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.