Paradise Lost

Evelyn Waugh, writing in his unfinished autobiography A Little Learning (1964), describes how London spread into a Middlesex village in the years before World War I.

Golders Green in 1904

I was four years old when my father built his house in what was then the village of North End, Hampstead. He was, in fact, the first of its spoliators. When we settled there the tube reached no further than Hampstead. Golders Green was a grassy crossroad with a sign pointing to London, Finchley and Hendon, such a place as where ‘the Woman in White ‘ was encountered. All around us lay dairy farms, market gardens and a few handsome old house of brick or stucco standing in twenty acres of more; not far off survived woods where we picked bluebells and streams beside which we opened our picnic baskets. North End Road was a steep, dusty land with white posts and rails bordering its footways. North End, the reader may remember, was the place where Bill Sikes spend the first night of his flight after the murder of Nancy…

The meadow with the willows was sold to the builders. Soon after ours other new houses sprang up alongside us. Opposite us stood a large late Victorian villa named Ivy House (where Pavlova spent her last years) with wooded grounds. Soon these were built on leaving the garden and a pond for the ballerina’s privacy. Then the tube emerged into the open at Golders Green and round the station grew shops, a theatre, a cinema and a dense spread of new brick and rough cast dwellings not unlike our own. Eventually (I think soon after the first war) our postal address was altered from Hampstead to Golders Green. My father deplored the change and, as far as was possible, ignored it, because Hampstead had historic associations, with Keats and Blake and Constable, while Golders Green meant, to him, merely a tube station …

… besides the conurbation at Golders Green, another building enterprise was soon begun __ Hampstead Garden Suburb. The houses there were better designed and their tenants were under particular restrictions about the height of their garden fences. They were inhabited not exactly by cranks, nor by bohemians, but mainly by a community of unconventional bourgeois of artistic interests …

Henrietta Barnett (née Rowland) 1851-1936

This utopia had its presiding genius, a lady named Mrs (Later Dame Henrietta) Barnett. My father, who had some difference with her, would sometimes wander about singing a ditty of his own composition which began:

‘Blast it! Darn it!

‘Henrietta Elizabeth Barnett’

so that I grew up to regard this, I now believe, exemplary lady as a ludicrous monster.’

 


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