Belsize Park Nostalgic London Walking Tour
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Belsize was part of Hampstead and comes from the French “Beautifully situated” (Bel assis). This blog post is just in note-form to accompany the video above in which I walk around Belsize Park and talk about the local history and how it has changed over the years.
Ethelred gave Hampstead to Monks of Westminster Abbey and the Abbots gradually sectioned bits off.
Pond Street – Belsize Park
Hampstead Classic Cinema, Picture Playhouse from 1913 was one of the most beautiful in London but is now a Marks and Spencer.
Pond Street was recorded in 1607 in a licence to contain the area.
The pond connected to the brook running to the River Fleet. In 1835 it got filled in because it was too muddy.
The oldest houses are near the bottom of Pond Street.
23-25 Pond Street – Drill hall used in 1908 by Hampstead’s 1st scout troop. The year of Badel Powell’s call to action. The oldest in existence.
Royal Free Hospital, founded by William Marsden in Hatton Garden 1828.
He revolutionized health care with free treatment and it then moved to Pond Street. (Also founded The Royal Marsden)
The Roebuck pub is a nice old pub and converted coach house.
Roslyn Hill – Belsize Park
St. Stephen’s church, built 1869, was abandoned in 1977 after hospital foundations gave it subsidence.
Air Studios in the church opposite was used for film score recordings.
The Wharrie Shelter is a listed building. Donated by Mary Wharrie daughter of first mayor of Hampstead.
The Hampstead Town Hall – The council wanted to knock it down in 1960s (unbelievably).
It is now a recording studio and performance space.
Belsize Avenue used to be driveway leading to the grand Belsize House.
The first Belsize House was in 1496 on site of Belsize Tavern. Belsize House. Leased to Armigell Waad for 19 shillings and ten loads of hay and oats.
1700s – John Roque a cartographer was commissioned to draw up a map to prove London was bigger than Paris.
Spencer Perceval, the only UK prime minister to be shot lived here.
After the restoration the area became known as a pleasure garden with deer shooting and gambling and dancing. On a par with Vauxhall Gardens. It became so boisterous that residents had it closed down.
Samuel Pepys visited and remarked the gardens were too good for the house being indeed “the most notable I ever saw”.
Belsize Park Gardens
Mulberry Tree at Belsize Terrace marked the corner of the grounds of Belsize House.
There were 4 farms in the area: Chalcot upper and Lower, South End and South End Green
In 1807 the area around Belsize Avenue was still owned by the Dean of Westminster but leased the land and it started getting developed by the mid 1800s.
In Glenilla Road HG Wells’ Brother’s House has frescoe which people think is his girlfriend.
Isokon – Belsize Park
The Isokon is the remarkable listed building in Lawn Road.
Jack Pritchard owned a furniture business and ran a plywood company out of Estonia.
He commissioned Welles Coates to design this eye-sore in 1934.
It housed refugee artists like Bauhaus architects. Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer.
Even Agatha Christie also lived here and described it as “A liner without funnels”
The interior was largely made of plywood and had a massive communal kitchen with dumb waiters.
Later they converted the kitchen into a bar where the literary salon would be held..Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore etc attended these.
It is Grade 1 listed. One of most important buildings in Britain
Haverstock Hill – Belsize park
Until 1850s only house here was that of Sir Richard Steele. It was knocked down to create Steeles Road and he is remembered with a pub here.
You can see it in a Constable Painting. Steele lived here because it was far enough from London to escape his creditors pursuing him.
There is also a lovely milestone outside stating that it is 4 miles from the post office in St Mary Le Grand.
The Load of Hay Tavern is also in the painting and mentioned in 1721 in licensing records.
It would have been a standard stop on the way up the hill towards Hampstead.
In 1745 this road existed on maps.
It led to Chaldecots Farm which became Chalk Farm.
This part was leased to James England – Hence England’s Lane
The lovely artists houses are from the late 19th century.
The Washington Pub at the end of the street is beautiful with original fittings over 150 years old.
If you enjoyed this video take a look at some of my other films! or Contact me for a private walk.
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