The name "West Hampstead" was a 19th century invention - the original name was West End.
West End Green is situated on a corner of West End Lane
, formerly the location of West End Fair.
The daily routine of life in the village of West End was disrupted every summer by hundreds of Londoners who came for the amusements on offer at West End Fair. This three-day event started in a small way with toy and gingerbread sellers, but it spread from the Green into fields nearby, attracting many professional showmen. In 1819 a riot occurred, when a mob of about 200 rampaged through the Fair, robbing and beating anyone they met. Ten people were brought to trial: three young men were hanged and the others were deported to Botany Bay. Little trouble was reported the following year but 1820 proved to be the last time the Fair was held.
When house building started to take up all the available land in the area, the area nearly lost its Green in 1875 when it was granted to John Culverhouse by the Lord of the Manor. Intending to sell the land for building, he had a hoarding set up around it but the local people pulled this down. The situation remained until 1882 when a Mr Fowle arranged to buy the land and set up a much stronger hoarding and began to strip the turf.
200 men tore down the hoarding and set it on fire.
Eight men were arrested but perhaps wisely found 'not guilty'. At the trial, evidence was given that the Green had been a recreation ground 'from time immemorial'."
The local Vestry (the equivalent of the Council), bought the land in 1885 and ten years later they also acquired Fortune Green
as an open space, following more local protests when it too was threatened by developers.
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike Licence
West End Green
User unknown/public domain
Lacking its own supply of spring water and situated away from the main roads, medieval West End barely qualified as a hamlet until a few country houses were built here from the 17th century onwards. The tendency for West End Lane
to become impassably muddy after heavy rain further enhanced the hamlet's isolation.
By 1815 West End was still exceptionally quiet – so much so that its inhabitants claimed to have heard the cannon fire at Waterloo. The construction of the Finchley Road
in the 1830s brought few additions to a population that consisted of a handful of squires and some farm labourers, gardeners and craftsmen. By 1851 West End had one inn and two beershops.
Railways were the prime stimulus of growth in many country corners of modern London but few places were transformed as wholly as West End. With the arrival of the Hampstead Junction Railway in 1857, the Midland Railway in 1868 and the Metropolitan and St John’s Wood Railway in 1879, the new suburb of West Hampstead spread in all directions.
Rapid development in the 1880s and 1890s swept away the large houses and the streets were laid out in today's pattern. A local estate agent in Kilburn claimed that he coined the name ‘West Hampstead’, for one of the local railway stations. Public amenities such as street lighting, gas and electricity were provided and much of the frontage to West End Lane
was developed as shops.
Some of the new estates were the work of big developers like the United Land Company, whose inclination was to build fairly densely, and during the latter decades of the 19th century parts of West Hampstead became increasingly working-class in character, with policeman, travelling salesmen and railwaymen mixing with clerks and artisans. Engineering workshops operated near the railway lines.
Twentieth-century building was limited mainly to interwar blocks of flats in the north of the district, often in place of Victorian houses that had already become run-down.
The West Hampstead ward now has relatively few families and a great number of young single people. A large proportion of homes are privately rented and fewer than a quarter of adults are married, compared with more than half for the country as a whole. This socio-economic profile is evident in the upmarket cafés that have lined West End Lane
in recent years.
Famous West Hampstead residents have included the singers Dusty Springfield, Joan Armatrading, Olivia Newton John and Jimmy Somerville, author Doris Lessing, actresses Imelda Staunton and Emma Thompson, and the playwright Joe Orton, who lived on West End Lane
with his lover Kenneth Halliwell from 1951 to 1959. Stephen Fry has also lived here.