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.

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