighty

As you’d expect, a delicious smoky aroma pervades the meat which forms the centrepiece of each dish, but the accompaniments were a welcome surprise – really crisp, fresh-tasting pickles and slaw cut through the richness of the barbeque flavours of my beef shortrib.

The atmosphere is smokin’ too. The huge craft beer selection draws in a lively crowd to the bar at the front, and there’s a chatty and convivial vibe in the dining room too. I’ll definitely be back to this great new West Hampstead hangout.

One Sixty
291 West End Lane
T: 0207 7949 786
E: ku.oc1490920297.ytxi1490920297s-eno1490920297@ofni1490920297

Nazim Mahmood

Balcony fall kills West Hampstead doctor who ran local Face Clinic

On Wednesday evening, locals were shocked as Dr Nazim Mahmood lay on the pavement outside Barclays Bank at the corner of West End Lane and Fawley Road having fallen from the balcony of his top floor apartment above.

Depsite the best efforts of ambulance crews, Dr Mahmood, 34, was pronounced dead at the scene by a doctor from the London Air Ambulance. Police came under fire for being unable to find a tent to put around the body, which was instead covered in a blanket and lay there for some hours before being removed as commuters walked past during the late evening rush hour.

Dr Mahmood – known to locals as Dr Nas – had opened a new branch of his Face Clinic business last August at Health Town, the relatively new West End Lane shop a few yards down the road that both sells health-related products as well as offering treatments from a variety of practictioners.

He and his partner, Matthew Ogston, and only moved to West Hampstead a few months ago and the clinic in Health Town was their third after branches in Soho and Harley Street.

Although the cause of death has not been determined, police are treating it as non-suspicious. Local osteopath Ben Posen, who also operates out of Health Town tweeted earlier today, “Very sad to return to work and discover that the man who died on West End Lane was Dr Nas. He was a lovely man.”

Nazim Mahmood

[CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said that the the West Hampstead clinic was yet to open. This was wrong, and West Hampstead Life apologises for the mistake]

Protect your PIN - someone may be looking over your shoulder

Post office moves to local church

The bell rang at 1pm and the first customers for the new post office trundled into St James’s Church on Sherriff Road today. The West End Lane post office was supposed to close at midday, but in fact closed yesterday putting even more pressure on the Sherriff Centre team to be up and running bang on time.

Father Andrew Cain and Sherriff Centre project manager Jane Edwards (photo via @churchnw6)

Father Andrew Cain and Sherriff Centre project manager Jane Edwards (photo via @churchnw6)

Never one to shy away from publicity, Father Andrew Cain had invited BBC London to the opening and anchor Alice Bhandukravi was there to speak to Fr Andrew (and ask me about the quality of the cake). The news report is here.

Most of the early arrivals to the post office/café/shop/playarea/church seemed impressed. For many, it was their first sight of the transformed space. It is believed to be the first full-time post office located in a functioning church and certainly the first in London.

Everything is in “soft launch” stage at the moment, with the official opening taking place on August 1st. For the time being though, the café makes a very cool escape from the humidity outside (and there’s underfloor heating for the winter!).

Protect your PIN - someone may be looking over your shoulder

Protect your PIN – someone may be looking over your shoulder


Children on West End Green, about 1882. Lawn Cottage is in the background on the right

Charles Dickens’ brother lived in West Hampstead

Alfred Lamert Dickens, Charles Dickens’ younger brother, was born in Chatham in April 1822, the son of John and Elizabeth Dickens. From February to May 1824 John Dickens was in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison, where he was joined by Elizabeth and the three youngest Dickens children including Alfred. At the time a debtor’s family could move in if they could afford to pay for a private room. Charles Dickens was sent to lodge in Camden Town.

Peter Ackroyd, in his excellent biography of Dickens, says that Alfred was the only one of Dickens’ siblings to make something of himself. Alfred became a civil engineer and during the 1840s, was engaged on the construction of the York, Malton and Scarborough Railway. He also engineered the Malton and Driffield Railway, which opened in 1853 and which eventually was amalgamated into the North Eastern Railway. Charles Dickens knew the village of Malton through his lifelong friendship with solicitor Charles Smithson, who lived there. It seems probable that Dickens helped his brother get his position with the railway companies.

In 1846, Alfred married Yorkshire-born Helen Dobson, who was a minor, at St Andrew’s Holborn. Between 1847 and 1853 they had four children, all born in Malton. Alfred had an office there in the Market Place, and lived at Hillside Cottage, Greengate, Malton and they later moved to Derwent Cottage, Scarborough Road, Norton.

Sketch of Alfred Lamert Dickens

Sketch of Alfred Lamert Dickens

His wife Helen and children were at Derwent Cottage on the night of the 1851 census, when she describes herself as an ‘engineer’s wife’. At the time Alfred was in London, at 34 Keppel Street, the house of a Dr Davey. His mother and father had been lodging there when John died on 31 March after a botched operation, a few days before the census was taken. Alfred had travelled to London to attend his father’s funeral at Highgate Cemetery.

Alfred and his family left Malton and came to live in London after the amalgamation of the railway lines in 1854. The birth of his daughter Augusta in Hampstead and his report on the sanitary conditions in Canning Town both date from 1855.

It’s likely that Alfred stayed in London but the family returned north. He used his civil engineering experience to become a Superintending Inspector appointed to administer the Public Health Act. In addition to the Canning Town report, he appears six times in the London Gazette between 1855 and 1857, where Alfred Lamerte (sic) Dickens is reported as visiting various districts to look at their sewerage, drainage, water supply and other public heath criteria, as preparatory work to establish a Local Board of Health. He visited Mistley and Brentwood in Essex, Bradford, Wheatley in Oxfordshire, Ynyscynhaiarn in Carnarvon and Scarborough in Yorkshire.

We know Alfred was living somewhere in Hampstead in 1855 when his daughter Augusta was born and that he was renting Lawn Cottage on West End Lane in 1859. This was one of a pair of houses on the Lane towards Finchley Road, uphill from West End Green. The whole area at the time was known as West End, not West Hampstead.

Lawn Cottage, 1865

Lawn Cottage, 1865

Lawn Cottage (marked in red on the map) and Fern Cottages were opposite the Cock and Hoop pub.

Children on West End Green, about 1882. Lawn Cottage is in the background on the right

Children on West End Green, about 1882. Lawn Cottage is in the background on the right

Peter Ackroyd says Alfred was working as an engineer in Manchester when he died of pleurisy on 27 July 1860. Alfred left a widow and five children. Charles Dickens provided for them. He confided to a close friend, ‘Day after day I have been scheming and contriving for them, and am still doing so, and have schemed myself into broken rest and low spirits.’

Charles brought Alfred’s family back to London for the funeral at Highgate Cemetery. The probate record shows that Alfred was still living at West End at the time of his death. It seems likely he was visiting Manchester and the fact that he died at a pub and hotel, the ‘Moseley Arms’, seems to corroborate this. He left less than £600, worth about £46,000 today.

A year later, Alfred’s widow Helen and the children were living with Charles Dickens’ widowed mother Elizabeth, at 4 Grafton Terrace in Kentish Town. Charles paid for the house and for Helen to look after his mother, who was suffering from dementia. Dickens wrote in a letter:

My mother, who was also left to me when my father died (I never had anything left to me but relations), is in the strangest state of mind from senile decay; and the impossibility of getting her to understand what is the matter combined with her desire to be got up in sables like a female Hamlet, illumines the dreary scene with a ghastly absurdity that is the chief relief I can find in it.

Elizabeth Dickens died in 1863. In 1871, Helen Dickens was living round the corner from Grafton Terrace in Queen’s Crescent. She died in 1915.

We were very surprised to find Dickens’ brother had lived in West End, if only for a short period of time before his death.

We have just set up a new blog for stories which are based in Kilburn and Willesden.

WHBA Video Screenshot

Video highlights West Hampstead’s first class transport links

The West Hampstead Business Association (of which West Hampstead Life is a member) has been busy in the past couple of months. It’s worked with local filmmakers Krishna Govender and Tom Jones to produce a video extolling the virtues of West Hampstead’s transport connections.

The idea is to show prospective businesses that West Hampstead is a good place to do business (though no doubt estate agents will be using it freely to show why it’s also a great place to live). This is intended to be part of a series of short videos that focus on different aspects of what makes West Hampstead great.

Alongside the video, the WHBA is also responsible for the lovely hanging baskets that now adorn West End Lane and Mill Lane. Hanging baskets It also hosted a summer party at the Cricket Club with a discussion on rent and rate reviews courtesy of Jeremy Manuel and Philip Waldman, and a sprinkling of celebrity glamour from Imelda Staunton.

WHBA Summer BBQ - Imelda Staunton

Imelda Staunto captures the WHBA’s attention. Photo courtesy of David Jacobs @ Colour Division


Restaurant round-up: Toomai, Rossopomodoro, One Sixty and the market

West Hampstead Life has had a gruelling couple of weeks. In a tireless quest to keep you informed about gastronomic developments in the area, we’ve been out investigating the newest restaurants and menus, sampling a few (ok, many) dishes along the way. Here are some tasty tidbits to whet your appetite while we go off to type “juice diet” into Google…

First up, we went to try One Sixty’s new brunch menu. The menu itself is still a work in progress, but we tried a selection of the kinds of dishes that will be on offer. As you’d expect from a smokehouse restaurant, smoky flavours wrapped themselves around some delicious mackerel and salmon, and there was house-smoked bacon available in a roll.

One Sixty has been criticised in the past for its lack of any provision for vegetarians, but on this visit we sampled a rather good avocado, asparagus and egg dish – hopefully they’ll continue to offer at least one veggie option. Add in the Sunday papers and a chilled vibe, and we can see this being serious competition in the weekend brunch market.


Secondly, you may have heard whispers about another pan-Asian restaurant opening on West End Lane. Called Toomai, this is another venture from the owners of Guglee just up the road. They invited West Hampstead Life to tour the new premises (where the short-lived ‘Grilled O Fried’ used to be) and more importantly to a tasting session of their menu.


The Toomai team are still refining the menu, but it will focus on street food – predominantly influenced by South East Asia – as well as more substantial curry and noodle dishes. We tried a range of dishes, from Chinese-style dumplings, to chili paneer, to some quite outstanding chicken satay skewers. It will be interesting to see how Toomai fares against nearby competitors Banana Tree and Mamako. It opens tonight (Thursday), though expect Friday to be more up to speed.

Staying on a street-food theme, the Sunday Food & Flea Market on the Thameslink forecourt has been open for four weeks now, with a variety of food stalls. Bad weather on a couple of Sundays has meant the market has been less than bustling at times, but we’d recommend going there to grab some very reasonably-priced lunch while browsing the vintage clothes stalls. So far we’ve tried the Iranian lamb chops (delicious, but somewhat hard to eat with your hands) and the Sri Lankan ‘kothu’, an appetising dish of chopped roti with vegetables and (optional) meat.


