Hampstead Green is the remains of what was once a much larger area of manorial waste. On the John Rocque map 1746 it is shown as an open space with an avenue of trees surrounded by a few buildings; in the 1830s it was described as 'a grassy playground for children with a fine double row of trees'. The railed triangular site is now managed for wildlife, planted with a wild flower meadow. Part of the green was taken when St Stephen's Church was built in 1869-75, and the site then came into the ownership of the church who also had responsibility for its maintenance. In 1928 it was referred to as Pond Street Enclosure, a 'small grass plot planted with shrubs and trees' that was protected under the London Squares Act of 1931. A Cabman's Shelter was erected adjacent in 1935.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/08/2012
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Hampstead Green, August 2002. Photo: S Williams
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This site was previously part of Hampstead manorial wasteland. A house on the adjacent land of the Bartrams estate, which was south of Pond Street and bounds Hampstead Green to the north, is mentioned in records of 1312, and an inn was reported as being nearby in c.1666. This building is marked on later maps located immediately south of Hampstead Green, at one time called The Great Tree, but by 1715 it had been renamed The George. The tree referred to in the earlier name may have been an old hollow elm depicted in a 1653 print by Wenceslaus Hollar that once stood close to the inn, perhaps on the site of the current Hampstead Green.
‘Hampstead Green’ as a place name appeared in a Navy Board record of 1678. Two views of Pond Street by JBC Chatelain were published in 1745; one shows a line of trees on the right of the picture that might have been those on the Green as shown on John Rocque’s map of 1746, and the figures might be standing on the Green itself. The second view shows the main road (now Rosslyn Hill to the west of the Green) looking north with a footway on the right flanked by a line of trees and this was probably adjacent to the Green. John Rocque’s map shows buildings on 'Pound [sic] Street', including a couple flanking the north side, and four or five flanking the east side of the Green, although it is not labelled as such. Presumably one of these buildings to the south was the George Inn. The map shows a double row of trees next to the footway and these were probably the trees in Chatelain’s views. There may have been an animal pound here as Rocque’s map shows ‘Pound Street’ in place of ‘Pond Street’.
The Survey Map of Hampstead Manor of 1762 shows the same double row of trees as on Rocque’s map, four buildings flanking the east side of the Green, and the George Inn to the south. The double row of trees appears to have been an avenue flanking a path, which led from John Paddon’s house on the east side of the Green to Rosslyn Hill. The avenue was labelled in the accompanying Field Book to the Survey Map as ‘the Grove railed in before the house is waste’. The rest of the Green, labelled ‘V’ on the Survey Map, was described as ‘the waste in Pond Street and the Grove fenced in by Paddon’. The Grove boundaries can be seen surviving as such on some of the later OS maps. Houses around the east side of the Green were described as ‘the 18th-century Belle Vue houses’ but it is not known if these are the same C18th houses or if they were rebuilt later. The houses shown on the OS maps appear much larger. On the north side on Pond Street flanking the Green, a row of C18th houses was present by this time.
From 1799 most of the land and houses were purchased by Charles Cartwright, who between 1806-09 built a new house called Bartrams to the south-east of the Green. His obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine of 1826 describes him as ‘at Bertrams [sic], Hampstead, aged 72, Charles Cartwright, Esq. a Magistrate for Middlesex, for some years Lieut.-Colonel of the Royal Hampstead Volunteers and late Accountant-General to the East India Company’. The Green was then acquired by John Moore, a captain in the East India service, who lived in the northernmost of the Belle Vue houses.
Newton’s Map of 1814 map shows the Green as a grass space. Catherine Baines in the 1830s remembered the area: ‘Hampstead Green formed a grassy playground for children with a fine double row of trees, irregular in parts, reaching from about the George to nearly the top of Downshire Hill. There was a seat at the part next to Pond Street and an avenue went down to Pond Street’. One of the Belle Vue houses or 'group of good Georgian houses' included Tensleys, home of the historian Sir Francis Palgrave (1788-1861) from 1846 and later of the architect of St Stephen’s Church, Samuel Teulon (1812-1873), until his death. The Green is not specifically itemised on the Tithe Map of 1839. Baines reported (1899) that an engraving by Thomas Goodwin of 1804 showed the Green as an open space with clumps of trees and houses around it.
In 1859 ‘The Green’ first appeared in the rate books but included only two houses. Stanford’s map of 1862 shows ‘Hampstead Green’ divided into four enclosures so it appears that the common waste had by now been enclosed. Each enclosure was surrounded by perimeter trees except for the north-east enclosure, which shows no trees. The map shows around five buildings on the north side of Pond Street and about four or five buildings on the east side, separated from the Green by an alley or lane, and the George Inn to the south.
