Topless Go-Go Girls in West Hampstead?!
"The Bird’s Nest Disco is part of the Railway Pub situated near West Hampstead underground station. Many attractions include an ex-Radio Caroline disc jockey on Saturday nights, and topless go-go girls on Sunday lunchtimes. Admission 75p." [Advert from the Ham & High 20 Sept 1974]
The Rolling Stones Locked in their West Hampstead Flat
"By June 1964 the Rolling Stones had hit the scene and had five hit singles under their belt, all of them cover songs. When 19-year old manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, realised that arch-rivals the Beatles were making more money because they composed their own songs, he allegedly locked the Stones in the kitchen of their West Hampstead flat until they had written a track. Their next hit was 'Tell Me' (Jagger/Richards) in August 1964." [Source: Channel 4]
Dusty Springfield's Birthplace
"Dusty Springfield, dubbed the 'White Queen of Soul', was born Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien in West Hampstead on 16 April 1939. International polls have named Springfield among the best female rock artists of all time." [Source: Wikipedia]
"The major transformation of Kilburn and West End into suburban neighbourhoods occurred over twenty or thirty years, at the end of the nineteenth century. The willingness or ability of owners to sell their land in favourable economic conditions were most important in this. The influence of London’s building booms and troughs also made their mark on the development of this area." [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
U2's First Gig Outside Ireland
In 1979, an up-and-coming rock group played The Moonlight (now The Railway), the first time Paul, Dave, Larry and Adam had gigged outside Ireland. A short review by Adam Symons said "U2 were very intense and Bono was mesmerising. The small hot club with its low ceiling was claustrophobic in a good way, if that is possible. Their short set left a great impression on me..."
The Naming of West Hampstead Tube
"Thomas Bate, a local estate agent and property developer, wrote to the Metropolitan Railway who approved his suggestion that their new tube station on West End Lane, opened in 1879, should be called ‘West Hampstead.’" [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
'Sheer Modesty' of West Hampstead's Women
"In 1867 the growing number of residents in Hampstead who lacked adequate washing facilities prompted the Medical Officer of Health to recommend the opening of public baths in the Hampstead. ‘The heat which has prevailed universally during this Summer…has driven many thousands of male adults to bathe in the Heath Ponds, in defiance of a public notice-board of ‘Danger and Illegality’. Women and children, however, have been, from sheer modesty, prevented from this resource.’" [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
Town Hall -> Recording Studio -> English National Opera
"West Hampstead Town Hall at 165 Broadhurst Gardens, near the junction with West End Lane, was established in 1886. By 1929 it had become a recording studio, and in the 1950s it was owned by Decca with both the Beatles and The Rolling Stones recording there. It is now home to the English National Opera." [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
'Not A Well-Known Part of London'
"West Hampstead begins at Finchley Road and ends half way across Kilburn High Road, which is the border with Brent. ‘It is not a well-known part of London,’ said a learned article in the Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford (1988). ‘It has no particular attraction for tourists or visitors, though it has many advantages as a residential area.’" [Source: The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]
Upward of 40 Houses!
"In medieval times the hamlet of West End (now ‘West Hampstead’) was held for the Abbot of Westminister by the Prioress of Kilburn. In the reign of Henry VIII its estimated area was eighteen acres and by the middle of the eighteenth century it contained upwards of forty houses." [Source: The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]
Dramatic Rescue of West End Green
"West Hampstead (or West End as it was then known) nearly lost its Green (opposite the fire station) in 1875; when it was ‘granted’ to John Culverhouse by the Lord of the Manor. Intending to sell the land for building, he had a hoarding set up around it but the local people pulled this down. So the situation remained until 1882 when a Mr Fowle arranged to buy the land and set up a much stronger hoarding and began to strip the turf. A further protest escalated and locals converged to demolish the boards and burn them on the Green. Eight men were arrested but perhaps wisely found ‘not guilty’. At the trial, evidence was given that the Green had been a recreation ground ‘from time immemorial’." Our neighbourhood continues to enjoy the Green today. [Source: The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]
The Wet Fish Cafe on the Grounds of New West End House
"By the 1890s, the oldest and most substantial house in this area was the New West End House. A roomy redbrick mansion, built probably at the end of the 17th century, rested on spacious grounds, containing a lake and thirteen acres of woodland. These grounds (where you sit today in The Wet Fish Café) stretched as far as Fawley Road. The estate, sold for building development in 1897, represents a lost opportunity for West Hampstead to acquire a large, green, ready-made open space but allowed a rich tradition and history to flourish at pavement side." [Source: The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]
West Hampstead's First Food Delivery Service
"George Cross moved to the area in the late 1890s when his father bought a butcher’s shop in West End Lane. Business started poorly, but the enterprising Cross family hit on an idea to increase trade – ‘Why could we not cook and deliver complete with china and cutlery, a hot dinner to every newcomer who would promise to buy our meat?’ Over the years this helped takings rise from £50 to £250 a week." [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
The Great Hollow Elm
"Records from as far back as 1650 highlight a local tourist attraction that predates the fame of the Hampstead spa. The Great Hollow Elm, an amazing old tree stood at the top of Haverstock Hill. It was 33 feet high and in its hollow trunk was built a spiral staircase of 42 steps leading to a viewing platform. Surprisingly, this octagonal turret was occasionally used as ‘a school for young gentlemen’; prompting the humorous quip that this must have been the start of higher education in Hampstead!" [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
We thought we'd share some fun extracts and anecdotes we found when researching the history of our building at 242 West End Lane.
