|| The village-like
character of Hampstead is today sought after for its leafy
lanes and upmarket quality, but for years it has been
a favourite haunt for Londonites looking to get away from
For centuries wealthy city dwellers have made the most
of the fields and open countryside in or around
Hampstead for sport and leisure pursuits. In the 17th
century it was hunting and today it’s to play Frisbee,
sunbathe and generally have fun on the open spaces of
However Hampstead’s history dates back much further
than the 17th century…
Around 25 years ago local archaeologists discovered evidence
of the area’s first inhabitants. Their investigations
showed that a Mesolithic settlement stood in what
we now call Hampstead dating back to 7000 B.C.
Records of Hampstead’s history though, only date
back to 986 A.D. when King Ethelred the Unready gave
the areas of Hampstead and Hendon to the monastery of
St. Peter’s at Westminster for farming purposes.
Although the land changed hands, it continued to be used
for rural purposes until Henry VIII embarked on his dissolution
of the monasteries in 1538. When this happened, the land
of Hampstead was sold off by the Crown to private buyers.
During the 17th century, villages began to grow around
London and Hampstead was one of them. It tried to establish
itself as ‘Hampstead Wells’- spa village,
but this did not last long due to the competition at the
time. Although the area was becoming more popular, pushing
the countryside further away from the city dwellers, the
countryside was still not too far away for people to venture
to Hampstead to hunt.
As the city began to expand in Victorian times, rich merchants
built country houses out in Hampstead for its reputation
as a healthy and attractive place to stay. However it
was not until the 19th century that both London and Hampstead
became so built up that they merged - this was in part
due to the influx of Irish settlers arriving to
escape the potato famine. The merger meant huge expansion
for Hampstead and saw the population double in the twenty
years following 1871.
The 20th century brought the railways to Hampstead with
the station being opened in 1907 by Lloyd George. But
the 1900s also brought two world wars which affected the
whole of England.
Hampstead repaired the damage and then went on to develop
the area building Hampstead Theatre, Swiss Cottage
Library as well as bars and restaurants.
As you can see, Hampstead’s past still influences
the way Londoners and other visitors still regard this
part of London.