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  • Writer's pictureSimon Deen


“You can’t choose where you’re born. I was born in Whitley Estate in Reading. I wouldn’t have chosen that. I’d have chosen Hampstead. I did choose Hampstead. It just took 45 years to be able to afford it. Very different, my upbringing to how I live now. Now I live a privileged life. Hampstead is ridiculous. It’s a rarefied place. It’s the grandchildren of poets and painters. And me, new money. But growing up in Reading was tough. My estate was rough and scary. I was weak and vulnerable. There was danger round every corner. My school was on my street and I ran there every day, so I didn’t get mugged.
I moved to Hampstead. Oh my god. There’s no crime. I saw a knife once in Hampstead. It was a palette knife. Just a bloke, oil painting, in the middle of the street. Broad daylight”
Ricky Gervais

Back in August last year, one of the things my monthly market update focused on was how buyers had spent over £262,000,000 in the first six months of 2021 on properties in NW3. Which was more than any other postcode in the country.

Another post, about how green and clean was the future of London, talked about how NW3 is London’s third leafiest suburb.

Only HA7 (Stanmore) and TW9 (Richmond & Kew Gardens) have more trees per hectare. Interestingly, Richmond has also been London’s happiest borough for six years in a row. Although I’m not sure how they measure these things.

Even so, it’s perhaps unsurprising when you realise that spending time with trees is proven to be good for us.

Those of you who read my latest guest blog with Barry Burrows of Bartholomew Landscaping will know that people who walk in nature exhibit many cognitive benefits.

These include an increase in working memory performance and positive thoughts, and a decrease in anxiety, rumination, and negative thoughts. More happy, less sad.

The evidence is in. To find joy, all you need to do is write several award winning TV shows. Win two Emmy Awards, three Golden Globes and seven Baftas. And then finally, move to Hampstead and spend time on the Heath. Job done.

As an estate agent for nearly twenty years, I’ve devoted a lot of time to thinking about what makes certain places or properties more desirable than others. What confluence of events needs to take place in order to take an area from a little run down, through up and coming, all the way to established?

Of course, it’s a long time since anyone has reasonably described Hampstead as up and coming. Probably not since the beginning of the 18th Century.

The area, having grown famous due to Dr William Gibbbon’s discovery of the healing chalybeate springs, became a spa town, where people would escape the dirt and noise of London to drink the iron rich waters.

Which sounds to me a little like a formative version of swimming in a pond on Hampstead Heath. Had I been around, I’d have definitely been in. And telling everyone about it too.

Anyway, several local pubs owe their names to this pursuit, most famously The Wells Tavern on the corner of Well Walk and Christchurch Hill, but also The Flask on Flask Walk. Where you could presumably buy it in a bottle.

“By 1700 there were two houses, a dancing room, shops, and stables.
Wells House was built next door - for gambling. The height of the popularity was short-lived. The wells had lost their fashionable cachet by 1725 and the ‘in crowd’ had moved on to other locations.
It should be mentioned in passing that the ‘in crowd’, who consisted of a large number of wealthy gentlemen and ladies who had nothing better to do with their time than find ways to amuse themselves by day and to gamble by night, often were to be seen at the wells in Hampstead”.

All of which sounds rather more exciting than imbibing muddy water in the name of health.

Picture of Flask Walk from around 1900
Flask Walk, c. 1900

Fast forward a couple of hundred years to 1907, and Hampstead was getting its own underground station. In later years the area would see the construction of some standout modernist architecture. Erno Goldfinger's own home on Willow Road and the Wells Coates designed Isokon Building on Lawn Road, to name a few.

Picture of The Isokon Building, Lawn Road
The Isokon Building, Lawn Road

But before that, and like so many other parts of London now known as zone two, much of the area's architecture was the result of the Victorian and Edwardian eras of housebuilding.

Hampstead is full of incredible period homes, which whilst not always totally conducive to twenty-first century living, give the area an historical grounding.

A grounding which at times seems the antithesis of the newer, shiner version of London which has emerged since the turn of the millennium.

I think that’s it. There’s almost nothing forced or contrived about Hampstead. Things are the way they are because the area has been evolving for over a thousand years, not because they’ve been carefully positioned on a master plan.

It’s authentic in a way which in 2022, not much else is.

Whilst in theory at least there’s an abundance of homes with historical character to choose from, the one thing the area has lacked is apartments that provide for a more modern way of living.

And wouldn’t you know it, my lovely clients are selling one. And through the wonders of modern technology, you can see the sales listing here.

“Directly opposite the woodland and meadows of Hampstead Heath, sits Heath Park Gardens, a private gated development of only thirteen apartments”
Picture of Heath Park Gardens, Templewood Avenue
Heath Park Gardens, Templewood Avenue


Things I’ve been inspired by this week

The coyote’s anguish
It’s one of the best metaphors for life, marketing, achievement, community and possibility in all of TV cartooning.
The coyote is always looking for a quick win. Because he doesn’t persist with a plan that builds over time, all of his outlandish stunts add up to nothing but frustration.
The coyote is obsessed with gaining at the expense of his enemy. As a result, he’s faced with either defeat or short-lived and ultimately empty victory.
The coyote is obviously immortal, but he’s always in pain. Either in the pain that comes from hitting a wall at 100 miles an hour, or the pain of knowing that yet another short-term plan came to no good.
The coyote challenges the laws of physics in the belief that he, and he alone is entitled to his own rules.
The coyote is happy to spend money on ludicrous devices that make promises he must know are empty, but instead of investing, he keeps chasing the gimmicks.
The coyote picked the wrong goal. Even though it’s clear he can’t succeed, he doesn’t switch, obsessing about sunk costs instead.
And even though he has experienced the frustration of the short-term selfish shortcut again and again, he never pauses to consider what would happen if he created something of value instead.

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