Monday 30 June 2008

The Titanic comes to Swiss Cottage

It was a bright sunny day and was an excuse to take the picture - love it or loath it you have to accept it's quite dramatic.

Locally known as The Titanic this is the new development at Swiss Cottage with panoramic views across London. It's actually called The Visage and is quite an impressive little self-contained unit with all amenities within the building or in the case of the sports centre and library all within one minutes... and on the jubilee line too.

Interesting on a trivial level to have a glance at the pre-build advertising pictures of the same building

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment use it as a case study:

Sunday 29 June 2008

From look-out to full blown fire station.

I've mentioned beforethe Fire Station in Lancaster Grove, Belsize, and the other day managed to get these snaps of it.

This is of course the successor fire station to the old look-out station that was at the top of Hampstead High Street (and had an old look-out tower).

I'm giving here the front of the station as it were - but the architecture is really interesting and curiously of it's type - from the back - as a I walked down Eton Avenue I was reminded of the architecture of Hampton Court!

In keeping with the building of public services I found the obligatory plaque and here it is:


It's worth noting that the growth and development of fire stations was not hampered by the first world war - if anything it gathered a little pace...

Officionado's of these things will be delighted to learn that the building is Grade II listed AND in current use (perhaps the Metropolitan Police Authority could note...).

Here's the full text of the listing definition:
  • Fire station with water tower and flatted accommodation. 1914-15.
  • By CC Winmill of the LCC's Architects' Department.
  • Red brick with stone dressings. Steeply pitched gabled tiled roof with projecting eaves, hipped dormers to engine shed and tall brick chimney-stacks with dentil bands to accommodation. L-shaped plan with tall water-tower in angle.
  • EXTERIOR: engine-shed stone faced to front with openings having part-glazed folding doors; steeply pitched roof with 3 long transom and mullion windows with small panes to dormers and 1 small box dormer. Right hand return with lunettes at ground floor and 6-light transom and mullion window to gable end; left hand return, 4 glazed doors to ground floor and 5 windows to 1st.
  • Enriched brick water tower having recessed panels set between pilasters; 1st storey panels with segmental-arched recesses and dentil frieze; 2nd storey with further rectangular recesses, 2 made into windows, and dentil friezes; 3rd storey with deep dentil frieze and lattice-work brick panels having arcaded friezes. Parapet. Flatted accommodation of 2 storeys and semi-basement. Ground floor stone and brick verandah with lunettes to semi-basement and 1st floor balcony with cast-iron balustrade. Part-glazed doorways with overlights and sidelights. Tripartite sashes. To left, a single window projecting gabled bay.
  • On both returns tall gable end chimney-stacks have hipped roof to one side allowing a small attic window.
  • Rear facade to Eton Avenue gives appearance of terraced cottages with a ground floor canted bay and transom and mullion windows; upper floor with ten 3-light casement and oriel windows. All with small leaded panes.

Friday 27 June 2008

Come on down to the Kit Cat Club

How much plotting occurred here during the early 18th century?

This small house hidden away off Heath Street has puzzled me for a while..

So I learn that either this house or the pub that was called The Upper Flask (just up the road where St mary's now stands) was the gathering spot for a cluster of Whig grandees.

It should be noted that this was not a smoke cabal - it was a summer garden gathering where converse and social intercourse were the norm...

The political context is fresh from the Jacobite rebellions and are rooted in the succession in 1714 of Prince Elector George Louis of Hanover as King George I and appointment of the Whigs who became dominant from this date through to 1760.

The Kit Cat club's dissolution was about 1720 (probably after Walpole became Prime Minister) and the Upper Flask continued as a tavern. In 1750 it became private house known as the Upper Bowling Green House, and in 1920 this was demolished for Queen Mary's maternity hospital.

Thursday 26 June 2008

The Upper Flask or the Lower Flask Pub?

Newly refurbished and much enhanced we have the Flask Pub in Hampstead -a good old fashioned boozer with a great mix of residents, passers by and deliberate visitors.

And with the refit and now with a new pub sign - there was lots of nervousness that it was about to become the new 'slug and lettice' (sic) - Ugh - happily it didn't!

It been's The Flask for some considerable time now and the name is a hint at the earlier tradition of the Hampstead spring water - mainly from the Chalybeate spring in Well Walk.