The final course on this epicurean roundup takes place in Finchley Road, where Italian chain Rossopomodoro has just opened its eighth UK branch in the O2 Centre. Unlike other high street Italians, Rossopomodoro can proudly claim to have originated in Naples and promises “the same fresh ingredients from the same suppliers in Italy” it serves back home. Can it live up to the hype?

Photo via Rossopomodoro

Photo via Rossopomodoro

On our visit (a completely packed VIP launch night – there are clearly a lot of Very Important pizza fans in the area) we did find the dishes tasted fresh and the flavours were zingy; a cut above the average chain, and with its buzzy atmosphere a great new pre-cinema destination. We can imagine taking a seat on the outdoor terrace with a selection of antipasti and an Aperol Spritz, and feeling ourselves transported straight to Campania. Let’s ignore the small issue of the Finchley Road traffic.


Overground works to cause Sunday noise disruption

As part of the work to rebuild West Hampstead Overground station, the platforms need to be extended and widened and, unfortunately, this means it’s going to get noisy – starting this Sunday.

For locals who live very near the station it’s likely to be uncomfortable at times. Work is scheduled to start at 12.30am on Sunday (yes, as in just after midnight on Saturday) and run right through to 8pm. “The exact finish times will vary and on occasion will continue into the following Monday, however the majority of work will be completed by 20:00 on Sunday evenings.”

There will be some pile driving work during this time and, as anyone who’s lived through pile driving will tell you, that can be hard to live with. TfL tell me that the loudest pile driving will actually be in the initial phases as they need to drive the piles on which the rig for the rest of the pile driving will sit. Still with me? The good news, such as it is, is therefore that when you think that it can’t get any louder, you’ll actually be right.

TfL’s Director for London Overground, Mike Stubbs, told West Hampstead Life:

“We always seek to undertake work in a way that causes the minimum disruption and inconvenience possible to residents near to the railway, however, despite our best efforts some work will unavoidably need to be carried out overnight. We will be monitoring the works at West Hampstead carefully to minimise disturbance, and any local residents who feel that there is disturbance, or would like more information, can contact us 24 hours a day on our helpline on 0343 222 7878.”

TfL is naturally wary of setting out a very strict timetable of works as the situation can change very quickly on a project of this nature. Note that although it doesn’t expect to be carrying out noisy works in the middle of the night, it is not categorically ruling it out either.

What this boils down to is that noisy work will be carried out on Sundays during the day and there will be some occasional disruption during the nights as well. Additional work will take place during the rest of the week from 7am-7pm though even then, “There may be some occasions when we need to work at night , however this will be restricted to quiet activities that should not affect neighbouring properties. If any night work is likely to cause disturbance, we will notify you in advance. Any additional lighting required for overnight works will be directed away from nearby residential property and dust will be dampened down on site.”

For those of you interested in the specifics of the construction, Tfl is installing a retaining wall in the slopes at the back of the platforms, and doing some excavation work using heavy machinery to build foundations for the new extensions. Blockwork will be built up to create the new sections of platform and new surfacing will be laid. Additional CCTV cameras, speakers and lighting will be installed on the new platforms.

Obviously, the Overground line will be closed through West Hampstead on Sundays when the work is carrying out, so don’t expect to be catching the train to Richmond on a Sunday anytime soon although you can catch the new special Sunday service from Stratford to Willesden Junction via South Hampstead or Kilburn High Road station and change there. The new longer trains, which are necessitating this work, will be introduced by the end of 2015.

Earplugs are available from most chemists.

West End Lane poles_ft

Brondesbury eruv requires West Hampstead poles

The Brondesbury Park Synagogue has put in a planning application to erect pairs of high poles connected by nylon fishing wire in West Hamsptead and Kilburn as part of a proposal to demarcate a Brondesbury “eruv”.

An eruv is the name commonly given to an demarcated area within which Orthodox Jews are permitted to do some things on the Shabbat that they otherwise would not be. Most pertinently, and generally at the heart of calls from the community to set up an eruv, it allows people with limited mobility – either due to infirmity/disability or due to having young children – to leave the house. Wheelchairs and buggies are otherwise not allowed to be used, nor can medicine such as insulin be transported and used outside the home.

The poles are largely unobtrusive, though they do inevitably stand out more in some places than others. They are typically 5.5 metres high where they have to span a road, so lorries can still pass under; those that act as pedestrian gateways are typically lower at 3 metres. This proposal has to span the Kilburn High Road near Kilburn High Road station, Mill Lane, Minster Road, West End Lane at the Iverson Road junction as well as various other points in the area. The planning application can be viewed on Camden’s website.

The planning application lets you play a “Spot the difference” game with before and after photos of each site, which shows that


Minster Road (arrows added)

West End Lane poles

Poles spanning West End Lane (green by the wall, red by the building)

The topic came up a couple of years ago when there was a proposal for a Camden eruv, which would also have included West Hampstead. This Brondesbury eruv was itself mooted as far back as 2010. To non Jews, it can seem an astonishingly arcane concept, and eruvs don’t have universal support even among Jews. One of the things that some people find strange about an eruv is that it has to be physically demarcated. This can be (and largely is) done using existing walls or boundaries but where that is not possible, then tall poles are usually erected with wire strung between them. These are required for fairly complicated reasons relating to the separation of different realms and each set of poles and wires physically represents a doorway.

Map of the whole eruv (click for larger version)

Map of the whole eruv (click for larger version)


The detail in West Hampstead & Kilburn

It is the construction of these poles and wires that tends to bring the issue to the attention of the wider community as, in the UK at least, this requires the support of the local council. Jewish communities always pay for any work required but, unsurprisingly, non-Jewish residents can find it rather odd to have wire that has absolutely no significance for them strung up in their streets. If you’re not a religious person, then it’s really just street furniture. Eruv supporters will tend to argue that the poles and wires are very unobtrusive.

You can read a lot more about eruvs on Wikipedia, more than you probably want to know – such as that even with an eruv, you can’t open an umbrella on the Shabbat or that there appears to be a long-running debate as to whether the entire island of Manhattan is an eruv. It is precisely those sort of peculiar laws that distance orthodox followers of any religion from the mainstream – whether religous or secular.

Not all Jews automatically support the creation of an eruv. For liberal Jews it’s meaningless as they do not abide by Orthodox laws. Some also argue that it might be time to question the underlying principle. A letter sent to the Camden New Journal by a non-Orthodox Jewish resident of Hampstead suggests campaigning “for these Sabbath laws to be more flexible and take people’s individual needs into account. I would also point out that when these laws were instituted neither insulin nor wheelchairs existed.” Nor are the details of how they are created unanimously agreed on. According to the BBC, “The Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC) – which includes synagogues in north-west London – has claimed that there are “serious halachic (Jewish law) problems” with the North West London eruv that make it invalid.”

The planning documents are all large files, but we’ve taken the pages that refer to the West Hampstead & Kilburn locations and merged them into one document, which you can view here (or look at below if your browser supports it).

Brondesbury Eruv – the West Hampstead and Kilburn locations by WHampstead

Maggie and Frankie

Maggie and Frankie: How Homeshare lends a helping hand

Imagine not seeing another soul for a month and having to lose independence as you get older. This was the situation facing local resident Maggie.

Maggie and Frankie

Maggie and Frankie

“I was very anxious about the future. I really valued my independence, but it was getting harder for me to cope all on my own after recently losing my husband. All I needed was companionship at night and a helping hand at home”

Maggie is far from alone. The sad reality is that more than 400,000 older people in the UK have an unmet need for companionship and help with practical household activities. The charity Crossroads Care CNL provides a simple solution called “Homeshare”.

In recent months Age UK reported that 17% of older people have less than once weekly contact with family, friends and neighbours with 11% having less than monthly contact and about 410,000 older people in the UK have a need for help with practical household activities that isn’t being met through council services.

Sarah Wallace, Head of Services at Crossroads Care CNL describes Homeshare as “a simple affordable service that matches people who feel vulnerable or isolated, and who need help and companionship around the home with people looking for accommodation (Homesharers) who are willing to help.”

The charity carefully selects homesharers who can help with things like cleaning, cooking, laundry and shopping, as well as providing friendship and security. For the safety of the older people, Homeshare carries out DBS and reference checks and works towards finding a person that matches the personality and lifestyle of the householder.

“There is an impending care crisis as the economic climate puts pressure on both council budgets and the income of individuals. We believe our Homeshare programme is part of the solution, as it helps older people remain at home, it supports social workers and at the same time it helps younger generations to find affordable accommodation in London” added Sarah.

Homeshare is part of a national network that supports and promotes the potential of the Homeshare programme. The scheme helps older people stay part of their community, enjoying their own home and their retirement. The Homeshare scheme also helps an older person to build a new supportive relationship safely. Once that’s in place; it makes daily tasks a little easier and helps older people keep their independence”.

In West Hampstead, Maggie now has Frankie. Frankie is originally from York but moved to London in 2013 to work at an arts charity. “I decided to homeshare because I love having input in someone’s life and at the same time I save on traditional London rents,” she explained. “Crossroads Care CNL have been good and matched us up perfectly. It’s important for the family to know that her relatives have someone at home that is keeping an eye, it is reassuring”

Maggie and Frankie live very close to the tube and overground in West Hampstead. The location is ideal for Frankie to go to work and when she comes back, she cooks for Maggie and they watch television together.

Frankie goes back to York one weekend a month and liaises with the family for someone to stay over at Maggie’s when she is gone.

West Hampstead share

Local election 2014: The results

As the dust settles after an emotionally intense Friday evening at the Somers Town Community Centre, it’s time to recap the results from the four wards we’ve been covering.

First up, West Hampstead

John Bryant Liberal Democrats 836
Natalie Eliades Conservative Party 800
Nick Grierson Conservative Party 811
Richard Griffiths Green Party 327
Zane Hannan Green Party 343
Keith Moffitt Liberal Democrats 943
Magnus Nielsen UKIP 202
David Pearce Trade Union and Socialist Coalition 67
Angela Pober Labour Party 1,166
Gillian Risso-Gill Liberal Democrats 901
Phil Rosenberg Labour Party 1,179
Andrew Saywell Conservative Party 715
Quentin Tyler Green Party 250
James Yarde Labour Party 1,082
Total (inc. rejected)   9,622
Turnout   38%

Labour managed the clean sweep here (something residents will hope they can do to the streets as well), with the shock being the removal of Keith Moffitt. One suspects that if Keith had been standing in Fortune Green he’d have got back in, but the slightly more transient nature of the West Hampstead population may well have meant that national politics played a larger role here and his personal reputation counted for less.

