Friday 26 September 2008

Sing when you're winning...

Early this morning Linda Chung was elected as the Liberal Democrat councillor for Hampstead Town.

Linda won the seat from the Conservatives with a massive swing and overturned a Tory majority of 549 votes to secure her own majority of 128.

The figures in full:
Liberal Democrat 1242 (44%, +11.5%)
Conservative 1114 (39%, -6.9%)
Labour 289 (10%, -1%)
Green 140 (5%, -3.3%)
BNP 29 (1%, +1%)
Liberal Democrat gain from Conservatives

The result is a huge personal tribute to Linda and I'd like to take this chance to express our sincere gratitude to the voters of Hampstead. Hampstead holds a very special place in my heart and I'm mindful this morning of the sterling work of the late Margaret Little as Hampstead's former councillor. Like Margaret, Linda will be a superb local councillor - passionate, energetic and committed. Thank you Hampstead, well done Linda.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Why your vote matters?

No matter who you vote for in an election it is important to vote.

The results are indicative and people/commentators don;t just look at who won, but who lost and how and by how much.

So voting is important because I want the British National Party to be beaten out of sight. I am copying here some of the cards they have been delivering across Hampstead Town over recent weeks.

I am optimistic that Hampstead Town, comprised of one of the most internationalist communities, will reject the BNP, but I am just hopeful that it is resounding. For the record I find their agenda hateful, negative, divisive and believe that it creates divisions based on hate rather than solutions based on realities.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Arts and Crafts movement in NW3

Well, when I started this blog I'm not sure what my expectations were.

I knew I was up for architecture, history and fascinating insights into the character of our local community.

But I didn't for a minute think I would be doing a post on the nature of a roof, but here we are. I was going to my meeting of School Council at UCS and I saw this amazing tiled roof - it's on the corner of Arkwright Road and Fitzjohn's Avenue and is truly impressive.

I've put a small snap on the right hand side so readers can double click and get a large blown up quality pic...

Now I like the idea of this sortof thing but every tile has been laid by hand, the sense of detail, the time, the effort required is vast...

Now I also know these houses are large and therefore were the domain of the rich and wealthy, but nonetheless it is reflective of the arts and crafts tradition - not only was this a commitment to a more rustic pride and tradition, but it was an appreciation of quality and a lifestyle that aspired to be the best for everyone.

The reality was that Arts and Crafts movement was actually a middle and upper class preserve, but the intent was a good one and the fruits can be seen here today in NW3...

Tuesday 23 September 2008

The case for looking at our bus routes again

The closure of the North London line has been accepted by users and residents as part of the essential work needed to make the line better and crucially make it more able to carry freight - something I'm hugely in favour of.
But the costs, efforts and communications of the closure have been a bit more tricky.
Overground and Lorol are all pretty new creations but the management of this scheme has been laden with decent folk and good intentions but somehow it falls short of the mark.
The cordons closing stations have been pretty lame. The signage (as shown here at Hampstead Heath station) are well below the standard promised or expected. The staffing is a series of people desperately trying to provide information in a context where there is little.
The provision of a replacement bus however, has provided a fascinating insight. Two elements with the bus, the first is how it is much busier at certain times than you would expect - I caught it late the other night and there were a host people - families, shift workers and visitors. And the second, is how interesting the route is - not as an experience, but in demonstrating the need for more horizontal bus routes. One of the major transport hiccups in london is the way everything flows in and out of the centre and with the exception round here of the C11 and the North London line there is little across north London.
I wonder if there is now a case for approaching TfL and asking that they take a medium to long term look at their bus routes with a view to more and more variation on these routes - there is clearly a demand...

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Places of worship wherever you look....

So what precisely was more popular in Victorian England - religion or factionalism.

The population was smaller, more people numerically and therefore proportionately went to church then, virtually all of the current churches in NW3 are at least Victorian pedigree... and then I realised that I was coming across places of worship that had been decommissioned and converted to other uses - in this instance accommodation.

Now when I was growing up in rural Lincolnshire there was a real sense that chapels were closing and being turned into the most attractive private homes...

But I just got to a stage that made me think just how many places of Christain worship were there?

Monday 15 September 2008

Queuing - what queue?

When the latest round of Post Office closures were being discussed one of the main concerns was over queuing at the surviving branches.

