Hampstead is one of the villages that surrounded 19th Century London, but the village was founded long before that time. Founded during the Anglo-Saxon period, its name translates to “homestead.” Early records shows a grant by King Ethelred the Unready to the monastery of St. Peter’s at Westminster (AD 986). Until the late 1600s, Hampstead was very much a rural village catering to farming. However, the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666 drove many from London. Hampstead’s close proximity to the Capital provided many the convenience of London life with the “safety” of village life.
Fenton House, named for Philip Fenton, was built in 1693. According to Wikipedia, “Fenton House is a 17th-century merchant’s house in Hampstead in North London which belongs to the National Trust, bequeathed to them in 1952 by Lady Binning, its last owner and resident. It is a detached house with a walled garden, which is large by London standards, and features roses, an orchard and a working kitchen garden. The interior houses the Benton Fletcher collection of early keyboard instruments, some of which are often played for visitors during operational hours, and collections of paintings (including the collection of Peter Barkworth, and loans of Sir William Nicholson paintings), porcelain, 17th-century needlework pictures and Georgian furniture. It also has fine portraits of Dorothea Jordan, William IV, George IV, Frederick FitzClarence and Adolphus Fitzclarence – one of Jordan’s daughters by William IV lived in the house.
The 17th-century brick mansion has a 300-year-old orchard, where around 30 types of apple trees flourish. Apple day, held in late September every year, gives members of the general public the opportunity to savor some of its rare and delicious apples, along with other goodies like apple-blossom honey.” (Fenton House)
Hampstead became a “spa” town when a certain Dr. William Gibbons touted the healing powers of the well water. The Trustees of the Well claimed the medicinal qualities of the chalybeate waters in the early 1700s. The “spa” was very popular until the early 1800s when competition by other spa towns drew the crowds away.
Several grand houses were built in the 18th Century in what was Hampstead proper. Burgh House was built in 1702. Burgh House became the home of the above mentioned Dr. Gibbons in 1720. The present wrought-iron gate still bears his initials. Later, Israel Lewis took possession of the house, and for a time it was known as Lewis House.
Kenwood House, originally built in 1616, was rebuilt in the 1760s. “The original house dates from the early 17th century when it was known as Caen Wood House. The orangery was added in about 1700. In 1754 it was bought by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. He commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it from 1764–1779. Adam added the library (one of his most famous interiors) to balance the orangery, and added the Ionic portico at the entrance. In 1793-6 George Saunders added two wings on the north side, and the offices and kitchen buildings and brewery (now the restaurant) to the side.
“The 2nd Earl and Countess of Mansfield added a dairy to supply Kenwood House with milk and cheese. After two years of negotiations, the 6th Earl of Mansfield leased the house to the exiled Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia and his wife Countess Sophie of Merenberg in 1910.
“Lord Iveagh, a rich Anglo-Irish businessman and philanthropist (of the Guinness family), bought the house from the Mansfield family in 1925 and left it to the nation upon his death in 1927; it was opened to the public in 1928. The furnishings had already been sold by then, but some furniture has since been bought back. The paintings are from Iveagh’s collection. Part of the grounds were bought by the Kenwood Preservation Council in 1922, after there had been threats that it would be sold for building. In the late 1990s the house received approximately 150,000 visitors a year and an estimated 1 million people visited the grounds each year.” (Kenwood House)
A popular part of Hampstead is what is known as the Vale of Health. It was once a marsh known as Hatches Bottom, but it was drained in the 1770s. Hidden London tells us, “This part of Hampstead Heath was originally known as Gangmoor, and later as Hatches (or Hatchett’s) Bottom, after an early 18th century cottager. The Hampstead Water Company created a pond here in 1777, which drained enough of the formerly malarial marsh to allow houses to be built. For much of its early existence, Hatches Bottom was not regarded as a picturesque village but as an intrusive presence on the heath.
“The essayist Leigh Hunt lived here from 1816 to 1818 and regularly hosted meetings of writers and poets, who included Shelley, Keats and Byron. In 1851 the village had 57 adults and 30 children crammed into 18 houses.”
Tim Lambert in “A Brief History of Hampstead,” fills in the blanks. “From 1774 Hampstead was lit by oil lamps and from 1824 it was lit by gas.In the 19th century Hampstead continued to grow rapidly especially after the first railway station was built there in 1852. (Railways made it much easier for Londoners to live in Hampstead and commute to London). In the late 19th century Hampstead was, in the main, an affluent suburb of London. (Though some of its inhabitants were poor).
“Hampstead is renowned for the famous writers who lived there. Keats (1795-1821) lived in Wentworth Place. (It is now called Keats House). Keats wrote the poem Ode to a Nightingale in the garden of the house. In 1915 D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930) moved to 1 Byron Villas in the Vale of Health. The writer Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) lived at 17 East Heath Road. The famous artist John Constable (1776-1837) lived at 40 Well Walk. Furthermore John Galsworthy (1867-1933) who wrote The Forsyte Saga also lived in Hampstead. In the 19th century Hampstead Heath became a playground for Londoners. Fortunately it was preserved for the good of the public. In 1871 the Metropolitan Board of Works purchased Hampstead Heath and kept it as a public park. Hampstead became part of the county of London in 1889. Hampstead Garden Suburb was created after 1907. Sigmund Freud moved to Hampstead in 1938. He died in 1939, but the house he lived in is now a museum. On 10 April 1955 Ruth Ellis shot her lover David Blakely outside the Magdala pub in South Hill Park in Hampstead. Ruth was hanged on 13 July 1955. She was the last woman in Britain to be executed.”