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North End

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A sparsely populated part of Hampstead Heath, at the apex of North End Way and Spaniards Road, best known for its triangle of pubs. The Old Bull and Bush, a haunt of the artists Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough, has given its name to a famous music hall song. The early-seventeenth century (but much altered) Spaniards Inn was formerly a toll house and supposedly the residence of the Spanish ambassador to the Court of James I. Alternatively, the name may simply derive from a former landlord, whose nationality proved more pronounceable than his name. The tavern was the occasional rendezvous of the gentry of the road, as Alfred Noyes’ poem The Highwayman recalls. Jack Straw’s Castle celebrates the alleged hideout of Wat Tyler’s lieutenant, but the present building (shown below) dates only from the 1960s and has recently been converted to flats. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels frequented its predecessor, as did Charles Dickens, who drank almost everywhere. North End was the home of William Pitt the Elder in 1766–67. Wylde’s Farm has played host to William Blake and the ubiquitous Dickens. Some of its lands were bought in 1905 to become the Heath Extension. From 1906 to 1940 the farmhouse belonged to Raymond Unwin, architect of Hampstead Garden Suburb. In 1912 the dancer Anna Pavlova bought Ivy House, and lived here until she died in 1931. North End was to have had the deepest tube station in London – at the Bull and Bush – but residents’ objections prevented it from ever opening. In the 1950s the partially built lower level was converted into an underground control centre for ‘floodgates’ on the deep tubes around central London. In case these gates should ever need to be used in a war situation the control room is allegedly ‘blast-protected’ – even against sustained nuclear attack. Recent years have seen a growing number of ‘futuristically’ styled properties inserted into North End – to the distress of some residents who want to preserve its rural charm.

Jack Straw's Castle
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The Old Bull and Bush

The artist John Linnell took his family to live at Wylde’s Farm (then known as Collins’ Farm) in the 1820s to provide them with a refuge from the unhealthy air of London. His 1831 painting of the farm depicts a pastoral idyll reminiscent of a Constable landscape.

Postal district: NW3

Brewer's London Phrase & Fable

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