It was an issue we took up and one that I shared concerns over. However, the reality is that I work long office hours and therefore don't access Post Offices during the peak hours so I might have been wrong.

Last Friday morning I nipped into my local Post Office and what did I find? A huge almighty queue - now I ought to warn that the picture isn't of the queue I saw - the picture is a local Post Office queue that I sneaked a while back. Post Offices are being very coy and nervous about being caught with long queues - oh to be a mystery shopper.

But the reality I experienced last Friday morning was a big queue and a long wait for a task that was actually genuinely 10 minutes max - as it was it took 20 minutes - aaaggghhhh.

But at least I didn't have to walk from Parliament Hill, past the closed post office in South End Green and then up to the top of the hill in Hampstead High Street!

Saturday 13 September 2008

The lanes of Hampstead

Okay, okay - they are not lanes but one of the most charming features of Hampstead are the number of lanes - often small old, even medieval.

I've taken to capturing them on camera cos their charm and historical insight.

Spring Path indeed refers to the old and ancient spring - one of the tributaries of the Fleet river that runs from the Heath and Shepherd's Walk was one of the paths that was used for driving sheep onto and from the Heath.

In fact I have a postcard from about 1896/98 of sheep grazing on the heath...

And then there is this small lane off of Heath Street - about half way up on the left - if I recall correctly it leads up and onto Holly Bush Steps and thence the Holly Bush Pub.

There are so many sdo of which refer to the name of the old trading company that was there - Stanford Close, some refer to the residents - Golden Yard - and others are less clear - Bird In Hand Yard (presumably an old pub?).

I'm sure there is a really good sunday walk about the unknown lanes and alleys of Hampstead - one for me to ponder on over the weekend as the trickiest bit is putting otgether the map - it's one of those occasions where your knowledge is in your head but drafting the map would be pesky and I'm not a cartographer.

Friday 12 September 2008

"High on bleak Hampstead's swarthy moor"

Not my words but those of Macaulay describing Hampstead's Whitestone Pond - it was of course such a high spot that it was the location of one of the Armada Beacons of 1588.

There is still a white stone (though I haven't taken the time to hunt it down yet) which apparently reads "4 miles from St Giles Pound: 4.5miles from Holborn Bars".

Now the area feels curiously drab and run down - part of autumn of course, but on a wider point the signage has had some attention but needs proper repair and so it's welcome that the refurbishment application for Heath House has attracted a section 106 payment and combined with some serious investment between camden and the Corporation of London (time and money) the area is to get a serious facelift.

Of course it could be so much better and this now lying on the route of the Olympic cycle ride.

It was the Horse Pond whereby carriages comming from up the hill or preparing to descend the hill would pause to water and also to clean their wheels of the mud from the journey - usually these were the coal carriages.

It was also much in use during the construction of the underground as the earth from the Hampstead Tunnel was taken up to Inverforth House to build the Pergola foundations.

For details of the Whitestone Pond development appraisal have a look via this link on Camden website:;jsessionid=AAE99ABE37AC44CA586B8C65AF730265.node2

Thursday 11 September 2008

Just how many schools are there in the local area?

NW3 has one of the highest concentrations of schools in any part of London - and this part of Belsize here in Eton Avenue is no exception.

At number 15 is Sarum Hall School - it has great character and an amzing atmosphere as a place for learning for children.

Founded in 1929 it is looking to it's 70th anniversary next year. Incredibly and you wouldn't know this from the outside looking at it - it takes 170 pupils between the ages of 3-11. It led me to think just how many schools are there hiding away in the area?

Interesting the long held historic links with Eton College are maintained and there is a plaque for the major rebuild/refurbishment that took place recording the re-opening by the provost of Eton College.

The area was in fact developed in the 1860's and was originally known as Bursars Road - the links to the Eton estate are reflected in the street names of Belsize. The context is that the Eton College Estates was part of the Manor of Chalcots, first the property of St Jame's Leper Hospital at Westminster. In 1449 Henry V1th granted the estate to Eton College as part of the wider endowment of that College. Thus it lay agriculturally generating income and local taxes as a rural area until the 1820's boom of property redevelopment and housebuilding began to encroach.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

The importance of the lamp

Lighting in the local community is one of things that is most recent in the western world that has made the biggest difference.

Usually it has been used to extend the working day (aaaghhh) but in fact as can be seen here it also adds to the sense of quality and atmosphere in a community. These lamps are all from Hampstead.

