A Travellerspoint blog

SWISS SAUSAGE AND AN AUSTRIAN ANALYST

Rivers flowing south from Hampstead, childhood memories, and Sigmund Freud

Bin with used ticket/stickers  outside Freud Museum Maresfield Gardens

Bin with used ticket/stickers outside Freud Museum Maresfield Gardens

Much of London lies in the valley of the River Thames, which is bounded north and south by ranges of hills. From these hills, various tributaries arise. They flow downhill into the Thames. Many of these tributaries, the so-called ‘Lost Rivers’ of London, are covered up and hidden from view. In a few places, evidence of their existence may be seen. For example, a large metal conduit carries the River Westbourne across the tracks and platforms of the District and Circle Lines at Sloane Square Station. On the following ‘walk’, we will encounter traces of two other Lost Rivers, as well as revisiting some of my childhood haunts.

A 'villa' on Fitzjohns Ave

A 'villa' on Fitzjohns Ave

Before the 1880s, the only main roads connecting Hampstead with ‘the rest of the world’ were the (presently named) Hampstead High Street and Heath Street. The former linked Hampstead to London via Camden Town, and the latter to Hendon and Highgate. There was no road connecting Hampstead directly with Swiss Cottage until Fitzjohns Avenue was built in the late 1870s (when urban development around Swiss Cottage began in earnest). By the end of that decade, people had bought plots along it and employed architects to design the grand buildings that still line the avenue. It has been: “…compared with Paris and was described by Harpers magazine in 1883 as ‘one of the noblest streets in the world’” (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol9/pp33-42). Well, it is elegant, but I have seen many far nobler avenues during my travels.

I will describe a journey from Hampstead to South End Green via Swiss Cottage, a place of great significance to me during my early school days. The long-established Louis Hungarian Café in the southern part of Heath Street is a pleasant place to gain sustenance in the form of a delicious piece of patisserie before beginning to explore. The section of the present Heath Street between the Hampstead Underground Station and the top end of what is now Fitzjohns Avenue used to be known as ‘Little Church Row’ and south of this ‘Church Place’ prior to the existence of the avenue.

Monroe House

Monroe House

The currently named ‘Monro House’ stands at the top end, the beginning of the steeply sloping straight Fitzjohns Avenue. This Victorian institutional building with some neo-gothic features was designed by Edward Ellis (1817-1890) in 1869 before the avenue was built. It was then ‘The Royal Sailors’ Daughters’ Home’ (and school), which was formerly housed in nearby Frognal. Currently, Monro House is used by the Borough of Camden to provide ‘sheltered housing’ for the over-60s.

St Anthonys School

St Anthonys School

A little further down the avenue, stands St Anthony’s Junior School. This is housed in a red brick building of no particular architectural merit, which is marked on a map surveyed in 1912. This ‘preparatory school’, whose aim is to prepare boys for entry to Public Schools (i.e. private secondary schools), was founded in Eastbourne by Richard Patton in 1898. It moved to its present location in 1952. It is a Roman Catholic school primarily, but it accepts boys who are of other faiths. During my time at another nearby ‘prep’ school (‘The Hall’, see below), St Anthony’s challenged my school at sports matches. However, I never took part in these matches, because sport has never been my forte.

Shepherds Path

Shepherds Path

The narrow Shepherds Path, which leads to Lyndhurst Terrace, used to be called ‘Shepherds Walk’ and used to continue to Rosslyn Hill before building plots were laid over parts of it. Its name derives from that of a local landowner named ‘Shepherd’. This path is close to the location of the old, now non-existent, Shepherd’s Well, which was both a supply of pure water for Hampstead and, also, a source of the now mostly hidden River Tyburn. This mainly subterranean river flows south towards the Thames at Westminster. It can be seen passing over the Regent’s Canal contained in a closed aqueduct.

House with tower and bartizans on Fitzjohns Ave

House with tower and bartizans on Fitzjohns Ave

A little south of the path, but across the avenue, there is a huge neo-gothic style house, ‘The Tower’ (number 55 Fitzjohns Avenue). This ‘baronial’ creation was built in 1880 for HF Baxter to the designs of John T Wimperis (1829-1904; see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1078350 and http://archiseek.com/2009/john-thomas-wimperis-1829-1904/). The tall tower is decorated with bartizans, overhanging corner turrets such as are found in old castles. This house is one of several magnificent 19th century constructions lining the avenue.

Palm Court Fitzjohns Ave

Palm Court Fitzjohns Ave

Further downhill at numbers 40-42 Fitzjohns Avenue, there is another building that, like The Tower, appeals to fantasy. Named ‘Palm Court’, it has two palms growing beside its main entrance. Apart from these plants, there is little to sway the viewer into believing that he or she is anywhere but in Hampstead.

North Bridge House Primary School Fitzjohns Ave

North Bridge House Primary School Fitzjohns Ave

Lower down the hill, the building that houses North Bridge House Primary School (nursery branch) has a very fine decorated porch in wrought iron and glass. Number 3, almost at the bottom of the avenue, was once the home of the Hungarian-born Jewish portrait painter Philip de László (1869-1937). It cannot have harmed his career prospects when in 1900 he married a member of the banking branch of the Guinness family. He lived in Fitzjohns Avenue from 1927 until his death (following heart disease).

Tavistock Centre

Tavistock Centre

Next, we slip into Freudian territory. The Tavistock Centre, which houses ‘The Tavistock and Portman Trust’ was completed in 1967 to the designs of FAC Maunder. Its geometric simplicity provides a complete architectural contrast to the decorative buildings along most of Fitzjohns Avenue. The building was constructed on the site of a part of Marie Curie Hospital (for the “radiological treatment of women suffering from cancer and allied diseases” – see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/mariecurie.html), which was bombed in 1944. The main part of the hospital used to stand where Lyndhurst Road meets Fitzjohns Avenue in the back gardens of what is now an apartment block, whose front entrance is on nearby Akenside Road. This and the branch lower down the hill are both clearly marked on a detailed map published in 1939.

The Tavistock Centre’s excellent website (see: https://tavistockandportman.nhs.uk/about-us/who-we-are/history/) informs that it has: “…been at the forefront of exploring mental health and wellbeing since the First World War.” Now part of the National Health Service, the Tavistock Clinic, originally housed in Tavistock Square, was founded by Dr Hugh Crichton-Miller (1877-1959) in 1920. Using new psychological and psychiatric techniques, alternatives to traditional asylum treatments, Crichton-Miller, although influenced by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Jung (1875-1961), employed treatments based on his own extensive clinical experience.

The Tavistock had combined with the Portman Clinic by the time that the building in Fitzjohns Avenue was completed, although there had been close associations between the two long before that. The Portman, established in 1931, offered:
“…clinical services for people who suffered from problems arising from delinquent, criminal, or violent behavior, or from damaging sexual behavior or experiences. The Clinic also offered training and consultation for professionals working in forensic mental health.”
Its early vice-presidents included well-known personalities such as: Sigmund Freud, Karl Jung, the ‘sexologist’ H Havelock-Ellis (1859-1939), and the author HG Wells (1866-1946). In memory of the man, who had so much influence in twentieth century psychology and psychiatry, there is a statue of Sigmund Freud in a garden at the corner of the Tavistock Centre’s site, where Fitzjohns Avenue meets Belsize Lane.

Sigmund Freud outside Tavistock Centre

Sigmund Freud outside Tavistock Centre

Dressed in a jacket and seated, Freud peers down, somewhat distracted in thought, at passers-by. The bronze statue was created in about 1970 by Oscar Nemon (1906–85), who was born in Croatia, when it was part of Austria-Hungary. Nemon first met Freud, who willingly posed for him, in 1931, and thereafter produced a series of portrait heads of the founder of psychoanalysis. His final portrait of Freud, a statuette of seated figure was begun in 1938 (in London), and was intended to be the basis of a full-scale work to have been sited at Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. This study led to the present statue, which was first located outside Swiss Cottage Library, before being moved to its present site in 1998 (details from: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1431355).

Freud museum Maresfield Gardens

Freud museum Maresfield Gardens

Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna Freud (1895-1982), the psychoanalyst, moved to London in 1938, when the Nazi Germans annexed Austria. The large red brick house where Sigmund lived for the last year of his life (and Anna until her death) is near the Tavistock Centre at number 20 Maresfield Gardens, a ‘tributary’ of Fitzjohns Avenue. This building in the ‘Queen Anne Style’, constructed in 1920, now houses the Freud Museum. Many of Freud’s possessions, which he brought from Vienna, may be viewed in the museum.

