Tag Archives: Hampstead

Church Row – Hampstead

I have featured Hampstead in a number of posts and for this week I am back in Hampstead looking at a street which, architecturally, has hardly changed in the past 67 years. The street is Church Row which turns off from Heath Street as you walk up towards Hampstead Underground Station.

Church Row leads up to the parish church of St. John-at-Hampstead with a central, narrow avenue of trees that separates two rows of terrace houses in the section of road closest to the church. These houses were mainly built during the 1720s.

The following photo was taken by my father in 1949, standing outside the church and looking back up towards Heath Street.

Church Row 1

And the same view in 2016 (although I should really have waited a couple of months for the trees to be in full leaf).

Church Row 4

I thought that using black and white for the 2016 photo would emphasis how little Church Row has changed over the past 67 years, with one exception – the car and on-street parking.

A common challenge with taking photos of the locations today that my father photographed many years ago is trying to capture the same scene without traffic obscuring the view. With locations such as Church Row it is impossible to photograph without the on-street parking.

Car ownership and use across London has grown considerably over the last 70 years. Central London has always been busy, however the ongoing growth in traffic and need for parking has spread out from the centre to cover all parts of the city.

It is interesting to compare car ownership statistics to understand the growth of car use across London. The County of London Plan published in 1943 stated “In England, the ratio of cars to population is about one to twenty-two; in America it is one to six or seven. It is perhaps doubtful whether this country will equal America in this respect, but it is generally agreed that there is every likelihood of a rapid approach to the American figure and that the increase in the number of vehicles will far outstrip the 500 cars per day increase which was taking place in the days preceding the present war.”

This statement from the 1943 plan just shows the difficulties in trying to predict the future. The plan suspects it is doubtful that this country will get to a car ownership level or one car per six or seven of population, however for London in 2012, from the Transport for London report “Roads Task Force – Technical Note 12. How many cars are there in London and who owns them?” there are currently:

  • 2.6 million cars registered in London and 54% of households have at least one car
  • this gives a ratio of approximately 0.3 cars per adult
  • car ownership varies widely across London with the lowest percentage (13%) in the City of London and the highest (75%) in Richmond upon Thames
  • for Hampstead, the Borough of Camden has an ownership percentage of 38%, however I suspect this varies widely across the Borough

The above 2.6 million excludes the cars that travel into London during the day. I have been unable to find any reliable figures for the total number of cars across the whole of London.

This volume of cars all need to be parked somewhere so we see the streets of London changing as Church Row has done between 1949 and 2016.

The following photo from 1949 is looking back down Church Row towards the church. The above photo was taken from just outside the entrance to the churchyard.

Church Row 3

And the same scene in 2016:

Church Row 7

These two photos are interesting as they show the challenges with taking exactly the same photo and how using different cameras and lenses impact the perspective of the photo.  The 1949 photos were taken by my father using his Leica IIIc and a 50mm lens. I am using a Nikon D300 digital camera with an 18 to 200mm zoom lens – two very different camera systems and this is very noticeable in the perspective differences.

My 2016 photo looks further away from the church than my father’s however I walked up and down the street a number of times to find the same combination of manholes. In the 1949 photo there are two round nearer the camera and a rectangular manhole furthest away. I found the same combination, and although the paving slabs look to have been changed, there are the same number of rows of paving slabs between the various manholes so I am confident I found the same location although the perspective looks slightly different (and perhaps by counting paving slabs and manholes I am starting to take this project a bit too seriously !!)

My father sold the original camera to purchase a Leica IIIg which I still have along with the original 50mm lens which was transferable between different Leica camera bodies. On my to-do list is to learn how to use this entirely manual camera and start taking photos using the Leica and the original lens that may father used.

As you walk down Church Row, towards the church, on the left is a house with a plaque. The house in 1949:

Church Row 2

And the same house in 2016 (although I forgot when taking the photo that the original was portrait rather than landscape).

Church Row 5

Only very minor cosmetic changes, for example the change in rainwater down-pipe, apart from the burglar alarm and the car parked in front.

The plaque was installed in 1909 by the Hampstead Antiquarian and Historical Society. Formed in 1897, the “objects of the society are the study, and as far as possible, the recording of antiquarian and historical matters, especially in regard to the Borough of Hampstead, and also, should necessity arise, the protection of any historic landmark from needless violation.”

I cannot find exactly when the Society closed, however the Camden local history archive has the minutes, cashbooks, annual reports and papers of the society up to 1940 and I can find no record post 1940.