West Hampstead share

Fortune Green next

Ian Cohen Conservative 893
Juan Jimenez Green Party 326
Nancy Jirira Liberal Democrats 950
Leila Mars Green Party 403
Lucy Oldfield Green Party 318
Richard Olszewski Labour & Cooperative Party 967
Andrew Parkinson Conservative 739
Flick Rea Liberal Democrats 1,151
Lorna Russell Labour & Cooperative Party 1,028
Nick Russell Liberal Democrats 865
Tom Smith Conservative 686
Phil Turner Labour & Cooperative Party 904
Total (inc. rejected)   9,246
Turnout   39.2%

Hard to know what’s more astonishing here: Flick coming top of the poll on a day when the Lib Dems were obliterated nationally or Labour dispatching the Tories into a distant third. The Lib Dems actually came top in Fortune Green with 32.1% of the vote, vs. Labour’s 31.3%. The Conservatives were well back at just 25%, although Ian Cohen’s 893 placed him fifth overall only 11 votes off fourth placed Phil Turner. Despite the outspoken animosity between some Labour people and Flick, hopefully these three councillors can work together on local issues.

Fortune Green share

From the two marginals, to the two safer seats


Sarah Astor Green Party 402
Douglas Beattie Labour 1,661
Richard Bourn Green Party 276
Maryam Eslamdoust Labour 1,611
Thomas Gardiner Labour 1,543
Janet Grauberg Liberal Democrats 876
Sheila Hayman Green Party 286
Jack Holroyde Liberal Democrats 746
James King Liberal Democrats 883
Nick Vose Conservative 411
Tim Wainwright Conservative 409
John Whitehead Conservative 357
Total (inc. rejected)   9,483
Turnout   38.31%

It was billed as a two-way fight, and that’s exactly what it was although in the end Labour’s margin of victory was more comfortable than many had thought. The Lib Dems – two of whom are former Kilburn councillors – found that their local credentials weren’t enough to unseat the incumbent Labour couple who have moved out of the area, while Mike Katz’s replacement came top of the poll.

Kilburn share

And finally… Swiss Cottage

Chris Butler Liberal Democrats 300
Tom Franklin Green Party 433
Roger Freeman Conservative 1,294
Andrew Haslam-Jones Liberal Democrats 230
Helen Jack Green Party 367
Andrew Marshall Conservative 1,340
Jill Newbrook Liberal Democrats 347
Ben Nunn Labour 1,029
Sheila Patton Green Party 339
Simon Pearson Labour 1,008
Gretel Reynolds Labour 960
Don Williams Conservative 1,221
Total (inc. rejected)   8,886
Turnout   34.67%

A low turnout in Swiss Cottage, which is predominantly made up of the redbrick properties of South Hampstead. The Conservatives were always expected to hold this comfortably, but in the end the margins were a little close for comfort, with Labour polling very strongly indeed – in no other local ward did two candidates get more than 1,000 votes and not get a seat.

Swiss Cottage share

West Hampstead councillors_ft

Labour sweep Lib Dems out of West Hampstead


Labour pulled off an astonishing victory yesterday evening, and redrew the political map of north-west Camden. West Hampstead and Fortune Green have been a fortress for the Liberal Democrats, with each ward headed by a popular councillor: Keith Moffitt in West Hampstead and Flick Rea in Fortune Green. This morning Keith – one time leader of Camden Council – is no longer a councillor, while Flick becomes the Lib Dems only councillor in the borough.

Labour won five of the six seats available in the two wards as well as holding Kilburn fairly comfortably despite a robust campaign from the Lib Dems. Swiss Cottage was a safe Conservative hold, although Labour ran them much closer than expected and before postal votes were counted it looked as if an upset was even possible.

Last night belonged to Labour, which gained 10 seats in Camden to give it 40 of the 54 on offer. All 10 were taken from the Lib Dems, who also lost two to the Conservatives in Hampstead Town and Belsize. The Greens kept their seat in Highgate, where turnout almost hit 50%, albeit with a different councillor – Sian Berry replacing Maya de Souza. The Greens will be disappointed not to have got a second seat there.

It was apparent as soon as the count got going that the situation looked good for Labour and worrying for the Liberal Democrats. With the dubious benefit of knowing what had happened in the rest of the country well before the count even began, the orange rosettes were already nervous and stress levels were clearly rising. There was an air of despondency hanging over the Conservatives milling around the counts for West Hampstead and Fortune Green – especially the latter ward, where they had high hopes of getting at least one seat.


Of the two wards, West Hampstead was called first but everyone knew the result. Only Keith had any chance of surviving the cull but there was no recount called, which meant the gap couldn’t be that close. John Bryant was the first name to be called and polled just 836 votes – the lowest of the Lib Dems and only 25 clear of Nick Grierson, who was the highest polling Conservative. Keith cleared 943 votes, but with a turnout of 38%, it was always going to need more than 1,000 to get in. Angela Pober was the first Labour candidate to be called out (names are are read out in alphabetical order) and she brought in 1,166. Gillian Risso-Gill took 901 votes – the farmers market hadn’t been enough to save her. Labour’s Phil Rosenberg won 1,179 votes – the most of anyone in the ward, and then James Yarde brought up Labour’s tail with 1,082 – 139 votes ahead of Keith and bringing 20 years of council service to an end.

West Hampstead's new councillors  James Yarde, Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg. with Tulip Siddiq (second left)

West Hampstead’s new councillors James Yarde, Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg. with Tulip Siddiq (second left)

Keith wiped away a small tear and then made a point of congratulating all the newly elected councillors. Not all losing candidates that night were as gracious. Nor were all winners. Night like these can bring out the worst of tribal party politics, though there were mercifully examples of generosity of spirit from all parties.

In the end, a combination of hard graft by the Labour candidates and the national swing had been too much for the personal vote for Keith to overcome. It was still a surprise. Labour had known that Keith would be the hardest incumbent to dislodge, and it proved the case, but it’s always a coup to remove the leader of a party.

The CNJ's Dan Carrier interviews Keith Moffitt after he loses out to Philip Rosenberg in West Hampstead

The CNJ’s Dan Carrier interviews Keith Moffitt after he loses out to Philip Rosenberg in West Hampstead

Attention switched to Fortune Green, where a recount was ordered. We already knew that the Tories were out of this. “If only Ian Cohen had had six more months”, one Conservative told me, seeming to forget that the Conservatives only finalised their list of who was standing across the two wards at at the last minute. Ian himself was still smiling, taking the hit on the chin. He’ll still be popping up at local meetings I’m sure.

Waiting for the Fortune Green recount

Waiting for the Fortune Green recount

Lorna Russell had already been told she’d polled enough to get in – and promptly collapsed. Labour really hadn’t held out that much hope for Fortune Green, expecting the Tories to do well and the Lib Dems to put up a strong fight. No-one but no-one had really thought Flick was vulnerable and, as these pages suggested, perhaps the other two Lib Dems could ride that wave to safety.

Keith Moffitt and Flick Rea look anxiously at ballot papers

Keith Moffitt and Flick Rea look anxiously at ballot papers

The reality was that Flick came home very safely – she actually topped the poll in Fortune Green, proving that personal votes can and do make a difference. Lorna was a surefire second, which meant the recount was between Labour’s Richard Olszewski and incumbent councillor Nancy Jirira.

Finally, the returning officer called everyone up to announce the final two wards – Fortune Green and Highgate. Fortune Green was first. The Conservative’s Ian Cohen (once thought of as a possible Lib Dem candidate) had done very well: 893 votes, more than 150 ahead of the next Conservative and narrowly in fifth place overall. Close but no cigar. Nancy was the next from the big three to be called – 950 for Nancy, agonisingly short of the 1,000 mark. Then Richard… 967. It was enough. Just 17 votes between them. Labour supporters whooped and cheered, knowing they’d done the unthinkable and obliterated the Liberal Democrats in their own backyard.

Flick took 1,151 votes and Lorna 1,028. Labour’s Phil Turner got 904 votes.

That left Flick Rea as the de facto leader of the Lib Dems in Camden. Outside the Somers Town community centre, she was in a feisty mood, and expect her to make a nuisance of herself in council meetings.

What does it all mean for local residents? At one level, not much – after all Camden was Labour before yesterday and remains Labour now – only with even more control. The Conservatives become the official opposition party.

On a more local level, it means that our new councillors have some big shoes to fill. They’ll have to learn fast how to navigate their way around the council and expectations will be high. Up in Fortune Green, Flick may well find that she’s bombarded with queries from locals who know and trust her to help them and simply don’t know much about the new Labour councillors. She’ll need to work with them though if she’s not to drown in case work.

It had been a long afternoon and evening. Labour gathered on stage for a victory celebration worthy of any cup-winning football team. Frank Dobson MP – who’d appeared for the photoshoots with winning teams in his Holborn & St Pancras constituency – had long gone home, but Hampstead & Kilburn hopeful Tulip Siddiq was very much still around. She’ll be hoping that the Labour surge in north-west London carries her to Westminster next year, while her Conservative rival Simon Marcus has to pin his hopes on a blue revivial nationally if he’s to stand any chance.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Phil, Angela, James, Lorna, Richard and Flick for winning their seats in two closely fought battles. We’ll be talking to them all – as well as some of the Lib Dems who’ve been pushed out of the way – over the coming days. You can also see a full breakdown of all the votes and the swings for the parties. I’ll leave the last word to long-time resident Tony Penfold, who tweeted last night: “Some good people who helped make West Hampstead what it is have left the stage, newbies now have to walk the walk. Whamp is watching”.


A sweaty few hours for local Lib Dem councillors

Camden’s late count means candidates will be sweating it out for longer than most, especially those in tight wards – which includes West Hampstead, Fortune Green and possibly Kilburn.

We woke up to the news that Labour and UKIP have made gains in councils that have declared so far, while the Lib Dems have taken a beating.

In West Hampstead and Fortune Green, the Lib Dem candidates, five of whom are incumbent councillors, still have a few more hours to see whether they can buck the trend. The BBC is calculating a 13% drop in support for the Lib Dems but they aren’t being wiped off the political map – as I write they’ve lost only four more seats than the Conservatives (from a much smaller base of course), and have retained 237 to date. They are losing 1 out of every three seats. The challenge they have locally is that the margins are tight in West Hampstead (remember, that Labour fell just 77 votes short in 2010 off a much higher turnout). Fortress Fortune Green was markedly safer with a 446 seat cushion over the Conservatives. Check out “What happened in 2010” for more detail on share of votes in the local wards.

Holding all six seats in the two wards would be a great result for the Lib Dems and Labour would definitely feel miffed if they can’t nick at least one – but expect West Hampstead at least to go down to the wire. A split ward is more than possible.

Over in Kilburn, in a two-way fight that got nasty right before polling day, it would be a minor miracle if the Triple-J Lib Dem team of James, Janet & Jack could buck the national trend and unseat Labour. But a ramping up of candidate sniping suggests that Labour aren’t as confident as they perhaps should have been (or arguably would have been if they hadn’t kicked Mike Katz off the slate).

