Friday, 31 October 2008

The ballot papers stack up... again :-)


Another Lib Dem victory at the polls here in Camden

Liberal Democrats held Kentish Town. And yes, Labour lost again!

Lib Dems 939
Lab 863
Green 518
Con 171
BNP 62

Nick Russell will be a huge asset to the Council, the community and to the Lib Dem Group.

He knows the patch, is very passionate and knowledgeable about Kentish Town and is able to lift his sights above the furore and have a vision...

Great news for Nick, for Kentish Town and for Camden.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Kilburn, Guthrum the Dane and 878

It might seem like the unlikeliest post of the blog to-date but I'm pushing the theory that the Kilburn of today has a claim on the ancient english heritage of the 9th century AD.

In 878 AD (the date is argued over by more eminent historians) the army led by King Alfred of Wessex defeated the Danes led by Guthrum. it was the subsequent treaty between them that led to the Kilburn High Road (Watling Street) being part of the boundary.

In short the area to the west (where Brent now is and beyond) was Wessex and the area to the east (where Camden now is and beyond) was Danelaw. That those living in 'Camden' paid taxes to the Danes (Danegeld) and those in 'Brent' didn't.

This is cited as the reason why the Kilburn market has always been on the Brent (Wessex) side of the road - to be on the Camden (Danelaw) side would have meant paying taxes to the Danes!

I've depicted here one of the most iconic coins of King Alfred which dates from when he subsequently used and crossed the Kilburn High Road and took back London... You can see on the reverse of the coin the letters LONDIN (London)

So, I guess my contention is pretty straight-forward:
  • Kilburn has an amazing historic heritage
  • That the signifcance of the High Road (Watling Street) has been massively underplayed locally and in the wider history books
  • That the divide that today recreates itself as a pain with, for example, street cleaning contracts, dates back to the 9th century
  • That this is all something we should be proud of...

Part of me is thinking that if Kilburn were a small market town and were located in the leafy areas of one of the shire counties we would have a proud and illuminated heritage - shown off by statues, plaques, and allusions to this long historic tradition. Yet we don't - why?

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

So much to be positive about in our schools

This is a bit of a warning shot for those regulars of this blog: I'm a Governor at Hampstead School and it's a great school - this warning is that over the next few weeks I'm going to cover some of the great work that the school does...

I've been to music concerts, art festivals, sixth form open evenings and the atmosphere in the school is so strong and positive.

The most striking thing is the building itself. It's on Westbere Road, West Hampstead, and is right on the Camden Barnet border at the most northerly point of the Borough.

Built that the end of the 19th century it was from 1898 to 1960 the home of Haberdashers' Aske's School before they moved. It seems that the school moved in 1898 but didn't vacate it's former site in Hoxton until 1902.

From 1961 the school became the comprehensive that is now Hampstead School. The school is just amazing has such vibrancy and range both in subjects and pupils.

So it's watch this space for more coverage of some of these events...

Monday, 27 October 2008

11th, 11th, 11th

As the annual Armistice Day approaches I try and keep abreast with local services and tributes.

For me it's something that really matters - it's not just history and tradition but incredibly current.

This is the memorial at Jack Straw's Castle, Hampstead and it's a pic. I took two years ago I think (November 2006).

I have also posted a couple of other memorials that I'm aware of...

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Come and drink from the biscuit fountain...

I've been up and down Fitzjohn's Avenue more times than I care to remember and have been involved in countless discussions on College Crescent... but rarely about the fountain.

This is located at the bottom of Fitzjohn's opposite Buckland Crescent. The drinking fountain was erected in 1904 in memory to Samuel Palmer - of Huntley and Palmer's biscuits fame - by his family.

It's pretty impressive with a walk-around gallery and a conical tiled roof surmounted by a copper and lead connical.

It is the 'backdrop' to the local street florist which means it is at least protected from daytime vandalism by the effective staffing presence of their being there.

The location is no surprise when you realise that Samuel Palmer had lived at number 40 College Crescent - then called Northcourt - and dated as being built in 1881.

"This fountain together with the
open space on which it is erected
was presented to the borough of
hampstead for the public benefit.
In memory of the late
Samuel Palmer of Northcourt
Hampstead by his widow and family

The old car repair workshop (currently being knocked into shape! was the stables to the house!).

In line with these sorts of memorials the fountain is elaborate - almost too elaborate - but of interest to me is the level of detail and design in the buttons to trigger the water itself.

There is now a modern plaque on the other side (northside) which reflects the later refurbishment of the fountain on 8th October 1994 by the Heath and Old Hampstead Society.