Westfield College Maresfield Gardens

Westfield College Maresfield Gardens

Returning from Freud’s home along Maresfield Gardens towards Fitzjohns Avenue, we pass first number 6, which bears a plaque commemorating that this and its neighbour were the original home of Westfield College, which was founded in 1882 for giving higher education to women. A college that was part of the University of London, it later moved to a site on Kidderpore Avenue (near Finchley Road) in Hampstead. It was while it was located there that I used to be given mathematics tutoring in about 1964, when I was preparing for the examinations to admit me to secondary school. The college became coeducational in 1964, and merged with Queen Mary College in 1989. The college buildings on Kidderpore Avenue have been demolished, and replaced by apartment blocks.

Number 4 Maresfield Gardens, built in 1881, was the home of Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) between 1918 and his death. Sharp, the father of British folksong revival in early twentieth century Britain, was no stranger to Hampstead. Between 1896 and 1905, he was the Principal of the Hampstead Conservatoire of Music, which used to be housed in part of what is now the Central School of Speech and Drama (see below). The conservatoire had provided him with a home elsewhere in Hampstead.

Church of  St Thomas More

Church of St Thomas More

Built more recently built than most other buildings in Maresfield Gardens, the Roman Catholic Church of St Thomas More is set back from its neighbours. It is worth climbing the few steps to its entrance in order to see inside its oval interior with fine stained-glass windows (by Alfred R Fisher) above the main altar. The church was designed in 1968 by Gerard Goalen, who designed another oval church in Ruislip, St Gregory the Great. Although it is now over 45 years old, the brick lined interior of the church has a very modern feel.

Inside St Thomas More

Inside St Thomas More

Like so many relatively recently constructed Roman Catholic churches, a pleasing contemporary design conducive for contemplative activities has been chosen for St Thomas More in preference to old-fashioned traditional designs. As another fine example of this preference for innovative architecture, let me mention the St Joseph and St Paul’s Church in Redhill (Surrey) built in 1984. It is not only highly original in its architecture, but also contains many imaginative sculptural details created by my late uncle Sven Rindl, a structural engineer in, and director of, the firm of F Szamuely.

Returning to Fitzjohns Avenue, at its southern end, there is an octagonal drinking fountain with a sharply pointed tiled roof. It is almost opposite the Freud sculpture. Made in a pinkish stone in the ‘arts and crafts’ style, this fountain was donated by the widow of “The late Samuel Palmer of North Court Hampstead” in 1904. Samuel, who lived at nearby 40 College Crescent (known as ‘North Court’) and died aged over 80 in 1903, was involved in the business of the famous Huntley & Palmer biscuit company (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1356773). Today, the fountain no longer issues water. On some days, a flower-selling stall is set-up next to it.

Palmer Drinking fountain College Crescent

Palmer Drinking fountain College Crescent

Overshadowed by its huge brick-built neighbour, an Odeon-Imax cinema (built in 1937 to the designs of H Weedon), there is a small building that looks just like a Swiss chalet. When my late mother used to go past this in the bus travelling between Golders Green and the West End, there used to be one conductor, who used to shout: “Swiss Sausage” when his bus sailed past this curious building.

Ye Olde Swiss Cottage

Ye Olde Swiss Cottage

It houses the pub whose name is ‘Ye Olde Swiss Cottage’. Ever since the 1840s, soon after the construction of the Finchley Road (in 1826), there has been a pub housed in a building resembling a Swiss chalet. Each time that it has been rebuilt, it has been designed to resemble a Swiss alpine residence. The Finchley Road was originally a toll road, a turnpike. The Swiss Cottage pub was built right next to the former Junction Road Toll Gate (see: “The London Encyclopaedia” ed. by Weinreb and Hibberd). The whole area around the pub has assumed the name ‘Swiss Cottage’.

Between 1960 and 1965, I went to school (see below) between Swiss Cottage and Belsize Park. During the summer terms, we were taken to the Swiss Cottage Baths, which were housed in an Edwardian (or late Victorian) building on the west side of Finchley Road (between Swiss Cottage Station and Goldhurst Terrace, next to which stands the former ‘John Barnes’ department store - now a branch of Waitrose). All that I can remember about this building was that its interior walls were decorated with coloured tiling. During the 1960s, it was closed and demolished. Its site is occupied by an incongruous tall, dull, ‘sixties’ block, the ground floor of which is currently filled by a branch of ‘Iceland’ stores. The old pools were replaced by a new swimming pool complex, which was opened in 1964. This ‘new pool’ has since been rebuilt and replaced by an even newer sports complex.

Swiss Cottage Library

Swiss Cottage Library

The ‘latest’ swimming pool and sports centre stand on the site of the 1964 pool building next to Swiss Cottage Central Library, which was also built in the early 1960s. I remember that when it opened in 1964, it was considered to be a revolutionary design. Not only was its architecture (designed by Basil Spence (1907-1976)) wonderfully original, but its facilities seemed (to me, aged 12) to be miraculous. Even now, so long after its construction, it remains an eye-catching masterpiece of design, well worth visiting.

The Hampstead Figure Swiss Cottage

The Hampstead Figure Swiss Cottage

The library and sports centre are part of a leisure complex, which includes greenery (lawns and trees), water features, sculptures, a market, and a theatre. Originally, they were intended to form part of a new Hampstead Civic Centre, a plan that was abandoned in 1965, when local authorities underwent revision: the previously ‘independent’ Borough of Hampstead became part of the newer and much larger Borough of Camden. Across a green space from the northern end of the library, there is an abstract sculpture called “The Hampstead Figure”. Made in bronze by the surrealist sculptor FE McWilliam (1909-1992) in 1964, the piece is supposed to depict a reclining female figure. It was “… Commissioned as part of the group of civic buildings for the borough of Hampstead by Sir Basil Spence, Bonnington and Collins … with which it forms a close and complementary grouping…” (see: http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101388304-the-hampstead-figure-sculpture-to-north-of-swiss-cottage-library-swiss-cottage-ward#.WTvLL2jyuM8).

Hampstead Theatre

Hampstead Theatre

When I went to school during the first half of the 1960s, The Hampstead Theatre Club, now ‘The Hampstead Theatre, was housed in temporary accommodation between Eton Avenue and College Crescent, the southern end of Fitzjohns Avenue. In 1962, it moved from its original home in Hampstead’s Holly Bush Vale into what looked to me like a giant shoe-box, a pre-fabricated portable building. It remained in its temporary accommodation for about forty years until its new building was completed in 2003. The attractive new theatre, which maintains some of it predecessor’s external rectangularity, was designed by Bennetts Associates. Stepping into its multi-level foyer areas is a visually exciting experience. This is in no little way due to the way that the metal-clad rear wall of the auditorium projects into the foyer, making it a dramatic sculptural feature. The main auditorium is well-designed. The seats are well raked, and not one of them has a poor view of the stage. The theatre continues to be one of the more interesting places to watch, mostly contemporary, drama in London.

Hampstead Theatre

Hampstead Theatre

Outside the northern side of the theatre, there are often market stalls. They sell anything from foods, prepared and otherwise, to clothes and second-hand books. On Wednesday, there is a ‘farmers’ market’ held along this stretch of road. During the 1970s, I remember that there were odd market stalls set up occasionally south of the theatre outside the swimming pool and library. They might have been commercial, but they looked quite ‘alternative’, very informal, and a bit bohemian. A college friend of ours used to make wooden toy rocking-horses and colourful quilt covers to sell there in order to generate a bit of pocket money. I do not know whether they still operate now.

Royal Central School of Speech and  Drama  Swiss Cottage

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Swiss Cottage

The Royal College of Speech and Drama occupies an old building across the road (Eton Avenue, named after Eton College, a large landowner in Swiss Cottage) from the Hampstead Theatre. The college was founded by the English teacher of speech and drama Elsie Fogerty (1865-1945) in 1909. Initially, it was housed in the Royal Albert Hall. In 1957, it moved to its present location in the Embassy Theatre, a repertory theatre, in Swiss Cottage, which opened in 1928. Prior to that, the building was the home of ‘The Hampstead Conservatoire’, a private music college, one of whose directors was Cecil Sharp (see above). The building, which has undergone many internal changes, dates from the last third of the 19th century. It does not appear on a detailed map surveyed in 1866.

