History walks evoke era of the Great War for Hampstead school children

Year 4 students from New End Primary School take a local history tour through the streets of Hampste

Year 4 students from New End Primary School take a local history tour through the streets of Hampstead, where they were asked to imagine life in 1914. Pictured are tour guides Marilyn Brookson and Chris Money with Hudson, 9, Tara, 9, Albert Barratt the butcher and Keya. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

It is easy to lose a sense of Hampstead’s history when strolling past Tesco Express, mobile phone shops and rows of cars in the village.

Year 4 students from New End Primary School take a local history tour through the streets of Hampste

Year 4 students from New End Primary School take a local history tour through the streets of Hampstead, where they were asked to imagine life in 1914. Pictured are tour guides Marilyn Brookson and Chris Money with Hudson, 9, Tara, 9, Albert Barratt the butcher and Keya. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

But, this month, schoolchildren delve 100 years into the past to imagine the “sights, sounds, and smells” of Hampstead during the First World War with a series of guided history walks led by members of the congregation at Hampstead Parish Church.

Year 4 students from New End Primary School take a local history tour through the streets of Hampste

Year 4 students from New End Primary School take a local history tour through the streets of Hampstead, where they were asked to imagine life in 1914. Pictured are tour guides Marilyn Brookson and Chris Money with Hudson, 9, Tara, 9, Albert Barratt the butcher and Keya. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Primary pupils from Hampstead Parochial, New End, Christ Church and South Hampstead Junior schools are taken around the village to learn about the hidden history behind familiar landmarks in the First World War’s centenary year.

Marilyn Brooks, co-organiser of the Community@War project, said: “It’s all about imagining the sights, sounds and smells of Hampstead in 1914.”

The 60-year-old, of Crediton Road, West Hampstead, added: “You definitely remember things more when you experience them. You start observing and noticing things.”


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The tours start at Hampstead Parish Church, in Church Row, where “Sergeant” Stephen Clarke, of amateur dramatics troupe The Hampstead Players, gets the children to practise army drills and march down the street.

Pupils as young as five then imagine cobbled streets without cars while guides bang coconut shells to create the sound of horse and carts going past.

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The group then pauses in Oriel Place to learn about the old Express Dairy –now a Tesco Express store – where women used their ration books to buy milk and cheese.

Only a few steps down the path, the guides talk about the clock tower, a former police and fire station in Heath Street, which was used as a look-out post to scan the skies for Zeppelins.

A hop across the road to Flask Walk and children discover that a butcher’s shop, fishmonger’s, grocer’s, greengrocer’s and bakery once occupied the same small stretch of road.

The children’s final destination is an old bath house in Flask Walk where they meet a “washerwoman” – Patrice Dorling of The Hampstead Players –who tells them that women who didn’t have hot running water at home would do their laundry and have a soak there once a week.

Tour guide Christine Money, 63, who lives in Glenilla Road, Belsize Park, said: “Technology has taken away children’s imagination and the whole concept of this project is to get them back to using their imaginations.

“Children are living off the benefits of that war. It was a levelling of the social strata, with gentlemen fighting alongside farmers. They benefit from that and they don’t even realise it.”

The guided tours will run for one more week from tomorrow.

* To sign your school up to the project, or to sponsor a page on the project’s website, email ww1.schools@hampsteadparishchurch.org.uk.

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