Overall, it’s hard to see Labour not retaining control of the Town Hall – they’d need some strange results for that to happen. But all eyes will be on West Hampstead – the most marginal ward in the country’s most marginal constituency?

Magnus Nielsen, UKIP

Hustings hoo-ha takes away from real issues

Monday night’s hustings for West Hampstead & Fortune Green wards in the local elections turned out to be popular. Some 150 people turned up to Emmanuel School hall to hear what 21 of the 26 candidates across the two wards had to say.

One of those candidates – UKIP’s Magnus Nielsen – took all the headlines the following morning after a peculiar answer to the question of low voter turnout where he mused that perhaps all the efforts made in the 19th century to extend the voter base might have been misguided.

The audience reaction – more laughs than gasps – tells you how little it resonated with voters. Yet, with one headline grabbing soundbite, the rest of the candidates’ efforts to discuss the issues that actually matter to local residents have been subsumed.

It was fairly clear that Nielsen was playing to the gallery with this and other bon mots throughout the evening. What West Hampstead voters – and quite possibly UKIP itself – might have found more disappointing was that Nielsen clearly hadn’t prepared a meaningful three minute pitch to voters unlike all the other candidates.

A lengthy intro about why someone with a Danish name was standing for UKIP means that half of his three minutes was about the war, and the other half consisted of a few digs at the EU.

There was nothing about West Hampstead, or even Camden and it rather felt as if it had been dreamt up at the last minute. Such a lack of respect for the audience and the electorate suggests that, despite the occasional bout of political hubris (“when I’m elected councillor”), the likelihood of Nielsen sitting in the council chamber for the next four years is even slimmer than it might have been at the start of the evening.

Remon sign_ft

Three gems in West Hampstead’s burgeoning coffee shop culture

Remon sign_ft

“Just imagine how awesome the Jubilee would be if it went to, you know, more exciting places,” said BuzzFeed earlier this year. I’ve been to three independent coffee shops within spitting distance of two local Jubilee Line stations that make the overlooking of West Hampstead even more unforgivable.

On Broadhurst Gardens, just around the corner from West Hampstead station and now helpfully signposted from West End Lane, is Wired Co. Back in 2012, John and Tom took the chance to open a pop-up coffee shop next to Rock Men’s Salon, which John owns, in the parade of shops on West End Lane just before they were all demolished for West Hampstead Square. The local appetite for speciality coffee encouraged them to pursue their vision and fortune smiled upon them as once again they were able to open next door to the relocated Rock on Broadhurst.

Today Wired has a strong local customer base and a big vision to introduce more and more people to the delights of speciality coffee. I dragged a friend to Wired when it first opened and his reaction: “You don’t realise how bad your regular coffee is until you have a cup like this”. This is exactly what John and Tom love to hear. Their mantra is “educate, not patronise” and they’ve certainly worked hard to de-mystify great coffee. A large board in the shop details the origins and flavours of the beans on offer whilst avoiding jargon.

Wired board

The beans, from Climpson & Sons, are kept to a house blend, a guest bean, perhaps a blend or a single-estate, and a decaf option. The flat white house blend I tried was deliciously smooth and sweet with a medium body. If that sounds like something from a wine bottle, it’s because Wired takes some cues from the Australian wine industry with its simplified labels.

Beyond the coffee, Wired has kept its offerings to a minimum. Its philosophy of “wanting to get things right before we start shouting about it” means that those looking for lunch will be disappointed – but that’s due to change soon. Breakfast, however, is on the menu, as are delicious cakes from Babycakes – home-baked in Kensal Green and also sold at West Hampstead Farmers’ Market. Now that summer’s on the horizon, look out for the iced lattes too – they went down a storm last year.

Wired's coffee menu

Wired’s coffee menu

One stop along our beloved Jubilee Line, convenient for Finchley Road commuters, is Loft Coffee. Back in 2012 owner SungJae had a large estate agents – Elvis Homes – and an even larger passion for great coffee. He combined the two by creating a coffee shop from part of his business space, which he opened up with the help of Monmouth, the Bermondsey-based coffee roasters who supply Loft with beans and helped to train SungJae and his staff in the art of the perfect cup.

Like Wired, Loft has kept things simple and offers Monmouth’s regular blend, supplemented from time-to-time with guest single-origin espresso from Workshop Coffee. The flat white I drank was beautifully presented and packed full of smooth almond and chocolate flavours – and all the more enjoyable for being beautifully presented in a proper cup. The same Monmouth beans made for an espresso that friend Ben thought was the best he’d ever had. Loft is firmly on the ground floor but the space is pretty small, although there are some seats for non-commuters.

Small space, big ambition

Small space, lofty ambition

Loft’s menu might be limited by space, but it’s clear that thought has gone in to selecting what is on offer. For non-coffee drinkers there are teas from teapigs, soft drinks from Fritz and juices from James White. A recent adition to the menu are cupcakes from Primrose Hill based Sweet Things. A salted caramel cupcake got a huge thumbs-up from Christine. SungJae is clear though that his number one aim is to serve quality coffee. And number two? For the neighbourhood to get in to drinking it!

Coffee at Loft

Coffee at Loft

On the other side of the Underground tracks, just around the corner on Finchley Road, is Remon – the most recent addition to the local coffee scene. Owner Uri Remon has lived been in NW London for years and started out by selling coffee at Camden Lock. He opened his eponymous cafe last November with a big vision: the best coffee in London. When I dropped in, Uri’s passion and drive was evident in abundance and we soon got down to tasting eight different beans from his supplier, Smiths. Uri is developing his own house blend with the help of feedback from customers and hopes ultimately to offer around six blends or single-estate coffees at any point.

Remon coffee machine

Remon is the largest of the three coffee shops. Some of the space is filled with a large 1970s belt-run gyro coffee grinder which Uri imported from Denmark and restored. If you buy beans to take home (which all three coffee shops offer) you can have them ground in this imposing machine ready for your coffee machine or French press. Remon’s dedication to choice is seen throughout the rest of the shop. A wall-full of bags and leaves awaits the tea drinker and if you’ve come to eat there’s a range of delicacies, sweet and savoury, from Italian bakery Vitos. The pizzas are spoken highly of and I can vouch that the cannoli – both kinds! – are top notch.

Remon coffee

All three coffee shops are ideally placed for commuters, but if you’re looking for a coffee or something sweet in the evening then Remon is your best bet as it stays open to 9pm. Uri hopes to put the cafe to further evening use for community-based arts events.

For those seeking decent coffee slightly further afield, the good news is that the guys behind Wired have recently opened Cable Co opposite Kensal Rise station and Uri hopes to expand Remon to additional shops – perhaps even one with space for in-house roasting.

Loft and Wired Co are in The London Coffee Guide 2014.

St James Church Sherriff Centre work_ft

New post office takes shape in St James’ Church

It’s not been an easy process to jump through all the loopholes to move West Hampstead’s main post office into St James’ Church on Sherriff Road, but now it’s full steam ahead inside the cavernous building. West Hampstead Life went in to see how it’s shaping up.

The Sherriff Centre, as it will be known, will house not just the post office, but also a shop selling cards and stationery, a café, and a soft play area. And a church.

The post office itself takes up a relatively small part of the nave of the church, which is currently covered in rigging, tools and a makeshift kitchen for the builders. It will be a three-counter post office at the back of the church nearest the doors. Right now, the builders are installing a ramp for wheelchair access and the doors themselves will become glass sliding doors.

The doors will become glass sliding doors with a ramp leading up to them

The doors will become glass sliding doors with a ramp leading up to them

The post office frame is already in place at the back of the church

The post office frame is already in place at the back of the church

The south aisle is currently being laid for underfloor heating, but will be the café.

Underfloor heating being laid for the café in the south aisle

Underfloor heating being laid for the café in the south aisle

The north aisle, in a relatively new part of the scheme, will be an extensive soft play area called Hullabaloo. Parents will pay for their kids to have timed sessions inside and the plans sound impressive, with helter skelter slides and an upper floor lookout. One thing the interior of the church doesn’t lack is height!

St James Church Sherriff Centre impression

The middle of the nave will be where the shop is. Jane Edwards, Programme Manager of the Sherriff Centre, explains that they hope the whole space can be as flexible as possible with the potential for pop-up markets and one-off events.

Looking from the north aisle (where the play area will be) back to the shop and post office area

Looking from the north aisle (where the play area will be) back to the shop and post office area

The pews for the congregation now go only a short distance back from the altar, and will be used only on Sundays. There is, however, the Lady Chapel, which will be soundproofed and available for private prayer when the building is open.

The boxes roughly mark the last row of pews for church services

The boxes roughly mark the last row of pews for church services

The most striking thing about the building this lunchtime was how cold it was. It will be an (expensive) challenge to heat it so that it’s comfortable to sit and have a coffee while the kids hurl themselves around in the play area. All four parts of the operation – post office, shop, café and play area – need to be profitable as the profits will be ploughed back into the charity that’s been set up to benefit from the idea. The charity will work on issues such as debt advice and family counselling, primarily via outreach rather than being based in the building.

The Sherriff Centre hopes to open in the summer. It was originally meant to have opened by now, but legal wranglings held it up at the end of 2013. Jane Edwards is understandably reluctant to put a fixed date on it but there is some pressure to get the post office operational as soon as possible so the owner of the existing post office on West End Lane can close.

St James Church Sherriff Centre work


“No change please”, say The Railway’s regulars

Yesterday afternoon, drinkers at The Railway gathered to show their support for the campaign to turn it into a community pub and upstairs venue rather than see the upper floors converted into office space and self-contained flats.


Many of the regulars seemed unsure of what exactly the planned changes to the building entailed and what they would mean for the pub. However, one thing was clear as the group assembled for a photograph outside: they all love their local and don’t want to see it closed or changed.

John Brennan, who grew up in Kilburn and is a long-term West Hampstead resident, said “If the pub closes, where is the community going to go? It’s the only pub in West Hampstead with a real community spirit.”

Cathy Laing, 42, also grew up in the area and says she remembers when The Railway had sawdust on the floor. She said “I feel safe, as a woman, coming in here on my own – sometimes I just come in for a cup of tea. It gets so busy at the weekend and when there’s a big match on – why make it smaller? It would be a health hazard.”

Although Camden has already passed the planning application for this, the application to vary the licence is still out for consultation until April 23rd and can be viewed here. This would the last chance to object, although it’s hard to see what grounds there would be to object to the licensing as the hours are the same.

The Railway

Could The Railway become a community pub?

Last week, Camden approved plans to convert the upper floors of The Railway pub into six flats, and to reduce the size of the pub’s floorspace by converting the raised seating area into a cycle storage facility for residents. One Railway employee has other ideas.

