Sunday, 25 September 2011

Everything in the Garden Suburb is lovely - includes pictures

The other day, bravely deviating from my normal path over Hampstead Heath (being unemployed has its compensations), I explored the Hampstead Heath Extension.

A whole new world opened up for me. I finally grasped, which I had only really suspected before, how nice it would be to live in Hampstead Garden Suburb. For starters Suburb dwellers have their very own 'Garden' gate onto Hampstead Heath, aptly named Heathgate. Here Suburb dwellers in their droves step out onto the Heath to exercise their spaniels.

Heathgate, looking from the Hampstead Heath Extension towards St Jude-on-the-Hill
The approach to the Suburb from the Heath across what is effectively a very large and well kept village green affords lovely views. You might think you were approaching a hilltop English village.

Approach to Hampstead Garden Suburb from the Hampstead Heath Extension
This 'village' church, St Jude-on-the-Hill, is not so twee once you get up close, however. (You can see it in the film "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows".) At the top of Heathgate is Central Square, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Here the atmosphere is more like a cathedral precinct, with St Jude's dominating.

St Jude-on-the-Hill: Reverend Benjamin, eat your heart out
Lutyens' design also includes a rather uglier but no less imposing Free Church.

The Free Church, Hampstead Garden Suburb
In one corner of the square there is also a fittingly modest Quaker Meeting House.

Quaker Meeting House, Hampstead Garden Suburb
The Henrietta Barnett school is on one side of the square. Although it looks older than the other buildings, the school is another Lutyens' design; it was founded in 1911 thus is celebrating its centenary year. Henrietta Barnett set up the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust in 1906 and was the Suburb's founder.

The Henrietta Barnett School
Henrietta Barnett's story is interesting; she was a wealthy social reformer, who lived for a while in St Jude's parish in the impoverished East End and founded the Whitechapel Art Gallery. (One of her quainter achievements is establishing the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants.)

The flower beds in Central Square are lovely, filled with ageing marigolds when I visited.

Oranges and lemons? But the bells of St Jude's don't ring: a stipulation of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust
Other pleasant features of the Suburb include a small wood - called Big Wood - and a, presumably, tiny wood called Little Wood. I didn't find Market Place with its under-threat library on this visit, but I am sure I will wander that way again soon.

What would Henrietta Barnett think of Garden Suburb now? She might feel socially at ease with its mostly well-heeled inhabitants but that the social reforming aim behind her work had been forgotten.

There are a few more pics from my Suburb foray here.

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