A nostalgic look at life in Lissenden Gardens

PUBLISHED: 11:05 04 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:35 07 September 2010

THE 250 red-brick flats that overlook the Parliament Hill Lido at the edge of the Heath were built between 1898 and 1906. The three mansion blocks were put up by businessman Alfred William Armstrong as the latest in modern living for the respectable lower

THE 250 red-brick flats that overlook the Parliament Hill Lido at the edge of the Heath were built between 1898 and 1906.

The three mansion blocks were put up by businessman Alfred William Armstrong as the latest in modern living for the respectable lower middle-classes.

But by an odd quirk of fate, Lissenden Gardens, with its tennis court and spacious flats is a Camden Council-run estate.

For 70 years the Armstrong family owned and managed the estate but when they sold it to private speculators in the 1970s, the residents persuaded the council to buy it.

Today, they are an eclectic mix of smart private owners, scruffy dog lovers, refuge-es and immigrants from around the world.

Resident Rosalind Bayley, who moved there in 2001, has written an exhaustive history of the estate: To Paradise By Way of Gospel Oak (Camden History Society) available in local bookstores.

It describes how the new flats were valued in 1901 at between £35 and £47 and early residents were skilled artisans, such as tailors and builders. By 1911 they were mostly City workers, engineers, solicitors, teachers, writers and artists, merchants and managers. Among the celebrated residents over the years were the composer Haydn Wood, the artist Anthony Green, jewellery designer Dorrie Nossiter, writer James Hanley and feminist activist Alice Zimmern

During the blitz a bomb destroyed 10 flats killing 13 residents. Post war the Armstrong family charged low rents but failed to maintain the fabric of the buildings until they put the estate on the market in 1972.

Fearing eviction or huge rent hikes, the Lissenden Gardens Tennant's Association soon galvanised themselves with a campaign to deter potential buyers - a billboard outside Gospel Oak station featured a no entry sign which got them media attention.

Camden Council tried first to bid for the flats, then compulsory purchase them. But it was a campaign not to stump up the rent increases and council notices enforcing work on the crumbling flats that persuaded the new owners to sell it to the council for £2.85million.

Bridget Galton


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