The Railway

The original planning application from the owners – the Spirit Pub Company – snuck in over the Christmas period and no-one objected. The pub will need to close for 18 weeks during the first phase of construction work. The facade of the building will be largely unchanged, with the developers promising to reverse some of the clumsier changes of recent years, such as the blocked up windows. All the documents can be viewed here.

The Railway, as many of you will know, has a proud musical heritage, although no mention is made of this in the planning documents. Right above the pub is an open space that was Klooks Kleek – a legendary club of the 1960s that has hosted some of the biggest names in pop & rock, including Hendrix and Clapton. After Klooks Kleek closed, the downstairs became the Moonlight Club, another successful club where bands such as Joy Division, the Stone Roses and U2, in their first ever gig outside Ireland, all played.

This first floor space will be converted into office space, with the living space above being turned into self-contained flats. It is unclear whether the pub will remain in its current guise or be turned into a gastro pub.

But what if…

Francesca Dumas, who works behind the bar at The Railway, is, for want a of a finer word, distraught. Although the venue space hasn’t been used since the mid 1990s it hasn’t been used for anything else and Francesca would like to return it to its former glory. She has a bold plan to try and raise the funds to buy the whole building. Whether the Spirit Pub Company would be willing to sell is a whole other question. There’s substantial profit to be made from the residential units as well as from the pub itself and the building of course is in a prime location in West Hampstead.

Francesca’s idea is to turn the building into a community pub – retaining the ground floor much as it is with the same style of pub, bringing the venue back into use upstairs and using the upper floors as a mix of accommodation and perhaps even a museum to commemorate the musical heritage. She admits these plans are at an early stage.

There’s a protest on Monday at 5pm, although it’s not quite clear what is being protested. Already on Twitter there’s been some talk that the pub is going to close permanently, which is not the case.

Depsite minimal damage to the outside, the ground floor is badly damaged

Broadhurst Gardens fire: 15 flats evacuated

[updated March 20th 11 am]

Fire crews rescued six people from 140 Broadhurst Gardens in the early hours of this morning after a fire broke out on the ground floor. Another woman jumped from a first floor window, against the advice of firefighters, and broke her leg.

At around 3am Tuesday, residents were woken by the smoke alarm. Five fire engines were quickly on the scene from West Hampstead and Paddington fire stations. Keith Vardy, one of the residents, said, “We assumed it was the fusebox because the fire started by the front door.” Later, residents understood that it seemed that something had been set alight and put through the letter box although the fire brigade is saying the cause is still under investigation. The fire caused damage to the ground floor.

Fire crews rescued a woman and two men from a first floor window using a ladder and three men were rescued from inside the property. It took an hour and a half to get the fire under control.

The property is a converted house with 15 flats. Residents say that 14 of the 15 flats are currently occupied though the other tenants were not in last night. This morning, the six tenants are still outside the property having been there since 3am. They are not sure where they will be put up tonight and are now waiting for Camden to find them emergency accommodation. The woman who jumped was taken to hospital.

Firefighter Keith Malecki, who was at the scene, said “The building was very smoky when we arrived, but we were able to quickly get in to rescue the people. They were woken up by their smoke alarms going off, which meant they could call the Brigade as soon as they were aware of the fire. The smoke alarms saved their lives.”

Depsite minimal damage to the outside, the ground floor is badly damaged

Depsite minimal damage to the outside, the ground floor is badly damaged

David Strain, Keith Vardy, Graziano Siciliano

Rescued:: (l-r) David Strain, Keith Vardy, Graziano Siciliano

CORRECTION: In the original version of this article, we stated that the residents were council tenants with a private landlord. This was incorrect. The residents are not council tenants.

Jimi Hendrix_ft

Did Jimi Hendrix owe it all to West Hampstead’s Linda Keith?

Without a Cholmley Gardens resident, Jimi Hendrix might never have made it over to England and global stardom and almost certainly wouldn’t have ended up hitting the ceiling of Klooks Kleek, the club over what is now The Railway.

A new biopic about Hendrix’s pre-fame years, All Is by My Side, has just been released in the US starring André Benjamin (aka André 3000) as Jimi, and Imogen Poots as his West Hampstead girlfriend Linda Keith.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years A Slave) said he was inspired to write and direct this film after hearing an obscure instrumental recording by Jimi in 1970 called Send My Love to Linda.

In 1941, Linda’s actor father Alan (who had changed his name from Alexander Kossoff – he was the uncle of Paul Kossoff, the guitarist with Free) married Pearl Rebuck and together with Linda and her brother Brian, the family lived in 81 Cholmley Gardens from 1951 to Alan’s death in 2003.

Linda, who was born in 1946, had a far from conventional life. At 17, she became a model after she was discovered as an assistant at Vogue. Her first photo shoot was modelling hats for a spread in the Observer. She was photographed by David Bailey on numerous fashion shoots. Here she is in Soho in 1967 modelling an Ossie Clark outfit.

Her best friend was Sheila Klein, the daughter of a psychiatrist who lived in Frognal. Sheila was dating and then later married Andrew Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ manager. Linda was encouraged by Sheila to talk to the shy Keith Richards at a party and he fell in love with her. Linda said they had a shared interest in blues music.

West Hampstead Life reader Paul Ernest contacted us with his recollections:

Around 1964/65, I briefly dated a very pretty girl called Linda Keith who lived in Cholmley Gardens. She had a gold pendant that said Linda on one side and Keith on the other. She told me she was also dating Keith Richards and he was apparently tickled by the fact that their names were thus intertwined. Our dating came to nothing but I recently read in Keith Richards’ autobiography that she was the love of his life. I also heard that another friend, Neil Winterbottom, was driving her in his Mini for 1964’s midsummer dawn at Stonehenge, but he fell asleep and wrecked his car on a roundabout. Linda was thrown through the windscreen and suffered cuts and bruises. She said that in the hospital Keith Richards lent down and kissed her on the face, showing that she was not ‘a monster’.

Linda travelled with the Stones on their American tours and this was when she saw Hendrix. Arriving a month before the Stones she explored the New York music scene. Linda is interviewed in the documentary, Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’. She said she first saw him in May 1966 at the Cheetah Club in New York:

“I couldn’t believe nobody had picked up on him because he’d obviously been around. He was astonishing – the moods he could bring to music, his charisma, his skill and stage presence. Yet nobody was leaping about with excitement. I couldn’t believe it.”

Linda invited Jimi back to her apartment on 63rd Street where she played him a promotional copy of Hey Joe, a new record by Tim Rose. He was playing with Curtis Knight and the Squires because he didn’t own a guitar having pawned his. Linda lent him a white Fender Stratocaster that belonged to Keith Richards.

Jimi formed his own band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames and Linda invited Sheila and Andrew Oldham to see Jimi but it was not a good evening. “It was a dreadful night,” she said. “Jimi was dishevelled in his playing and the way he looked. Andrew was weird as well. He didn’t want to know.”

Linda believed in Jimi’s unique talent and in August 1966 she invited Chas Chandler to hear Jimi play his regular mid-afternoon set at the Café Wha? Linda said that when Chas heard Jimi play the opening chords of his version of Hey Joe it just blew his mind.

Chas was still touring with The Animals, but then he brought Jimi to London and success. Keith Richards was concerned by Linda’s drug use in New York  (his own was yet to develop), and phoned her father Alan. Linda said, “When he walked into the Café Au Go-Go, I thought, God that looks like my father. He took me by the arm and marched me out.” Back in England her parents made her a ward of court and she had compulsory psychiatric treatment.

The relationship between Linda and Keith Richards had turned sour in the spring of 1966 when her drug habit came between them and she began to use acid and cocaine. Keith and Brian Jones wrote Ruby Tuesday in January 1967 about Linda.

Jimi’s visit to West Hampstead came when he sat in with the John Mayall band at Klooks Kleek on 17th October 1967. During the break, the drummer Keef Hartley remembers talking to a young American guitarist in what passed as the Klooks dressing room. “He was so shy that he did not respond to me. His manager, Chas Chandler, was showing him round the British clubs.”

It was agreed that Jimi could sit in for the second set and borrow Mick Taylor’s guitar. But when he picked it up he accidentally hit the low ceiling. After checking there was no damage to the guitar, Jimi Hendrix played a blistering set holding the right-handed guitar upside down, as he was left-handed. As he played he smiled as his Afro hair style got caught in the low hanging lights of the room.

In 1968, Linda made headlines when she went to an apartment in Chesham Place that Rolling Stone Brian Jones was using because it was close to his recording studios. She phoned a doctor, told him where she was and that she had taken an overdose. The police arrived and found Linda unconscious.

Brian came back to the flat after working all night and not knowing what had happened. He was shattered when the landlord asked the police to remove him. He protested to no avail that he only rented the flat for his chauffeur and had paid six months in advance. Linda recovered remarkably quickly and was released from hospital the next morning.

Linda lost touch with Jimi Hendrix but she said that just before his death he wrote to her saying he had written a new track called, See Me Linda, Hear Me, I’m Playing the Blues.

Linda now lives in New Orleans with her husband, record producer, John Porter. Jimi is currently framed on the wall of The Wet Fish Café.

Jimi Hendrix by Ben Levy

Jimi Hendrix by Ben Levy


The West Hampstead hotel guide

Can you recommend a hotel in West Hampstead? It’s a question we hear surprisingly often from locals.

Many people don’t have spare rooms available for when friends and family come to visit, so it’s useful to know about local accommodation. For this guide we’ve cast our net wider than we normally would, as there aren’t many options in West Hampstead itself. Kilburn, Finchley Road and Belsize Park are all good bases for a few nights’ stay and are within easy reach on foot or by public transport. Prices given are for comparison from the hotel’s quoted rates, but can vary quite a lot, so check with the hotels themselves.

West Hampstead

Charlotte Guest House 


Describing itself as a “traditional guest house”, this is more B&B than hotel, which is summed up in the (mostly positive) Trip Advisor reviews. Guests praise the “friendly staff” and “value for money”, but also point out that though comfortable, it isn’t luxurious. It has a great location just off West End Lane on Sumatra Road. Example price: Double/twin ensuite: £60

274 Suites, 198 Suites, 291 Suites 

These three properties on West End Lane are all owned and managed by Magic Stay. There are around 25 serviced studio apartments in total, each with a kitchenette. Online reviews are mixed: some are critical of the noisy location and “dated” facilities but it looks like it could be a good option for a longer-term stay or if self-catering is a requirement.  Example price: Midweek advance bookings from £59 per night. Call 020 7431 8111 to book.

Dawson House Hotel

This is more South than West Hampstead, but within easy walking distance of both West End Lane and Finchley Road. Recent Tripadvisor reviews praise the “friendly and helpful” staff and good breakfasts. A double room is £109, or £90 if you book online.