In 1864 the local church congregation led principally by Charles Henry Lardner Woodd and Revd. Joshua Kirkman, who became the first vicar of St Stephen’s, applied to the Lord of the Manor Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson for a site on the Green to build a new church. The land was given as a gift, at that time described as an attractive space edged on one side with Georgian houses. Weller’s map of 1868 shows the ‘Intended’ church. Howitt, writing in 1869, states that ‘great alterations on this Green have recently taken place. The houses and gardens on the side nearest to Hampstead have vanished, and a large hotel and a row of shops, and sundry villas, have taken their place. On the top of the Green a large church is about to be erected’. The money for the church of St Stephen was raised from donations and the church was consecrated on 31 December 1869 by the Bishop of London. Its architect, Samuel Sanders Teulon, was one of several mid-C19th architects who were trying to create a new and modern architecture based on the gothic style; St Stephen's has been described as his masterpiece. St Stephen's was built between 1869-75 to Teulon's designs and completed after his death. It is an exuberant structure with sumptuous interior, built in purple Luton brick with stone dressings, bands and sculptures in modified Early French Gothic style with plate tracery. It was designed to accommodate 1,200 people, although on one Sunday in 1886 1,372 people attended the church. Two drawings dated 1869 show the church and area around it. These were probably Teulon’s impressions prior to construction and both are viewed from the south-east. Both show an east-west path on the south side of the church with a curving path off to the south. This path does not appear on any of the maps and may not have been constructed. Mature trees are shown on the north side of the church and shrubs on the south side. Small conifers are shown on the south-west and a small tree planted in the grassed area to the east. The wall dividing the church from the enclosure to the south was not depicted in either drawing. There was no indication of burials or a churchyard as such.
The OS map of 1879 shows the Green split into three main areas with two smaller ones flanking the north-east and the south. The north-east and south areas were separated from the other areas by paths. The church is not shown and its site is shown as open land. The other two main areas are shown separated by property boundaries with east-west lines of mature trees along the boundaries. These were probably the Grove property divisions, originally seen on the 1762 survey, which led from the east side of the Green to Rosslyn Hill. Large houses can be seen on the east side of the Green and separated from it by a lane that ran adjacent along the east side. The George, marked as ‘PH’, can be seen to the south. A further four to five houses are shown to the north along Pond Street flanking the Green.
Henry Wash (1888) described the Green as where St Stephen’s and the small plantation stand and reported that the open space was by then partly closed in. The OS map of 1896 shows St Stephen’s and its enclosure planted with lines of trees along the north and west sides of the enclosure. The 1895 OS map shows many more trees in the church enclosure than the 1896 OS map. The church path layout on the 1896 OS map was very much the same as today with a path on the north side of the church joining entrances at Rosslyn Hill and Pond Street. Another path ran from the east apse to Pond Street. The two large Hampstead Green enclosures to the south are shown without trees on the 1896 OS map but the small area at the southern end is shown planted with trees, as is the small area to the north-east. A small building, possibly a shed, is seen in the north part of the church enclosure. The houses on the east of the Green and the George, as seen on the 1879 OS map, are shown. The name ‘Hampstead Green’ is marked on the 1896 OS map. The north side of the Green is shown with many more houses and a new development of Hampstead Hill Gardens flanking the north side of the Green up to Rosslyn Hill.
A photograph of St Stephen’s dated 1899 looking east from Rosslyn Hill shows the entrance to the church on the west side off Rosslyn Hill and a line of trees along the west boundary of the church enclosure. Two mature trees can be seen to the south in the Hampstead Green enclosure. White reported in 1903 that ‘some ancient elm trees of magnificent size are left standing near the church’. To the east the construction of the Hampstead General Hospital in 1906 resulted in the demolition of houses along the east side of the Green. To the east of St Stephen’s in the church enclosure a Church Room was built and has a date stone of 1908, marked on the OS map of 1915. The two main enclosures of Hampstead Green are shown as one. A photograph of Hampstead Green from the 1920s shows railings c.1m high around the Green and many more trees than today. In 1928 the church enclosure was named ‘Pond Street Enclosure’, described in the Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares as a 'small grass plot planted with shrubs and trees' .The owner was the incumbent of St Stephen’s Church and the church enclosure was maintained by St Stephen’s Church Council. It was described as a small grass plot planted with trees and shrubs: ‘the enclosure is very small and planted with trees as it is, it seems the best use to which it can be put’. The 1934 OS map labels ‘Hampstead Green’ as the lane that ran to the east of the Green but no other changes can be seen except two trees added to the small north-east enclosure. The north-east enclosure survived probably up to the 1970s but was removed when the adjacent Royal Free Hospital was constructed.
In 1935 a Cabman's Kiosk, designed by Elisabeth Scott in a Modern Movement vein, was donated to the Borough of Hampstead by Mary Wharrie, daughter of Sir Henry Harben, first Mayor of Hampstead. The kiosk has a mosaic floor and replaced an earlier coffee stall dating from the C19th that had burnt down, but which does not appear on any of the maps. In 1948 Hampstead Green was reported as having been greatly improved by the removal of a German howitzer from WWI and by taking down the iron railings for the war effort. The 1954 OS map shows little change except a line of trees along the south side of the Church Hall and the addition of a path around the eastern apse of the church, joining that leading from Pond Street. Another new path leading from the church to the west side of the Church Hall can also be seen.