The pub was one of three pubs - the Upper Flask (now demolished), the Lower Flask (now The Flask) and the The Green[e] Man (now the Wells Tavern).

The Lower Flask is thought to date as early as the late 17th century but was probably in fact early 18th century. It is referred to in Samuel Richardson's novel Clarrissa (published in 1748) as "a place where second-rate persons are to be found, occasionally in a swinish condition"

The Lower Flask was re-built in 1872 - finished in 1874 when it became just The Flask. Upper Flask had gone in the late 18th century (more to follow on the Kit Cat Club!!) and stood where Queen Mary's hospital now stands. The Wells Tavern originally dates from at least 1751 and is possibly pre-dated and the current building from about 1850.

Flask Walk is one of the nicest little streets in London - if you don't know it then go there...

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Boxing fights at Swiss Cottage...

When we were kids, my sister and I always knew when we were close to our relatives cos we had reached Swiss Cottage - either on the bus or in the car. It was for us the landmark that we had reached London.

By nature of the colours, decor, design and signage I always had some sort of image that it had been the early retirement project of a former swiss guard, that a swiss person had one lived there... all good daydream stuff.

The current site of the pub is not quite how many local folk remember it - it was fronted by a grill and pub until the 1960's - now you can sit outside and enjoy the road of the vehicles that circle the giratory system. :-)

The 'cottage' appears to date from about 1804 or 1805 and the pub from the 1840's and was The Swiss Tavern, now Ye Olde Swiss Cottage - it's architecture is pretty amazing especially given the increasingly high rise nature of the local area what with the Swiss Cottage development itself around the Library and Sports Centre and also the residential blocks of the Finchley Road.

It seems it's more mundane and more connected with the pub and musical hall traditions and is in fact named after an opera of the 19th century.

The pub and music tradition is often overlooked and pubs were often drinking holes at which the stars of the stage were discussed and championed - the Lillie Langtree in Kilburn for example (

Former champion boxer Frank Redmond was the landlord of the pub in the 1840's and is attributed with being the first landlord. he was a public figure and used the pub as a venue for running races and outdoor boxing events.

Notable jewish fighter Barney Aaron won £50 when Frank Redmond forfeited their bout in August 1827. Two months later, on October 23, Barney defeated Redmond in 1 hour and 12 minutes, in a bout that went 42 rounds.

The swiss theme was made popular by the opera Le Chalet which was performed in 1834, first in Paris and later in London (but untraced).

The architectural swiss theme certainly had popularity in the victorian era and whilst it stands out now as being slightly eccentric it had currency then:

Swiss Cottage is also one of five underground stations named after nearby pubs...

Tuesday 24 June 2008

The Old Bell Public House in Kilburn

The Old Bell Pub is one of the oldest pubs in Kilburn and probably even dates from the time of Kilburn Priory. At the bottom of the Kilburn High Road it's at the strategic junction of the old Roman Road Watling Street, the old Kilburn River and the now railway line and associated bridge.

In more recent times it was the principle pub in the 30's at which many Irish workers could find accommodation - there used to be blackboards with chalk listings of landlords and bedsits.

It's credited with being on the spot behind which was the preaching field from medieval times through to the 1800's (this is part confirmed by Goldsmith's Place being renamed Springfield Lane...) and became the main drinking hole for those using the railway line after its' arrival.

The Ox red brick tiling certainly gives it that sense of railway tavern and the architecture is of that type too.

The pub is commemorated in the mural up by Kilburn Tube Station (pic right).

Are you coming to the Kilburn Festival:

Other key postings on this bit of Kilburn:

Friday 20 June 2008

Please don't give me another plastic bag!

Ok so it's treated as being slightly odd - but that's precisely the issue.

Just nipped down to my local Sainsbury's for some consumables for my baking-fest that I'm about to embark on for the Hampstead Summer Fayre.

In a fit of greeness I did what I have wanted to do for a while and I asked to see the Manager to ask why, under the refitted store, the provision of plastic bags were so prominent, why the staff always asked me if I want bag (I DON'T!) and why the bag recycling point has gone.

I'm sure Darren (his name IIRC) didn't mean it but I felt like some kind of greeneyed monster asking a really silly thing - anyway we persisted with the conversation and I've asked him to:
  • Consider changing the staff culture so the customer service line is - you don't need a bag do you, have you brought your own bags or can you carry this one item
  • Make contact with the Kilburn Partnership and have the same dialogue with them
  • Push for the restoration of the bag recycling point and
  • Look again at what can be done here locally in Kilburn in hist store at his initiative.

