MANY PEOPLE, BOTH LONDONERS AND TOURISTS, will have visited Hampstead in north-west London. Until the 19th century, it was a place separated from the rest of London, almost a rural retreat within easy reach of the metropolis. Today, it retains many of its original features and buildings, which helps attract visitors. Few of its many visitors stray north beyond Whitestone Pond towards Golders Green. By not doing so, they miss seeing both North End, a settlement with a truly rustic feeling, a picturesque survivor of the past in a sea of suburbia, and the surprisingly interesting Golders Hill Park.

Hampstead Town (or Village – call it what you wish) is separated from places north of it by a range of hills, mostly covered with woods, parks, and heathlands. Long before Golders Green was anything more than open fields, a road linked Hampstead with Hendon to its north. This wound across the hills from the Jack Straws Castle pub (now closed) to a settlement (next to the Old Bull and Bush Pub) that was, and still is, called ‘North End’. The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, who lived in North End (see below) described the place as:

“… once an isolated hamlet among woodland on the Hampstead border…”

In the 10th century, this area was known as ‘Sandgate’. Today, this picturesque part of London retains its isolated, rural feeling despite the large numbers of walkers who pass through it.

The middle of Hampstead High Street is 340 feet above sea level; Jack Straws Castle (near Whitestone Pond), half a mile away, is 440 feet; the Bull and Bush at North End, less than half a mile from Jack Straws, is 370 feet; and Golders Green, another half mile further on, is down at 226 feet. So, travelling between Hampstead and Hendon, which is beyond Golders Green, involved negotiating quite a steep hill. In the 1730s, a cutting was made to ease the road’s gradients[1], and it is through this, with its high sided nicely planted banks, that the road, now named ‘North End Way’ still runs. North of the Old Bull and Bush, the road is called ‘North End Road’. Before dropping steeply towards Golders Green, it skirts the eastern edge of Golders Hill Park.

I will begin with Golders Hill Park. It used to be the grounds of a large estate created in the 1760s by Charles Dingley (1711-1769). He made his money in the Russian sugar trade[2]. He was a keen political associate of the politician William Pitt the Elder (see later). One of the later owners of this estate, John Coore, hired the great landscape artist Humphry Repton (1752-1815) to landscape the grounds. The last owner of the estate was Queen Victoria’s surgeon Sir Thomas Spencer Wells (1818-1897), inventor of the still frequently used artery forceps named after him in his honour. After his death, the estate with its Victorian Golders Hill Mansion was sold first to the soap magnate Thomas Barrett (1841-1914), of Pears Soap fame, who then sold it to a committee who wanted to save the grounds from being built on. In 1898, the grounds were opened to the public as a recreational park. The Victorian mansion, which stood close to North End Road, was destroyed by enemy bombing in 1941. This building was across North End Road from a large building that is marked on 19th century maps as ‘Manor House’. Between 1917 and 2000, its grounds were used to house the Manor House Hospital[3]. As a child, I used to walk past the hospital, which, with its numerous out-houses, was not particularly attractive. The hospital has since been replaced by an unappealing looking apartment complex. At various times, the hospital had departments in Inverforth House near Jack Straw’s Castle and, also, across North End Road in Ivy House (see later).

When I was a child, my parents often took me to Golders Hill Park. We used to enter it from West Heath Avenue, which is where I will begin this tour. There are tennis courts to the right of the entrance. I have a faint recollection that my parents used to play on these courts when I was a young child. Opposite the courts, but beyond its boundary, there is a residential building, whose upper storey walls are sheet glass. When it was built in 1961 by the architect Anthony Levy[4] , who lived there, it was easily visible from the park. So easily visible was its interior that its then occupants hung ugly white curtains to conceal their life and living quarters. Now, trees and plants have grown up around it so that it is hardly visible from the park or the streets around it.

As a child, and still today, one of Golders Hill Park’s main attractions was its small ‘zoo’. A large upper enclosure – more a big field than a cage – is home to a herd of deer. And, on my last visit there (in June 2020), I spotted a creature in the field that looked to me like an ostrich. It was a rhea.  A lower enclosure, which is divided into smaller cages, open to the elements, contains a variety of creatures both feathered and four-legged. As a child, I remember that there were wallabies on display as well as flamingos. A lower enclosure, which is divided into smaller cages, open to the elements, contains a variety of creatures both feathered and four-legged. Recently, I saw some ring-tailed lemurs sunning themselves, and, a single wallaby as well as two donkeys. Some ibis and exotic ducks had replaced the flamingos.

