Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill, Camden

A delightful vantage point and its outrageously expensive residential surroundings, situated immediately north of Regent’s Park

Primrose Hill at sunset

The wood­land here was grant­ed to Eton Col­lege by Hen­ry VI at a time when the name Prim­rose Hill was first com­ing into use. The hill was cleared of trees in the mid-17th cen­tu­ry and remained as farm­land until the arrival of the rail­way, when both the col­lege and neigh­bour­ing landown­er Lord Southamp­ton seized the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sell build­ing plots.

St Mark’s church was begun in 1851 and a sta­tion opened in the same year, orig­i­nal­ly under the name Hamp­stead Road. Short­ly after­wards Chal­cot Square was laid out with stuc­coed Ital­ianate vil­las, while its cen­tral gar­den was plant­ed with aca­cia trees. The Crown acquired the sum­mit of the hill for pub­lic use, grant­i­ng the col­lege some land near Wind­sor in exchange. Prim­rose Hill Road was built in the 1870s to improve access to the col­lege estate. By 1900 the present built envi­ron­ment was almost com­plete.

Chal­cot Road’s Utopia Vil­lage (or sim­ply Utopia, as it is present­ly called) has been home to piano-mak­ing, elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals man­u­fac­ture. Nowa­days it has stu­dios and offices and was recent­ly saved from becom­ing the site of a lux­u­ry home devel­op­ment. Prim­rose Hill sta­tion closed in 1992.

Regent’s Park Road upper floors
Regent’s Park Road

Prim­rose Hill in the 1960s has been described as “the very last word in Lon­don bohemia.” Sylvia Plath wrote her auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal nov­el The Bell Jar while liv­ing in Chal­cot Square between Jan­u­ary 1960 and the sum­mer of 1961. Ear­ly in the 21st cen­tu­ry the local­i­ty acquired the nick­name Promis­cu­ity Hill on account of alleged wife-swap­ping activ­i­ties among local A‑list celebri­ties.

The sight­lines from Prim­rose Hill towards St Paul’s Cathe­dral and the Palace of West­min­ster are among a hand­ful of offi­cial­ly des­ig­nat­ed strate­gic views that are safe­guard­ed from inap­pro­pri­ate devel­op­ment.

Regen­t’s Park Road has a clus­ter of agree­able shops, cafes and restau­rants. How­ev­er, in 2012 steep rent hikes forced some long-estab­lished busi­ness­es here to close. Such events hap­pen all the time but in this case a media firestorm was whipped up because ‘yum­my mum­mies’ were alleged to be to blame for the ero­sion of the area’s diver­si­ty.

WB Yeats, Alan Bennett and Kingsley and Martin Amis are among the literati who have lived locally.

‘Primrose Hill’ is the title of songs by Madness, John and Beverley Martyn and Loudon Wainwright III, and of a 1999 novel by Helen Falconer.

Postal districts: NW1, NW3 and NW8
Population: 12,613 (ward of Camden Town with Primrose Hill, 2011 census)
Further reading: Martin Sheppard, Primrose Hill: A History, Carnegie, 2013
and Caroline Amy Read, Virginia Smith, Simon Jenkins, Alan Bennett et al, Primrose Hill Remembered, Friends of Chalk Farm Library, 2001
Website: A Guide to the Village