Just A Country Lane in 1860
"West End Lane is one of this district’s oldest roads. It’s possible to trace most of its bends and twists from the earliest maps on the modern street plan. As late as the 1860s it was still a true country lane with high banks, 'hedged irregularly for the greater part of its length, and enshrined too by the embracing branches of the majestic oak, elm and other forest trees, through which a sunny gleam here and there broke.'" [Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
West Hampstead's Streets
"The pleasures of West Hampstead’s streets are found with some difficulty and in the most unlikely places, making them all the more rewarding to discover. There are rows of decorated terraces showing the exuberance of the Victorian builder. You can find sunflowers in Sumatra Rd, ferns in Mazenod, and dragons in Inglewood and Woodchurch. As for the street names, they range romantically from Gascony to Parsifal, from Agamemnon to Narcissus and, surprisingly, from Skardu to Weech." [Source: The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]
The Beatles' Famous Rejection
It's now common knowledge that The Beatles auditioned at Decca studios on Broadhurst Gardens, now the English National Opera premises. The New Years Day (1962) session didn't go as well as manager Brian Epstein hoped and resulted in the now infamous rejection: "The Beatles have no future in show business".
Rapid Growth and Socially Mixing
" Then there is the lively social history of an area fragmented suddenly by four different railway systems in the mid-19th century. As the stations opened, the Stately Homes of the village of West End (now West Hampstead) closed down. Land-owners cashed in on the chaos and caused the rapid growth of a densely-packed, socially-mixed district." [The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]
You Could Hear Big Ben
"Certainly, until the arrival of Thomas Potter’s foundry and the various railways, the population was small and disinclined to welcome strangers. It was so peaceful that the striking of Big Ben could be heard and, indeed, the owners of West End Hall (on the site where this café now stands) were sure that in 1815 they had heard the sounds of the cannon at Waterloo." [The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]
Rapid Growth in 1880s
"An observer noted in 1886 that during the past three years over 800 houses had been built: ‘the transformation of ‘West End’, which was nothing but a quiet rustic nook, into ‘West Hampstead’ possessing hundreds of residences, is one of the most remarkable changes to be found in any London suburb.’" [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
The Old Black Lion
"The village of West End had a beer house, the Old Black Horse, and surprisingly for such a small village, two pubs, the Old Black Lion established in 1751 and the Cock and Hoop. In 1896 the authorities closed the Cock and Hoop when it was discovered that the named licensee, Mr Robinson, had been dead for four years!" [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
Jimi Hendrix at The Railway
The Railway was one of the first venues that Jimmy Hendrix played at on his first visit to London. [Source: our waiter Matan]
UK's First Self-Service Store
"In West Hampstead a shop owner converted his premises into the first ‘self service’ store in the early sixties, a tentative experiment with limited stock." [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
Shirley Bassey's Record Store
"At one point West End Lane supported two record shops, one owned by Shirley Bassey (at 172 West End Lane, where Art 4 Fun is now)." [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
The Lane's Longest Established Businesses
Two of the longest established businesses, Alban Atkin the chemists (no. 243), from 1904 to 1989, and Sidney Venning the locksmiths and ironmongers (no. 273), survived until just a few years ago.
The chemists shop was a time warp right up to the end, with large glass fronted cabinets and beautiful apothecary jars. The dispensary was at the far end of the shop, under a huge clock but the chemist only made up homeopathic remedies.
Great Plague Bypasses West Hampstead
"A report of the Great Plague of London in 1665 noted that ‘At Hampstead died two hundred, three score and odd… yet at West End (now West Hampstead), a little village a quarter of a mile off at the bottom of the hill, there died none, though there are about 30 or 40 houses there’." [Source: Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, by Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms]
The Fire Station
"The Fire Station is certainly the most attractive building now standing along West End Lane. It also happens to be the only Listed building. According to the List it dates from 1901 and was designed ‘by W.A. Scott…in Voysey manner.’" [Source: The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]
"Hampstead's first public library opened in 1901 on the corner of Sarre Road and Westbere Road. The building was destroyed by a fire bomb in 1940. For the next 14 years a 'temporary' library was set up in the existing Cholmley Gardens mansion block. The building on the corner of Dennington Park Road, originally the site of a mansion known as Gothic Lodge, was seriously damaged by a bomb in 1944, which killed all but one of the members of a wedding party being held in a flat over one of the shops. (The survivor was the father of the bride who, it was rumoured, had left the party to visit an outdoor toilet.) The redevelopment of the site in the early 1950s took the form of a block of flats and the new Library." [Source: cholmleygardens.co.uk]
The Old Black Lion Pub
The Old Black Lion (now The Lion, across the street from The Wet Fish Café), was established in 1751 as a beerhouse rather than as a tavern. It was rebuilt in 1912 and outstayed its nearby rival, The Black Horse, which fell out of the running in the 1860s." [Source: The Streets of West Hampstead, by Camden History Society’s Street History Group]