In between the tennis courts and the animal enclosures, there is a sculpture that looks like an avant-garde bus shelter. It is ‘Gazebo’, created by Wendy Hall in 1983. High above this sculpture near the top of a lovely curving grassy slope, there is a bandstand. This has been there for a long time. It is marked on a map that was surveyed in 1912. When I was young and living about a mile away in Hampstead Garden Suburb, I used to hear occasional brief snatches of music coming from the bandstand on weekend afternoons when I was out playing in the garden in summertime. The structure is well-maintained, and has a weathervane added to it. This was placed at the apex of its roof in 2012 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. There is a huge old tree standing next to the bandstand. As it is surrounded by a sturdy cast-iron fence, I imagine that it is of some considerable vintage.

Descending the slope from the bandstand, we reach a small coppice that has been named ‘The Stumpery’. This small wooded area contains stumps of felled trees and a narrow stream besides which numerous ferns grow. A winding path climbs gently through this sylvan glade and emerges on to a small single-arched stone bridge over a body of water – a pond. The pond, which is linked to others downstream has been in existence for a long time.  It appears without a bridge on an 1860 map, but with a bridge on a map surveyed in 1894. So, it is likely that this is a feature of the gardens of Golders Hill House from before the time that the park was opened.

The pond attracts all kinds of ducks and other waterfowl and runs along one side of a square garden surrounded by walls on three sides. This is now a well-maintained flower garden. The enclosure containing it can be seen on an 1860 map, and an 1893 map shows that it contained some glasshouses (for raising plants). They still exist. The later map shows some buildings in a three-sided layout to the west of the enclosure, which also still exist.

Above the pond and a few feet east of it, stands the attractive, and extremely popular, ‘Refreshment House’ with both indoor seating and outdoor on a terrace that overlooks much of the park. Established in 1973, the establishment is housed in a wood and glass building with pleasing contemporary architecture. Food and drinks are available here, as well as a good selection of ice-creams. Close by a scantily clad sculpted stone figure sits holding a bowl to his lips. This is ‘Diogenist’ created by Mark Batten (1905-1993) His obituary writer wrote:

“His most famous work, The Diogenist, in Hopton-wood stone … established its author beyond all doubt as the leading, and indeed the only master in Britain of this most exacting technique. Indeed, I had to travel as far as Yugoslavia before I came across it again.[5]

The boundary between the Boroughs of Camden and Barnet run through Golders Hill Park, placing the settlement of North End just within Camden.  A road sign marking the beginning of the Borough of Barnet stands on North End Road next to a house, neighbouring the park, with some crenellations and mock Tudor features. This has long been known as ‘Ivy House’. Between 1840 and 1851, this was home to CR Cockerell (1788-1863), an archaeologist, architect, and writer. In 1851, and in poor health, he and his family returned to London, where they had a house in Chester Square. In 1912, the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) moved into Ivy House and lived there until her death. Her ashes rest in an alcove in the Columbarium at the nearby Hoop Lane Crematorium. During the 1950s, the house became part of Manor House Hospital (see above). Then, more recently Ivy House was home to a Jewish cultural centre. Now, it is a girls’ school, ‘St Anthony’s School for Girls’.

Moving along North End Road away from North End hamlet, we reach the gates of King Alfred’s School. Founded in 1898, this co-educational ‘progressive’ school moved from its original site in Hampstead to its present position on the former Manor House Estate in 1919. One of its more recent buildings was designed by my late uncle Sven Rindl.  Further down towards Golders Green on Wellgarth Road, stands a large building (built 1915), which used to house a nursery training college, and then, in later years, a youth hostel.

Returning uphill towards North End, the main subject of this essay, we pass a large detached house with bow windows, but little else of architectural interest, on North End Road, number 145. It bears a blue plaque commemorating the fact that the writer Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) lived there. The house was built by his father in 1907. Waugh wrote in his autobiographical “A Little Learning” (publ. 1964):

“I was four years old when my father built his house in what was then the village of North end, Hampstead. He was, in fact, the first of its spoliators. When we settled there the tube reached no further than Hampstead…”

All went well until, let me quote Waugh:

“Eventually (I think after the first war) our postal address was altered from Hampstead to Golders Green. My father deplored the change, and, as far as possible, ignored it, because Hampstead had historical associations, with Keats and Blake and Constable, while Golders Green meant, to him, merely a tube station.”