Thomas Park was an engraver, poet and antiquary who lived in Church Row for 30 years until his death. His son, John James Park published “The Topography and Natural History of Hampstead in the County of Middlesex with Appendix of original Records” in 1818. It was the first book dedicated to the history of Hampstead.

According to “London” by George Cunningham, H.G. Wells lived in number 17, the house to the right of that of Thomas Park, in 1912. His stay was obviously too short to justify a plaque.

The Hampstead Antiquarian and Historical Society plaque to Thomas Park and John James Park:

Church Row 6

As with the buildings along Church Row, there are some other aspects of London that change very little. Whilst reading the section on Road Transport in the 1943 County of London Plan I found the following paragraph:

“In 1927 the late Mr Frank Pick stated that the London General Omnibus Company lost, through delay and congestion on the roads, one million pounds a year in actual out-of-pocket expenses. This figure does not take into account the cost of time lost to passengers. Other estimates include those of a large catering firm, which estimated the cost of calls in congested periods at 6s 8d compared with 3s 4d outside those periods, and of Mr. Shrapnel Smith, who estimated the cost of delays in central London, within a three mile radius of Charing Cross, at over eleven million pounds a year. Uncomfortable and slow traffic, resulting from congestion and lack of system, is inefficient and bad for business.”

Multiply the financial values several times and those exact words could be written today. Some thing never change !

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Holly Bush Hill – Hampstead

After visiting the Chalybeate Well in Hampstead which I featured in my post of two weeks ago, I stayed in Hampstead and walked to the other side of Heath Street to visit Holly Bush Hill.

Sixty seven years ago in 1949, my father took the following photo looking up Holly Bush Hill from the walkway that leads up to Mount Vernon.

Holly Bush Hill 2

And in 2016, Holly Bush Hill looks much the same.

Holly Bush Hill 1

Turning to the right in 1949, the view looking down from Holly Bush Hill.

Holly Bush Hill 4

And the same view in 2016.

Holly Bush Hill 3

As with many of the side streets in Hampstead, there has been very little change over many decades. Both photos highlight the major change since 1949 which is how much cars have taken over the streets. In 1949 there were very few cars to be seen and street parking was minimal, however in 2016 cars are everywhere and the side streets are lined with parked cars.

I cannot find the origin of the name Holly Bush Hill. Many of the streets in this area use the name Holly, for example Holly Bush Vale and Holly Mount so there must be an original local meaning, perhaps the growth of holly bushes at the top of the hill. Other possible sources of the name refer to the local pub, The Holly Bush. This pub name has several possible meanings including the use of the Holly Bush by the Romans during their Saturnalia celebrations and also the custom of hanging a green branch or bush over the door of a building that sold wines and beers for advertisement.

Whatever the original source of the name, the holy on the pub sign has reduced over the years from a full holly bush in 1949 down to a sprig of holly in 2016.

old and new pub signs

Holly Bush Hill was not the original name of the street. George W. Potter in Hampstead Wells – A Short History Of Their Rise And Decline published in 1907 states that the original name was Cloth Hill “no doubt because it was anciently used as a drying or bleaching ground”.

George Potter records that before becoming a very fashionable area, Hampstead was the location for a large number of laundry businesses set-up to serve London. Hampstead was a perfect location due to the availability of a large number of springs with a good supply of clean water. No doubt the windy heights of Hampstead also helped with drying.

In the first 1949 photo there is a pub sign on the left and on the wall on the right the brewery name Benskins.

This refers to the pub “The Holly Bush” which, as can be seen by the 2016 pub sign, is still in existence and down the side street Holly Mount. The Holly Bush is a lovely old pub, built-in 1643 and a grade II listed building, one of the London locations that Dr. Johnson and Boswell drank in. Today it is a perfect stop after a walk around Hampstead.

Holly Bush Hill 8

In the top photo, look just along the street to the buildings on the right, these are also much the same.

Holly Bush Hill 7

On the far left of the buildings there is blue plaque recording that the artist, George Romney lived here. George Cunningham in “London” (1927) records the history of this building:

“Formerly the house and studio of George Romney. In 1796 George Romney, the artist, bought an old house and stable here, and in 1797-8, when his health had begun to decline, he built a new house and studio on the site and on land he had purchased at the back of it. Romney lived here until 1799, when he went back to Kendall to the wife he had deserted some thirty-five years before. This was his last London residence, and his stay here was a period of constantly increasing illness. The property was sold in 1801 and in 1807 it was purchased for use as assembly rooms and until 1860 it was a social centre for the neighbourhood. The Hampstead Literary and Scientific Society was formed here about 1833, and among its lecturers Dr. Lardner, Dr. Ure, Professor Lindsey, John Constable and others of equal prominence. The Conversazione Society was established in 1846 and held its meetings here. Since 1886 the Constitutional Club has been here.”

