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Inventory Site Record

Hampstead Heath, including West Heath (Camden)

Brief Description

Hampstead Heath falls within 2 London boroughs, the largest proportion being in LB Camden. It has immense historical content; a Saxon charter referred to the 'great ditch' in the Domesday Survey, and a Royal Charter of 1227 to woods and heath enclosed on all sides by ditches which along with boundary oaks and stones that are still visible today. The Heath has a great variety of habitats including ancient woodland, meadows, wetland, hedgerows, parkland and 26 ponds some of which were built to serve London with its water supply. In 1871 the Metropolitan Board of Works purchased the manorial rights for the public in perpetuity through an Act of Parliament; subsequently further land was added. The City of London has managed all of Hampstead Heath, apart from the Kenwood area, since 1989.

Practical Information
Site location:
East Heath Road/West Heath Road/Spaniards Road/Hampstead Lane/North End Way
Postcode:
NW3/N6
What 3 Words:
chips.brief.solar
Type of site:
Public Open Land
Borough:
Camden
Open to public?
Yes
Opening times:
unrestricted
Special conditions:
Facilities:
bathing, toilets
Events:
Numerous events (annually produced Hampstead Heath Diary provides full information)
Public transport:
London Overground: Hampstead Heath. Bus: 210, 268, 24, 168.
Research updated:
01/02/2010
Last minor changes:
19/07/2023

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk

Full Site Description

Hampstead Heath falls within 2 London boroughs, the largest proportion being in LB Camden. It boasts immense historical content; a Saxon charter refers to the 'great ditch' in the Domesday survey, and a Royal Charter of 1227 refers to woods and heath enclosed on all sides by ditches which along with boundary oaks and stones that are still visible today. A vast expanse of land 4 miles from the City, the Heath has a unique variety of habitats including ancient woodland, meadows, wetland, hedgerows, parkland and 26 ponds some of which were built to serve London with its water supply. The C19th saw rapid growth in London and Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, Lord of the Manor of Hampstead, was anxious to exploit his position on the fringes of built-up London and employed Joseph Gwilt to lay out his East Park estate which was to be developed with exclusive villas. The viaduct bridge built c.1845 which still remains was the only part of this scheme ever undertaken and was accordingly known as "Wilson's Folly", Wilson failing to obtain Parliamentary authority for the enclosure of his land. A circular brick Keeper's Hut with conical tiled roof built in 1840s, probably to demarcate the south-western boundary of Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson's estate.

In 1871 the Metropolitan Board of Works purchased the manorial rights for the public in perpetuity. The 1894 Ordnance Survey map identifies the box as a police hut. Public conveniences built c.1889-94, designed by the London County Council Architects' Department and probably erected as part of the LCC municipal improvement campaign for Hampstead Heath which led to fears for the loss of the Heath's wilder charms. Additions to the Heath were the grounds of Kenwood (q.v.) added in 1924; Hill Garden and Pergola (q.v.) in 1959; Hampstead Heath Extension; and Golders Hill Park (q.v.)..Bathing has long been popular on Hampstead Heath and the Highgate Ponds continue to provide men's and ladies' ponds that have been used for nearly 100 years. At one time there were high diving boards and in the 1930s the Highgate Diving Club practiced here, their Aquatic Carnivals attracting thousands of spectators. The Hampstead Mixed Pond, located off East Heath Road, is fed by natural springs via the Viaduct Pond and Vale of Health Pond.

In March 1950, a ski jump competition was held on Hampstead Heath, but despite plans to repeat this event it never recurred. The ski jump, which was nearly full-size and had real snow and skiers, was the creation of the Central Council of Physical Recreation, together with the Ski Club of Great Britain and the Oslo Ski Association. The team of 25 Norwegian skiers brought 45 tons of snow with them, packed in wooden boxes insulated by dry ice. The jump was supported by a 60 ft scaffolding tower, giving skiers a 100ft run-up to the jumping point 12ft above the ground. The event was known as the London ski jumping competition, with a trial contest involving just the Norwegian skiers before the main event, which was a contest between Oxford and Cambridge Universities: the University Challenge Cup. It was witnessed by thousands of people, for most of whom it was the very first time they had seen ski jumping. The Oxford team won, captained by C. Huitfeldt, while the London Challenge Cup open to all competitors was won by Arne Hoel of Oslo. Although an official proclaimed at the time that it had been "such an unqualified success that we are very much hoping it will become one of the country's major sporting features", the ski jump competition was never repeated.

Sources consulted:

P M Norris 'Conservation Policies and Practices of Hampstead Heath' (unpublished thesis, 1994); Bob Smyth 'The Green Guide to Urban Wildlife' (A & C Black) 1990; The Parks Agency 'Commons, Heaths and Greens in Greater London. A short report for English Heritage', 2005; http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/25/newsid_2786000/2786871.stm

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ269864 (526445,186631)
Size in hectares:
231 inc Golders Hill Pk
Site ownership:
City of London Corporation
Site management:
Open Spaces Dept.; Hampstead Heath Management Committee
Date(s):
Designer(s):
Listed structures:
SAM: Boedicea's Grave (mound). LBII: Keeper's Box and attached wall; Public Conveniences c1889-94; Viaduct Bridge
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

No
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Yes: Common (CL18)
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

No

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
No
In Conservation Area:
No
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Metropolitan Importance
Green Belt:
No
Metropolitan Open Land:
Yes
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Special Character: Hampstead & Highgate Ridge
Other LA designation:
SSSI (West Meadow) part Ancient Woodland
Photos

Hampstead Heath, including West Heath

Hampstead Heath, Looking towards Highgate, July 2005. Photo: S Williams

Hampstead Heath, Fishing on pond, July 2005. Photo: S Williams
2005
Hampstead Heath, July 2005. Photo: S Williams
2005
West Heath near entrance to The Hill Garden, August 2002 Photo: S Williams
2002
Hampstead Heath, Pond near Vale of Health, August 2002. Photo: S Williams
2002
The Tumulus at Hampstead, photograph reproduced from Mrs Basil Holmes, 'The London Burial Grounds', London, 1896
1896
'A Prospect of Hampstead from the Pond at the bottom of the Heath...', published 1745.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.
1745
Highgate. Blossom on the Heath', postcard n.d.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.
The pond, Hampstead Heath', photograph n.d.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.
J. Rathbone, 'North End from Hampstead Heath', n.d.  Courtesy of Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.

Click a photo to enlarge.

Please note the Inventory and its content are provided for your general information only and are subject to change. It is your responsibility to check the accuracy.