Waugh also mentioned:

“… there was in North End Road, a few hundred yards below us, a row of seedy old proletarian dwellings named ‘the Terrace’. These were my mother’s especial care, and I am sure she was a welcome visitor there.”

This terrace still exists. Further down North End Road from the Waugh’s house, the row of unexciting inter-war suburban dwellings is interrupted by a short terrace of slightly more attractive 19th century terraced dwellings. This appears on old maps (e.g. 1896) as ‘Golders Hill Terrace’. This was built in about 1874[6]. At that time, there was little in the way of buildings between these houses and Brent on the edge of Hendon.

Let us return uphill past King Alfred’s to Hampstead Way, a road that leads into Hampstead Garden Suburb, whose construction began in the first decade of the 20th century.  A few yards along the road on the left, there is a small well-secured enclosure containing a low building with heavy steel doors and topped with a nasty looking spiky railing to deter intruders.  This structure marks the entrance to an Underground station at which no trains ever stop. It lies on the Northern Line between Hampstead and Golders Green stations and was to have been called either ‘North End’ or ‘Bull and Bush’[7].  Most of the elements of the subterranean station – its platforms, stairways, and lifts – were built long before the surface access building was constructed in the 1950s. During the Second World War, the station was used to store archives, which were only accessible from trains in the tunnels. During the subsequent Cold War, the unfinished station was designated for civil defence purposes. Passengers travelling on the tube between Golders Green and Hampstead can just about discern the platforms of what would have been one of London’s deepest Underground stations.

Opposite the Underground access hut, you can see a wood-clad (clapboard) building. This is part of Wyldes Farm (see below). Near the junction of Hampstead Way and Wyldes Close, there is a building bearing a small bas-relief depicting two naked boys carrying a plank and one carrying an axe. This is affixed to the wall of a house (built in 1915 by T Laurence Dale), where the Scottish architect Thomas Smith Tait (1882-1954)[8] lived for some time from 1929 onwards. Just beyond the Close a rough path heads uphill from Wildwood Road into the wooded part of Hampstead Heath. It curves to the right, and provides a good view of Wyldes Farm House, the ‘The Wyldes’.

On 19th century maps, what is now the Wyldes was surrounded by ‘Heath Farm’. This delightful ensemble of rustic buildings comes as a great surprise to anyone used to the often-mundane suburbs of northwest London. Much of the exterior of these buildings is made with overlapping planks of timber – weatherboarding. According to Nikolaus Pevsner, the oldest parts of the buildings are as old as 17th century. The newer parts are 18th century. Two commemorative plaques can be seen from the footpath. One states that the painter John Linnell (1792-1882) lived at The Wyldes (in a part of it rented from the farmer who owned it), and that his contemporary, the artist and poet William Blake (1757-1827), stayed here occasionally. The author Charles Dickens (1812-1870) also stayed here for five weeks in 1837. At that time, he was busy writing episodes of “Oliver Twist” and “The Pickwick Papers”.

In 1884, Charlotte Wilson (1854-1944), an English anarchist and collaborator of the Russian Peter Kroptkin (1842-1921), moved into the Wyldes. There, she presided over meetings of the Hampstead Historic Club, which was also known as ‘The Karl Marx Society’. Its meetings were attended by people such as: George Bernard Shaw, Ford Madox Brown, Sydney Webb and Annie Besant[9].

The other of the two plaques states that the architect and town-planner Sir Raymond Unwin (1863-1940) lived at the Wyldes between 1906 and 1940. It was from this house that he planned the development of the nearby Hampstead Garden Suburb.  Close to the farm, and in complete contrast to its rural appearance, there stands a terrace of four tall brick buildings, Wildwood Terrace. When I was at the Hall School in Swiss Cottage between 1960 and 1965, I used to visit one of my friends, Nicholas Hodgson, who lived in one of these houses. He was a grandson of the architectural historian the German Jewish Nikolaus Pevsner, who lived in this terrace between 1936 (three years after coming to England from Germany) and his death in 1983. Recently, I learned that my friend had passed away.

