West Hampstead’s ‘celebrity road’ bemoans loss of neighbourly love

Parsifal Road residents association pictured with Cllr Flick Rae. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Parsifal Road residents association pictured with Cllr Flick Rae. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

It’s been home to some of the most celebrated Hollywood stars and high-society bigwigs for over 100 years.

My Fair Lady star Rex Harrison, his wife, the actress Lilli Palmer, and Harrison’s lover, actress Kay Kendall, all played roles in the extraordinary history of Parsifal Road in West Hampstead.

Named in 1883 after Wagner’s opera Parsifal, the road of Victorian houses even held prestige in its early years with residents so distinguished it was a regularly haunt of former Prime Minister William Gladstone.

And it’s still pulling in the big names today, with its most recent addition one of the most prominent men in the country.

Always in the background has been one of Camden’s oldest residents’ associations ensuring the street has never lost its community spirit.

Celebrating its 21st year, the Parsifal Road Association (PRA) has brought residents together, fought the council, and made sure neighbours look out for one another – no matter how high their profile.

But with the area becoming highly desirable for property investors and young professionals, the association fears West Hampstead is becoming full of “transient types”.

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Rosalie Miles, chairman of PRA, moved into the road in 1961 when there were “only two shops in West End Lane”.

“I’ve lived here from teen to pensioner so have noticed so many changes,” she said.

“At our first association meeting we held two sessions because so many people turned up. There was a strong feeling of community back then.

“We want to make sure this kind of interest continues, because I fear the work of groups like ours is being forgotten.”

Built on the open fields of West End Farm and the Woodbine Cottage estate, the road has been part of, and bore witness to, many changes in West Hampstead. Some 15 nationalities are said to live in Parsifal Road now.

NGO fundraiser Rosy Hytner has been a resident and association member for 18 years.

“What’s happening in this road is what’s happening in West Hampstead as a whole,” she said. “It’s becoming more gentrified and the big challenge for the area is to retain the feel of community.”

NW6 is known to have a strong online community but it’s something that can be missed by those less familiar with technology.

“At a time when West Hampstead is going through so many changes, we’re just urging people not to forget how important organisations like ours can be for keeping the community strong,” Mrs Miles said.