Wednesday 27 February 2008

A blue plaque for George Crabbe in Hampstead?

Heath House is one of the most amazing houses in North West London. Great location, perspective, proportions, gating, settings - all over wow.

I have walked past and around on numerous occasions and thought how great it was and reflected on the shame that was the closed boarded up current state.

Now there is a planning application proposal progressing that will see the house restored to residential occupancy - which can only be good (assuming that all the plans respect the great architecture and listing features).

Some of us had dreamt that the house might have eneded up as the headquarters of the Hampstead Heath Managers (City of London Corporation), but it looks not to be the case now...

However, a new twist for me was the discovery that this was occupied by the Hoare family (Samuel and his daughter Sarah at least) who were cery close family friends , even confidentes, of George Crabb.

Crabbe is a serious player in the canon of romantic poetry and, it emerges, he stayed on a frequent basis at Heath House with the Hoare family writing his poetry and gathering inspiration from the heath and surroundings. I want to return to this but i think the stay here was significant and saw the writing of his very greatest works...

In the context of the links with Keats and Bloomfield I think there's a wider restoration of the poetic significance of Hampstead in the period 1800-1820.

A blue/Hampstead plaque for Crabbe on Heath House?

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Independent shops and their charm

Just wandering down Mill Lane and notice these little architectural gems along the way.

I've always liked the row of shops along from the Alliance Pub and near West Hampstead Community Association.

There's now a great cake shop there so it's more than worth while.

Oh, and The Alliance is from Waterloo (1815) and the grand alliance between Wellington and Blucher against Napoleon.. though it has been a local Lib Dem haunt for a quite a while...
Oh, and there is a great little plaque at number 54 to a real local person - more to follow on this, but it has all the definitions of charm and localnesss that I find I appreciate.

Sunday 24 February 2008

Just picking up the architectural features

I was just wandering down the street in Hampstead and was struck by the charm of the features round the break from High Street to Rosslyn Hill - the old 'Dudman's Hampstead Borough Stores' especially stand out.

The inscription (above the window) reads 'Rebuilt 1890' - but because the building is so high, on a hill and at a fairly steep point you have to really stop, step back and look up to appreciate it to the full.

But it sure is a joy to behold.

Also in the way of charm is this old water well drinking point. In contrast this is at street level but is slightly hidden at the point it sits as it's not a natural pedestrian crossing - being between Mulberry Close and Vane Close and near the pederestian crossing on the hill...

A tad religious for me, but the extent it adds to the local charm is pretty good - and it does reflect a different age in a way that is quite special.

Saturday 23 February 2008

The days of Liberal clubs round the country

Hidden away on Heath Street, Hampstead is an old foundation stone for the former Liberal Club.

Foundation stone laid by
20th July 1889

Spalding and Cross, Architects
Allison and Foskett, Builders"

In 1880 the Hampstead Liberal Association was formed and worked out of 13 High Street but them moved to 1 Downshire Hill by 1885 (this appears to have been a correspondence address). it was then renting at 31 High Street in 1888 before moving to the newly built headquarters at 24 Heath Street from 1889.

The offices were still in operation in 1925 and disposal may have taken place any time after that - it certainly co-incides with the split and decline that then ensued in the Liberal Party.

It's just by the current zebra crossing opposite Tesco (the old dairy).

Sir Charles Russell as QC is pictured left here practising as a barrister.

If you google him then you can find a case he was involved in of BRACEWELL V BRACEWELL SMITH AND THRELFALL

Welcome to Nancy Jirira

We thought it would be a good night, but we never expected Thursday to be quite so good.

Nancy Jirira was elected as the new councillor for Fortune Green with a whopping 51% of the vote and a majority of over 600 votes.

The Tories threw absolutely everything at this election, lots of Labour canvassers (though few Labour Camden councillors in evidence on the doorsteps!) and Nancy still won through.

Good luck to Nancy - she's a strong community champion, she joins Russell Eagling and Flick Rea on the team and will really stand up for Fortune Green's residents.

Well done, best wishes.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

As old wall murals go it's a pretty good try...

Well well, there it was, just sitting on Salusbury Road in Queen's Park


As wall paintings/murals go this is a pretty good one - but still not competing with the triumph on Kilburn High Road.

From councillor to Tower Block and MP

I thought it was time we entered the sphere of the engraved foundation stone - there are quite a few around so this should be a fairly rich vein.

Judging by the number of people I see stopping to read them I guess I'm not the only one who takes an interest in these.