These four houses do not appear on a detailed 1863 map, but they do on the 1894 edition of it. The same is true for the row of 19th century terraced houses that lie alongside Wildwood Grove below the Pevsner dwelling, and can be reached from it by a short steep footpath.  These houses were built in 1882, whereas the terrace in which Pevsner lived was built by T Clowser in about 1871.  Today, Wildwood Terrace continues as an unpaved road towards its intersection with North End. A plaque on a brick wall along this road reminds us that the architect Michael Ventris (1922-1956) lived in the house (which he designed) behind the wall. Ventris, an amateur linguist, is mostly remembered for his deciphering of Linear B, an ancient Aegean script.

North End, which runs eastwards from North End Way is an old road that appears on maps drawn as early as 1800. It was, and still is, a cul-de-sac.  Almost opposite Wildwood Terrace, North End Avenue climbs southwards towards Hampstead. Nowadays, it is a cul-de-sac, but old maps suggest that it was once a route that connected with Hampstead. Barely visible through the trees that surround it, there is a large old building in its grounds at the east corner of North End and North End Avenue. A map surveyed in 1912 names this mansion-like dwelling as ‘Byron Cottage’. Although it is not a cottage, it stands where once, long ago, a farm cottage stood. According to one source[10], this building was already in existence by 1781. Its inhabitants have included the judge Sir Robert Dallas (1756-1824) and the Quaker philanthropist Sir Thomas Buxton (1786-1845). The building was called ‘Myrtle’ until 1908, when Lady Byron, who was very distantly related to the great poet, moved into it that year, and changed its name to ‘Byron Cottage’. The building is now called ‘Cedar Lodge’.

Further up the Avenue there is a modern house set back from the road. A plaque on its gatepost states: “William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, 1708-1778, Prime Minister, lived in a house on this site”.  The house was built on land acquired early in the 18th century by Robert Dingley (died 1742), a goldsmith in the City of London. His son Charles Dingley (1711-1769)[11], who made his fortune trading in St Petersburg in Russia, inherited this land and added surrounding plots to it. In 1762, Charles owned a house, which was had been named at various times: ‘Wildwoods’, ‘North End’, and ‘Pitt House’.

At the politically ambitious Charles’s invitation, William Pitt the Elder moved into this house in 1766. According to GE Mitton in his “The Fascination of Hampstead” (publ. 1902) William Pitt, first Earl of Chatham:

“…shut himself up here from all communication with his fellow-Ministers in 1767; he was then a miserable invalid, afflicted with a disorder which in modern times would have been termed “nerves”; he refused to see anyone, even his own attendant, and his food was passed to him through a panel of the door. However, he afterwards returned to public life.”

Dingley added a new wing to the house and a gymnasium for the great politician’s children. Pitt used the house for several years. In 1787, the Dingley Estate began to be divided. The banker Abraham Robarts (1745-1816)[12] bought Pitt House in 1787, and then sold it in 1807 to the lawyer John Vivian, who was a solicitor to the Board of Excise. The house had various owners during the 19th century including (in 1899) Sir Harold Harmsworth (1868-1940, later ‘Viscount Rothermere’) – an appeaser of Nazi Germany before WW2. The various owners made numerous modifications to the building. A picture taken of it in 1921 shows that it was not an elegant building. Another, taken in the 1940s shows that by then it was in a poor state, uninhabited. It was sold to an investment company in 1948. They demolished it four years later. Apart from the memorial plaque, little remains of this home of one of Britain’s greatest politicians, except some stretches of brick wall that might once have surrounded the house’s extensive gardens.

Leaving North End Avenue and moving along North End towards the Old Bull and Bush pub, we see a Victorian house – a ‘cottage orné’, Wildwood Lodge. Its centrally placed front door has a row of five small unadorned blank shields above it.  Built in the mid-19th century, it was owned by one of Queen Victoria’s dentists before 1869. Between this ‘Gothick’ building and the Old Bull and Bush, there is a terrace of houses that, at first sight, look Georgian in style. Most of them are not old, but the two closest to the pub (numbers 1 and 3 Stowe House) are 18th century. The part of the pub immediately next to these two houses is an old structure, but the actual pub is far newer.

Made famous in an old music hall song “Down at the Old Bull and Bush” (by Andrew B Sterling and Henry von Tilzer), the Old Bull and Bush began life as a farmhouse that was built around 1645. The pub began in the early 18th century. The renowned artist William Hogarth (1697-1754) lived there as a young man and laid out its gardens. The artists Gainsborough and Reynolds frequented the pub with the actor/director Garrick. The present pub was built in the 1920s and is uninteresting architecturally.