I flagged up the existance of the I love Kilburn bags (I was using mine :-)) and he was interested in stocking them. So it's small dialogue and it was broadly positive.

But I was really struck at just how dififcult it was, from the point at which I made time, including the 'can I see the manager please' - WHY? - through to the can you change your culture, it won't lose you money or customers if you do.

And it saves the environement!

Thursday 19 June 2008

England's Lane to Hampstead Theatre...

Just walking around the patch is a joy and Eton Avenue is no exception - until 1800 it was pretty much a farmland estate and then was carved into the wide avenues it is today by a series of developers and business interests - and the architecture reflects the spread of ambition.

But I was really stuck by the grandeur and range of the gateposts - and within 100 yards or so captured these four great pictures.

If we have any modern understanding of what makes a place good, what makes a place special, what enhances people's pride and activity in maintaining an area it is this mix of quality in design and construction.

At either end of Eton Avenue is the England's Lane shopping area - seriously good range of local independent traders and at the other end Hampstead Theatre, Swiss Cottage Farmers Market and the Swiss Cottage Community Centre, Library and Leisure Centre. It's great to live here!

Ed Fordham

Wednesday 18 June 2008

The wonders of Kilburn

When you are rushing along it's often too easy to miss the posters, the advertising and just to tut at the graffiti - yet some of the wall paintings are just stunning.

This one on the Kilburn High Road is probably the best I have ever seen - it's clever, colourful, skilled and deeply rooted in the history of the local area.

It's also much appreciated by others who have seen it

It was ranked 7th in the top ten graffiti in London and it is amazing - references to George Orwell, the Kilburn State cinema, HG Wells and his time machine and the local Irish community.

There's a statue of a very large man which IIRC refers to an old pub landlords who was at one point the second heaviest man in the world!

The graffiti was brought about by the Kilburn Town Centre Partnership and it's really great addition to the local area - next time you're up by Kilburn Tube station (Jubilee Line) take a few minutes to have a proper look - there is so much to take it - it spans three walls...

Tuesday 17 June 2008

One for the diary: 28th June St Mary's Kilburn

All pretty self explainatory really - St Mary's School summer fair here in Kilburn.

Saturday 28th June, 12noon - 3pm.

Friday 13 June 2008

The days of a look out tower.

It is said that Hampstead tube station is the deepest tube station in London - it may or may not be true, but one of the reasons for the depth is that it runs under the top of the hill.
And just over the road, literally, is the corner of Holly Hill and Heath Street at the top of hampstead High Street and on that junction is the old Fire Station.
When you look at it it's hard to realise that it was the fire station and in the relatively recent past - but sure as eggs is eggs, it was. The idea of having a look-out on top of the building seems such an odd concept but when you look at the architecture it's obvious really.
Now it's just flats and the nationwide Building Society and of course a clock tower that doesn;t keep accurrate time!
The building was designed by one George Vulliamy and was opened in 1874. The site had been previously used for the police station.
However, the world of Fire Station locations had to move to keep up with the fast expanding population centres and the need for watch towers subsided.
So it was that in 1901 West Hampstead Station on West End Lane was opened, in 1915 the Belsize Station in Lancaster Grove opened and by 1923 Hampstead Station was closed.

Thursday 12 June 2008

Are we seeing some Police backsliding going on?

It's a difficult situation and it's ongoing but it's Hampstead Police Station again.

But is it possible that this picture of the number 26 house on Rosslyn Hill is in fact the entrance to what will be Hampstead Police Station?

In all of the discussions and debates the police have all been slightly coy about the reality of what is being looked at and explored. I am worried, and others are too, that the Police Estates Team intend to sell the current police station for a large capital reciept and decant into the house next door.

The fundamental problem is that replaces large freehold with smaller freehold which is preferable to going from freehold to leasehold, but as a piece of asset management it's a bonkers concept.

The other element that drives me to drink is the idea that the building is not fit for purpose. It's become one of the most over-used phrases in management speak and in this case it's not true.

There are many old buildings, most older than 1913 (it's Edwardian not Victorian as the police often claim!), that are quite easily used and indeed maintained. The truth is there is a problem due to neglect - pure and simple.