Finchley Road/ Swiss Cottage

Holiday Inn Express


The 3*-rated Holiday Inn’s location on busy Finchley Road may not make for the most restful stay, but its proximity to many shops and restaurants (it’s right opposite the O2 centre) will appeal to some. It’s described as “clean and comfortable” though rooms are “small”. It’s also near Finchley Road stations, and West Hampstead is a short walk away. Double rooms start from £94 per night.

Langorf Hotel

Quality Hotel Hampstead

Double room at the Quality Hotel Hampstead

Double room at the Quality Hotel Hampstead

These two hotels are both set just off Finchley Road, on Frognal. Both are classified 3-star, and have reasonable online reviews, though the Langorf loses points with reviewers for the “tired” state of its interior decor. The Langorf is offering advance bookings starting at £65, and the Quality Hotel’s rate is around £119 per night, though discounts are available.

Marriott Regent’s Park

Large, clean business-style hotel (rating 4*). Many reviewers praise its “friendly” staff and “great customer service”. Don’t be fooled by the name; the hotel is nearer to Swiss Cottage than to Regent’s Park, and it’s on the good old C11 bus route which is handy for West Hampstead. Rate: from £139 per night for a double room.

Maida Vale/Kilburn Park

Marriott Maida Vale

Another large 4* Marriott Hotel which is a bit confused about its actual location – this is situated on Kilburn High Road in close proximity to Kilburn Park station. It boasts a swimming pool and gym, as well as the bizarrely-named Bar Hemia. The lowest rate I found on the website was £112 per night. Reviews mention that it’s “good value” though a little more “dated” than would be expected from a Marriott.

Quality Maîtrise Hotel

Like the Marriott, the 4* boutique-style Quality Maitrise Hotel is at the southern end of Kilburn High Road, convenient for Kilburn Park tube station and a 15-minute walk from West Hampstead. Reviewers comment on its “modern and stylish” appearance, but the rooms are small. Room rate for a standard double is around £120.

Belsize Park

Haverstock Hotel


Compact 3* boutique hotel near Belsize Park tube station and within walking distance of Hampstead Heath. Rooms are on the small side, but well-equipped and clean. Reviewers mention the “amazing” showers. Breakfast is available at the hotel restaurant next door, but it’s worth noting that you need to leave the hotel to access the restaurant. Double rooms are around £120. West Hampstead is an easy C11 bus ride away.

See all these hotels mapped in our business directory.


Caught in a whamp romance: 7 Valentine’s ideas

Valentine’s Day is happening (again!), and it’s happening this Friday. It’ll be pretty much unavoidable, so why not just embrace it. Once you’ve chosen the perfect card – I rather like the Pingu ones from West End Lane Books – what next? Here’s a by no means exhaustive list of some Valentine’s events in West Hampstead.

1. Cute and cosy


Bakeaboo, on Mill Lane, isn’t just about afternoon tea. It’s hosting a special Valentine’s supper club – this will be the perfect low-key romantic setting with candles and fairy lights. There’s a supper club communal table, or a few tables for two if you’re after something a bit more conventional. Make sure to book in advance for this (020 7435 1666).

2. Hot and spicy


If your date loves Mexican food, Mamacita has a special 5-course menu for £28 per person, featuring dishes such as an “Oyster and Bloody Maria shot”, and churros and chocolate sauce to share. Add £20 per person for unlimited Prosecco, and the conversation is bound to flow. Booking on 0203 602 0862.

3. Chilled and single


Mamacita hasn’t forgotten about you lovely singletons either. Downstairs at Frida’s Bar it’s hosting a “Single & Mingle” night. It’s billed as a relaxed evening for people who want to meet other locals. The cash-only bar will be serving £5 cocktails all night.

4. Pampered and groomed

Macs valentine

Over in Kilburn, Macs salon is holding a free “pamper party” on Wednesday the 12th from 12-3pm with free champagne, treatments, and a “hair tutorial” so you can look your best on Valentine’s Day. Call 020 7328 9777 to book your place.

5. Classy and sophisticated


As you’d expect, The Wet Fish Café has a rather sexy Valentine’s menu, and it’s available all weekend. If you can hold out until Sunday, there’s also live music from Enchanted Strings – a string quartet playing movie themes and pop tunes. Three courses plus entertainment is just £24.50. Booking is essential (020 7443 9222)

6. Creative and arty


Fancy something a bit different? Creative café Art 4 Fun on West End Lane is holding a special Valentine’s evening on Friday. Bring a bottle of wine and settle in to paint ceramics with your date. Sounds like it could be really romantic, like Ghost (except hopefully without any murder or supernatural activity). Booking is recommended (020 7794 0800)

7. Public and passionate

Remon Valentines window

Finally, a lovely idea from Remon, the new-ish café and bakery on Finchley Road. It’s transformed its window into a Love Board where customers can stick messages for their loved ones. Buy your beau one of Remon’s cannoli (delicious Italian pastries) while you’re in there, and you’re sure to win their heart!

Estate Agent boards_ft

No more estate agents’ boards on West End Lane?

West Hampstead resident Alan Grogan is a big fan of West End Lane. The only thing he doesn’t like is the large number of estate agents’ boards that he feels are a blight on the otherwise attractive street.

In conjunction with Camden council, he’s launching a petition to ban all agents boards from the road. One of the biggest offenders, Cedar Estates, has already told West Hampstead Life that it will pre-emptively comply by the end of next week.

Estate agent boards west end lane

Estate agents have to remove boards no more than 14 days after the advertised property has been let or sold. In reality they are often left for months or even years. In fact, some have been there so long they are rotting away with just the frame left attached to the buildings.

Estate agent board frame only

Oliver Kent of Vita Properties, whose name you may not know but whose face you’ll certainly recognise, even said that “our policy is to leave them up as long as possible” for the visibility and marketing.

This property on West End Lane was let two months ago

This property on West End Lane was let two months ago

Not a sign of the times

Alan argues that as the vast majority of people now search for property online, and with Rightmove hitting the 50 million pageviews mark in a single day for the first time recently, there is no longer any need for them to be there at all.

Alan found that many locals agreed that West End Lane, and other roads in the area, should be board-free. He lodged a complaint with Camden Council, and asked them to put in place a “Regulation 7 Direction” for West End Lane. This would forbid estate agents from putting up any advertising boards.

He didn’t hear back from Camden at first, but in the meantime the council had conducted its own survey and reached the same conclusion. The environment team at Camden is therefore applying for a Regulation 7 order to cover West End Lane from the tube station up to David’s Deli and Feng Sushi.

David Matthews, from Dutch & Dutch, confirmed that he had received a letter from Camden explaining this. “Dutch & Dutch are fully behind the campaign”, he said. He also agreed it was “in everyone’s interest, including estate agents, to tidy up the area.”

Many different agents’ boards are in evidence on West End Lane, but one in particular seems very well represented.


Perhaps surprisingly, Darren Yanover, managing director of Cedar Estates, said that he also agrees with the ban on boards, saying it will make the high street “look more attractive”. He has pledged to pre-emptively remove all Cedar Estates boards from West End Lane next week. He said “We want to be the first agents to remove all boards and lead by example.”

Regulation 7 orders already exist for many other streets in the borough (see Camden’s full list here), but agents are not always aware of the restrictions. No signs are allowed in Broadhurst Gardens, for example, but a rather large V-shaped board appeared above No. 184 recently. David Iny, director at Grovelands Investments, confirmed that he did not know about the restrictions and would ensure the board was taken down. He was as good as his word, and the sign has now been removed.


Vita’s Oliver Kent admitted that from a business point of view, it would be “disappointing” if the ban came in, as it remains the “cheapest and most effective form of marketing”. However, he agreed that the street would benefit from being board-free and said that Vita would comply with the regulation were it to be brought in.

Although the agents we spoke to seem broadly in favour of the move and happy to comply, it does seem that regulatory compulsion is needed. Cedar’s Darren Yanover summed it up, saying that a blanket ban would “create a level playing field”, as it would apply equally to all agents.

Sign the petition

What happens now? Camden’s letter to Alan Grogan included the following:

“We have decided that we will apply to the Secretary of State [for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Owen Paterson] for further controls on the street which will allow us to make it board-free.

When we write to the Secretary of State we will need to explain why we are seeking to introduce these additional controls. We will refer to survey results, numbers of enforcement complaints received, impact on visual appearance etc.”

Therefore Alan is appealing for the support of the public to gather as many signatures as possible in support of the West End Lane board ban by February 18th. You can find, and sign, the petition here.


Whamp feels like chicken tonight

Rumours surfaced on Twitter this morning of strange goings-on outside West Hampstead library.

“What’s up at the library on WEL? Film crew loitering. Multiple cameras. Road sweeper involved” (@CAMarks1)

Then a man in a chicken suit appeared.

Photograph by Charles Marks

Photograph by Charles Marks

It sounded like more than the latest Nando’s stunt, so I went to investigate.

I caught up with the film crew and digital marketing agency IMO at the Alice House where they’d based themselves for the day. Understandably, they didn’t want to reveal too many details about the video at this stage, but have promised to share it with us when it goes live. What they did tell us was that it’s an online video for a bathroom company called Bristan.

I can also reveal that the giant chicken was actually a nice man called Andy in a big furry suit, taking a well-earned break between takes and being quizzed by curious passers-by.

chicken unmasked

What has all this got to do with taps and bathroom suites? Watch this space…


The power of “shall”: Big crowd for NDF meeting

West Hampstead library was full last night as a pleasing number of less familiar faces joined the usual suspects to discuss the final draft of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (download the plan here).


The plan, two years in the making, is out for consultation until the end of February, and locals’ input is literally shaping paragraphs and sentences even at this late stage.

Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) chair James Eark kicked off proceedings with a rapid fire overview of where we are in the process, and touched briefly on the 17 policy areas.

He handed over to Cllr Flick Rea who got off to a flying start claiming to have been a local councillor in West Hampstead for more than half a century (25 years more than her actual – impressive enough – tenure). Flick took us on a journey through local planning history, but the message behind the nostalgia was that West Hampstead was and would continue to be a fantastic place.

Kate Goodman, one of Camden’s planning officers, spoke briefly about the council’s role in this process, which boiled down to “we support it”.

Finally, Vincent Goodstadt, vice-president of the Town and Country Planning Association, and independent advisor on strategic planning, management of urban change and community engagement (phew!) talked about the particular challenges of planning in an area such as ours that includes both conservation areas and a major transport interchange earmarked for growth.

The floor was then opened up for questions. It was good to see that the level of debate was more civilised than at some other recent local meetings, and most of the questions were sensible. If one theme ran through the evening, it was a fear/suspicion that, for all its good intentions, the plan would simply be ridden over roughshod by developers.

There were two repsonses to this. First, that the plan was intended to be robust (there was some debate about the power of the word “shall”, which it turns out is a Good Word), and secondly that it would be a statutory document and therefore developers would have to take it into account. The point was also made, however, that the concept of Neighbourhood Plans is brand new and has yet to be tested in the field.

