West Hampstead Area Guide
Situated just outside Central London in Zone 2 and ridiculously well served by public transport, West Hampstead has in recent years deliberately stepped from under the shadow of its more celebrated North London neighbour – Hampstead. Now the residence of choice for young City professionals, couples and families with young children, the West Hampstead locals appreciate the safe, friendly, and sophisticated feel to this community-focussed neighbourhood, which is characterised by large pockets of beautifully maintained Victorian and Edwardian terraces, semi-detached houses and gloriously palatial red brick mansion blocks.
Where is West Hampstead?
West Hampstead is a neighbourhood in the London Borough of Camden in north-west London. It is situated between Childs Hill to the north, Frognal and Hampstead to the north-east, Swiss Cottage to the east, South Hampstead to the south-east, Kilburn to the west and south-west, and Cricklewood to the north-west. The heart of West Hampstead comprises the retail area of West End Lane, which filters off into numerous residential side streets.
West Hampstead – Past and Present
The area now known as West Hampstead started life back in the 16th century as the ‘west end’ of a large estate. By the early 17th century it had been developed by London merchants into the village of West End and it was during this development that West End Lane, originally the boundary between adjoining estates, was named. With the arrival of the railways in the 19th century the area was transformed from farmland into housing estates. In 1879, the Metropolitan Railway adopted the name West Hampstead for its station on West End Lane, to avoid confusion with the main shopping area in central London - and West Hampstead was born.
West Hampstead owes its development to the coming of the railways in the second half of the 19th century, which saw the insignificant village of West End, comprising a few grand mansion houses, transformed by the first decade of the 20th century into a residential suburb of London. A limited amount of further development took place in the period between the wars and then again after the second world-war, to re-build bombed out sites. Today, West Hampstead streets are lined with beautifully-preserved red brick mansion flat buildings, Victorian and Edwardian detached, semi-detached and terraced housing, and a smattering of more contemporary 21st century designs.
Historically, West Hampstead was inhabited by a mix of wealthy, middle-class families and skilled workers with a sprinkling of more bohemian types – including by the late 19th and early 20th centuries the author brothers Alec and Evelyn Waugh; the painter David Bomberg; and the conductor Sir Adrian Boult.
During the post-war years, as was the trend in many London neighbourhoods, the big Victorian and Edwardian houses and the grand red brick mansions were gradually refurbished and converted into spacious flats, which has in recent years skewed the demographics of the area towards younger, professional singles and couples, drawn by the excellent transport links and proximity to Central London.
However, despite this influx of residents who spend most of their time elsewhere, West Hampstead definitely has that distinctive London village vibe that continues to bind long-time residents to the neighbourhood, while simultaneously attracting new ones. Indeed, if you take a wander on a sunny afternoon down the spine of the neighbourhood – West End Lane, you’ll be sure to see a real blend of people – from stylish mums with buggies in tow to elegant seniors taking a stroll, to overseas visitors, professionals and the odd celebrity perched outside one of the numerous cafés and restaurants.
Indeed, the locals love West Hampstead so much that they organise regular community meet-ups, coordinated by their very own blog – West Hampstead Life (www.westhampsteadlife.com) – run by resident journalist - Jonathan Turton. West Hampstead also has an active local business community - boasting a slew of independent shops, restaurants and cafés, as well as a thriving Saturday farmers market, and early evening ‘street food’ market – both located outside West Hampstead’s Thameslink train station.
The long-established Hampstead Cricket Club is a bed-rock of the neighbourhood and residents’ community group, Friends of Fortune Green - who engineered the renovation of West Hampstead’s largest green space, continue to maintain the Green for the whole community’s daily enjoyment and a host of annual community events. Combined with the cultural delights of nearby Hampstead and Tricycle theatres; the new JW3 -bringing the Jewish cultural experience to the whole community; the glorious Heath; and the celebrated charms of Hampstead village, just a stroll away –- and it’s little wonder that West Hampstead is fast becoming one of the most popular London localities to set up house.