Rather appropriately the unveiling was by the great-niece of Samuel Palmer, Mrs Peggy Jay - herself a driving force in the Heath and Old Hampstead Society.

Other blogged about local fountains:

Friday, 24 October 2008

The many murals of Kilburn

I was wandering down the High Road early the other morning when I spied what I had noticed before but this time the florist/flower stall wasn't there.

This is precisely the sort of things that I am always on the look out to capture - works and features that you see, notice, remember even, but don't ever quite have the time to stop read, enjoy or fully absorb.

Now this mural - unlike the stunner under the Kilburn underground - has a different origin - what I like about it is the fundamental homespun atmosphere and design.

Close reading of it reveals that it was part of the Kilburn SRB (Single Regeneration Budget) scheme and I think is dated to 7th December 2002 (?).

Now I think there is a historical trick/tradition in one genre of art to put yourself into a painting - and I wonder looking at this whether this is what has happened here.

Two of the panels have white sillouettes of the team who i think might have been involved in the design and painting of the mural. In that context someone out there must know a little more about this and must be able to help identify who people are.

Gwan, gwan, gwan - take a few minutes next time you're on the High Road and have a look - it's under the arch just to the left of the Gaumont State Cinema - the arch under which the thousands of cinema goers poured out back onto the High Road after you had entered via the front entrance or side entrance on Willesden Lane... It's great.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Things can only get better...

As loads of you know the Overground North London Line has been undergoing some changes to the track - improvements to cope with heavier freight as well as wider enhancements to the line.

This has led to the line being closed for weeks now - but the end is in sight.

I wanted to share this picture - which I suspect will be quite a rare one in years to come - it's taken from the foot of South Hill Park / Parliament Hill over the fence by the peace garden in Hampstead and shows the sleeper concrete blocks stacked up ready for the Hampstead/Frognal tunnel.

Now I have been pretty critical of the arrangements for the refurbishment, motivated by a frustration with the old regime and pushed by a desire to see real service improvements for customers. So this is a chance for me to eat a little humble pie: the team at Lorol/Tfl and Overground have been in touch on the forthcoming station improvements.

A number of us have wanted to interact with the service providers to make the stations better and now are being offered the chance to do so - I'm told a letter is on the way and I will share that with readers of this blog and others. But I wanted to take this first chance to acknowledge the sometimes unfair harshness of my commentary in this respect and flag up the 'wind of change' that will hopefully replace that, as we see the realisation of millions of pounds of investments in the line and the restoration of the service.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Where is that white stone hidden?

I thought I'd better elucidate more on the context of Whitestone Pond and it's significance and also show off some of the pictures I took on the open day to mark the 1908 Olympics.

Thanks to The City of London (Simon Lee and Richard Gentry esp.), to camden (good to see Cllrs Flick Rea and Linda Chung there) and also to the range of residents and local amenities groups there...

The name Whitestone Pond appears to be relatively recent and not least event overtaken by other names - until recently (turn of the 20th century it was known still as The Horse Pond).

The white stone itself is still visible to the wandering explorer - but it's over the road from the pond itself at the top of Hampstead Grove and Upper Terrace by Judges Walk. The stone is a milestone but is unmarked and doesn't seem to have been inscribed at any time.

The Pond itself is not a constant size or precise location - over time it has shuffled moved, enlarged and varied. Not least the edging has changed several times in the last century - and is to change again - and indeed until 1899 there was also another pond at Branch Hill just nearby

Part of the significance of the area was that jack Straws castle was a kety watering hole/drinking establishment and combined with the literary nature of the Hoare family at Heath House in the 18th and 19th century meant that there was a pretty steady stream of literatry figures visiting the locality.
  • John Constable
  • John Keats
  • George Crabbe
  • John Linnell
  • Leigh Hunt
  • Wilkie Collins
  • William Makepeace Thackeray to name a few.
The other earlier crucial part of the history was the use of the site for an early warning beacon - referenced as being first built in 1576 but used in 1588 during the Armada. The site is also cited as the location of encampment for Wat Tyler's rebellious unit under Jack Straw before marching on London. The Peasant's revolt ended with the leaders being hanged.

Now of course there is a desire to realise the potential of the site and the beauty of the views with better facilities and enahnced festivals/activities. For my own part - much as I appreciate the donkeys, the organ grinder and the tug-of-war, I'm keenest on ensuring the historic illusions are captured and the open air art show is recaptured along the top of Heath Street leading to the Pond... but for the future it's a superb start for a great piece of open space in the local area.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Donkey ride for you too?