George Romney was a society portraitist, completing portraits of many prominent people of the time. A very skillful draughtsman, initially he did not have the confidence for major works of art, however in 1782 he met Emma Hart, the future Lady Emma Hamilton who became Lord Nelson’s mistress.

At the time of Romney’s meeting with Emma Hart, she was the mistress of Charles Greville who took her to Romney to have her portrait painted. Romney was fascinated by her, and she became his “artist’s muse”, sitting for him many times and featuring in a large number of Romney’s works.

Self portrait of George Romney, oil on canvas, 1784.

by George Romney, oil on canvas, 1784

©Trustees of the British Museum

One of George Romney’s drawings of Lady Hamilton.

Lady Hamilton

©Trustees of the British Museum

On the assumption that you may have stopped for a drink in The Holly Bush, when you come out, turn left along Holly Mount, then down Holly Bush Steps to Heath Street. Cross over, walk a short distance up Heath Street then stop , turn round and look back. This was the view in 1949.

Holly Bush Hill 6

And in 2016 (my apologies for the quality of the photo, it was a very sunny day and despite waiting for the sun to drop behind the buildings it still presented some contrast problems).

Holly Bush Hill 5

The entrance to Holly Bush Steps is just behind the furthest car in the 1949 photo.

Heath Street is an incredibly busy road and despite waiting for almost half an hour there was not a break in the traffic, however if you ignore the cars and focus on the buildings, the scene is almost exactly the same. I am sure that the trees in front of the white building on the right are the same.

The side streets of Hampstead have changed very little over the years. Take away the cars and I suspect George Romney would not find too many differences if he was to return to his house and studio.

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The Chalybeate Well – Hampstead

The high ground of Hampstead Heath, to the north of central London has a fascinating geology which helped to drive Hampstead’s original development and is also the source of rivers such as the Fleet and the Westbourne.

The highest point on the heath reaches some 133 meters above sea level. If you stand on the heath, under your feet will be a thick layer of sand and gravel, known to Geologists as the Lower Bagshot Sands, which at the highest point is 24 meters thick. The thickness of this layer fluctuates across the heath, for example when the shafts were sunk for the Hampstead Underground Station, the layer was found to be only 5 meters thick, and the layer disappears as height descends running down from Hampstead.

Underneath the layer of sand and gravel is a layer of sandy clay which extends for 15 meters at the thickest point. Underneath this layer is the thick and impermeable London Clay which extends over much of London.

The following map from “Hampstead Heath – It’s Geology And Natural History” by the Hampstead Scientific Society published in 1913 shows the area covered by the Bagshot Sands.

Chalybeate Well 13

Hampstead and the heath can therefore be considered as a sandy peak sitting on top of a layer of thick clay.

It is this geology which gives rise to the large number of springs which can be found across the heath. Rainwater can easily pass through the layers of sand before reaching the layer of London Clay which presents a barrier. Water then runs horizontally along the boundary between the sand and clay to come back out from the ground in the form of a spring at the point lower down the heath where the sand layer stops.

When emerging from the ground, the water carries with it the properties of the sand through which it has passed, and it is these springs and the properties of the water that have been so important in Hampstead’s development.

So what relevance does this brief geological introduction to Hampstead have to this week’s post? Among my father’s photos is this photo of a well taken in 1949:

Chalybeate Well 1

The same well in 2016:

Chalybeate Well 3

This is the Chalybeate Well in Well Walk, Hampstead. In the context of water, the name chalybeate means that the water contains iron.

The springs of Hampstead have a long history of providing supplies of water for the rest of London. Conduits were built to channel water from the springs along the heath to the centre of the city. During the search for sources of water, the chalybeate springs must have also been found, and whilst not suitable for drinking water, the high iron content gave rise to the believe that the water had medicinal properties.

On the 20th December 1698 the infant Earl of Gainsborough and his guardian and mother, the Countess of Gainsborough gave six acres of land in the region of the Chalybeate Well, to be used to benefit the poor of Hampstead. The deed that transferred the land refers to “the Wells lately made there for medicinal waters”. The transfer was to a charity managed by 14 trustees.

This gift of land is recorded on the plaque on the Chalybeate Well:

Chalybeate Well 5

The land in this area of Hampstead was poor quality and rather boggy due to the number of springs. Despite the gift of the land, there was little from the land that would benefit the poor of Hampstead, apart from the springs and it is these that the trustees started to develop.