Living in West Hampstead
If you have your eye on a flat in a splendid red brick mansion block, you’re impressed by the plethora of public transport links, or attracted by the distinctively village ambience – here’s a brief summary of some of the amenities and attractions that you can expect to experience if you choose West Hampstead as your next home. Be sure to also check out our Features, Transport and Schools section below.
In this section we have put together a list of some of the most persuasive reasons why we think West Hampstead trumps any other Zone 2 location for the best all round London living experience.
Well-connected: West Hampstead boasts an underground and two over-ground stations just a stone’s throw from one-another plus a slew of buses – connecting locals to locations across London and beyond. See our Transport section for more details.
Visually appealing: Probably not surprising, but we love the look and feel of West Hampstead. From the peaceful, tree-lined residential streets with their palatial red brick mansion blocks and handsome Victorian terraces, to the meandering hill of West End Lane, with its picturesque Green and stylish cafés.
Community Spirit: Spend any time at all in West Hampstead chatting with the many independent shop owners or resident café regulars and you’ll pick up on their commitment to preserving the uniqueness and vibrancy of the neighbourhood. West Hampstead Life (http://westhampsteadlife.com/ ) – the local blog run by resident journalist Jonathan Turton - regularly informs on what’s happening in the neighbourhood as well as acts as an impressive catalyst for increased neighbourhood participation and community building. Other notable community projects include Friends of Fortune Green- a group of resident volunteers who initially renovated and continue to maintain local green space, Fortune Green; the West Hampstead Business Association (www.whba.org.uk) who helped bring the Saturday farmers market to the neighbourhood; and the Sherriff Centre – a unique community project that enabled the development of St James’ Church on Sherriff Road into a community space, housing the local post office, a children’s soft-play area and other events and meetings, whilst still preserving a dedicated sanctuary for worship.
Home to the arts: West Hampstead has long been the residence of choice for generations of actors, writers and musicians and we think that really adds to the flavour of the neighbourhood. Current residents include: Imelda Staunton: Emma Thompson; Jim Carter; Stephen Fry; Jonny Vegas; Slash; and Phyllida Law. West Hampstead is also a short bus ride from two of the most critically acclaimed theatres outside of the West End – Hampstead Theatre– internationally respected for bringing new plays into production that often transfer to the West End stage; and the Tricycle Theatre– well known for theatrical works that represent the cultural diversity of London. And positioned opposite one another on either side of the Finchley Road, just five minutes walk from West End Lane, are JW3 – the impressive Jewish Arts, Culture and Community Centre; and the long-established Camden Arts Centre– a venue for contemporary visual arts and education, where the public can rub shoulders with acclaimed national and international artists.
Green spaces galore: Nearby parks include Fortune Green - three acre park with children’s play area next to Hampstead Cemetery; Gladstone Park - a peaceful oasis with tree-lined avenues criss-crossing the green expanse, an art gallery, cafe, sports facilities including tennis courts and pitches for team games; and Hampstead Heath - nearly 800 acres of glades, woodland, heath land and meadows with natural swimming ponds and art deco Lido
Located in zone two of the London Underground system, West Hampstead is extremely well served by public transport. West End Lane is home to three train stations: West Hampstead Underground station - served by the Jubilee Line; West Hampstead Thameslink (Capital Connect) – which offers direct services as far as Bedford to the North and Brighton to the South; and West Hampstead Overground – which runs along North London between Stratford in the East and Richmond in the West. Plenty of buses also connect West Hampstead to other parts of London, including the 139 which operates a 24-hour service.
For new residents with children, Marylebone West Hampstead offers an excellent range of both State and privately funded options including:
Little Ark Montessori Nursery
Kingsgate Primary School– ‘outstanding’ Ofsted ranking.
Rainbow Montessori Junior School– private school.
Beckford Primary School
Emmanuel Church of England Primary School
University College School – independent boys school for ages 3-18 years.
Hampstead School– large, high-performing comprehensive.
Haverstock School– alma mater of Ed and David Milliband.