The conclusion that many people have already reached is that a plan is definitely better than no plan and the more strongly worded the plan the sharper teeth it will have. It can’t achieve everything, many issues are beyond its scope, but it can try and shape the way our area evolves.

The deadline for comments on this final draft plan is February 28th. Comments can be submitted online or in the library. The sentiment mapping tool, developed by Commonplace, has also been completely revamped and you can access it here and leave comments on specific places that will also be taken into account when the final plan is submitted to Camden.

Your comments here feed directly into the consultation process

Your comments here feed directly into the consultation process

WHL live-tweeted the whole meeting (you lucky lucky people), and if you weren’t following along in real time, here’s how the evening unfolded:

Gallery pub quiz_ft

Pub quizzes in West Hampstead and Kilburn

Gallery pub quiz_ft

Starter for ten… where and when are the best pub quizzes in West Hampstead and Kilburn? This is a question we get asked a lot, especially during the cold winter months. The Black Lion on West End Lane seems to get a lot of love on Twitter for its Sunday night quiz, but what are the other options?

I set out to investigate the perplexing conundrums of which pubs hold a quiz, where are the biggest prizes to be won, and why are they all on a Tuesday?

The Gallery – Monday, 8pm

The Gallery, on Broadhurst Gardens, kicks off a week of #whamp trivia. It’s £1 per person to enter, with a maximum of 8 on each team. The winning team takes the jackpot, with runners-up getting a bottle of wine. There’s also a bonus point for the best team name.

North London Tavern – Monday, 8pm

General knowledge, sport and music rounds feature at the NLT’s quiz. There are also game show games, such as Play Your Cards Right, in between rounds to win free drinks. The entry fee is £2, and the winning team wins the pot. For the lucky team in second place, it’s free shots all round.

Black Lion, Kilburn – Tuesday, 8pm

The Black Lion on Kilburn High Road (quiz points deducted if you go to the one on West End Lane by mistake) is also £1 to enter. The winning team takes the pot of money at the end of the night, and there are bonus “free drink” questions along the way.

Earl Derby – Tuesday, 8pm

This is a music-themed quiz, so expect to hear plenty of song snippets from different genres to identify, as well as a picture round and other musical trivia. The winning team scoops the money pot, second prize is a bottle of wine, and the team in third place wins a “mystery booby prize”. £1 per person to enter.

The Priory Tavern – every 2nd Tuesday, 7.45 for 8pm start

Quizmaster Ben Jones hosts each fortnight, with questions across a range of topics. It’s £2 entry per person, and maximum team size is six. The winning team takes 90% of the night’s money pot. The remaining 10% is put in a Prize Pig for the highest-scoring quiz team of the season (approximately 10 quiz nights). The winners can also enjoy a round of drinks for the table, as well as branded gifts – tonight’s is a set of Peroni pint glasses. This quiz has its own Twitter account – follow @PrioryQuizHead for sample questions.

The Alliance – Thursday, 8.30pm

The Alliance has the largest prize pot of all, as the jackpot gets rolled over each week the tiebreaker question at the end doesn’t get answered correctly. The total currently stands at £1,273, so get yourself to Mill Lane on Thursday if you fancy your chances. Questions range across the usual categories, such as sport, food & drink and general knowledge. The team with the highest score on the night wins a meal at the pub. There’s also wine for the winner of the picture round. £2 to enter.

Sir Colin Campbell – Thursday, 9pm

The Sir Colin Campbell’s weekly quiz features a picture round plus a good mix of general knowledge, some local and London questions, as well as a bit of music. There is also a cumulative jackpot prize after the quiz itself.

Black Lion West Hampstead – Sunday, 7.30 for 8pm start

The pub advises booking in advance for this popular quiz night, especially if you have a bigger team (maximum 6 people) and want to settle into a booth. Sunday roasts are available all evening in case you need to nourish your brain cells. Questions include a picture round, name the song, and a cryptic round. It’s £2 to enter, and the cash is divided in varying quantities between the teams in first, second and third place.

Over to you – Which NW6 quiz gets your vote? Have I missed any out? And why DO so many take place on a Tuesday? Comments are open below.


Escott’s: Not the final curtain

Eagle-eyed readers of the Mill Lane pharmacy article will have spotted that as well as the two dispensing chemists’, a third business was mentioned – Escott’s Upholsterers. The family business closed its doors at 59 Mill Lane for the last time last Wednesday, leaving many local customers asking what had happened to this long-standing West Hampstead operation.


Until last week, Jean and Derek Browes ran the shop. Their nephew Mark Browes was also part of the team. Now retired, Jean and Derek have sold the freehold on the premises to Sanjay Patel of Aqua Pharmacy. However, Mark has taken over the upholstery business and will continue to run it from a new workshop near his home in Watford.

Escott’s has a long history in West Hampstead. It was established in 1895, originally based on West End Lane, and had operated from its workshop on Mill Lane for 45 years. The Browes family took over from the Escotts a few years before the move to Mill Lane, continuing to trade under the name of its founders as it was already an established and successful business.

This latest move reflects the reality of the rising cost of freeholds and rent in West Hampstead. According to Mark, it is no longer cost-effective to have the workshop here. He recalled a time, 30 years ago, when there were three upholstery businesses on Mill Lane. He is sad to leave the area. What will he miss most about West Hampstead? “The people. Over the years we built up quite personal relationships with customers. We’d have three generations of the same family coming to the shop.”

Mark was keen to point out that the move won’t affect home services; he will still be able to collect customers’ furniture and return it as he always has. Indeed, you can still contact Mark at Escott’s on the same number as before: 020 7435 6975, or via email: ku.oc1490920297.evil1490920297@stto1490920297cse1490920297.


Tom’s made to wait at Mamako

Interesting evening on Saturday at Mamako, the new pan-Asian place that’s replaced Spiga on Broadhurst Gardens. It was the venture’s opening night and what followed was a little chaotic!

Must be said right away, the food was certainly good and in parts excellent. Standouts included the Malaysian curry puffs – a chicken parcel thing with a quite exquisite pastry – some veggie gyozas with a delightful, soy-based dipping sauce, a Nyonya chicken curry and Nasi Lemak. My seafood noodle dish was nice, but not special, with everything cooked just a little too long in the wok; very soft noodles, slightly rubbery prawns and squid rings.

Mamako chicken curry

Large chicken pieces in a rich yellow curry sauce

The menu definitely veers towards Malaysia and Thailand, but there are a few Korean and Japanese items on the menu too.

The team seemed to have been thrown by a large party of a dozen people – one or two were friends of the owners, but they hadn’t realised such a big group was coming and the kitchen never recovered. For those arriving just afterwards, orders took an extraordinarily long time, and plates arrived in a disjointed fashion. Inevitably, there were a couple of polite walk-outs, and – as the last table left – we were given our meal on the house which was a nice gesture.

The waitress was endlessly polite and apologetic, and both the chef (who is clearly skilled and displays warmth and enthusiasm), and the manager, took time to chat with us at the end to explain their difficulties. We just felt that more communication as to what was going on earlier in the evening, and perhaps some nibbles etc. while waiting, would have gone down well.

All that said, the menu is enticing and there’s lots to intrigue the diner – get along there, but give them a chance while they find their feet. I’m sure we’ll be back to do a proper review before long.

Now, none of that ‘dry January’ rubbish for me, thanks very much; get some Port down you and keep warm the right way!


Don’t Dispense So Close To Me


Once upon a time there were two pharmacies on Mill Lane. They were about 200 metres apart. But not for long.

Aqua Pharmacy, at 102 Mill Lane, is planning to move to 59 Mill Lane, which has been occupied by Escott’s upholsterers for many years. This would bring it just 10 doors away from T. K. Impex pharmacy (81 Mill Lane). T.K. Impex isn’t happy. The move is planned for May/June.

At stake would seem to be the trade from patients walking back from the West Hampstead Medical Centre on Solent Road. Once, those that turned left would probably go to Aqua for their prescriptions and those that turned right would go to T.K. Impex. Aqua’s impending move means it becomes the nearest option for everyone coming up from Solent Road.

Sanjay Patel, the Aqua pharmacist, has owned the chemist for the past three years. He insists that there is nothing sinister behind his desire to relocate. Worried about ever-increasing rents, and with the lease about to expire on his current premises, he took the opportunity to buy the freehold on the Escott’s building in order to have more control over his business. Mill Lane may appear to have many empty ground floor units but the reality is, one local estate agent told us, that few landlords are willing to sell their freeholds at the moment.

Aqua plans to move in to where Escott's has been

Aqua plans to move in to where Escott’s has been

The Escott’s unit is about the same size as Aqua, he says, and he has ambitious plans to modernise it and improve his shop’s offering and customer experience. From his point of view, this is a sensible way of protecting his business. The advantage of being a freehold owner is, he says, “the only driver for the move”, and his intention is not to take business away from anyone else.

Unfair advantage?

Kim Khaki has run T.K. Impex for more than 30 years, and is unhappy with Aqua’s proposed move. He views the relative newcomer as a threat to his business and feels Aqua will have an unfair advantage because it will be the first pharmacy people see when turning onto Mill Lane from Solent Road. Aqua’s new premises is also very near the post office and bus stops, so he is worried that patients may go there for the convenience factor.

He also expressed concern that having two pharmacies in such close proximity is “not adding any value to the West Hampstead community” of which he feels very much a part.

T.K. Impex, somewhat confusingly, is also known by its trading name of H. V. Thomas (the name of the previous owner who ran the pharmacy for 45 years before Kim took over). It is, however, testament to the current owner’s personality and dedication that despite the various names above the door, the shop is known to its regular customers simply as “Kim’s”. He does seem to have an extremely loyal client base of his own, with some customers signing a petition to protest against Aqua’s application to move closer.

Indeed, Kim is proud of the longstanding relationships he has built up with patients, and the personal service he and his staff provide. On our visit to the traditional-looking chemists, a steady stream of customers arrived for prescriptions, advice, or just a chat, including eminent local historian Morris Beckman who, at 94, has been a regular visitor to the shop for many years.

Sanjay certainly believes that regular customers tend to remain loyal to a particular pharmacy, having built up a trusting and personal relationship, sometimes over many years. He expects Aqua’s regular clientele to follow it down the road to its new address and, likewise, for the regular users of T. K. Impex to keep going there. He is keen to emphasize that he “will not be changing the patient base”.

Kim accepts that there is little he can do to block the move, but feels that it goes against an unwritten pharmacists’ code of conduct. Any pharmacy move needs regulatory approval but as Aqua is moving only 140 metres and will continue to provide the same services, it will almost certainly be deemed to be a “relocation which does not result in significant change” to local patient groups.

Kim, however, asserts that as well as damaging his business, Aqua’s relocation will inconvenience patients at the other end of Mill Lane, who will now have to walk farther. He believes it would make more sense for Aqua to relocate in the other direction, as the nearest chemist’s that way is far away on Manstone Road off Cricklewood Broadway.