This is West Hampstead Branch Library (obscured by the handrail!):

This stone was laid on 17th July 1954
His Worship The Mayor
Councillor Emmanuel Snowman JP

Councillor Geoffrey Finsberg
Chairman of the Public Libraries Committee

S.J. Butcher F.L.A.
Chief Librarian
P.H. Harrold O.B.E.
Town Clerk

Of course, Councillor Snowman now has a block named after him in Kilburn and Councillor Finsberg went on to be MP for Hampstead and Highgate.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Hampstead's socialist tradition

The grave of Hugh and Nora Gaitskell is one of the more promiment adorning Hampstead cemetery.

As was the fashion and in turn with Hampstead's intellectual left tradition, Gaitskell lived here amongst the set that dominated Labour politics for much of the middle 50 years of the 20th century.

He was leader of the Labour Party from 1955 to 1963 and has what can only be called a mixed reputation - further coloured by his early and untimely death.

Much compared to Blair (often unfairly) and too often remembered for having taken on his left wing within the Party.

I was reminded of this picture - which I took ages ago, by the passing of Peggy Jay and Rose Hacker - two long serving Labour (most of the time) stalwarts.

Monday 18 February 2008

Kilburn's musical past?

It might be that there is a history that we have missed, but I'm not aware of a Kilburn School of Music, and I've read most of the history texts on the local area.

But this building on the corner of West End Lane and Kilburn High Road has had some busts that I thought interesting. A few snaps (albeit poor quality ones) and the mystery has come to an end.

In fact this building boasts four busts of music greats:

Mozart, Handel, Beethoven and Vivaldi.

Once one was identified it seemed pretty straightforward, but it leaves the question why and what was the building... answers on a e-postcard please

Saturday 16 February 2008

Railway history gold-dust

I spotted this by pure accident and I'm still excited.

I was just popping into the Kilburn Bookshop - independent, great local collection, some signed books and some good cards for specal friends - and as I came out of the shop I glanced over the road and there it was - bold as brass.

Kilburn High Road Station has been sorted of tidied up and is next to a Locksmith and Kebab shop - neither worthy of much note and then I looked up:

The old railway sign is still visible,


just above the shop fronts of the two shops - I couldn't quite believe my ayes and risked life and limb walking into the road to capture these two snaps - naught much, but an insight into Kilburn's prouder railway past...

I have somewhere a pic of the station in yesteryear... but can any Kilburn readers beat me to what the rest of the sign should/did say?

Just how early are the underground extensions?

I've been using Kilburn Park tube station on the Bakerloo Line quite a lot since I moved and the most striking things about it is the tiling and the colour.

Having lived and worked in Stoke-on-Trent I have a very strong sense of admiration for the colours and types of glazing having seen something of the production methods and skill that went into this sort of process.

There is also the control box at the platform join at the bottom of the escalators, but the colours of the tiling are really strong and vibrant.
The control box is clearly of-a-type - it reminds me of the benches (was plural now singular) on Belsize Tube platform northbound), similar to the office at the top of Kilburn Park escalator on the righ as you come up and was probably the standard mahogany finish for the London underground in this era and that was maintained throughout and since.

Kilburn Park Tube is much earlier than many realise - it feels 30's, looks earlier (perhaps 20's) and in fact is very late edwardian (architecturally at least!).

The section from Paddington to Kilburn Park was opened on 30th January 1915 and the further extension from Kilburn Park to Queen's Park opened on 10th May 1915.

Thursday 14 February 2008

...and so the Post Office closures start...

The news is starting to get out about the anticipated Post Office closures that the Labour Government is trying to force through...
  • South End Green, Hampstead
  • England's Lane, Belsize
  • Child's Hill, Barnet

  • Highgate Village

  • East Finchley

  • Alexandra Park Road, Haringey

  • Penine Parade, Barnet

  • Glebe Road, Finchley

  • Watford Way

  • Cricklewood

Some of this just feels like spite - it isn't something that many of the post offices themselves want, there has been no real process for discussing this at all and the consultation is notoriously slow and unresponsive.

South End Green is especially cruel after the battle to save it two years ago - Belsize is just plain vicious - after Belsize Village closed it was promised that there would be another location found, and now they close England's lane - and Highgate feels like a deliberate attempt to rip out the heart from the community that already has lost too many community features it had but five years ago.

This is not something the respective communities will take lying down and it goes to the heart of what sort of community you want to live in.

I guess we now know the answer to that question from the Labour Government...

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Public fountains rock!

Every time I go past the South End Green fountain I think about how the fountain's presence massively enhances the local area.

