West End House

Large house in/near West Hampstead, existed between 1655 and 1897

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Large house · West Hampstead · NW6 ·

West End House, once in open countryside, became surrounded by railways.

1870 map showing West End House
In 1655 William Hitchcock, merchant tailor, sold a new house, described in 1687 as a mansion house on the west side of West End Lane, to William Bennett, another London merchant. Bennett's house was probably also known as the "White House", which passed to Norwich Salisbury by 1692 and to Richard Limbrey in 1743.

To the north of it another house was held by three generations of Wachters, London merchants, possibly Jews, from 1649 to 1686.

The White House had by 1774 been replaced by West End House, which, as a result of the straightening of West End Lane, stood back from the road. The property, with other West End estates, passed in 1796 to Maria Beckford, whose family, which included William Beckford (1709-70), Lord Mayor of London, had occupied a house nearby since 1762 or earlier. The house was occupied by Miss Beckford from 1807 to 1810, by the marchioness of Headfort from 1815 to 1825, and by the Hon. Henry Frederick Compton Cavendish in 1842.

Another resident by 1800 was Germain Lavie, J.P., who was lessee of Lauriston Lodge and some 11 acres of the Gilberts estate, from 1806. The house, later occupied by Sir William Woods, Garter King-at-Arms, was of red brick with stained-glass windows and a fine entrance.

The Hampstead Junction Railway, built by 1857, ran along the southern boundary of West End House.

The transformation of West End came with the building of three railway lines south of the village, crossing West End Lane. Large sections of several estates were sold to the railway companies: in addition to the lines themselves, sidings, yards, and rubbish tips occupied much space and the remaining farm- and parkland was cut into segments, determining the subsequent street pattern.

The Hampstead Junction Railway, built by 1857, ran along the southern boundary of West End House.

The owner at that time, Reverend William Dunbar sold the estate to a speculator, Charles Bischoff, the owner in 1863 when the second railway line, the Midland, was proposed.

The Midland line, opened in 1868, passed along the northern boundary of West End House, which in 1857 became a girls' laundry training school and later accommodated railway workers before its demolition in the late 1890s.

Before 1873 Bischoff sold the estate to the British Land Company, which constructed Iverson Road, where four cottages were built in the West End portion in 1872, and developed the land to the west, in Kilburn, but most of the West End section was occupied by railway land.

The Midland Railway bought the eastern section of the estate and built coal offices in Iverson Road in 1890-1 and Heysham Terrace (nos. 202-20) on the site of West End House in 1897.

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1870 map showing West End House
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West Hampstead

The name "West Hampstead" was a 19th century invention - the original name was West End.

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.
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