The Hall senior school

The Hall senior school

I used to walk past the Royal College and then along Adamson Road every school day between 1962 and 1965. This was the route that I followed from the bus stop at Swiss Cottage Station to the Hall Senior School, which is housed in a red brick house on Crossfield Road. This was built to the designs of E. R. Robson (1836-1917), architect to the London school board. Like other schools that Robson designed, The Hall is in the ‘Quuen Anne’ style, which he favoured “…as more suitably enlightened and secular than Gothic Revival…” (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Robert_Robson). It was built shortly after 1878, when houses begun to be constructed on the recently laid-out Crossfield Road. It was briefly a school for girls, before taken over as a boys’ preparatory school, The Hall (which was founded as the ‘Belsize School for Boys’ in 1889 in a nearby building by the Reverend Francis Wrottesley – see: http://hallschool.co.uk/school-history/).

The Hall Junior School

The Hall Junior School

When I attended the school, the classrooms were arranged around a large wood-panelled central hall (with a first-floor gallery) that was decorated with the crests of many Public Schools, entry to which we were being prepared. We boys used to enter the school by a small entrance down some steps on the left side of the façade. The bricks beside the archway used to be pockmarked with small concavities, where boys had used coins to grind away the bricks. On a recent visit, I noticed that these bricks have been replaced. I suppose there are now school rules that forbid damaging the bricks with coins, or that the pupils have more sophisticated ways of distracting themselves.

In the early 1960s, the Hall Junior School was housed in a large Victorian villa standing at the junction of Buckland Crescent and Belsize Park. It is still there today. Older than the senior school’s building, the villa appears on a detailed map surveyed in 1866, well before Crossfield Road and Eton Avenue existed.

I entered the Hall Junior School in 1960 after having been a pupil at Golders Hill School in Golders Green. At the Hall, as in so many private schools, we were addressed by our surnames. My name ‘Yamey’ proved to be difficult for the teachers. Some wanted to pronounce it ‘yammy’ and others ‘yay-me’. They argued about it. When I was asked, I said that I preferred the latter, even though my family pronounced it the other way. The Hall Junior School was a kindly place, with acceptable school food. Fish and chips was served once a week. I remember that when we entered the building, we had to take of our ‘outdoor’ shoes and replace them with ‘indoor’ shoes. At an age, which I cannot recall, we transferred from the Junior School to the larger Senior one.

When I was a pupil at The Hall was, it was one of the best preparatory schools in London, and rather an elitist one at that. Many of the students were boys, whose parent(s) had achieved something that made them worthy of an entry in ‘Who’s Who’. I was in that category. There were a number of sons of multi-millionaires, including several Greek shipping magnates. I remember waiting for my bottle of free mid-morning milk alongside a member of the Royal Family, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, who was in my academic year. Although a viscount at the time, he was, like the rest of us, addressed by his surname only (without the title!)

The food we were served in the Senior School was far less edible and tasty than that which we had enjoyed in the Junior School. Many of the teachers were less friendly than those in the Junior School. A Miss McDonald gave us singing lessons. She made those boys, who were not talented singers (including me), sit on the floor of the so-called ‘Billiard Room’ that had windows looking out onto Crossfield Road. We were known as ‘the mice’. To entertain the rest of the class, she would make the ‘mice’ sing unaccompanied. Incidentally, it was in this room, which contained a vast billiards table, that in January 1965 we watched the funeral of Winston Churchill on a small black and white television. Miss McDonald’s unsympathetic approach hardly matched the cruelty displayed by some of the male teachers.

Mr R, a small plump man with a red face who taught us Latin, used to grab boys by their hair and then drag them up and down the class-room. This ‘punishment’ was known by the pupils as a ‘Rozzie haircut’. Mr P, another language teacher whose fingers were twisted because of rheumatism or arthritis, used to show off by trying to write on the blackboard with both hands simultaneously. If a boy annoyed him, he used to give the culprit’s ear a sharp ‘blip’with one of his deformed digits. Mr B, who taught history, was prone to tweaking boys’ ears or rapping their knuckles with the edge of a ruler. Unrelated to this, I will add that in those days teachers smoked in front of us in class. The school was so examination-oriented that we were not given homework to take home. Instead, we spent an hour at the end of the school day, completing ‘homework’ assignments under examination hall conditions. Somehow, we received a very solid academic grounding, and were well-prepared for the entrance examinations for admission to good private secondary schools.

Some boys were so bright that they completed the entrance examination’s curriculum several years before they were old enough to be able to enter secondary school. They were kept occupied intellectually by being taught advanced Latin and Greek as well as philosophy. I was not one of these geniuses. I passed the Common Entrance Examination in 1965, and gained admission to Highgate School. On my last day at the Hall, the then headmaster, Mr Cooper, asked me whether I was sad to be leaving his school. When I answered “no, not at all”, his face dropped. The school continues to thrive today, and its pupils still wear the pink (mainly) and black uniforms decorated with a Maltese cross. Once when I was getting off the bus at Golders Green, some schoolboys, seeing me in my pink blazer with its prominent black Maltese cross, shouted “Nazi” at me, the cross signifying to them its German military usage.

Hampstead Town Hall

Hampstead Town Hall

Occasionally, I travelled between the Hall and Golders Green by taking the Underground from Belsize Park Station. To reach the station, I used to walk away from Swiss Cottage along Belsize Park, which becomes Belsize Avenue before it reaches Haverstock Hill. Where the two roads meet, stands what used to be Hampstead Town Hall. This grand red brick building with white stone trimmings was built in 1878, seven years before the town of Hampstead was made part of London. The building, designed by HE Kendall (1805-1885), District Surveyor for Hampstead from 1844, and his nephew Frederick Mew (1832-1898), is no longer a town hall. The building is now used for cultural purposes, and is known as ‘Hampstead Town Hall Centre’. Incidentally, Mew’s daughter Charlotte Mary Mew (1869-1928) was a poet of some renown.

St Stephens Rosslyn Hill

St Stephens Rosslyn Hill

Hampstead Green, a triangular area of greenery, is on the eastern side of Rosslyn Hill, a short distance above the former town hall. It is dominated by the wonderful, distinctive Victorian Gothic church of St Stephens, built in 1870 and designed by Samuel S Teulon (1812-1873), who died in Hampstead. The church is rich in intricate stone detailing.

Former Dr Hortons Congregational Church Rosslyn Hill

Former Dr Hortons Congregational Church Rosslyn Hill

Across Rosslyn Hill on the corner of Lyndhurst Road, opposite St Stephens, stands another unusual church. It is brick-built with vast tiled roofs. Star-shaped in plan, this used to be Lyndhurst Congregational Church. Between 1884 and 1930, the Reverend Robert F Horton (1855-1934) was its full-time minister. The roughly hexagonal church, which was designed by Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) who designed London’s Natural History Museum, was built in 1884. It could accommodate 1,500 people, seated. Today, the church’s deconsecrated premises house recording studios.

Royal Free Hospital front

Royal Free Hospital front

Pond Street that leads downhill from St Stephens to South End Green is lined on its north side by old buildings and on its south side by the enormous Royal Free Hospital, which is housed in aesthetically indifferent buildings constructed in the early 1970s. The hospital was founded in 1828. Until it moved to its present site in Hampstead, its headquarters were in Grays Inn Road, in buildings that are now part of the Eastman dental Hospital. I was born (not without some considerable difficulty) in the Grays Inn Road premises. The present site of the hospital is on land that was previously occupied by the Hampstead General Hospital, which was founded in 1882 by Doctor William Heath Strange (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/hampsteadgeneral.html). This hospital, which was taken over by the National Health Service in 1948, was demolished in 1975. It occupied the site of the present hospital’s expensive, often crowded visitors’ car park. It is crowded because many of the families of the hospital’s patients are too prosperous to consider using the very adequate public transport that serves the Royal Free.