An advertisement posted by the trustees in the “Postman” on the 18th April 1700 reads:

“The Chalybeate Waters at Hampstead being of the same nature and equal in virtue with Tunbridge Wells and highly approved of by most of the eminent physicians of the College, as likewise by many of the gentry who formerly used to drink Tunbridge Waters, are by direction of the Trustees of the Wells aforesaid, for the conveniency of those who yearly drink them in London carefully bottled up in flasks and sent to Mr. Phelps Apothecary at the Eagle and Child in Fleet Street every morning at the rate of 3d per flask and if any person desires to have them brought to their own houses, they will be conveyed to them upon their leaving a note to Mr Phelps’ aforesaid at 1d more, and to prevent any person being imposed upon the true waters and nowhere else to be procured unless they are sent for to the Wells at Hampstead, and the said Mr Phelps to prevent Counterfeits hath ordered his servants to deliver to each person who comes for any of the waters aforesaid, a sealed ticket viz: a wolf rampant with 7 Crosslets. Note! the messengers that come for the waters must take care to return the flasks daily.”

So the Chalybeate Wells of Hampstead were in competition with those of Tunbridge Wells. It also provides a fascinating insight into the need to guarantee that the waters provided in flasks were original – the use of a sealed ticket with a wolf rampant sounds very dramatic.

The waters were bottled on the site of the present pub “The Flask” on Flask Walk which leads directly into Well Walk.

The source of the water that was sold in London was not from the existing Chalybeate Well in Well Walk, the source was a spring and pond (filled in about 1880) about 100 yards further up the hill.

As well as the sale of the water in London, the trustees also looked at other opportunities for how they could gain further benefit from the 6 acres of land.

On the 2nd June 1701, a John Duffield was granted possession of the land for a period of 21 years for an annual rent of £50. John Duffield must have realized the opportunities that the land and the associated springs provided with their close location to the rest of London. He immediately started building work, constructing buildings that would enhance the local springs with a Great Room or Long Room, Assembly Rooms and a Pump Room. To these rooms were soon added a tavern, chapel and shops along with formal gardens and a bowling green.

The following map from George Potter’s “Hampstead Wells” published in 1907 provides an overview of the area around 1761. The original source for the Chalybeate waters is at point C. The walkway between Well Road and Well Walk terminates on Well Walk directly behind the current Chalybeate Well so the locations of the Great Room, Pump Room etc. can be positioned along the current Well Walk.

Chalybeate Well 12

The type of entertainments provided in these rooms can be identified from another advert in the “Postman” on the 9th September 1701:

“In the Great Room at Hampstead Wells on Monday next being the 15th, exactly at 11 o’clock of the forenoon will be performed a Consort of vocal and instrumental Musick by the best Masters, and at the request of several gentlemen, Jeremy Bowen will perform several songs and particular performance on the violin by several masters. Tickets to be had at the Wells and at St. Stephen’s Coffee House in King Street, Bloomsbury at 1s per ticket. There will be dancing in the afternoon as usual.”

A later advertisement mentions that the room will hold 500 people which gives an indication of the size, and also at 1s per ticket the amount of money that the new buildings at the Hampstead Wells were generating.

John Rocque’s map published in 1746 shows the village of Hampstead still as a village surrounded on all sides by fields and the heath. The new developments around Well Walk are to the upper right of the village.

Chalybeate Well 11

The rear of the Chalybeate Well in 1949. On the left of the basin is a chain which presumably had a cup attached to allow the waters to be drunk from the basin.

Chalybeate Well 2

The rear of the well in 2016. The chain and cup have disappeared. Just above the right hand-side of the basin is a modern push button which appears to offer a pump-action to bring water to the basin – I tried it several times but there was no water.

Chalybeate Well 4

The chalybeate waters, the Long Room, Pump Room etc. enjoyed a number of years of great popularity with those who could afford to travel and pay for the entertainments, with Londoners flocking to Hampstead. However after a number of years their popularity declined, there were a number of scandals and trouble at the tavern. It was also found that the poor of Hampstead who should have benefited from the original grant of land had not received anything as John Duffield had not been paying his annual £50 rent, and by the 1720s when the situation could not last for much longer, eleven of the original fourteen trustees had died so the trust had also become rather ineffective.

After this initial development of the grant of the 6 acres of land, and the chalybeate waters, the area continued under the management of what became the Wells Charity. Continued efforts were made to promote the waters and the entertainments that were provided in the buildings along Well Walk and during the 19th century the houses that currently line Well Walk gradually replaced the 18th century buildings, constructed to promote the spring waters.