As an amenity, as apiece of architecture, instilling a sense of place to an otherwise small piece of land. It dominates the green, has been carefully restored and is now working again with proper wet flowing water.

Of course, this was all understood by our forebears which is why they didn't make public water features just a tap or water stand - they made them fully fledged fountains or troughs... And today we are reaping the multiple benefits.

The sense of good quality is there too with the bowl, the lion heads on the side and also the neptune faces on the bowl - all good stuff...

It's features such as this that give a sense of pride, upkeep and preserve within the ravages of London life a bit of the village that all of us find a little appealing. I know, it's curious, but it's definitely there as an atmosphere and the fountain is part of that.

Monday 11 February 2008

How street names get their nomenclature :-)

One of the most frequent asks is ‘where does the street name come from’ and for north west London the link with Kent and Africa is perhaps a little obscure.

In simple terms here are four of the ‘connections’:

The Powell- Cotton family owned vast tracts of the land along the Edgware Road (now Kilburn High Road) and gradually started the process of cashing in on their land as demand for housing development grew.

Most of the places were named after the Powell-Cotton links in Kent and their own estate of Quex Park or places in Africa and India that Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton (1866-1940) visited (pic. left).

The Major made over 28 expeditions to Africa and his records, collections and trophies, now much frowned upon as a sport, are being used as an amazing anthropological resource for conservation and wildlife charities.

Menelik was a personal choice after he had an audience with the then famous Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II (pic. below left).

The speed of the local developments in West Hampstead/Cricklewood/Kilburn development was pretty intense and this is the source of many of the street names.

You really get a sense of the scale of building that was happening and also the money that would have changed hands (presumably giving the Powell-Cotton family significant income at a time when there was a lot of spending on the world travel!

The chronology works something like this (I have plundered a host of sources here!):

1855 plans for Shoot-Up-Hill were drawn up but then deferred for greater clarity on what was planned for the new railway lines.

1866 plans approved for the Liddell estate of Quex Road, Birchington Road and Mutrix Road.

1890s plans were approved for north of Mill Lane
- Fordwych Road by 1892 and houses built between 1892 and 1907.
- Minster Road between 1891 and 1900
- Gondar Gardens between 1892 and 1896, with the flats going up in 1899
- Westbere Road between 1893 and 1904
- Sarre Road from 1896 and 1904
- Skardu Road in 1897
- Manstone Road (15 houses in 1899-1900)
- Rondu Road (6 houses in 1900)

1890’s and 1900’s then saw the Cricklewood Broadway and Parade areas developing
- Richborough Road in 1885 and then again from 1892 to 1899
- Ebbsfleet Road, named in 1893
- Somali Road between 1904 and 1908
- Asmara Road had a couple of houses in 1912
- Menelik Road in 1913.

And the after World War I it resumed in 1918:
- Westbere Road gained 70 houses
- Somali, Menelik, and Asmara roads were further developed between 1922 and 1928.

Just who was Jack Straw?

Jack Straw’s Castle is situated at the highest point of the heath (highest point above sea level in London?) and commands amazing views across London. It has been a coaching inn, a pub, recently and briefly a family and children’s restaurant and now has been converted into apartments.

In World War II the pub was very badly damaged after being bombed by a landmine, and the present mock-castle style in fact just dates from 1962 or 1964. It is grade two listed however, the coaching inn dating from at least 1721 (when the old watering hole was re-built). Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackerary and Wilkie Collins were all known to have drunk here in the 19th century.

However, the name and crucially it’s location derives from the Peasants Revolt of 1381. Now dryly described as being 12 North End Way, Hampstead, London, NW3, this address hides the historical story of this meeting point and of Jack Straw.

Jack Straw was one of the leaders of the Peasants Revolt of 1381 – a rebellion against poll tax and restrictions on labour and wages. Wat Tyler, Jon Ball and jack Straw were the main leaders and they were incredibly successful – claims put their petition as being supported by 60,000 names.

The mass gathering of people supporting the rebellion in 1381 was of course against the young monarch Richard II just 14 years old himself.

The petition called for the abolition of serfdom, tithes and the game laws as well as the right to freely use the forests. They also called that the poll tax be abolished.

The rallying cry of the peasants was a rhyme which spread dissension across the South of England:"When Adam delved and Eve span
Who was then the Gentleman?"

Jack Straw is credited with addressing the massed gathering of rebels from a Hay cart on Hampstead Heath – hence the name and indeed the location. There is little to doubt the story and it has historical confirmation.