Roebuck Pond Street

Roebuck Pond Street

The Royal Free in Pond Street has bad memories for me. Both my mother, and her brother, my uncle Felix, spent the last few weeks of their lives in beds in the hospital’s wards, and died in them. They were both born in South Africa. I used to visit them often, watching their gradual and painful decline. On the day that Felix died, a kindly nurse from Zimbabwe gave him a piece of the South African dried meat called ‘biltong’. Thus, Felix, who despite being ‘white’ was an African at heart, died having had a final taste of his native land. One small consolation about visiting patients at this hospital is that the wards’ windows (in a building that sticks out of the landscape like a tall sore thumb) provide superb views of Hampstead and its surroundings.

17 Pond Street

17 Pond Street

29 Pond Street

29 Pond Street

The aesthetically pleasing northern side of Pond Street is a welcome contrast to the hospital’s side. The imposing Roebuck pub whose façade is crowned by a triangular pediment was in business in 1871, if not before. It is not marked on a detailed map surveyed in 1866. Pond Street antedates the pub. It was named in 1484 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol9/pp15-33). Downhill from the pub, there is a series of residential buildings that look much older than it. They may well be 18th century structures, which replaced earlier buildings.

When I attended the Hall School, one of my fellow pupils bore the surname ‘Henrion’. His mother was the sculptor Daphne H Henrion (1917-2003; see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1447686/Daphne-Hardy-Henrion.html). For a time closely associated with the writer Arthur Koestler, she translated, and created a title for, his novel now known as “Darkness at Noon”. In 1947, Daphne married FHK ‘Henri’ Henrion, and then for the following twenty years they lived in Pond Street. It was one of their two sons who was at the Hall School with me. I recall that there used to be one of her sculptures in the front garden of their Pond Street house, which they left in the 1970s. It is no longer there.

The Drill Hall Pond Street

The Drill Hall Pond Street

The row of old houses is interrupted by a much newer one with a stepped gable, now called ‘The Armoury’. Originally a Victorian or, more likely, an early twentieth century, military drill hall, it still bears a military crest above its main entrance. One source (see: https://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/cms-service/stream/asset/?asset_id=3292260&;) suggests that it was used as part of British preparation for WW1.

South End Green

South End Green

Until 1835, when it was drained and filled-in, there was a pond at the eastern (lower) end of Pond Street. This became South End Green, and, in the 1880s, assumed importance when it became the terminus for a tramway. Later, a huge tram depot was built in a plot of land now surrounded by the following roads: Agincourt, Fleet, and Cressy. Surrounded by terraced houses, the depot’s entrance was in between houses on Cressy Road.

There used to be a cinema on the southern corner of the Green, but this has long gone. On a corner where Pond Street enters the Green, there used to be a café, ‘Prompt Corner’ which was popular with chess players. This has also gone, only to be replaced by another café, where chess is not played much, if at all. Both establishments are in a building that used to house a bookshop where the writer George Orwell (1903-1950) once worked (during 1934 and ’35).

South End Green

South End Green

The centre of the Green contains a disused neo-gothic drinking fountain. This was erected by “Miss Crump of Hereford House” to honour the memory of her cousin William Warburton Pearce, who died in 1872, and, also, of another of her cousins, James Bradley Chamberlain, who died in 1880. The fountain was designed by JH Evins, an architect in Hereford. Hereford House may well have been on South End Green, where the present Royal Free now stands (https://www.londonremembers.com/subjects/sir-rowland-hill). It is illustrated in a nostalgic 1902 painting by Mary Anne Bailey (see: http://www.camdenreview.com/node/989435).

It is at Fleet Road that this account ends. The road is named after the now largely hidden Fleet River, which drains into the Thames near to Blackfriars. The pond at the Vale of Health is one of its sources, the other one being in the grounds of Kenwood House near Highgate. The two tributaries merge in Camden Town.
From the Vale of Health, the Fleet flows through a series of three ponds (originally dug in the 18th century as reservoirs), ‘The Hampstead Ponds’, southwards towards South End Green, and before reaching Hampstead Heath Station it disappears from sight beneath the ground. The ‘Number 1’ pond, into which the Fleet flows, is the closest pond to South End Green. It drains through a culvert on its western side (a dam; see: https://hampsteadheathpondsproject.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/hampstead-no-1-pond-environmental-masterplan.pdf), and then the Fleet flows beneath South End Road towards the Green. The pond, which used to be present where South End Green is now, was the fourth of these Hampstead Ponds, and was part of the course of the river. Fleet Road, which runs south-east from Pond Square towards Camden Town marks the former course of the Fleet River (see: “The Lost Rivers of London” by N Barton). On a personal note, it was in Fleet Road that my late uncle Felix owned a terraced house, which backed onto the former tramway depot, opposite the haematology department of the Royal Free Hospital.

In this account, we have walked from near the source of one of London’s ‘lost’ rivers to a point not too far from the source of another one. In doing so, we have explored parts of London that were developed from open country into urban areas late in the nineteenth century. Once on the edge of London, places like Swiss Cottage and Belsize Park are now far from the outer limits of the city.

View across Hampstead Green of the Royal Free Hospital

View across Hampstead Green of the Royal Free Hospital

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:11 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london hospitals hampstead freud psychoanalysis swiss_cottage belsize_park Comments (2)

FROM CALCUTTA TO HAMPSTEAD

The Vale of Health

Recently, I took my friend Murari on a walking tour around Hampstead. I had a route in my mind, but my friend’s curiosity and enthusiasm led us to deviate from it frequently. I had not intended showing him the Vale of Health, but now I am pleased that we went there. The Vale of Health (‘Vale’) is a cluster of houses in a hollow surrounded by wooded slopes of Hampstead Heath (to the east of the rest of Hampstead).

Vale of Health Pond

Vale of Health Pond

The land on which the Vale is situated is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086 AD). It was then owned by the Abbots and monks of Westminster. By the 18th century this swampland in the middle of the part of the Heath, then known as part of ‘Gangmoor’, was inhabited by impoverished people and was malarial. In the 1770s, the area was known as ‘Hatches’ or ‘Hatchett’s’ Bottom, because Samuel Hatch, a harness-maker, had owned a cottage there before 1770. This unsavoury hollow was described in about 1817 as a “stagnate bottom, a pit in the heath” by the sculptor Joseph Nolleken’s wife (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol9/pp71-73). It was a vale, but not a healthy one.

By 1801 (or ’02), the name ‘Vale of Health’ began to be used to refer to this area. By then, the marshland had been drained, and property developers began building houses in the Vale. The new name was probably chosen to entice people to buy homes in the greatly improved isolated hollow. According to one source (see above):
“The middle-class element became increasingly important from the early 19th century. In 1801 the attractions of the area included ‘unbounded prospects’ of Kent and the river Thames, and screening, presumably by trees and the lie of the land, from north winds. By 1821 the inhabitants, petitioning for the removal of the poor houses, observed that the neighbourhood had ‘greatly increased in respectability’ through the ‘improvement of property’.”
The early ‘respectable’ residents of the Vale included: the law reformer Sir Samuel Romilly (1757-1818); the poet and essayist James Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), who entertained leading literary figures such as Hazlitt, Keats, Lord Byron and Shelley in his house in the Vale; the publisher Charles Knight (1791- 1873); and, also, a Prince Eszterhazy. Between 1815 and 1851, the number of houses built in the Vale grew from four to eighteen. These figures do not include the cottages that were built there. The Vale attracted many trippers. A weekly fair was established, as well as a tavern and tea gardens. Two hotels were built in the Vale, but neither of these nor the other ‘attractions’ exist today. This ‘vulgarisation’ of the area did not deter ‘elevated’ people from settling there.

Over-expansion of the Vale was limited by law. The Hampstead Heath Act, 1871 stated that: “the board shall at all times preserve, as far as may be, the natural aspect and state of the Heath” (the ‘board’ being the Metropolitan Board of Works; see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/8432619/The-Heath.html). This law effectively protected what was left of Hampstead Heath from becoming further urbanised. This far-sighted legislation is paying off dividends today by making the Heath a place where one can escape from London and imagine that one is in the heart of the country. As my walking companion, Murari, put it: who needs to live in rural Hampshire when countryside like this is within a few minutes journey from the city?

One winding road leads downhill from East Heath Road into the Vale. This lane is bordered by dense woodland and, in spring and summer, by luxuriant banks of stinging nettles. At the bottom of this thoroughfare, there are houses. Most of the cars parked outside them suggest that the Vale is no longer a home for the impoverished as it was in the 18th century and before.

