Frognal, Camden

An idyllic locality and leafy street meandering between Hampstead and the Finchley Road

Frognal - Maresfield Gardens - Freud Museum

Per­haps unex­pect­ed­ly, Frog­nal’s name does sig­ni­fy that this was once a nook fre­quent­ed by frogs. It was record­ed in the ear­ly 15th cen­tu­ry as a ‘cus­tom­ary ten­e­ment’, an estate held on con­di­tion that the cus­toms of the manor (of Hamp­stead) were adhered to, which involved per­form­ing cer­tain tasks and mak­ing var­i­ous pay­ments.

Dur­ing the 17th and 18th cen­turies Frog­nal gained a rep­u­ta­tion for the “salubri­ty of its air and soil” and grew from a sin­gle house and farm to a col­lec­tion of cot­tages and man­sions, many of which adopt­ed the Frog­nal name. These includ­ed Frog­nal Hall, Frog­nal Grove, Frog­nal Pri­o­ry and, in 1806, Frog­nal Park – pos­si­bly the grand­est of them all.

The cre­ation of the Finch­ley Road ren­dered south­ern Frog­nal ripe for devel­op­ment, but a num­ber of legal­i­ties pre­vent­ed its exploita­tion until the 1870s, when the road called Frog­nal was extend­ed south­wards. Frog­nal House, at 99 Frog­nal, occu­pies the site of the orig­i­nal Frog­nal house.

In the ear­ly years of its mod­ern evo­lu­tion Frog­nal became a favoured area for artists’ and archi­tects’ hous­es, and after­wards for the homes of the wealthy. No.38 Frog­nal was built by R Nor­man Shaw for the chil­dren’s book illus­tra­tor Kate Green­away in 1885. A year lat­er Regi­nald Blom­field built num­bers 49 and 51 Frog­nal, the for­mer for the artist and book­binder TJ Cob­den-Sander­son and the lat­ter for him­self.

Hidden London: 20 Frognal Way

Of the local­i­ty’s 20th-cen­tu­ry homes, per­haps the most archi­tec­tural­ly sig­nif­i­cant is the Sun House, at 9 Frog­nal Way, built in 1934–5 by E Maxwell Fry in his dis­tinc­tive­ly mod­ernist style. Built around the same time and shown in the pho­to­graph above, 20 Frog­nal Way was com­mis­sioned by the enter­tain­er Gra­cie Fields – though it was her estranged hus­band who end­ed up liv­ing here with his mis­tress. Frog­nal Way was recent­ly rat­ed the sev­enth most expen­sive street in Britain.

Shown in the pho­to at the top of this arti­cle (and locat­ed near the bot­tom right cor­ner of the map below), 20 Mares­field Gar­dens was Sig­mund Freud’s last res­i­dence after flee­ing Nazi Aus­tria in 1938. He died here the fol­low­ing year but his daugh­ter Anna con­tin­ued to live and work in the house until 1982. Vis­i­tors can now see the library and study, which con­tain the great man’s per­son­al col­lec­tion of antiq­ui­ties and books, as well as his psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic couch.

In the Frog­nal and Fitzjohns ward 14 per cent of res­i­dents are Jew­ish (the high­est pro­por­tion in the bor­ough) and 59 per cent of 16- to 74-year-olds are qual­i­fied to degree lev­el or above.

During the latter part of the Second World War, General de Gaulle lived at Frognal House, directing the efforts of the Free French forces.

Postal district: NW3
Population: 11,986 (ward of Frognal and Fitzjohns, 2011 census)
Station: London Overground (Finchley Road & Frognal, zone 2)
Further reading: Marina Warner, 20 Maresfield Gardens: A Guide to the Freud Museum, Serpent’s Tail, 1998


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