The police were given community assets and they have failed to maintain them. Not one penny has been meaningfully spent on Hampstead Police Station for far far too long - I suspect the same is not true of the offices of the senior officers at the top of the Met. This is a very real case whereby a little spent often would have avoided a financial trap.

So I strongly believe that it is entirely legitimate to say you need to invest now, enhance and preserve our assets and development in order to build the confidence of the community. No-one is suggesting the status quo - we all accept that that current counter (right) is acceptable and we know and want improvements. That's it, improvements and confidence, not neglect and disposal.

To this end I have written to our Borough Commander, Dominic Clout asking for some clarification and reassurance. he's dead good, connected and impressive so I'm vaguely hopeful... time will tell.

The letter in full:

Dear Dominic,

You are well aware of the ongoing concern about the future of Hampstead Police Station and the threat to reduce the number of uniformed police stationed in Hampstead (covering the areas Belsize, South End Green, Frognal, North End and Hampstead in particular – some 40,000 residents).

Today's coverage of the Police closures and London's MPA Asset Management Plans has acted as a timely reminder that consideration is currently being given to the consultation responses.

I wonder in the context of this if you might confirm what the precise timescale is for the reporting back of the consultation; what the status and nature of any such report or recommendation might be and who will make the final decision on the future of the station and the allocation of resources in the context of the property asset plans.

Further, I would be grateful if you could address current concerns that the MPA, encouraged by senior police offices within the Camden Borough structure, are actively considering converting the house to the side of the Hampstead station and would be seeking to re-designate that as the Police Station. As you know this is not considered to be an acceptable alternative by the community and I would be grateful if you could take this opportunity to scotch the notion that it is being actively explored.

I look forwards to hearing from you,

With best wishes

Ed Fordham, Hampstead and Kilburn parliamentary campaigner
07974 950 512

Wednesday 11 June 2008

If you down to the market today...

Gwan, gwan, gwan - it's Swiss Cottage farmer's market today...

Quite a good passing trade in a great location - just by Hampstead Theatre and the main tube entrance.

When such facilities aren't provided people always say they want them and when they are there they don't use them enough.

Well, it's back and there's no excuse - nip out there, buy your bread, cheese, meat - it's all far better quality than the supermarket, it cuts out the middle-man profit margin, supports independent traders and producers and it just so so much better for our sustainability.

Food policy is important stuff - too often disregarded and much of the worlds' problems hinge on the knotty issue of food provision - this market is a small but highly significant piece of the jigsaw and today you have a chance to play your part.

So, boycott the supermarket for just today, and go to the farmers market - your diet will be the winner and your family and community will gain benefits too. (Oh and tell others! Please.)

Tuesday 10 June 2008

Going overground with our rivers...

Ok - we want to bring the river back overground - it has lain underground since it was piped over 200 years ago and we want to enjoy it again...

Surely that's a daft idea? It hasn't be done elsewhere, has it? and it would cost a fortune and to what benefit?

Well, I think it's a superb idea - it's about restoring our proper environment. Everyone agrees that water flow is a calming influence and is a beautiful environmental feature. I have a picture here is the rive flowing down the High Street in Wells, Somerset and it is just so so special - attractive, helpful, not dangerous and manageable.

The Sustainability Task Force in Camden, led by Cllr Alexis Rowell has already explored this possibility and are actually advocating the opening up of the Rivers Fleet and Kilburn. Surely the Kilburn High Road could be so much better for a river running down it and as can be seen in the picture it adds to the street scene and does not intrude.

So if you go to the Camden website link - Pages 9-14 deal with this particular issue and opportunity - it's seriously interesting reading and worth while.

What do you think? Who's up for a walk of the overground flow of the Fleet and the Kilburn Rivers so we can explore whether bringing them back into visibility is a runner.. (excuse the pun!).

Ed Fordham

Saturday 7 June 2008

West End is here in NW6 - not theatreland

Back to the joys of West End - and more specifically the Green at West End on the junction of West End Lane, Fortune Green Road and Mill Lane.

It's one of the best spaces and increasingly complemented by coffee bars and outdoor seating to appreciate - all we need now is pedestrianisation (a pipe dream in this instance!).