Villas on the Heath

Villas on the Heath

Two large Victorian buildings whose front doors are framed by gothic-style archways bear the name ‘Villas on the Heath’. One of them bore a circular blue commemorative plaque, which was difficult to read because of leafy creepers growing over it. But, to our excitement, we discovered that it read: “Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1941 Indian poet stayed here in 1912.” I have visited the palatial Jorasanko where Tagore was brought up in Calcutta. The large (by London standards) ‘villa’ in the Vale is tiny in comparison. An article published in a Calcutta newspaper “The Telegraph” on the 13th September 2009 reported with some accuracy:
“In Hampstead, north London, regarded as a cultural “village” today for left-wing but arty champagne socialists, there is a plaque to Rabindranath Tagore at 3 Villas on Vale of Heath.”

Tagore plaque

Tagore plaque

For those, who are not familiar with this name, let me just say that Tagore was one of India’s geniuses: artist, poet, writer, dramatist, musician, educator, promoter of Indian independence, Nobel laureate, and much more. But, what was he doing in the Vale of Health in 1912? An article published in the local newspaper “The Ham & High” on the 6th of April 2013 provides the answer. In February 1911, according to this article, Tagore met the English artist William Rothenstein (1872-1945) in Calcutta, where he was visiting Rabindranath’s brother, the artist Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), many of whose works I have seen at the lovely National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore (India) and at Jorasanko. According to Rothenstein in his “Men and Memories…” (publ. 1932):
“Before leaving Darjeeling a telegram came from Rabindranath Tagore, asking me to join him at Bolpur; but my passage was booked, and I must reluctantly refuse.”

Rothenstein, who lived in Hampstead, and Rabindranath became friends, and began a lively correspondence. In 1912, Tagore arrived in England. It was Rothenstein who found him lodgings at Number 3 Villas on the Heath, where he stayed for a few months in the summer. While living in the Vale, Tagore worked on translating some of his works from Bengali into English. Some of these were published later in 1912 in London as the English version of “Gitanjali” (meaning ‘song offerings’). It was this work that, to a great extent, led to its author being awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.

JORASANKO in Calcutta - one of its courtyards

JORASANKO in Calcutta - one of its courtyards

After Tagore’s London visit, Rothenstein wrote an extensive account of his visit (see: http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk/2013/05/tagore-in-london/). I will reprint some extracts of this here:
“Promotto Loll Sen … brought to our house Dr Brajendranath Seal, then on a visit to London, a philosopher with a brilliant mind … They both wrote Tagore, urging him to come to London; he would meet, they said, at our house and elsewhere, men after his heart. Then news came that Rabindranath was on his way. I eagerly awaited his visit. At last he arrived, accompanied by two friends, and by his son…
…I sent word to Yeats, who failed to reply; but when I wrote again he asked me to send him the poems, and when he had read them his enthusiasm equalled mine…
…Tagore’s dignity and handsome presence, the ease of his manners and his quiet wisdom made a marked impression on all who met him…
…BEFORE TAGORE LEFT for India, Yeats and I arranged a small dinner in his honour. After dinner we asked Tagore to sing Bande Mataram, the nationalist song. He hummed the tune but after the first words broke down; he could not remember the rest. Then Yeats began the Irish anthem—and his memory, again, was at fault; and Ernest Rhys could not for the life of him recollect the words of the Welsh national anthem. ‘What a crew!’ I said, when I too stumbled over God save the King….”

After leaving Hampstead, Tagore wrote to Rothenstein in November 1912 after the successful publication of “Gitanjali”. Here are some extracts from his letter:
“I am so glad to learn from your letter that my book has been favourably criticised in The Times Literary Supplement. … I feel that the success of my book is your own success. But for your assurance I never could have dreamt that my translations were worth anything… Remember me kindly to Mrs Rothenstein and give our love to the children. Ever your affectionate friend, RABINDRANATH TAGORE”

In 2015:
“On her recent visit to London, Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee reportedly asked the Indian high commissioner if he would make an offer to the owners on Bengal’s behalf – valued at an estimated £2.7 million. … Business tycoon Harsh Neotia accompanied Ms Banergee on her official visit, and said: “It would be a lot of pride and interest for the people of India and Bengal if the state government could get the house and convert it into a museum or study and research centre.”” (see: http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/politics/indian-state-wants-to-buy-former-home-of-poet-rabindranath-tagore-in-hampstead-1-4198256).

Rabindranath TAGORE sketched by Rothenstein

Rabindranath TAGORE sketched by Rothenstein

Tagore was not the only notable resident of the Vale in later times. The author Compton MacKenzie (1883-1972) lived in the Vale at Woodbine Cottage in the 1930s, writing the “Four Wings of Love” (publ. 1937-1945). Near his house, was the abode of the barrister Alfred Harmsworth (1837-1889) and his family between 1870 and 1873 when family fortunes declined temporarily. Part of the reason for this decline was drink and the size of his family. Amongst his fourteen children were the two future ‘press barons’ Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865–1922) and Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere (1868–1940).

Harmsworths lived here

Harmsworths lived here

The author DH Lawrence (1885-1930) and his wife Frieda lived in the Vale briefly in 1915 at number 1 Byron Villas. The authoress Stella Gibbons (1902-1989) lived in the Vale from about 1926. According to Compton MacKenzie, the appeal of the Vale to writers was:
“… village life half an hour from Piccadilly Circus was a continuous refreshment and stimulus…”

DH Lawrence lived here

DH Lawrence lived here

Byron Villas stands on a road, a cul-de-sac, that leads downwards towards a large pond. Just before the road ends, you reach something that seems quite out of character with the rest of the smart residences in the Vale. It is a square lot on which several caravans are parked. One is immediately minded of Romany people.

Caravan site

Caravan site

This plot of land has been in the possession of the Abbotts family for over 160 years (see: http://www.thecnj.com/camden/2008/073108/news073108_03.html). Since the late 19th century, it has been fairground land. About ten members of the family live on the site in caravans, and other travelling fair workers are allowed to camp there free of charge. In exchange, members of the Abbott family, who operate travelling fairs, are allowed camp for nothing on other fairground owners’ sites when they travel around the country. The Abbotts do not regard themselves as ‘Travellers’ (Romany people), but as ‘fairground people’. An article published in 2011(see: “Evening Standard” 5th May 2011) reveals:
“Residents in nearby Byron Villas all look as though they read the London Review of Books. ‘No trouble at all, never bother us,’ they say of the 20 or so residents of the caravan site.
A father and son, both called Charlie Abbott, invite me to sit down outside their caravan, part of a tidy settlement about half the size of a football pitch. Again, the caravans are more like what you would find at a seaside holiday site, though some have traditional shiny Travellers’ water pots with spouts on their front steps. Mr Abbott Jr looks and talks like any other North Londoner, while his father has the more wizened features and air of a man who has spent his whole life in a caravan, much of it travelling. ‘We are not Travellers, we are fairground people, all members of the Showmen’s Guild,’ Mr Abbott Snr, 81, tells me firmly…”

Caravan site

Caravan site

An attempt was made to buy the land for development in 2008, but this has not happened (yet!). Given the strict protection of the integrity of the Heath, it is highly improbable that planning permission to build on this site would ever be granted.

Vale of Health Pond

Vale of Health Pond

Beyond the caravan site, a path leads to the pond. It was here, many years ago, that I attempted fishing with a friend’s rod and other angling tackle. This first experience of angling, has to date been my only one. Most of the pond is surrounded by the wild Heath, but the northwest side of it has well-manicured private gardens that run down to the water’s edge.

Although the hotels and other visitors’ amenities have long since disappeared, the Vale of Health is both a beautiful and unusually interesting place to visit.

Vale of Health Pond

Vale of Health Pond

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 11:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london literature calcutta tagore hampstead Comments (2)

HAMPSTEAD HAUNTS

Walking around Hampstead, one of the highest parts of London, evokes many youthful memories.

Hampstead, high above the rest of London, does not have its own Sacre Coeur, but in all other respects it easily rivals Paris's high point, Montmartre, both in its beauty and its history.