Sanjay counters this by pointing out that Kim’s chemist is nearer to the Cholmley Gardens GP practice, so patients there will continue to take their prescriptions to their regular chemist. He is confident that there are enough customers in and around Mill Lane to support both businesses, and that as they offer different services and products, they will each keep their regular clientele.

Will this be a case of “let battle commence”, or is it more likely that each pharmacy’s loyal customers will stick with what (and whom) they know?


Property market outlook: 9-12% rise over 2014

Thank you to West Hampstead Life for highlighting my market predictions for 2013 in January of last year. Thankfully, according to Rightmove, I wasn’t too embarrassed and figures for West Hampstead showed a year-on-year increase in prices of 7.5% against my prediction of 5% to 10%.

However, I suspect that this figure is quite conservative and, in my opinion, we have actually seen asking price rises of closer to 15% for some locations within West and South Hampstead.

This year saw us break the £1,000 per sq ft barrier for flats in South Hampstead with the sale of a garden flat in Aberdare Gardens in April. This sale seems to have set the benchmark for prices in these roads and asking prices for such properties seem to have risen relentlessly since. In fact, it is now commonplace to see £1,000 per sq ft being asked for apartments with no outside space or off street parking.

West Hampstead has seen similar increases although haven’t yet reached the dizzy heights of South Hampstead. Victorian terraced houses in the Greek and African Roads (Agamemnon, Achilles, Sumatra etc.) can now expect to achieve £1.4 to £1.5m (more with a loft conversion).

Of particular note this year was a house on Narcissus Road that had been developed to include a basement and loft conversion totalling 2700 sq ft which sold for £2.25m – to my knowledge, the only house in one of these roads to sell in excess of £2m. (More on basement conversions in a later issue). Flats in these roads are also now fetching approximately £750 per square ft (depending on condition and location).

On the other side of Fortune Green are the relatively new developments of the flats in Alfred Court and mews houses of Rose Joan mews. In 2013, we sold a 2 bed flat in Alfred Court in excess of £800 per sq ft and 2 mews houses at close to £1,000 per sq ft each in rose Joan Mews. This proves that the demand for new build and ‘maintenance free’ properties still commands a premium, even a few years after the build. This is also supported by the success of the Ballymore development at West Hampstead Square which is achieving in excess of £800 per sq ft for flats with no parking.

In my view, an area of interest for 2014 is that bounded by Sheriff Road, Kilburn High Road and West End lane. Last year saw a developed Victorian house on Gladys Road sell for just over £1.9m and an upper maisonette in good condition for just over £800,000. These roads show signs of building and renovation activity and seem to be undergoing a change in feel and occupation. They are also centrally located and of attractive Victorian housing stock.

In 2013, we also saw the development of renegotiating agreed sales upwards within a relatively short time of agreeing the sale. This awkward and uncomfortable process is a result of slow conveyancing caused by pedantic lenders and unmotivated solicitors combined with the rising market and press hysteria about London prices.

Ignoring the ethical argument, it’s difficult to disagree with vendors who could quite easily have remarketed a couple of months later and made themselves significantly more money. Especially, as the properties they wanted to move to are increasing in value in the same way.

An example from 2013 probably best sums up the market. We sold a townhouse in Parsifal Road which completed in May, one month after the initial offer was accepted. Two weeks after collecting the keys, the new owner had a change in personal circumstances and asked us to remarket the property. After only a few days of viewings we had agreed a sale at a price 8% higher than that agreed five or six weeks earlier. You can now see why I think 7.5% for the year is a bit mean!

The elephant in the room for 2014 is interest rates. All the other factors in terms of supply, economic recovery and foreign investors remain the same and I am expecting a strong start to the year with prices continuing to rise in our area. Most pundits are predicting rises in interest rates in 2015 but some are saying it will be towards the end of this year.

Almost certainly, the London and UK housing market will maintain its recovery and prices will continue to rise. The Governor of the Bank of England says he has measures in place to control the housing market but it will be interesting to see if any of them can slow the market without resorting to the traditional vehicle of interest rate rises.

My view is that history teaches us everything and that economics are cyclical. At some point, without further intervention in terms of planning and development (also for a later article), the London market will need to pause for breath, but that won’t be in 2014. I expect to see rises in values of between 9% and 12% in our area, with most of that growth coming in the first half of the year.

I would welcome your opinions and reaction to this. Also, it goes without saying, but if you would like a current valuation of your property please get in touch.

Happy New year.

Darryl Jenkins
Associate Director
Benham & Reeves
West Hampstead
020 7644 9300
Follow @BenhamReeves

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Temporary school needs more time

South Hampstead High School has been operating out of temporary classrooms within the cricket club grounds for the past year. The school, which owns the cricket club land, has been renovating its Maresfield Gardens site, and had hoped to move back in for the start of the 2014/15 academic year in September.


However, according to a new planning application, the Maresfield site won’t be ready in time. The school therefore is applying for an extension:

During the construction phase at Maresfield Gardens some delays have been incurred, which could not have been foreseen when temporary planning permission was applied for. These include unchartered obstructions in the ground, which delayed the construction of the basement and delays in obtaining necessary approvals from service providers.

Whilst the GDST’s contractors, Wates, have been doing all they can to minimise any impact on the timetable, due to these unforeseen delays it is now not possible for the school to return to the Maresfield Gardens site for the start of the 2014/15 year in September 2014 as hoped. However, it is anticipated that the new school will be ready to locate back to Maresfield for the start of the spring term, 2015 and will have fully vacated the site by 1 March 2015, six months after the extant temporary
planning permission expires.

It’s inconceivable that this won’t be granted. Despite the initial concerns of some Lymington Road residents, the temporary school hasn’t had much of a negative impact on traffic. Yes, there have been odd reports of some creative parking, but it hasn’t been carmageddon as some had feared. It does mean that those residents who look out onto the cricket club grounds will have to wait a bit longer for their view to be reinstated.

The planning application can be viewed here.


Burglary at The Wet Fish Café

Burglars broke into The Wet Fish Café on Sunday night. They made off with the safe, which had only a few hundred pounds in it. However, the burglars  also caused around £1,000 worth of damage to the building.

Owner André Millodot arrived at work on Monday morning but didn’t immediately notice the chaos. “I opened up as usual, put the lights on, put the music on… then noticed the smashed bathroom.”


The burglars entered through the toilet window at the back, which is accessed from the small service road behind the row of businesses on West End Lane. They had managed to detach the grille that covers the window, which must have taken considerable force. Pulling down these bars also ripped away the wooden frame and surrounding brickwork.

An upstairs neighbour later confirmed that he’d heard “heavy banging” at around 11pm. “It was raining heavily and we closed early”, said André. The neighbour assumed that the noise was people upstairs moving heavy furniture about, so didn’t investigate further.

It’s the fourth break-in in the restaurant’s 10-year history.

Police and forensics investigated at the scene, and there is a CCTV camera in the service road, which hopefully will give some clues.

By the end of Monday, André confirmed that the toilet had been fixed and bars re-installed on the window. Although the restaurant had been closed over the Christmas period for a thorough sprucing up, the bathroom hadn’t been part of that work.

Despite the New Year setback, André is staying positive.”It could have been worse,” he said, even managing a wry smile at the joke they’d coincidentally chalked on the board outside earlier on the Sunday.



Learn a new skill at Sidings

This Wednesday, January 8th, is enrolment day at Sidings Community Centre.


The Camden-funded centre runs a variety of courses for adults, ranging from computer skills to healthy meal planning. Want to brush up on basic maths? Or get a beginner’s guide to using Photoshop? There are some fantastic free courses available whether you want to explore a new career path, gain confidence using a computer, or just have fun.

Some courses also have a free crèche, so no need to worry about childcare.

To find out more, click on the flyer above, visit the Sidings website or give the centre a ring on 020 7625 6260.

Camden also runs classes at other venues throughout the borough, including West Hampstead and Kilburn Libraries. Visit its Adult Community Learning page to download a full list.


Angela Griffin’s “edgy” West Hampstead

Actress and local resident Angela Griffin was interviewed for the Metro’s “My London” feature, published last Friday. Asked where she would set the denouement of her (hypothetical) novel, the one-time Coronation Street star singled out West Hampstead as somewhere with “a little bit of edge”.


Her location of choice: Hampstead Cemetery in Fortune Green. It’s certainly an atmospheric location and has already got my mind racing with possible lurid soap-style plots and intrigue.

We may be edgy, but I do like a happy ending – epitomised here by Angela’s tweet to @WHampstead on the matter:


Headmasters comes to West Hampstead

Next Friday, January 10th, another hairdresser arrives on West End Lane.

Ice cream or a haircut?

Ice cream or a haircut?

Headmasters is a chain with 65 unisex salons in the UK and Norway, and its West Hampstead branch will be at 220 West End Lane. Eagle-eyed readers will notice that these are the premises previously occupied by Chez Chantal.

It is tempting in prospective customers with an opening offer for the first two weeks.

It’ll be interesting to see how another salon fits in to an already crowded market. From a first glance at the price list, it looks like the closest local comparison is HOB, with a ladies’ cut and style starting at £42.

Will you be giving Headmasters a visit, or staying loyal to your regular stylist? Let me know below or on Twitter @ZENW6


Smokehouse restaurant coming to West End Lane

160 degrees Fahrenheit is the name of a new smokehouse bar/restaurant opening soon in West Hampstead. David Moore, who owns Michelin-starred Pied à Terre and L’Autre Pied, is taking the Me Love Sushi site.

17th century diagram of a smokehouse. Suspect ours will be very similiar.

17th century diagram of a smokehouse. Suspect ours will be very similiar

The site is owned by Tragus, which operates brands including Strada and Café Rouge. The rent was advertised at £80,000 a year, which many local business owners considered to be too high for the 80 seater restaurant. Moore’s strong track record, however, suggests that he’s spotted an opportunity despite the high rent.

Sean Martin will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the bar/restaurant. He’s already revamped the Northumberland Arms in Fitzrovia and Marylebone’s Barley Mow. He told Big Hospitality that “smokehouses have gained a cult following in the US and I believe we can open a smokehouse and bar in London that will inspire the same devotion.”

The restaurant will serve British meat cooked on American smokers, alongside craft beers and cocktails.

If Moore and Martin can get the pricing right (avoiding the classic mistake of conflating West Hampstead with more affluent Hampstead), then it is likely to do well. Recent history suggests that restuarants with a unique offering in the area can flourish, while copy-cat tactics are generally doomed. The only place locally that offers a smoker is the Priory Tavern, but I doubt either would see the other as competition.

The reaction on Twitter was generally positive.

Here are the particulars for the property

(if you can’t see this, you need a PDF plugin for your browser – or click here to download)