This protrusion at the north end of Hampstead Heath used to be the highest point in London, at a dizzying height of 137 metres (449 feet) above sea level.
It was, in fact, the highest point in the former County of London, which existed from 1889 to 1965.
But the County of London was abolished in 1965 and replaced by a much larger entity called Greater London, which includes seven places that are higher than this.
This sign at Whitestone Pond at the “summit” of Hampstead Heath still describes this as the highest point in London. It rounds up the altitude to 135 metres “above the London basin”. Whitestone Pond itself is completely surrounded by a traffic circle and is so ugly that I didn’t even take a picture of it.
Different websites give slightly different figures for these altitudes — the London Basin is listed as 11 metres above sea level — but in any case it is considerably higher here than in the city centre. This explains why there are no bike-sharing stations in this part of London, because it would be quite a climb to get up here on a bicycle.
Just a short ways downhill is this house where the painter John Constable (1776-1837) lived during the summers of 1821 and 1822.
This plaque about John Constable was erected by the Hampstead Plaque Fund. (At first glance I thought it said the ‘Hampstead Plague Fund’, which I found rather alarming.
This rather mildewed building is Abernethy House, at the corner of Mount Vernon and Holly Place. According to a plaque on the building, the author Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) “lived here”. But this turns out to be something of an exaggeration, because actually he was only here once for a short visit, from June 13 to July 11, 1874 — which is just about four weeks.
In a letter to his mother during this visit he wrote: “I wish somebody would explain to me the climate of Hampstead. To be so near London, and yet to be in an atmosphere more that of like Peebles [in Scotland] than any other I can think of, is surely a puzzle in meteorology. Hampstead is all my fancy painted it; it is so quiet, so healthful and beautiful; and yet one can go in and dine at the Club in three-quarters of an hour, or thereabout.”
The parish church of St John-at-Hampstead is best known for its graveyards, where about seven thousand people were buried over several centuries.
Among other famous people, the painter John Constable is buried here along with his wife, two sons and various other descendants.
According to the church’s website, there “has been a church on the site for about 1,000 years. The present church was consecrated in 1747 and extended westwards in 1844 and again in 1878 to include a new chancel and sanctuary, the side chapel being consecrated in 1912.”
Thanks again to Colin for leading us on this informative VirtualTourist walking tour of Hampstead and Hampstead Heath. I later heard from Colin: “I don’t know if you knew, Don, but a man stopped me when we were on Christchurch Hill and accused me of taking away his customers. He initially would not believe I was taking a group of people I knew for free on a tour of the village. He was a professional tour guide and was worried I was taking his potential business away from him. It was only when I explained what VT was and he saw the tee shirts etc. he accepted my explanation.”
My photos in this post are from 2015. I revised the text in 2021.
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