Historical Heath INTRODUCTION - HAMPSTEAD HEATH - 2016***

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Historical Heath INTRODUCTION

How The Heath Has Changed

Over the course of its history, Hampstead Heath has changed considerably.

In its early years, it shrank considerably due to building and development but in the last hundred years its ground has been reclaimed and it now occupies nearly 800 wonderful acres.

As you peruse the author's collection of old images, you will notice that, in its early years, The Heath was wilder and more open.

There were fewer trees, more open areas and the lands formed natural grazing fields and meadows, which kept back the current day undergrowth and trees.

There was plenty of gorse and exposed sand and gravel and plenty of fresh springs.

Because of the latter, The Heath was home to many washerwomen and some of the images reflect this in the abundance of clothes posts and, indeed, washing can be seen spread out over the gorse in some pictures.

In 1839 the Heath Keeper recorded seventy-three clothes posts in The Vale Of Health, fifty-eight at North End and thirty-three at West End.

Donkeys were a common sight on The Heath and you can read about them in previous pages on this site.

The pictorial history of The Heath and its surrounding villages of Hampstead and Highgate has certain clear phases of representation.

The history can be seen in photographs, which will take the visitor back as far as the late 1800s, in illustrations such as those found in old periodicals of the ilk of The London Illustrated News which will depict events back into the early part of the nineteenth century but, prior to this, images take the place of hand drawn prints, etchings and engravings and then further back still our appreciation of ancient views relies heavily on the numerous artists, whose paintings take us back into a world far away in time.

Although The Heath has changed considerably over its history in that people, such as Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, have been responsible for roads, sand and gravel quarrying, brick works and many other activities, The Heath still has many of the artefacts and structures from previous centuries, such as The Pound, where stray animals were rounded up, the so-called Ice House (a keeper's hut), The Stone Of Free Speech and many more interesting things to discover.

Many of these can be seen in the collection of images on the following pages as well as many that have been lost to antiquity.

As you peruse the images, you will see fences and boundaries that no longer exist, hills that are now valleys, areas where old band stands were originally to be found or Victorian and Edwardian families enjoying dances under the old Flag Staff or fishing in  The Leg Of Mutton Pond, down Rotten Row!

Peruse the collections and, as you take a stroll across The Heath, remember some of the images you have seen and try and work out what part of The Heath they represent.

It is great fun, so ENJOY!

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