The original public basin that held the spring waters was on the opposite side of the road from the current Chalybeate Well which was built around 1882. Water has never run freely from the well. Digging of sewers in the road and other building works appears to have disrupted the underground flow of water. Even if water was flowing into the well, it would not be wise to drink.

A Dr. Atfield analysed the water from the well in 1884 and found that it contained:

analysis

There was a note at the bottom of the above table which read:

“Note – This appears to be chalybeate water mixed with ordinary surface water. If this could be excluded a purely chalybeate water would probably be obtained.”

Not that there was much to drink. In 1907, George Potter of the Wells and Campden Charity recorded that:

“The traveler requiring a draft of it would have to spend at least an hour to obtain a moderate one from this source, and when he had obtained it he probably would not relish it very much.”

So, despite the new well being constructed, there was very little water and what was available was not very drinkable.

George Potter tried to find other sources of water which could be run to the well. A number of shafts were sunk in the gardens of houses along Well Walk and spring water was found, however on analysis it was found that:

“With reference to the analyst’s report on the two samples of water, Nos 2 and 3, a copy of which I forwarded to you on the 10th, it appears to me that I cannot allow it to pass without representing to those in whom is vested the Chalybeate Spring that persons drinking this water run a serious risk of injury to their health.”  (Letter from Dr. Herbert Lttlejohn, Medical Officer of Health to George Potter on the 17th November 1902.)

George Potter described his disappointment with these results: “The handsome new fountain in Well Walk, a fountain without water, is now only a monument – a monument to commemorate the memory of the departed glories of the once famous Hampstead Spa. But even now I am not without hope that a supply of this water, practically pure, may yet be found and let to this fountain – a fountain only in name at present.”

The Well Charity continues to this day in the form of the Hampstead Wells and Campden Trust. Although having been through amalgamation with other charities and changes in status, the charity is rooted in the original donation of 6 acres of land by the Earl and Countess of Gainsborough

The well provided a common source of street names in the area. Chalybeate Well is on Well Walk. Just behind the well is Well Passage which leads up to Well Road.

Chalybeate Well 6

Well Walk has been the location for a number of drawings and paintings of Hampstead over the years. The following print being an example, and reads: “A Prospect of Hampstead from the Corner of Mrs Holford’s Garden, opposite the Well Walk” and shows Hampstead in 1745 (print by William Henry Toms)

816585001

©Trustees of the British Museum

The following print by a Captain Thomas Hasting is from 1828 and titled Near the Well Walk Hampstead”

1169785001

©Trustees of the British Museum

Hampstead has also long been the residence of artists. A blue plaque along Well Walk identifies one of the two houses in which the artist John Constable lived in Hampstead. He frequently visited Hampstead in the summer then moved there permanently until his death in Hampstead in 1837. He took the lease on the house in Well Walk from the summer of 1827 until 1834.

Chalybeate Well 7

Constable delighted in the view of London from his house in Well Walk and worked on a number of paintings of the view. The following is a watercolor painted in the drawing-room at 6 Well Walk looking across to the City and St. Paul’s Cathedral. An inscription on the rear of the painting reads: “Hampstead. drawing Room 12.oclock noon Sept.1830”

9206001

©Trustees of the British Museum

Walking back into Hampstead, at the junction with Christchurch Hill is the Wells Tavern. This was built on the site of the original tavern, the “Old Green Man” which was pulled down in the late 1840s.

Chalybeate Well 8

At the Hampstead end of Well Walk, the road splits into Flask Walk and Gayton Road. Follow Flask Walk towards Hampstead to find The Flask. Both the walk and the pub are named after the flasks that were filled here with spring water ready for dispatch to London.

Chalybeate Well 10

The Chalybeate Well is a reminder of how the geology of a location has played a part in the development of London. The springs helped the early development of laundry services in Hampstead, the waters were channeled to the City through conduits and they have shaped the development and natural history of the heath.

I hope to cover this in more detail in future posts (and it provides a good excuse to walk more in Hampstead and visit Hampstead pubs).

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • Springs, Streams and Spas of London by Alfred Stanley Foord published in 1910
  • Hampstead Heath. Its Geology and Natural History by the Members of the Hampstead Scientific Society published in 1913
  • Hampstead Wells – A Short History of their Rise and Decline by George W. Potter published in 1907
  • For the poor of Hampstead for ever – 300 years of the Hampstead Wells Trust by Christopher Wade published in 1998

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