It's a direct guessing game - it's just for fun - there are no prizes - but which of these is 1908 and which is a current day snap...? :-)

For those that don't know Whitestone Pond is at the top of Hampstead High Street / Heath Street.

It's claimed to be the highest point of London - it's certainly high - but there is some argument over the claim...

But the Whitestone Pond site is a really pretty, very significant local feature. It has bags of historical significance - it was the site of one of the 1588 armada beacons, it was the location of visits to the area from Dickens, Thackeray, Crabbe and Constable often sat here to paint.

The sepia photograph is one of the postcards from my personal collection of the local area and you can see the horse carts going through the water in the background. The pond had two effects - the first was to water and refresh the horses that had come up/down the hill and second it cleaned the wheels of mud to stop slippage esp. if going down the hill.

There is much much more to follow on this topic and I am especially keen to ensure that the forthcoming refurbishment of the area - much needed and supported by both Camden, the City of London and funded partially by the section 106 money of Heath House - ensure that it is heritage refurbishment than another traffic improvement scheme.

It's great living round here with stuff like this in the vicinity...


Monday, 20 October 2008

Can I ask readers for some help with this one?

I've had a few pieces on here about war memorials and it has always struck me how so many of these are then not recognised on 11th 11th 11th each year.

But then I have been asking around for a list or register of memorials and it seems there actually isn't one.

So it's a very simple request - do you know of where there are other memorials?

This one is in New Court in Hampstead, NW3 - it lists the 50 men who went to war from New Court and notes the 10 who died in the cause.

Even in autmun it has a small solitary poppy in the grill nest to it which is very good and a sign of the respect that these memorials are held in.

So, any others locally?

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Lyndhurst and Rosslyn - Lords and Earls respectively

This has to be nominated as one of the most grand, impressive houses of the locality - It's Old Conduit House on the corner of Lyndhurst Terrace and Lyndhurst Road.

The house is festooned with features - some a shade OTT some more subtle - all feel old and established and a symbol of old victorian confidence and money and status.

The old Conduit House was number 1 Lyndhurst Terrace and was originally called Bayford House. it was built along with the house next door in 1864 by Charles Buckeridge.

Lyndhurst Terrace itself has changed name - first Rosslyn Park after Rosslyn House (itself named after Alexander Wedderburn, Earl of Rosslyn). It was also called Windsor Terrace apparently because the Castle was visible over the fields!

Lyndhurst is after Lord Lyndhurst, J S Copley, Lord Chancellor who is buried in Highgate Cemetery.

The land in front were of course the Conduit Fields so named as a reference to the nearby Shepherd's Well and Spring Path is also nearby.

The house is descibed principly by the turreted Gothic effect and indeed those turrets retain their dominance of this corner of the terrace.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Has public philanthropy currency in our libraries?

The old Central Library on Arkwright Road has all the atmosphere of a grand old library in the philanthropic tradition and so it is not surprising to find that the cost was covered by a gift from Sir Henry Harben.

This further enforced when you learn that the reference library comprised 8,000 volumes of Professor Henry Morley's Library and a local archive collection including a survey of 1680 of the heath. After severe damage in 1940 and 1945 the adjoining bombed sites were bought for future enlargement, but in 1964 the library closed.

It is now a grade II listed building and serves as Camden Arts Centre.

Libraries in the local area have a long pedigree:
  • 1833 saw the foundation of Hampstead subscription library
  • 1887 started free lending to working-class readers from Stanfield House
  • 1891 created a specific reading room for users
  • 1892, Hampstead Vestry set up commissioners to provide libraries outside of Hampstead after the adoption of the Public Libraries Act
  • 1894 saw the first local public library at 48 Priory Road, Kilburn
  • 1896 was the start of construction of the Central Library on the corner of Finchley and Arkwrights Roads, designed by A S Tayler and opened the following year
  • 1897 saw the Belsize branch library in Antrim Grove
  • 1899 The Central Library began full lending library facilities
  • 1901 saw West Hampstead branch library was opened on the corner of Westbere and Sarre roads
  • 1907 Heath branch library opened as Worsley Road branch in the former school building
  • 1909 saw the addition of a children's library to The Central Library
  • 1910 Belsize was adapted from it's series of reading and reference rooms into an open-access library
  • 1936 Belsize was closed due to structural defect and a new building opened on the same site the following year.
  • 1940 West Hampstead branch Library was destroyed during the war and temporarily located
  • 1950 the West hampstead library moved to Cholmley Gardens on Fortune Green Road and the corner of Mill Lane
  • 1954 a new West Hampstead branch library was built as part of a housing development at the corner of Dennington Park Road and West End Lane where it continues today
  • 1964 The Central Library was closed and transferred to the new swiss Cottage site

Following a reburbishment by Tony Fretton Architects, Camden Arts Centre re-opened to the public in 2004. The beautiful and sensitively designed building combines the original victorian gothic features with a contemporary urban design to enhance space and light. The new galleries attract artists of the highest calibre, able to display a broad range of work including installation, film and video, light sensitive drawings and sculpture.