The main one on the right is from the restaurant on the corner of Church Row and Heath Street - and it's a great example of quality workmanship.

Within local government, in communities and local opinion formers there is an ongoing desire to maintain and enhance an area through quality fixtures and fittings. These lights are part of that.

Of course lighting as i say has come on a pace but it's not a thing of just recent times - the first real issue at which there was a demand for lighting Hampstead was in 1774 whereby lighting was identified as a means of countering robbery - this was enhanced by an association in 1789 and by 1828 the area had day and night patrols. This wasn't a small operation, the record shows a paid superintendent, 17 watchmen, and 8 patrols and further 17 watchboxes were provided

So it's especially good to see this string of lamps in Perrin's Lane - not only are they all in one street, but the fact that they are different adds real character.

I realised taking the picture that it's this issue much spoken of about creating 'a sense of place' - an ownership and pride.

Just to finish the story of the arrival of gas and then electric lighting in hampstead the pace of change was great:
- The Local Act of 1774 allowed commissioners to levy a lighting rate for the town
- Oil lamps used were quite sparsely positioned, many larger houses still provided their own lights
- In 1823 the Imperial Gas Light & Coke Co. received permission to lay pipes and gas lamps were provided, beginning in High and Heath streets
- By 1853 Hampstead Borough had 405 lamps
- In 1872 Imperial Gas supplied 935 lamps and the Western Gas Light Co. 126 lamps.

Legislation then enabled private companies to get Board of Trade orders which meant they were bringing electricity to the parish in 1883 and again in 1892. However, The Vestry of Hampstead were opposed but persuaded that it would be profitable to build and run its own electricity undertaking, opened a power station in West Hampstead in 1894, in order to supply both private consumers and the public street lamps.

Saturday 6 September 2008

Being co-educated in a built urban environment

The history of UCS (University College School) is pretty straight forward and so you would think...

But as I was passing at the weekend I reflected on the fact that in 1907 the mov was to generous greenfield sites on the outskirts of London - Hampstead. Nopw clearly Hampstead is pretty leafy but now given the traffic pressures, the area doesn't feel like a vast green site.

But I was struck that this picture I took earlier in the summer gives the green atmosphere beautifully.

UCS has just celebrated 100 years of success and with that went a new history of the school. Nigel Watson, was commissioned to write what isthe third history of the school (the other two being in 1930 and 1980).

The UCS website lays proudly (rightly) lays out something of the philosophy of the school:

"UCS was founded to be different from other schools and it remains so today. Our liberal philosophy lends the school a distinctiveness of which we are extremely proud. We are, of course, committed to academic excellence. We believe, however, that this should be more than a narrow aim in itself.

"Excellence at UCS at every level from age 3 to 18, results from not only effective teaching and learning. It depends upon respect for the individuality of each pupil, recognition of each pupil's talents, interests and potential, and a very high quality of personal care.

"Education at UCS is a friendly and purposeful co-operation between school, pupil and home. Founded as a tolerant community without religious or ethnic barriers, we could not approach our work in any other way."

So why am I precisely musing on this? - well, this week, 1st September, sees the school going co-educational and admitting girls into the sixth form. Long overdue or timely doesn't really matter - it happened this week. :-)

Friday 5 September 2008

Those Royal Crests on the walls of the underground stations

I was on Swiss Cottage tube platform yesterday and noted that the tiling on the walls was glistening which caused me to notice the details.

I know they are heraldic but does anyone out there know the reason/origin or local connection to the specific tiles? The horse is related to many a supporter in a crest, the Lion in a St Geroge's cross over water of the Thames, the Royal Swan with the crown round the neck and three blades are all clasic symbols from royal crests.

I think there are more embossed tiles than the four I have captured here (my train came along so i ran out of photography time!), but there is something curiously iconic about them.

I also realised that I have a penchant on this blog for Swiss Cottage - it features quite a bit:

I realise that they are all part of the amazingly iconic brand that makes up the London Underground - - and I guess that there is no specific link with Swiss Cottage. That in fact in this instance they relate to the City - perhaps even stations and areas that this line passes through - but I also suspect that there is some very obscure and arcane reason that justified them in the first place. Anyone out there know?

Thursday 4 September 2008

That was the court that was...

