West Hampstead

West Hampstead, Camden

A stepping-stone residential area for upwardly mobile young professionals, situated to the south-west of its Hampstead parent between the Finchley Road and Kilburn High Road

West Hampstead Underground Station and ISL Student Living - geograph-3930612-by-David-P-Howard

Lack­ing its own sup­ply of spring water and sit­u­at­ed away from the main roads, medieval West End (as it was orig­i­nal­ly known) bare­ly qual­i­fied as a ham­let until a few coun­try hous­es were built here from the 17th cen­tu­ry onwards. The ten­den­cy for West End Lane to become impass­ably mud­dy after heavy rain fur­ther enhanced the hamlet’s iso­la­tion.

In 1815 West End remained excep­tion­al­ly qui­et – so much so that its inhab­i­tants claimed to have heard the can­non fire at Water­loo. The con­struc­tion of the Finch­ley Road brought few addi­tions to a pop­u­la­tion that con­sist­ed of a hand­ful of squires and some farm labour­ers, gar­den­ers and crafts­men. By 1851 West End had one inn and two beer­shops.

Rail­ways were the prime stim­u­lus of growth in many coun­try cor­ners of mod­ern Lon­don but few places were trans­formed as whol­ly as West End. With the arrival of the Hamp­stead Junc­tion Rail­way in 1857, the Mid­land Rail­way in 1868 and the Met­ro­pol­i­tan and St John’s Wood Rail­way in 1879, the new sub­urb of West Hamp­stead spread in all direc­tions.

Some of the new estates were the work of big devel­op­ers like the Unit­ed Land Com­pa­ny, whose incli­na­tion was to build fair­ly dense­ly, and dur­ing the lat­ter decades of the 19th cen­tu­ry parts of West Hamp­stead became increas­ing­ly work­ing-class in char­ac­ter, with police­man, trav­el­ling sales­men and rail­way­men mix­ing with clerks and arti­sans. Engi­neer­ing work­shops oper­at­ed near the rail­way lines.

Twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry build­ing was lim­it­ed main­ly to inter­war blocks of flats in the north of the dis­trict, often in place of Vic­to­ri­an hous­es that had already become run-down. From the 1940s many Czechs set­tled here, though most of them sub­se­quent­ly moved fur­ther out to the north-west­ern sub­urbs.

Vis­i­ble in the 2014 pho­to at the top of this arti­cle, when the build­ing was near­ing com­ple­tion, Nido West Hamp­stead (as it’s now called) is an accom­mo­da­tion block for 347 stu­dents.

Com­plet­ed in 2017 and shown in the developer’s CGI below, West Hamp­stead Square con­sists of 198 res­i­den­tial units in five blocks squeezed between the rail­way lines on a site that had pre­vi­ous­ly been occu­pied by the ram­shackle Wood­ley Park trad­ing estate. Access is via the bizarrely named Her­itage Lane. At the east­ern end of the devel­op­ment there’s a con­nect­ed pair of addi­tion­al blocks with retail, leisure and office space.

Hidden London: West Hampstead Square CGI by Visualisation One for Ballymore

The West Hamp­stead ward now has rel­a­tive­ly few fam­i­lies and a great num­ber of young sin­gle peo­ple. A large pro­por­tion of homes are pri­vate­ly rent­ed and few­er than a quar­ter of adults are mar­ried, com­pared with more than half for the coun­try as a whole. This socio-eco­nom­ic pro­file is evi­dent in the upmar­ket cafés and spe­cial­ist shops that have lined West End Lane in recent years.

West Hampstead residents have included the singers Dusty Springfield, Joan Armatrading, Olivia Newton John and Jimmy Somerville, author Doris Lessing, actresses Imelda Staunton and Emma Thompson, and the playwright Joe Orton, who lived on West End Lane with his lover Kenneth Halliwell from 1951 to 1959.

Postal district: NW6
Population: 12,060 (2011 census)
Stations: London Overground, Thameslink and Jubilee line (zone 2)
Further reading: Dick Weindling and Marianne Collom, Kilburn and West Hampstead Past, Historical Publications, 1999
and Dick Weindling and Marianne Collom, Decca Studios and Klooks Kleek: West Hampstead’s Musical Heritage Remembered, History Press, 2014
Website: West Hampstead Life
* The picture of West Hampstead underground station and ISL West Hampstead at the top of this page is adapted from an original photograph, copyright David P Howard, at Geograph Britain and Ireland, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is hereby freely permitted under the terms of that licence.