Friday, 17 October 2008

The depiction of a pub sign within the community

I think it's partly the colourful nature of the beast, but I find myself having a curious fascination for pub signs.

I discover that there are entire websites and campaigns waged over them, but the bottom line is that they are a hang-over (LOL) from when pubs were more key as community venues.

Now in a rural setting pubs are absolutely fundamental to a community - now in urban settings they are much more the local - and looking round in NW3 and NW6 I'm struck by the extent to which they reflect back the local communities in which they sit...

Of course part of this is the preservation of the old British boozer and whilst I'm no defender of dark and seedy joints the smoking ban has given an amazing rennaisance to
a) families in pubs and
b) street conversation - although the winter months makes the latter a much more chilly sport!

Some of the pubs signs reflect a much more significant local connection such as the Lillie Langtry ( while others just reflect the rality of the development of the local area - The North London Tavern and the arrival of railways in Kilburn.

Now, there was quite a lot of internet hooha when the Sir Colin Campbell has taken down the pub sign and not replaced it - with all sorts of motives for that being mooted.

And now the Lillie Langtry is at risk with the pub being re-named The Cricketers.

I've picked out here a range of pubs that I have recently passed and their signs:
  • The Duke of Hamilton, The Flask and The White Bear (all in NW3 Hampstead)
  • Ye Olde Swiss Cottage and The Old Bull and Bush
  • North London Tavern and The Lillie Langtry

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Street murals sure beat random graffiti...

I've posted at length before about the Kilburn High Road graffiti mural

Well, here is another on Kilburn Road - by the Lillie Langtry Pub just next to the Community Centre.

The really amazing thing about it is the cultural influence on the design.

I can't make my mind up on african, south american - does anyone out there have any tips or leads?

The mural is signed off by
"Solo One
ILC Crew

And it has the best tag line I have seen for a while:
"As long as we strive to succeed
We will always lead the way...."

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

484,143 dead from enemy action, disease or accident

Here at 10 Cambridge Avenue, just off the Kilburn High Road, we have the Animals War Memorial Dispensary of the RSPCA.

It's a great building and dates to the early 1930's. Formally opened in March 1931 it treated over 6,000 animals in its first year.

The dispensary is still incredibly busy today and consisted when opened of a surgery and waiting room, kennels and glass-fronted cattery. I don't think the animal holding facility is still operational today.

The front of the building has a large bronze plaque above the door as a memorial to animals killed in the first world war. It's an impressive piece of bronze sculpture by F Brook Hitch of Hertford.
It illustrates a depiction of a winged victory holding wreaths to the left and the right and then pairs of animals that saw action and gave service - horses, mules, oxen, dogs, elephants, camels and pigeons

Either side of the door there is also the marble tributes to those animals who fell with some pretty scary and impressive numbers:
484,143 animals killed by enemy action, disease or accident in the war and of 725,216 treated by the RSPCA during the war.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Welcome to Stead High Street

I'm at risk of being repetitive and being an obsession on one small topic, but it's still "welcome to Stead High Street" here in NW3.

The progress is that the wall has been repaired, but sadly that hasn't yet extended to the name plate sign.

The real solution would be to re-visit the traffic flow down the High Street for the cut through slip road along the front of Greenhill, but that would be complex and would require a serious amount of consensus from residents...

Until then I'm looking for the name plate to be replaced.

Friday, 10 October 2008

It's under your feet...

Well, it's not the most obvious topic but here in north west London it's underfoot down virtually every single street.


Yep, I have noticed them for a while and just how closed, sealed and secure they look - the very idea that they were used most weeks/days seems so add as to be almost peverse...

Yet I was struck by two things really. The first was the nature of the cast 'manhole' - many of which are made localy in Camden and second was the whopping piece of york (?) stone into which they are set.

The other observation is the sheer physical effort involved in going into the basement to get your coal etc - the nature of victorian and edwardian life and just how quickly that whole notion has disappeared from our lives.

These ones are pictures largely from Hampstead - the by-election (which Linda won!) meant I walked these streets a little more frequently than I might otherwise have done... and so these pictures seemed a real treat and so easy to get.

The fascination with the stuff of everyday life here in the patch just continues to grow.