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My Hampstead: Michael Taylor on life in Hampstead and restoring St Stephen’s church for the community

Michael Taylor at St Stephen's. Picture: Nigel Sutton Michael Taylor at St Stephen's. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Sunday, June 30, 2013
9:00 AM

Michael Taylor, 71, chairman of the St Stephen’s Restoration and Preservation Trust, has lived in Hampstead for 52 years and in Lyndhurst Road for the past 30 years. After retiring from the Royal Institute of British Architects, he has spent the last 15 years restoring St Stephen’s, a Grade I-listed deconsecrated church in Rosslyn Hill, and opening it for community use.

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What brought you to Hampstead?

I was brought up in Highgate Road but always wished we lived in “classier” Hampstead. Aged 18, I finally made it with a student flat-share and have been here ever since.

What is your favourite thing about the area?

The wonderfully varied 18th and 19th century architecture, from mansions to cottages, the Heath where I played as a child and the profusion of trees in the streets.

What is the worst thing about the area?

The loss of the village atmosphere over the last 40 years as essential family shops are forced out by rising rents, to be replaced by too many estate agents, phone shops and chain fashion stores.

If you were mayor for a day, what would you change?

I would restrain greedy freeholders from forcing essential services out of the High Street.

If you had £100 to blow in Hampstead where would you spend it?

In Waterstones bookshop which has excellent fine art, photography and poetry sections.

How would you spend your perfect Sunday?

Walk on the Heath, lunch at the Holly Bush pub, wander the oldest streets looking for blue plaques and who lived where, ending with a leisurely dinner at Villa Bianca restaurant.

What tips would you give to somebody moving into the area?

Shop and send your children to school locally (primary and secondary). Don’t develop your property – leave it as it is.

Where would you live if not in Hampstead?

Somerset, where my father’s forebears lived.

What would your epitaph say?

Michael Taylor restored St Stephen’s, Rosslyn Hill and gave it back to the community.

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