North End

North End, Camden

The sparsely populated northern part of Hampstead, bordering Sandy Heath and best known for its historic pubs

Hidden London: The Old Bull and Bush, exterior


The Old Bull and Bush
, a haunt of the artists Hog­a­rth, Reynolds and Gains­bor­ough, is locat­ed at the north­ern end of North End Way. The pub is the sub­ject of a famous music hall song:

There’s a lit­tle nook down near old Hamp­stead Town,
You know the place, it has one great renown.
Often with my sweet­heart on a bright summer’s day,
To the lit­tle pub there my foot­steps will stray.
If she hes­i­tates when she looks at the sign,
Prompt­ly I whis­per, ‘Now do not decline,
Come, come, come and make eyes at me
Down at the Old Bull and Bush.’

The ear­ly-17th-cen­tu­ry (but much altered) Spaniards Inn was for­mer­ly a toll house and sup­pos­ed­ly the res­i­dence of the Span­ish ambas­sador to the Court of James I. Alter­na­tive­ly, the name may sim­ply derive from a for­mer land­lord, whose nation­al­i­ty proved more pro­nounce­able than his name. The tav­ern was once the occa­sion­al ren­dezvous of the gen­try of the road.

Jack Straw’s Cas­tle cel­e­brates the alleged hide­out of Wat Tyler’s lieu­tenant, but the present build­ing dates only from the 1960s. For­mer­ly a pub, it has now been con­vert­ed to flats. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels fre­quent­ed its pre­de­ces­sor, as did Charles Dick­ens, who drank almost every­where.

North End was the home of William Pitt the Elder in 1766–67. Wylde’s Farm has played host to William Blake and the ubiq­ui­tous Dick­ens. Some of its lands were bought in 1905 to become the Heath Exten­sion. From 1906 to 1940 the farm­house belonged to Ray­mond Unwin, archi­tect of Hamp­stead Gar­den Sub­urb. In 1912 the dancer Anna Pavlo­va bought Ivy House, and lived here until she died in 1931.

North End was to have had the deep­est tube sta­tion in Lon­don – at the Bull and Bush – but res­i­dents’ objec­tions pre­vent­ed it from ever open­ing. In the 1950s the par­tial­ly built low­er lev­el was con­vert­ed into an under­ground con­trol cen­tre for ‘flood­gates’ on the deep tubes around cen­tral Lon­don. In case these gates should ever need to be used in a war sit­u­a­tion the con­trol room is alleged­ly ‘blast-pro­tect­ed’ – even against sus­tained nuclear attack.

Recent years have seen a grow­ing num­ber of ‘futur­is­ti­cal­ly’ styled prop­er­ties insert­ed into North End – to the dis­tress of some res­i­dents who want to pre­serve its rur­al charm.

The artist John Linnell took his family to live at Collins’ Farm (originally Wylde’s Farm and now the Old Wyldes) in the 1820s to provide them with a refuge from the unhealthy air of London. His 1831 painting of the farm depicts a pastoral idyll reminiscent of a Constable landscape.

Postal district: NW3
* The picture of the Old Bull and Bush at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Matt Brown, at Flickr, made available under the Attribution 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.