Heath Street

Heath Street

Hampstead (which means ‘homestead’) was first mentioned in a document dated 975 AD, and then later in the Domesday Book (1086). Since then it has been the subject of many books and articles, so I will confine myself to describing my memories of Hampstead. But first, a little history. Before that, I must say that Hampstead offers much to intrigue and charm the visitor. It is London’s equivalent of Montmartre in Paris, both because of its setting and also because of its many associations with the artistic and cultural life of London. It may sound chauvinistic of me, but I believe that Hampstead outshines Montmartre in both beauty and interest.

Perched on the uppermost southern slopes of one of north London’s highest hills, Hampstead used to be a village separated from London by countryside. 18th century maps show that it was connected to London by a road that led north from Camden Town following the path taken now by the tracks of the Edgware branch of the Northern Line of the Underground. The road that now leads south from Hampstead to Swiss Cottage, the present Fitzjohns Avenue, did not exist in the early 18th century. What was then, and still is, the High Street (which becomes Rosslyn Hill) curved north to reach a bifurcation close to Whitestone Pond. From this parting of the ways, one road continued north to Golders Green and the other curved eastwards towards Highgate village.

In mediaeval times, there were houses in Hampstead. By the 15th century, wealthy Londoners were buying and building ‘country’ homes in the village. In the 17th century, there were many inns on the High Street. Hampstead is still famed for its good selection of pubs. At the end of the 17th century, Hampstead began to acquire the appearance of a small town, rather than a rustic village. After that, buildings sprung up at a rapid rate. Some of these 18th century buildings may still be seen in present-day Hampstead. In the mid-19th century, even as late as 1870, Hampstead was still separated from London by open country containing a few widely-spaced buildings. However, by 1900 London had coalesced with, and absorbed, Hampstead. Fortunately, Hampstead has not become totally engulfed by urbanisation. To its north, it remains separated from Golders Green and Highgate by semi-wild open spaces (Hampstead Heath and Kenwood), which are enjoyed by many locals and visitors.

Jack Straws Castle

Jack Straws Castle

Every Saturday morning, my parents took my sister and me to Hampstead from our home across Hampstead Heath in Hampstead Garden Suburb. My mother, the only driver in the family, drove us in our Fiat car to the car park, whose surface was totally uneven and partially covered with small stones, behind the now closed (since 2002) Jack Straws Castle pub, now a block of flats, located a few yards north of Whitestone Pond.

Jack Straws Castle car park

Jack Straws Castle car park

According to Asa Briggs in his “Marx in London” (published 1982), Jack Straws Castle was a favourite drinking place for Karl Marx and his friends. This was quite appropriate because Jack Straw (died 1381) was a leader of the 1381 Peasants Revolt. It is said that Straw stood on a wagon filled with hay (Jack Straw’s ‘castle’), and gave a speech near where the pub was later built.

A few yards north of Jack Straw’s Castle, Inverforth Close - a small private road, open to pedestrians, leads off North End Way (which connects the Old Bull and Bush pub and Golders Green to Jack Straws Castle). At the end of it, there is a delightful garden, The Hill Garden, which is open to the public. This was once the gardens of Inverforth House, which still fronts North End Way.

Inverforth House front

Inverforth House front

The present Inverforth House was built in 1895 in a ‘neo Georgian’ style to the designs of the architectural practice of Grayson and Ould. Between 1896 and 1904, Ronald Fisher lived there as a child. Fisher (1890-1962) was one of the ‘fathers’ of modern biological statistics. Amongst his achievements was devising Analysis of Variance. The often used ‘F Test’, a statistical test, was named in his honour.

Hill Garden: view of Inverforth House

Hill Garden: view of Inverforth House

The house was owned by William Lever, Viscount Leverhulme (1851-1925), between 1904 to 1925. Lever was one of the first men to produce soap on an industrial scale (in 1884), and he was an enlightened industrialist. Port Sunlight near to Birkenhead was built by him to house his workers in pleasant surroundings. The house’s library was designed by built by William and Segar Owen of Warrington, who had also designed buildings at Port Sunlight. Incidentally, my great grandfather, Franz Ginsberg, followed in Lever’s footsteps by establishing one of the first soap factories in South Africa (in 1885).

In 1955, Inverforth House became a convalescent home of the (now non-existent) Manor House Hospital (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/manorhouse.html), and that is how I remember it from my childhood. Inverforth House ceased being a hospital in 1999. The hospital was not part of the NHS. It was privately run by trade unions. Now, the house contains privately owned, luxury flats; it has become a ‘gated community’.

Hill Garden

Hill Garden

The gardens of Inverforth House were laid out from 1906 onwards by Thomas Hayton Mawson (1861-1933), garden designer, landscape architect, and town planner. According to one source (see: http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryMagazine/DestinationsUK/Hampstead-Pergola-Hill-Gardens/), Lord Leverhulme wanted the pergola:
“to be the setting for extravagant Edwardian garden parties, while at the same time being a place where his family and friends could spend long summer evenings enjoying the spectacular gardens.”

Hill Garden; part of the pergola

Hill Garden; part of the pergola

In 1960, the London County Council (‘LCC’) bought the Pergola and associated garden areas, which had by then become very dilapidated. In 1963, the gardens were opened to the public, and called the ‘Hill Garden’. In later years, successors to the LCC have repaired to woodwork and brickwork of the extensive terraces and pergolas, and maintained the gardens superbly.

Hill Garden

Hill Garden

In my late childhood, this garden used to be very much a ‘secret garden’, and quite run-down – the pergola being closed off, because it was structurally unsound. But, now it has been ‘discovered’, and many people come to enjoy its architecture, water feature, plants, trees, and flowers, all laid out upon the slopes below the western side of Inverforth House.

Hampstead Heath flagpole

Hampstead Heath flagpole

We used to walk with my parents from the car park next to the Jack Straws Castle, passing a flag-pole, which still exists. This flag pole stands close to the highest point in London (about 440 feet above sea level). In my childhood, there used to be donkeys for hire near the flagpole. Next, we used to stroll past Whitestone Pond to the top of Heath Street.

Whitestone Pond with its ramps

Whitestone Pond with its ramps

Next, we used to stroll past Whitestone Pond to the top of Heath Street. The pond has been existence since before the 1740s. At either end of it, ramps lead from the street into the water to allow riders to water their horses in the pond. In my childhood, the pond was used mainly to sail toy boats. A few years ago, the pond, which used to look undistinguished, has been ‘remodelled’ and ‘landscaped’ with a bed of reeds, which never grew there before.

Heath Street: former exhibition area

Heath Street: former exhibition area

In the summer months, the wide pavement on the east side of the northern part of Heath Street used to be set up as an open-air art exhibition (until about 1985). We used to wander about looking at the paintings and sculptures produced by some of Hampstead’s many local amateur and professional artists. My late mother, herself an accomplished painter and sculptor, used to be very critical of what was on display. One man carved ‘objets’ from branches of trees. We always used to stop and say hello to him, even though my parents would never have dreamt of having anything he produced in our home.

Friends Meeting House

Friends Meeting House

Whatever the season, exhibition or no exhibition, we used to walk down Heath Street, passing the Friends Meeting House (built 1907) and the now long-since closed Turpins restaurant, to an Italian restaurant called the ‘Pimpernel’. This occupied a single-storied building, triangular in floor plan, on the southern corner of Elm Row.

Former Pimpernel restaurant

Former Pimpernel restaurant

Former Pimpernel interior

Former Pimpernel interior

Although it was a restaurant, its friendly Italian staff were quite happy to serve my parents espresso coffees. When they had finished, my parents used to chat with the staff, who invariably gave my sister and I small boxes, the size of matchboxes, containing torone (Italian nougat). The Pimpernel closed many decades ago. However, its building has, over the years, housed quite a number of different, usually short-lived, restaurant businesses. It was located across the road from a double-front shop that once contained a wonderful gramophone records shop, Hampstead High Fidelity.

The former Hampstead Hi Fi shop

The former Hampstead Hi Fi shop

La Gaffe, a long-established restaurant on Heath Street

La Gaffe, a long-established restaurant on Heath Street

The old New End Hospital stood between the Pimpernel and the station. This began life as The Hampstead Union workhouse in 1800, and became a hospital by 1922, after it had served as an infirmary, and then as a military hospital in WW1.

Former New End Hospital

Former New End Hospital

In 1969, during my last year at school, I did voluntary work once a week in the hospital. I worked in a cellar that contained the department where patients were given radioactive iodine to diagnose and treat their thyroid disorders. I found it very interesting. I believe that working there was one of the factors that led me to choose to study physiology at university. Thinking back on it, the department would never have begun to get close to fulfilling even the most basic health and safety requirements of today, but the people and the work there were fun. The hospital; closed in the late 1980s, and has since been converted into private flats.

