Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Old Hampstead Village.

I'd been feeling ill all last week and as a result we didn't do anything much - by Sunday we had to get out of the house.
So we drove up to London for the day - I know the city reasonably well and if you get there early enough on a Sunday morning when it's quiet, you can park in the most unlikely places for nothing.
It's been a few years now, but I used to go up to Hampstead about four times a year - I helped out at second hand book sales to raise money for 'The Morning Star', Britain's still surviving, left wing daily paper.
To my amazement, I was even able to park in my old place, right in the middle of Hampstead. Who'd have guessed?
Even more surprising, the community centre we used was open, newly painted and looking good;


There was even a book sale going on but it was new books this time;

Hampstead is a little old village on the top of a hill looking down on London Town. It grew up because it was the first coaching stop after you left the city - it used to take a horse drawn carriage a couple of hours to get there. I'm guessing most of that time was getting up the steep hill from Camden.... it's not really that far.

Then someone discovered some springs on the top of the heath and it turned into a fashionable spa for a while although it soon declined.

So there are little alleyways and old buildings;

There are some very expensive shops and some rather expensive houses too - this area has the largest concentration of millionaires in the country;

I love this old advertisement;

It reads; " Established 1746 Chas B King, Estate Agent, Decorator, Gas, Hot Water and Sanitary Engineer". Mr King was pretty determined to make himself a living one way or another.

We walked all around the 'village', up and down the little alleyways and ended up at Hampstead Square, London's smallest. You can't see it from here, it's just in front of the church, where we had our lunch;

As we walked back down the hill I saw these two old bollards;

I don't think they are original cannons but they are in the style of the first ever bollards.

After the Napoleonic wars, Britain had captured a lot of French cannons. This was really bad news for the foundries that made our cannons - they were all facing bankruptcy.

So, they lobbied the government hard (I guess money may have changed hands) and in the end the captured cannons were buried in pavements to protect pedestrians instead of being used for war. They used to weld an old cannon ball on top of the cannon as an ornament. When they ran out of cannon, the design carried on.

Here's the old 'lock up' jail;

It's built into the wall of the house where the magistrates used to hold their court; in 1730 they built a one cell jail to hold prisoners overnight.

We were heading down to Hampstead Heath which is a semi-wild park overlooking London.

We crossed the ponds and walked up onto Parliament hill for the amazing view;

This was a favourite spot for Karl Marx and his family to come for picnics - with Friedrich Engels when he was down from Manchester for the weekend. The view has changed a lot since then - to be honest it's changed a lot in the last 10 years too.

At the bottom of the hill there were stalls and exhibitions about the heath;

Including some rare newts from the ponds;

And Tai Chi;

Which is actually a martial art;

I liked this sign on the Camden Peace garden;

But how about this house right at the top of Hampstead village? I bet you can't guess it's story;

It's called (a bit sarcastically) 'The Admiral's House' and was built in 1700 by a naval lieutenant who had had unfulfilled dreams of becoming an Admiral. When he retired he built his house with a ships quarterdeck on the roof from which he used to fire a cannon every so often.

And that was the inspiration for Hampstead resident and author, P.L.Travers to create her eccentric character 'Admiral Boom', who used to fire off a cannon from the roof of his house every hour in........'Mary Poppins'.

This has been a quick tour of 'old' Hampstead - tomorrow I'll show you a bit of 'Modern''ll really like that.

Neil Harris

(a don't stop till you drop production)


Contact me:

No comments:

Post a Comment