College Crescent, NW3

Road in/near Belsize Park, existing between 1848 and now

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Road · Belsize Park · NW3 ·
October
17
2015

College Crescent is a street in Hampstead.


College Crescent was laid out in the 1840s, and by 1852 the first thirteen houses had been built there. These houses were stuccoed terraces with iron balconies built by W. Wartnaby.

More buildings included the school for the blind, built in 1848 at the southern junction of College Crescent and Avenue Road and enlarged in 1864, 1878, and 1912; of brick with stone dressings, it had an Italianate central block with two wings.

The North Star public house was opened in 1850 and, enclosed by the curve of College Crescent, the New College of Independent Dissenters, for training ministers, was opened in 1851 in a building designed in an early Tudor style by J. T. Emmett. He also designed the college’s Gothic chapel, opened soon afterwards to the south, at the junction of Avenue Road and Adelaide Road.

Immediately south of the blind school a large house, Sunnyside (later St. Columba’s hospital), with a Greek Doric porch, was built by 1862.

Samuel Palmer, of the biscuit firm, lived at no. 40 College Crescent, a large house called Northcourt built in 1881.

New College and much of College Crescent were pulled down in 1934 and replaced by Northways, two concrete blocks of flats and shops by London & City Real Estate.

Redevelopment of the site previously occupied by the school for the blind, St. Columba’s hospital, and the New College Chapel, was considered in 1957. A scheme for a civic centre was published in 1959 by the architect, Basil Spence, and part of it, the library and the adjoining swimming baths, was opened in 1964.

In 1962 Hampstead theatre opened on a site north of the library that had been intended for civic buildings.


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Belsize Park

The Manor of Belsize dates back to 1317, with the name is derived from French bel assis meaning 'well situated'.

Belsize Manor was built by Daniel O'Neill for his wife, the Countess of Chesterfield, in the 17th century. Urbanisation took place largely between 1852 and 1878, by which time it extended to Haverstock Hill. After World War I, the construction of blocks of flats began, and now a great many of the larger houses are also converted into flats.

Belsize Park underground station was opened on 22 June 1907 by the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway as an intermediate station on its line from Charing Cross to Hampstead. It is served by three lifts and there are 219 steps. The station was designed by Leslie Green and has his familiar facade of ox-blood faience with four round arched windows. It remained largely untouched until the late 1980s when the lifts were replaced and a new ticketing system installed.

It was during the 1930s that Belsize Park contributed most to the artistic and intellectual life of Hampstead. Artists associated with the Mall studios included Dame Barbara Hepworth from 1927 to 1939, her first husband John Skeaping and second Ben Nicholson from 1931 to 1939, and Henry Moore, who lived at no. 11A Parkhill Road from 1929 to 1940. They were members of Unit One, a group of artists and architects founded in 1933 by Paul Nash (1889-1946), who lived at no. 3 Eldon Grove from 1936 to 1939. Sir Herbert Read, the poet and art critic, who lived in 1934-5 at the Mall studios, which he described as a 'nest of gentle artists', published the group's manifesto, a theory of modern style.

Another centre was no. 37 Belsize Park Gardens, meeting place of MARS, an architectural group, and home of Jack Pritchard, who founded Isokon, a firm making modern furniture designed by people like Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, refugees who brought a European dimension to the abstract design movement in the arts. Others included Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter, who stayed with the Pritchards before moving to no. 60 Parkhill Road (1938-41). Pritchard also commissioned Wells Coates in 1934 to build the Isokon or Lawn Road flats, partly to house artistic refugees, on a site which he owned. Built in concrete in a functional style, the flats came to be recognized as 'a milestone in the introduction of the modern idiom into London'.

In World War II, a large underground air-raid shelter was built here and its entrance can still be seen near the tube station at Downside Crescent. The area on Haverstock Hill north of Belsize Park underground station up to Hampstead Town Hall and including part of a primary school near the Royal Free Hospital was heavily bombed.

Belsize Park these days is a lively area with many restaurants, pubs and cafés along Haverstock Hill and also England's Lane.

Glossary: A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9, edited by C R Elrington.

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