New End: former mortuary

New End: former mortuary

The New End Theatre opposite the former hospital used to be the mortuary until 2011. Now, it is used to house a synagogue, ‘The Village Shul’.

New End: Duke of Hamilton and former mortuary

New End: Duke of Hamilton and former mortuary

This stands next to the Duke of Hamilton pub, which was first known as ‘The Duke of Hamilton’s Head’ back in 1721. It acquired its present name in 1762. The building housing the pub dates back to 1700.

Horse and Groom pub

Horse and Groom pub

The Horse and Groom pub stands on Heath Street between the former hospital and the Underground Station. This pub was already in existence in 1723 (see: http://pubshistory.com/Middlesex/Hampstead/HorseGroom.shtml). The gabled building that now bears its name dates from more recent times. When I was a teenager, I used to walk over Hampstead Heath with my friends, and then occasionally had a drink in this pub, to which we gave the nickname ‘The Whores and Gloom’. The pub no longer exists, but since its closure the building has been used as a restaurant from time to time.

Back Lane and Cage Imaginaire

Back Lane and Cage Imaginaire

On our Saturday morning excursions, we never walked as far as the station. Instead, we turned off into Back Lane that went downhill towards Flask Walk. Where this steep cobbled lane meets with Flask walk, there is a restaurant, ‘The Cage Imaginaire’, which has been in existence since the 1980s. I have not eaten there for many years, but my father and I used to patronise it during the 1980s after my mother died.

When I used to visit Hampstead with my parents, we used to turn right at the bottom of Back Lane, and then proceeded along the short, and the narrowest, stretch of Flask Walk leading to Hampstead High Street.

Flask walk: old houses

Flask walk: old houses

Let us take a detour by turning left, and heading north-east along the rest of Flask Walk. This street is lined by beautiful old houses interspersed with the occasional contemporary building. The road dates back to the beginning of the 18th century, if not before. A few ‘workers’ cottages, dating back to about 1811, stand a few yards away from Rose Mount House, which was built in 1812. This is where Emily, the sister of the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, lived. Emily was married to the naval officer Richard Jesse. In a letter dated 25th October 1858, the poet wrote:
“My mother and my sister Matilda have made their home with the Jesses at Rose Mount, Hampstead…”

Rosemount 75 Flask Walk

Rosemount 75 Flask Walk

48 Flask Walk: door

48 Flask Walk: door

Before reaching Rose Mount, House Flask walk widens to become a lozenge shaped open space with a grassy area enclosed within it. On the north side of this area, there stands a red brick building with the date 1888, which proclaims itself to be: ‘The Wells and Camden Baths and Wash Houses’. Its existence reflects the fact that when it was built many of the workers’ homes in 19th century Hampstead had no running water. D Bohm and I Lorrie (owner of the former High Hill Bookshop – see later) wrote in their excellent “Hampstead: London Hill Town” that:
“…it was built for the use of the natives as an encouragement to them to wash themselves and their garments.”
The building was converted for housing use in about 1985.

Flask Walk: old Bath House

Flask Walk: old Bath House

Flask Walk ends just beyond Rose Mount, and continues as Well Walk. Across the road (New End Square) from this house is the large and impressive Burgh House.

Burgh House

Burgh House

This was built in 1704 close to the Hampstead Well Spa (see below). According to Bohm and Norrie, the House is named after its 10th owner, The Reverend Allatson Burgh, who was the vicar of St Lawrence Jewry in the City of London. Burgh, who was keener on music than looking after his parishioners, neglected both them and his house. Between 1858 and 1884, Burgh House became the headquarters of the Royal East Middlesex Militia. After having been put to a variety of uses, the house became used as a cultural centre and museum in 1979. The Reverend Burgh would have been pleased to know that today his former home hosts many fine concerts of classical music.

Wells Tavern

Wells Tavern

From the bottom of the garden of Burgh House, the ‘Wells Tavern’ pub can be seen dominating the view along Well Walk. Known as ‘The Green Man’ until 1850, when it was rebuilt and renamed the ‘Wells Tavern’, a pub has stood on his spot since at least 1762. The pub’s name reflects one of the reasons that Hampstead became popular in the 17th century.

1866 map showing Flask walk and well walk

1866 map showing Flask walk and well walk

Apart from enjoying clean air, people were attracted to the mineral water springs that were beginning to be exploited at that time. These springs issued ‘chalybeate’ water, that is water rich in iron salts. In 1698, the Wells Charity was formed, and soon after this the waters were commercially exploited.
“A Long Room was erected on the south side of Well Walk. This comprised a Pump Room where the chalybeate water could be drunk and an Assembly Room for dancing, concerts and other forms of entertainment. Nearby was a tavern and various raffling shops.” (see: http://www.lagaffe.co.uk/hampstead-history.php)
These extensive premises were demolished in the late 19th century to make way for an estate of residential buildings.

Estate built on site of old Pump Rooms

Estate built on site of old Pump Rooms

The former Pump Room and Assembly Room occupied a plot that is bounded by Well Walk, East Heath Road, and Gainsborough Gardens. Present day Gainsborough Gardens runs around an oval open space, which is shown as a water feature in the gardens of the Pump Rooms on an 1866 map. At the corner of Gainsborough Gardens and Well Walk, there is a tall building with attractive neo gothic windows.

Well Walk: 1702 neo gothic house

Well Walk: 1702 neo gothic house

This was built in about 1704. Neighbouring this house, but across Gainsborough Gardens, stands Wellside, a house built in 1892 on the site of the Pump Room which was demolished in 1882. Opposite the 1704 house, a small ornate drinking fountain stands on Well Walk. Labelled ‘Chalybeate Well’, this elegantly designed public well was donated to the people of Hampstead by the mother of the third Earl of Gainsborough in 1698. Nowadays, the ‘Chalybeate Well’ is dried up.

Chalybdeate well pavement side

Chalybdeate well pavement side

Chalybeate Well from street

Chalybeate Well from street

Apart from one relatively modern building, all the buildings between Gainsborough Gardens and The Wells Tavern are 18th century. One of them was once the home of the painter John Constable (1770-1837), who made several paintings of Hampstead and Hampstead Heath. Constable had rented various houses in Hampstead as summer retreats, and lived in Well Walk during the last few years of his life. He was buried in Hampstead Parish Church.

Well Walk Pottery

Well Walk Pottery

Doorway near Well Walk Pottery on Willow Road

Doorway near Well Walk Pottery on Willow Road

Retracing our steps along Well Walk and then Flask Walk, we can see the Georgian shop front of the Well Walk Pottery, which has occupied this building as long as I can remember. It was started by the potter Christopher Magarshack in 1959. According to Bohm and Norrie, writing in 1980, Elsie the widow of the Russian Jewish translator and writer David Magarshack (1899-1977: he left his birthplace Riga, then in Russia, in 1918) lived above the shop. Elsie died in 199, aged 100 (see: http://russiandinosaur.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/when-magarshack-met-penguin-guest-post.html) In addition to selling pottery there, the pottery also holds classes for ceramicists, some of whom now have good reputations. David’s daughter Stella, a fine artist, was the Head Art Teacher at King Alfred’s, a ‘progressive’ school between Hampstead and Golders Green. In 2016, aged 87, she was brutally attacked in the street close to her home.

The Flask pub

The Flask pub

Between Back Lane and Hampstead High Street, there is a short stretch of Flask Walk, which is narrower than the rest of it and, also, pedestrianised. The Flask Tavern (now ‘the Flask’) stands closest to Back Lane. It was formerly known as ‘The Lower Flask’ to distinguish it from another similarly named pub in Hampstead, and has been in existence since at least 1762. Its present premises were built in 1874. A few doors away from it, there used to be a small second-hand bookshop, one of about eight such establishments in the Hampstead of my youth. This has long gone, but opposite where it used to be stands Keith Fawkes, which, apart from a relatively new Oxfam Bookshop close to the Underground Station, is the last of the Hampstead second-hand bookshops that I remember from my childhood still in business. If I remember correctly, Keith Fawkes was a relative newcomer to the flourishing Hampstead second-hand book scene as it was during the 1960s.

