Rivers flowing south from Hampstead, childhood memories, and Sigmund Freud
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
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/).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.