There is a lot of noise and fury over the future of the Police Station - often the fight is charicatured as not being necessary. There can often be an atmosphere of "there there, don't you worry - it'll all be alright".

But in fact there is form on this topic.

The fight to save the police station is not a new thing and those who claim to have suddenly discovered it are bein a little silly and 'over-reaching themselves'.

Hampstead Police Station also contained a magistrates court - opened in 1913 with the station it has it's own side entrance (pictured below) - indeed the name plate is still on the side of the building.

The National Archives at Kew have a full record of the magistrates court and the on-line catalogue and it can be seen here

Thinking this through I realised that there is a whole wealth of lines of inquiry for here: it's where Ruth Ellis was held and charged before going on to become the tragic heroine - the last woman to be hanged in Britain. The magistrates court itself was build after the demand from the victorian era - the Thames Court had so many cases of child abuse - both labour and sexual that there was a need for a court more locally based (a reflection of both the growth of population and housing and also with regards to the concerns over child labour there mass of building work).

David Nobbs cut his journalistic teeth there when working as a court reporter there for the St Pancras Chronicle before going onto That Was The Week That Was.

The intersting thing with the closure story (the closures kicked in in 1997?) was that they were not universally opposed. Hampstead magistrates' court contained only one courtroom, and actually little space. According to one barrister who usedit before it closed it was a small as a "a toilet, or perhaps a large cupboard," she concedes.

On 11th September 1998 the Independent wrote: "In place of the smaller courthouses are springing up a smaller number of buildings, each one housing a greater number of courtrooms, larger space and greater facilities. The most recent to open in inner London was the seven-courtroom West London magistrates' court in Hammersmith. In almost every respect, the new buildings represent an improvement - except for hard-up defendants and witnesses who have to fork out for bus or Tube fares for the privilege of appearing in court."

But the issue remains what now for the preserved and listed magistrates court - perhaps a training centre for schools and police, a film set, a visit attraction - there are some intelligent options that are not simply mothballing and neglect, that could actually yield a benefit to the community.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

When Marc Bolan and David Bowie were in West Hampstead

We're in Broadhurst Gardens and looking west from the bus stop, up towards West End Lane and immediately on the left is an interesting stark red brick building.

Currently it is Lillian Baylis House, home of the English National Opera (ENO).

It began life in 1884 for the Falcon Works - I'm unclear what this would have been - and was built by Thomas Bate. It was he who put the crest plaque at the top in the pediment - but in fact it's not a falcon at all it's an eagle and a castle and is the crest of the Borough of Bedford! The story goes that Mr Bate just mistook the eagle for a falcon!

Whatever the Falcon Works were they were not successful and within three years the building was purchased by a butcher, licensed as a church and then turned into a entertainment venue.

It was in this later form that it became established as West Hampstead Town Hall.

Yet by 1933 the venue had become the recording studio of Crystalate Gramaphone Recording Company and four years later was the recording studios in London for Decca Company.

It was in this later life that the venue gained notopriety and indeed is the place the beatles fdailed their audition for Decca (The tapes of this were later released in 1982?). The briefest internet search reveals a host of others who recorded here - David Bowie, Billy Fury, The Larry Page Orchestra, The Zombies, Dean Martinon, Marc Bolan, Leo Birnbaum and many others...

Monday 1 September 2008

Oh don't stop the carnival...

Hearing that there had been arrests at the Notting Hill Carnival I found myself really annoyed that the coverage focussed on the negative for what had been a major success.

The music, the atmosphere, the range of foods and smells was amazing and all this with over 1 million people present.

It says something when this can be used for a negative story - it's as though an unofficial media measure is how many people are arrested each year.

Of course such arrests as took place were partly due to the increased use of stop and search - which in this situation is probably the right use of such powers.

I wanted however, to reflect back out the amazing costumes and colours that I captured on my little camera.

Most of the traditions of africa and the carribean were represented and with them often their respective national pride - the Jamaican flag is in particular prominence, as well as some more westernised cultural themes.

But also there is the god corner (above left) as well as the just loud, garish and colourful.

The history of carnival can be traced to a wide range of events, issues and themes and more detail is given here

But what struck me is the importance of this event today. It's the must be at event of the calendar for many Londoners and a huge huge amount of preapration has gone in...

This carnival dates from the events of the 50's with the parade from the 1960's but of course as with all things there is a reasoning and tradition that goes back further to Trinidad, slavery and beyond.