Keith Fawkes bookshop

Keith Fawkes bookshop

The tree-lined Hampstead High Street, which one reaches at the end of Flask Walk, has a widened stretch just as so many High Streets do in country towns all over England. The street is lined with shops and eateries, which are housed in buildings whose construction dates from the early days of Hampstead until quite recently. I will point out several of them that interest me personally.

Hampstead High Street statue

Hampstead High Street statue

Above number 28a, there is an old (Victorian or earlier) sculpture of a coy, sexually suggestive, young woman holding up her dress and with her head looking towards her right and slightly downwards. Her left shoulder is naked, the left shoulder strap of her dress having slipped down her left arm. I have no idea why she is where she is, or for how long she has been there.

Site of former High Hill Bookshop

Site of former High Hill Bookshop

The furthest point (from the car park at Jack Straws Castle) that my parents used to take us in Hampstead was close to the point where the High Street meets Willoughby Road. It was near this corner that the High Hill Bookshop used to occupy three adjoining, interconnected shops, each one on a different level because of the steepness of the hill. This was a marvellous, well-stocked, bookshop. Each week, my sister and I were encouraged to choose one book each. The choice was bewildering. Visiting this bookshop in my early childhood instilled in me a habit that I would find very difficult even to contemplate abandoning: book buying. Between 1957 and 1988, the bookshop was run by Ian Norrie (1927-2009). High Hill Bookshop went out of business in the late 1980s, following the opening of a branch of the highly competitive Waterstones chain in the High Street. I do not hold anything against Waterstones, but feel saddened that its presence is able to threaten the continued existence of idiosyncratic independent bookshops such as the one run by Norrie.

Hampstead High Street: old Brewery

Hampstead High Street: old Brewery

Further down the hill, beyond where the bookshop used to stand, there is an ornate archway, which is all that remains of the Hampstead Brewery Co. Ltd. Founded in 1720 by John Vincent, who owned Jack Straws Castle (see above), it was purchased by Harrison & Co., who ran it until 1921. The current ornate entrance is dated 1869. It was made to access the brewery which had been refurbished by its owner John Tanner Hawkins, who took over its ownership in 1859 (see: http://474towin.blogspot.co.uk/2008/02/hampstead-brewery-bring-it-back.html).

The Coffee Cup

The Coffee Cup

The Coffee Cup is located across the High Street, almost opposite the former High Hill Bookshop. It first opened in the early 1950s. Both externally and internally, this has not changed in appearance since my early childhood. When I was at school in the 1960s, this was the place to ‘hang out’. Oddly, I never did. In those days, the café had an exciting reputation. Maybe, I was not exciting enough to pay it a visit.

HAMPS 51 The Coffee Cup inside

HAMPS 51 The Coffee Cup inside

Recently, I entered, and enjoyed a good espresso in its quaint interior, which looks as if it retains the original decor that it had when it first opened. I did not eat anything there, but I watched delicious looking pastries and English Breakfasts being served to other customers.

Perrins Lane connects the High Street with the lower, southernmost part of Heath Street. Where the two streets meet, there used to be a photographic shop, called ‘Photocraft’, on the corner. This was in business until a few years ago, and was present in my childhood in the 1960s. The shop opened in 1965, closed 50 years later, but still trades on-line. Now, there is a new business in its premises.

Perrins Lane: the  'Old mans' bookshop

Perrins Lane: the 'Old mans' bookshop

Right next to the old Photocraft shop, at number 25 Perrins Lane, there is what looks like a small, typical late 18th/early 19th century terraced house. This was the home and shop of the second-hand book seller Mr Francis Norman. John Fowles, author of “The Collector”, “The Magus”, and “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”, wrote in his “The Journals (Volume 1)” that Norman was:
“… a bluff, awkward, friendly second-hand bookseller with a mind like a jackdaw’s nest and a shop which must rank as one of the dirtiest, most disorganised and lovable in North London. … Prices vary according to Norman’s mood.”
That was in 1956. Ten years later, Norman’s bookshop had become a regular haunt for me and my friends the Jacobs brothers. By then, Mr Norman, whose name I only discovered recently, seemed to us to be a very old man. We used to call his, un-named shop, ‘the old man’s shop’. It was just as Fowles described.
In “Old Books, Rare Friends: Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passion”, M Stern and L Rosenberg wrote of Mr Norman:
“When he moved from his Gower Street basement to Hampstead Heath, he had moved not only his books but all the dust and grime and debris …”

Mr Norman did not mind us spending hours rummaging through his totally un-organised heaps of books. I believe that he enjoyed our company. Every now and then, he would read something out of a book, often in Latin, and began to guffaw. We had no idea what he had found so humorous. I found all kinds of wonderful books in his shop, including a number of beautiful world atlases dating from between the two World Wars. Mr Norman never charged us much for whatever we managed to dig up in his ground floor shop. He kept the really valuable old books on an upper floor in his personal quarters. Occasionally, on Sunday mornings, we would visit Mr Norman’s shop when it was closed. We used to knock on his front door, and he would open up the shop for us, still dressed in his pyjamas.

During my years as a student at University College London (from 1970 onwards), I used to see Mr Norman on the Underground train, carrying bundles of antiquarian books, which, I suppose, he was either buying or selling. Sadly, he has long since died, as has one of my book-buying friend Michael Jacobs, the author (of many books relating to Spanish and South American culture).

Whilst researching this essay, I discovered that by the time I knew Mr Norman, he was a very sad man. Fowles writes in his “The Journals (Volume 2)” that in November 1968, he visited the ‘Old Man’s shop’ and learnt that not only had Mr Norman recently lost his fifteen-year-old daughter Janey, when she slipped off the roof of his shop whilst trying to rescue her cat. Also, his wife had been so seriously schizophrenic, and he had not seen her for years. Mr Norman had had to be both father and mother to Janey. In addition to all of these misfortunes, Mr Norman had lost his first wife and family when they were all killed by a V (‘flying’) bomb in WW2. It is no wonder that Norman told Fowles:
“Money does not mean anything to me now … The shop keeps me alive, that’s all I keep it on for.”

Perrins Court

Perrins Court

Villa Bianca in Perrins Court

Villa Bianca in Perrins Court

There are a number of picturesque short thoroughfares connecting Heath Street with the High Street in addition to Perrins Lane. One of these is Perrins Court, which has been pedestrianised. Just before it enters the High Street, there stands an Italian restaurant called ‘Villa Bianca’. This opened in the 1980s after my mother died. My father and I often ate Sunday lunch there together. The food and service was very good, and the place, which is quite costly, still has a good reputation. The restaurant’s owners also own the Coffee Cup (see above).

Louis Hungarian patisserie

Louis Hungarian patisserie

If you bypass Perrins Court and continue along Heath Street towards the Underground Station, you will pass Louis (Hungarian) Patisserie. This ‘continental’ café opened in 1963, and from, its appearance, not much has been done to its ‘precious’ décor since then. When it opened, it was one of the few places in Hampstead offering high quality central European style patisserie. It was a breath of fresh air amongst the then mostly old-fashioned places offering teas and coffees, but now it has become a somewhat melancholic relic, yet it remains popular.

Louis interior

Louis interior

In 1971, I took my first ever ‘date’ to have tea and cakes at Louis. At the time, I believed that the establishment was the perfect place to begin a romantic relationship. Now, many years later, the lady whom I entertained at Louis is my wife.

Hampstead Underground Station

Hampstead Underground Station

My reminiscences of Hampstead end at Hampstead Underground Station. Opened in 1907, it is the deepest in London at almost 200 feet below ground level. It stands where Heath Street meets Hampstead High Street. Ever since I can remember, the station had a pair of high speed lifts. As you travelled in them, you felt as if your stomach was taking off either upwards or downwards depending on whether the lift was descending or ascending. In the sixties, and no doubt still today, young people used to hang around the entrance to the station on Saturday evenings, meeting friends or in the hope of making new ones.

Hampstead High Street:  Victorian post box

Hampstead High Street: Victorian post box

Hampstead today is very vibrant, and a place that many people enjoy visiting. I am one of those who derive pleasure from wandering about the area, its streets and alleyways, but my enjoyment is enhanced by the wealth of wonderful memories that its streets evoke for me.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 07:11 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london souvenirs montmartre camden hampstead Comments (4)

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