The plaque reads:
Borough of Hampstead
This tree was planted by the Mayor
Mr Alderman G E Pritchard
20th December 1902
In commemoration of the Coronation of
His Majesty King Edward VII
On this patch of space it's also got the fountain, thousands of pidgeons and is overlooked by the slightly stately Alexandra Mansions.
So whose up for a refurb effort - it's in the sightline of the Friends of Fortune Green who are pushing forward on cleaning up and taking active ownership of their space...
Community activism - for me it's the best way forward and the only way of achieving long standing change and enhancement in a local area... there's one to ponder.

Friday 6 June 2008

The Fleet river floweth by...

A brilliantly useful comment from a reader brings this map:

and comes at a time when I'm told that the now Jubilee Line Underground was going to be the Fleet Line on the basis that it was going to go through Fleet Street and reflected something of the line of the Fleet River...

Sounds convincing, but any confirmations out there?

Ed Fordham

Wednesday 4 June 2008

Shop local - no really, you should and must!

I've gushed about how good specific shops and traders are on West End Lane and yep, here's another.

Farrants the fruitiers and greengrocers.

Fresh, open, like a market stall and full of the charm and simplicity that isn't a supermarket chain. My preference every time is for the little, independent local shop - and West Hampstead holds that secret by the spadefull.

Now of course Tesco is on the way, and the reality is that most people use these chains - despite preferring not to. But I increasingly find that I consciously don't buy fruit and vegetables from supermarket chains.

When I lived up in Hampstead I had a range of bread shops, which was a very special treat, here in West Hampstead we have a series of local indies.

Come on friends, get out there, shop in them, build some loyalty - our communities are all the better for them and we're the wiser for using them...

Quality, choice, price and community - do you need more reasons?

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Save the florists!

We've run a few bits and pieces on here about plaques - but not much on the historic blue plaques (though I sense a theme for the summer there!).

But there are also a number of what you might call 'genuine residents' plaques' - raised by friends, admirers and local people who appreciate the work, dedication of their fellow residents.

This one on Willoughby Road is just one example and is very charming, but of late it has assumed a greater significance...

Clearly Maggie Richardson died in 1974, but until last year there was still a florist on this corner (Willoughby Road meets Hampstead High Street). Now gone.

Until 2006 there was a florist outside Hampstead Heath Railway Overground Station. Now gone.

But for how much longer is the florist in South End Green, outside Marks and Spencers and the Royal Free Hopsital going to survive? There is an ongoing and documented spat between the officials and planners and highways crew and the florist himself.

So these three things all left me wondering if we were seeing a decline or collapse of on street florists? Is there a specific issue here, are supermarket chains overtaking the industry, is it home delivery flowers and interflora (and brand variants) winning the battle?

I for one much prefer street traders, I think they add character, act as eyes and ears of the community, they provide opportunity for what I regard as the 'little man' and are great features on the street - noise, colour, charm...

Let's not lose things that are good about the area we live in and this is one small part worth standing up for. So when did you last buy from your local florist?

Ed Fordham

Sunday 1 June 2008

The Wet Fish cafe is just the best!

Yep, West Hampstead is pretty hot and impressive, but in addition to being cool, great fun and an amazing place to live it also boasts the Wet Fish Cafe

Yep, you guessed it - it used to be a wet fish shop and these two pictures that I took the other day show the original tiling counter height to ceiling and also the original old name plate from above the shop front.

It is also now a great restaurant and one of the places where the food actually has taste and flavour - it really is to be recommended...

There is a real pride in the catering and the service and when it was restored in 1989 and turned into a cafe (becoming the Wet Fish in June 2003) they have sought to retain the charm and atmosphere that came with the relics of the fish shop.

Amazingly the shop front board (now inside) is still legible from the last fishmonger R Rowe and Son (1957-1989).

The previous fishmongers are lovingly recounted on the menu and this all helps add to the atmosphere:
Cecil Jones Fishmongers (1917-1929)
Johnny Jones Fishmongers (1929-1935)
A Jones Fishmongers (1935-1957) before handing onto to Rowe's.

And for those not certain, the term 'wet fish' refers to fish that have not been frozen to distinguish it from the loose term 'fresh' fish!

So if you haven't been then get down there - just a Jubilee ride, Thameslink or Overground and it's sitting there on West End Lane... go go go!

And don't forget that Kilburn still boasts it's own fishmongers:

Ed Fordham