When I was a child, there was another pub right next door to the Old Bull and Bush. This was the ‘Hare and Hounds’. I used to pass it and its neighbours on my way to school in Highgate (betweem 1965 and 1970). It was already present in the early 19th century[13].  In 1940, during WW2 it was twice destroyed by aerial bombardment. And, it “… existed for a time in five linked caravans…” (see: C Wade’s book) before being rebuilt in 1968. The pub ceased operating in 2000 and has since been demolished. A modern brick apartment blocks now stands where people used to enjoy a casual pint.

A small cluster of buildings stands across the North End Way on a steep slope surrounded by a wooded part of Hampstead Heath. Surrounded by vegetation at the south-east corner of Sandy Road, there is a house with a black wooden gable on which words from Proverbs (Chapter 22, verse 6) are carved in capital letters: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Beneath them, there is a stone carved with the date 1849 and the letters ‘VR’. This was once a village school that was built largely through the support of a cricketer and banker John Gurney Hoare (1810-1875). John was born in Heath House in Hampstead (opposite the former Jack Straws Castle). He was a grandson of the bankerSamuel Hoare (1751–1825), the abolitionist campaigning against slavery, who was a partner in one of the banks that eventually became part of the still extant Lloyd’s Bank. John inherited Hill House close to North End from his father (the banker Samuel Hoare:1783–1847). Some of his sisters lived in Stowe House (see above) in North End. The Hoare family were Quakers.

One of the Hoare family members is mentioned by Evelyn Waugh in his memoirs (“A Little Learning”). He wrote about her, when she was living in North End House (where Prime Minister Pitt once lived: see above):

“[she] … devoted her whole life to practical widely ramifying but primarily centred on her own village. benefactions She must have been about sixty when we first knew her, rosy faced, white haired, blunt and cheerful in speech … except when she drove into London, I remember her as always on foot, shod in large, shapeless boots, plainly dressed and followed by two or three Scotch terriers. I rather suppose that my mother was the last neighbour on whom she called formally.”

She might have been one of John’s daughters, Margaret, who managed the village school that he established.

Returning from this picturesque enclave of houses, mostly 19th century, we get back to North End Way. Opposite the Old Bull and Bush, there used to be (in my childhood) a small shop that sold a variety of groceries, sweets, and newspapers. It and the school mentioned above were there when Evelyn Waugh was a young boy living in North End Road. He wrote of the shop:

“… a post office and village shop kept by an irascible man Mr Borely. He was surly with all his customers and positively savage with children … My father refused to have a telephone in his house and it was to Mr Borely that we went on the rare occasions when the doctor was summoned.”

Waugh also refers to a dairy run by the Misses Tooley. Their father grazed his cows in a field nearby. I do not recall this existing when I was a child in the 1950s and ‘60s.

This brings us back to the entrance of Golders Hill Park next to Pavlova’s former residence, and the end of this exploration of a village with ancient roots that has, more or less, escaped losing its identity during London’s expansion. If it was not for the traffic that races between Hampstead and Golders Green along the often-busy North End Way, one could easily imagine that North End, where Waugh and Pitt once resided, is a sleepy hamlet in the heart of the countryside.

[1] “The Streets of Hampstead” by C Wade (publ. 1984)

[2] http://www.leeandstort.co.uk/Stort%20History/Charles%20DINGLEY%20Biography.pdf

[3] http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/manorhouse.html

[4] “London: North” by B Cherry & N Pevsner

[5] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-mark-batten-1479701.html

[6] https://www.barnet.gov.uk/citizen-home/libraries/local-studies-and-archives/pocket-histories/hendon-and-golders-green/golders-hill-hendon-nw11.html

[7] See the well-illustrated http://www.abandonedstations.org.uk/North_End_station.html

[8] http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=200729

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Wilson and https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/green-spaces/hampstead-heath/heritage/Pages/the-wyldes-farmhouse.aspx

[10] http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol9/pp66-71

[11] http://www.leeandstort.co.uk/Fairclough/RHG/RHG%201848%20Biographies%20(2).pdf

[12] http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1790-1820/member/robarts-abraham-1745-1816

[13] http://pubshistory.com/Middlesex/Hampstead/HareHounds.shtml

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