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Camden in the age of the moon landing: From Peter Cook’s stolen car to building the Royal Free Hospital

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:51 10 February 2020

Amnesty campaigners in Hampstead High Sreet in 1967. Picture: Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre

Amnesty campaigners in Hampstead High Sreet in 1967. Picture: Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre

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Can you remember Camden in 1969?

A bus queue in Camden Road in 1968. PIcture: Richard LansdownA bus queue in Camden Road in 1968. PIcture: Richard Lansdown

Back then, the borough itself was scarcely half a decade old - but the late 1960s can be fairly thought of as the period which set the template for the next half-century from Hampstead to Camden Town.

An ongoing exhibition at the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre captures the zeitgeist of the late '60s.

As Camden had, in truth, little to do with the moon landings, the Camden in the Age of the Moon Landings display at the archives in Theobalds Road - above Holborn Library - focuses on the momentous events happening on rather more solid ground in north-west London.

A short span of years rapidly saw the physical geography of the borough transformed. 1967 saw the building of the Chalcots Estate. The same year the Highgate New Town development got the go-ahead and in 1968 the first models of what the relocated Royal Free Hospital would look like were revealed.

Flask Walk's Salvation Army Chapel. Picture: Camden Local Studies and Archives CentreFlask Walk's Salvation Army Chapel. Picture: Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre

Down in Camden Town, legendary gay pub the Black Cap opened in 1969 - and the Roundhouse in 1968 - both of which would go on to play a huge role in making Camden the hub of diversity it became.

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And then there was Pc Norwell Gumbs, who - when he took to the streets of Hampstead - became the first black policeman in the Met.

The late '60s was also arguably the moment Hampstead began ensnaring the great and the good of the arts world. Famously, Peter Cook lived in Perrin's Walk, but before that he lived in Church Row, and in 1967, as the exhibition shows, he'd had his car nicked.

Hampstead General Hospital in 1967. Picture: Camden Local Studies and Archives CentreHampstead General Hospital in 1967. Picture: Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre

Fortunately, the Ham&High of the day reported, a policeman by the name of Peter Cook - yes really - was on hand to find Peter Cook's Citroen, which was being driven around Haverstock Hill by a research assistant called Simon Webley who had claimed he thought the car had been abandoned.

Politics at the end of that decade took an unusual turn - with Conservatives taking control of Camden Council in 1968.

But away from the town hall, young people were, with the Heath at the heart of things, full of the flower-power spirit.

Some, in Belsize Park even - as the North London Press newspaper describes, held a Love Happening in Belsize Village which required police to intervene.

To take an in-depth look at the Camden you might - just about - remember, head to the exhibition before March 28.

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