In 1969 cracks appeared near the junction of the nave and tower of St Stephen’s Church, subsidence particularly affecting its structure during construction of the Royal Free Hospital. In the early 1970s the church was nearly demolished with structural engineers arguing over its condition. Listed Grade I in 1974, it was declared redundant in 1977 and consequently fell prey to vandalism with thefts of stained glass, and the bells and mosaics were vandalised. The GLC repaired the roof in 1985 and new uses for the church were proposed. One scheme would have involved converting the church into a riding stable and a planning application to turn it into offices was rejected in 1990. The church enclosure was reported as overgrown with numerous mature trees and shrubs in 1993 and the boundary walls and gate piers were reported as leaning.
Hampstead Green was neglected for many years and became overgrown until the local community cleared the area and transformed it into a natural open space. St Stephen’s remained empty until 2002 when it was deconsecrated and given into the care of St Stephen’s Restoration and Preservation Trust on a lease from the London Diocesan Fund. Repair and restoration works have been undertaken by the Trust with support from English Heritage. Works have included the landscaping of external grounds and the church has been transformed into a multi-purpose event space, and used for various community and educational projects, with a season of drama presented in In March 2009. Space below the ground floor at the level of the undercroft of St Stephen's was let to the adjacent school in 2009. In 2011 St Stephen’s Restoration and Preservation Trust won an award for the rescue of a building from the ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.
The site today comprises separate areas: an area enclosing St Stephen’s Church and Hampstead Hill School, formerly the 1908 Church Hall, and two areas to the south now described as Hampstead Green. The whole site slopes gradually from west to east and is enclosed by low red brick walls dating to c.1869, some heightened in places with modern wooden fences. The wall continues around the church, dividing the church area from that of Hampstead Green proper, which is enclosed by modern iron railings. Seven entrances can be seen. There are three entrances to Hampstead Hill School from Pond Street. One previous entrance to the church from Pond Street has been replaced by another immediately to the west and the former is now the entrance to the school. This has decorated scroll design iron gates and brick gate piers with carved stone capitals. The other three entrances have brick piers only. The original ornamental gates remain at the junction of Rosslyn Hill and Pond Street with part of the walls extending along Pond Street and Rosslyn Hill. The wrought and cast-iron double gates are in a scrolled design and have brick gate piers topped with gabled stone capitals. Either side of the gateway, the wall has recesses with stone benches forming seats. There is a further entrance to the south side of the church off Rosslyn Hill with iron gates and brick gate piers with carved stone capitals. The entrance to Hampstead Green area is via iron gates from the footpath on the east side of the Green. There is a stone paved area in front of the church on its west side at the corner of Pond Street and Rosslyn Hill, and a paved path running around the north and south sides of the church, but the rest is mainly laid to grass. The paved area in front of the west elevation of the church commemorates names of families, which are inscribed in the paving. There are several mature trees along the perimeter of the church enclosure including London plane trees.
The Green is divided into two by a stone-paved path, and the area is laid to grass with around nine trees, species including cherry, red oak, sycamore and poplar, and the grass is planted with wild flowers and spring bulbs. The area is owned by the LB Camden and is managed for nature conservation with bird boxes and large log piles for insects. Several C19th gas lampposts, now converted to electricity, light the eastern perimeter of the Hampstead Green site, where there is a stone-paved path. Hampstead Green is not generally open for public access and is left as a site for wildlife, cultivated as a wild flower meadow. In spring it is a blaze of colour with daffodils.
Camden Listed Buildings website; Christopher Wade, 'The Streets of Hampstead', Camden History Society, 2000; C. L. Eastlake, A History of the Gothic Revival (1872); Report of the Royal Commission on London Squares, 1928.
LPGT Volunteer Research by Carrie Cowan, 2011: Baines, F, E, (ed) Records of the Manor, Parish and Borough of Hampstead, 1899; Elrington, C, R (ed), 'Hampstead: Hampstead Town', A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9: Hampstead, Paddington, 1989; Godfrey, W, H, and Marcham, W, McB, (eds) ‘The parish of St Pancras’, Survey of London vol 24, 1952, pp pp70-79; Greater London Council, ‘The Church of St Stephen, Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead’, Historic Buildings Paper, No. 1, 1980; Howitt, W, Northern Heights of London 1869; Ikin, C, W, ‘Where was the Great Hollow Elm of Hampstead?’, Camden History Review, Vol 19, 1995, pp4-6; Preston, J, H, Story of Hampstead, 1948, London: Staples Press; Sladen, T, Saunders, M, and Prout, D, St Stephens, Rosslyn Hill, The Victorian Society, 1990; Walford, E, ‘Hampstead: Rosslyn Hill', Old and New London: Volume 5, 1878, pp483-494; White, C, Sweet Hampstead and its associations, 1903, London: Elliot Stock.