1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hampstead

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HAMPSTEAD, a north-western metropolitan borough of London, England, bounded E. by St Pancras and S. by St Marylebone, and extending N. and W. to the boundary of the county of London. Pop. (1901), 81,942. The name, Hamstede, is synonymous with “homestead,” and the manor is first named in a charter of Edgar (957–975), and was granted to the abbey of Westminster by Ethelred in 986. It reverted to the Crown in 1550, and had various owners until the close of the 18th century, when it came to Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, whose descendants retain it. The borough includes the sub-manor of Belsize and part of the hamlet of Kilburn.

The surface of the ground is sharply undulating, an elevated spur extending south-west from the neighbourhood of Highgate, and turning south through Hampstead. It reaches a height of 443 ft. above the level of the Thames. The Edgware Road bounds Hampstead on the west; and the borough is intersected, parallel to this thoroughfare, by Finchley Road, and by Haverstock Hill, which, continued under the names of Rosslyn Hill, High Street, Heath Street, and North End, crosses the Heath for which Hampstead is chiefly celebrated. This is a fine open space of about 240 acres, including in its bounds the summit of Hampstead Hill. It is a sandy tract, in parts well wooded, diversified with several small sheets of water, and to a great extent preserves its natural characteristics unaltered. Beautiful views, both near and distant, are commanded from many points. Of all the public grounds within London this is the most valuable to the populace at large; the number of visitors on a Bank holiday in August is generally, under favourable conditions, about 100,000; and strenuous efforts are always forthcoming from either public or private bodies when the integrity of the Heath is in any way menaced. As early as 1829 attempts to save it from the builder are recorded. In 1871 its preservation as an open space was insured after several years’ dispute, when the lord of the manor gave up his rights. An act of parliament transferred the ownership to the Metropolitan Board of Works, to which body the London County Council succeeded. The Heath is continued eastward in Parliament Hill (borough of St Pancras), acquired for the public in 1890; and westward outside the county boundary in Golders Hill, owned by Sir Spenser Wells, Bart., until 1898. A Protection Society guards the preservation of the natural beauty and interests of the Heath. It is not the interests of visitors alone that must be consulted, for Hampstead, adding to its other attractions a singularly healthy climate, has long been a favourite residential quarter, especially for lawyers, artists and men of letters. Among famous residents are found the first earl of Chatham, John Constable, George Romney, George du Maurier, Joseph Butler, author of the Analogy, Sir Richard Steele, John Keats, the sisters Joanna and Agnes Baillie, Leigh Hunt and many others. The parish church of St John (1747) has several monuments of eminent persons. Chatham’s residence was at North End, a picturesque quarter yet preserving characteristics of a rural village; here also Wilkie Collins was born. Three old-established inns, the Bull and Bush, the Spaniards, and Jack Straw’s Castle (the name of which has no historical significance), claim many great names among former visitors; while the Upper Flask Inn, now a private house, was the meeting-place of the Kit-Cat Club. Chalybeate springs were discovered at Hampstead in the 17th century, and early in the 18th rivalled those of Tunbridge Wells and Epsom. The name of Well Walk recalls them, but their fame is lost. There are others at Kilburn.

In the south-east Hampstead includes the greater part of Primrose Hill, a public ground adjacent to the north side of Regent’s Park. The borough has in all about 350 acres of open spaces. The name of the sub-manor of Belsize is preserved in several streets in the central part. Kilburn, which as a district extends outside the borough, takes name from a stream which, as the Westbourne, entered the Thames at Chelsea. Fleet Road similarly recalls the more famous stream which washed the walls of the City of London on the west. Hampstead has numerous charitable institutions, amongst which are the North London consumptive hospital, the Orphan Working School, Haverstock Hill (1758), the general hospital and the north-western fever hospital. In Finchley Road are the New and Hackney Colleges, both Congregational. The parliamentary borough of Hampstead returns one member. The borough council consists of a mayor, 7 aldermen and 42 councillors. Area, 2265 acres.