Not unsurprisingly the rebellion ended in failure in that Tyler, Straw and Ball were all captured and executed, but the Poll tax was abolished… But he also has a pub named after him – not much compensation but a story worth telling.

Thursday 7 February 2008

Are old music schools listed anywhere?

A regular reader of this blog and contributor to has emailed me and asked if I can identify the portraits/busts on this building in Kilburn.

You can see the four roundels on the building here on the busy Kilburn High Road - it's the junction of West End Lane.

I think I'm there on identifying the roundel portraits but want to just check one more bit to see if I'm correct before posting.

Hang in there friend, I'm nearly there I think.

The building boom of the late 19th Century

In my love of local architecture, features, and what I see around me I now carry my camera all the time. Today was quite a little crop of pictures and will take me a few days to get them all sorted and up on here - but here's a start.

This is on the corner of Dennington Park Road and West End Lane and is on the building above Lupa. It's a relatively straightforward date plaque, but it is topped by a really attractive gargoyle esq feature. Now I'm sure it's slightly sentimental but these sort of features really add to an area, to the building and to the locality. Here in NW6/NW3 we are especially laden with such features.

In the context of this and seeing that the public library opposite and the fire station a few hundred yards down the road opened in 1901. It made me reflect that West End Lane between the arrival of the railways (1870's) and 1901 when the public facilities went in the local area must have seen amazing level of change.

At this time 1892 it must have been something of a building site on West End Lane and the scale of building work going on must have been huge - in fact the development of the whole area would have been from open fields to close serried streets.

I can almost hear the discussion on the 19th century equivalent of local chat rooms (pubs/bars?) - "oh, stop the development, stop it now. Let's protest." :-)

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Hampstead Brewery - bring it back?!

Not the most obvious local fact, but yes, there was a Hampstead Brewery just off the High Street.

Established in 1720 by the owner of Jack Straw's Castle (a coaching inn) and on a location on the High Street which could access the recently piped water that flowed through Hampstead. The Brewery serviced amongst other places the old Hampstead pub, The King of Bohemia.

This frontage of the brewery was re-built in 1869 and is a great feature of the High Street - the houses behind in the building itself are now Old Brewery Mews.

Landlords/owners of the Brewery
John Vincent 1720
Robert Vincent and Richard Vincent 1755
Robert Vincent 1776
Elizabeth Vincent 1787
Messrs. Shepheard and Buckland and Elizabeth Vincent in 1797
Messrs. Shepheard and Buckland and James Buckland in 1812
John Buckland 1827
Thomas Buckland 1834 and 1854
John Tanner Hawkins 1859 (who named it The Hampstead Brewery and rebuilt the building with the current entrance)
Edward Harris 1870 and 1875
Mure and Company c.1880
Closed in 1932

Monday 4 February 2008

Memories from the Second World War

I carry my camera with me almost all the time now with hope of catching sight of just slightly unusual things: this is one of the better ones.

Just inside the main block of Hampstead School, Westbere Road, is this plaque rembering the second world war.


It would seem that this part of London received pretty heavy bombing during the war - thought to be because of the high number of railway lines and junctions - and this plaque is one of the remnants of that history. I have passed this quite a few times (as a Governor at the School) but not paid too much attention to it really.

I think I'm right in saying that this was when the School was still occupied by Haberdasher Askes I don't think they moved out until 1961.
Anyone out there have any memories of this night of bombing?

Sunday 3 February 2008

One of the best wall adverts yet?

Staring me straight in the face in my own stomping ground of Hampstead - there was one of the best wall mural adverts surviving.

It's on Heath Street, just the junction of Church Row, and is a superb example of the type.

There's not really much else to say, but to admire and appreciate.

Estblished 1746
Chas B
Hot Water

Keep the aspidistra flying

One of the gems of living in north west London is the accidental scatter of famous who have passed through and are variously commemorated or remembered. And this is one of my favourites: George Orwell.

The house he lodged in from 1934-35 is rewarded with a plaque by the Heath and Hampstead Society - but less well known is the plaque on the building in which he worked at South End Green.

The shop was Booklover's Corner, a second hand bookshop, which gave him access and company of other writers, artists and young people - as well as the access to the cheap bedsits of Parliament Hill. It was whilst staying here that he wrote most of "Keep The Aspidistra Flying".

My own favourite take on this is from a couple of years ago - I'm meeting a friend in South End Green and paused on the corner and there's a couple taking photographs of each other outside the building, then she pauses, turns to him and says (and this is totally true) "Do you think George Orwell worked in this burger store!?"!