New book shows the charm and quirk of 19th century Hampstead through resident’s eyes

�The tourist Mecca that was 19th century Hampstead is being celebrated in a new photographic book.

The collection of prints in the North Middlesex Photographic Society’s ‘A Vision of Middlesex’ shows the Hampstead of the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the village and the Heath attracted well-heeled visitors from across the area. It was a place of much beauty, still largely untouched by urban developments and technological advances that had rocked the Victorian era.

The North Middlesex Photographic Society was part of a larger national society that hoped to record the towns and countryside across England for posterity.

“The North Middlesex society was very idiosyncratic,” said Janet Owen, co-author of the book. “They very much took photographs of what they wanted and what interested them. So we don’t have pictures of some very famous buildings – Kenwood for instance – but we do have pictures of less high profile ones, some of which were pulled down soon after.”

The collection, which was passed to the Hornsey Historical Society by the final secretary of the photographic group, shows the historic heart of Hampstead featuring street scenes of familiar roads from Perrin’s Court to the High Street.


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A quirky G Avenell print from 1912 shows the eccentric, crooked chimney of the Flask Walk workers’ cottage – a chimney that still survives today – and gives a glimpse into a different world as two little Victorian children stare moodily from its gate at the photographer.

Another photograph, one of 1,000 in the collection dating from the 1880s, is by JF Hows and shows the middle classes gathering on the wide open spaces near Highgate ponds to watch a swimming competition for the King’s Cup in 1906.

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Another 1906 snap is of the early 18th century coaching inn at the top of Highgate West Hill, which proudly bears the sign “The Flask Tavern”.

It is both familiar and yet unrecognisable from the bustling gastro-pub of the same name that still sits on the site today.

Transport, it seems, was a big issue for north Londoners even back in 1873, the book reveals, with a double-decker coach and horses heading off to Holloway, and Islington loiters in the foreground of one picture taken in 1873.

In the background is the Archway Tavern that became a terminus for a number of transport routes – perhaps because the drivers, workers and horses would all be able to be fed and watered here.

A Vision of Middlesex, by Janet Owen and John Hinshelwood, is available from the Hornsey Historical Society for �15 plus �2.50 p&p. Call 020-8348 8429 or visit www.hornseyhistorical.org.uk.

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