The Heath History (4) - HAMPSTEAD HEATH - 2016***

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The Heath History (4)

Despite Sir Thomas's disavowals of plans for the heath itself, a third estate Bill had to be withdrawn in 1843 and a fourth, to permit the sale of all his Hampstead property, was defeated in 1844.
A fifth Bill was defeated in
1853 and a sixth, concerned only with land along Finchley Road, in 1854.
When a seventh Bill was overtaken by the Leases and Sales of Settled Estates Act of
1856, making it easier to change strict settlements, an unprecedented clause was inserted to debar Sir Thomas, as a previous applicant, from taking advantage of the new law.
Further debates followed in
1857, 1859, and 1860, as lawyers' attempts to remove the clause were frustrated by metropolitan M.P.s, whose constituents were making increasing use of The Heath.

When the struggle began there was small likelihood of reaching a fair and logical solution by buying The Heath with public funds.
1853, however, the vestry, ahead of its time, resolved that it was in the interests of both the parish and the metropolis that the government should buy the heath 'with such portions of the adjoining ground as are essential to its beauty'.

The proposal was made after public discussion of a plan by C. R. Cockerell to lay out a park on the enlarged heath, which would have come to resemble Regent's Park. Public purchase was urged on both the M.B.W. and the government in 1856 by the reformed vestry, which in 1857 promoted an unsuccessful Bill.

The climate changed in the 1860s, as threats to other open spaces led to the conferment of new powers on the Metropolitan Board Of Works (M.B.W.) by the Metropolitan Commons Act, 1866.
The Act was a result of pressure by the Commons Preservation Society under George Shaw-Lefevre, which included Gurney Hoare, Philip Le Breton, and other Hampstead campaigners among its members.

In Hampstead the danger was acute.
Sir Thomas's only obtrusive building had been of the viaduct begun in
1844, which was to bring a road to East Park and which came to be misrepresented as a design against The Heath, although both the viaduct and the intended 28 villas were on his exclusive freehold.

In 1861, however, he threatened to commercialize The Heath, a process which he began by building on the summit and selling the sand along Spaniard's Road.

East Park was also despoiled, by brickfields.

He went on to reject compromise offers not to oppose building on his land along Finchley Road in return for the abandoning of plans for East Park.

In consequence a Hampstead Heath Protection Fund was established under Gurney Hoare, to defray the expenses of a suit which was started against Sir Thomas in Chancery in 1866 and was ended only by his death in

The ability of his brother and heir Sir John to break the restrictive settlement, which renewed the danger, and the inflamed state of public feeling then compelled the M.B.W. to buy The Heath for a stiff but not extortionate price.

The Hampstead Heath Act, 1871, authorized the M.B.W.'s purchase of nearly all that survived from the original common, (East, North-West or Sandy, and West Heaths), which was ceremonially taken over early in 1872.

A few small additions were soon made, including Judges' Walk, and in 1879 its estimated 240 a. made Hampstead Heath the largest of the M.B.W.'s open spaces after Blackheath.

The Act did not allay all the fears of those who had resisted building, since the right to lay roads across The Heath had been reserved in the sale, which did not include East Park or other adjacent lands.

It would still have been possibly to hem in East Heath with buildings, as shown by the construction of South Hill Park between the lower ponds and Parliament Hill Fields.

Fortunately for preservationists, the Maryon Wilsons concentrated their resources on the area around Fitzjohn's Avenue.

Fortunately for preservationists, the Maryon Wilsons concentrated their resources on the area around Fitzjohn's Avenue.

Meanwhile the Act had secured an inviolable core of open space for public recreation and set a precedent by sanctioning its purchase with public funds.

The story of The Heath after
1871 was one of its expansion and of the changes which were brought about by public ownership.

Expansion was largely in response to the spread of housing north and west of The Heath, where open country survived in the 1880s, and its full value became apparent only as the ring of building was completed in the
20th century.

The first move towards extending The Heath came in 1884 with the establishment of a local society's open spaces committee, with C. E. Maurice as secretary.

Its aim was to acquire East Park, where building was likely to be most obtrusive, and c. 200 acres from the neighbouring southern part of Lord Mansfield's Kenwood estate.

The committee, stressing social and sanitary needs, soon won support from such reformers as Lady Burdett-Coutts and Octavia Hill.

A Hampstead Heath Extension committee was then formed, with the Duke of Westminster as chairman; it was ready to pay the market price and, through Shaw-Lefevre, reached agreement with the landowners.

The Hampstead Heath Enlargement Act,
1886, amended in 1888, allowed the application of public and charitable funds, after Hampstead vestry, which supported the extension committee, had voted a contribution, followed by St. Pancras.

The M.B.W. adopted the Act shortly before its own extinction in 1889, leaving a monument as important as the Thames Embankment in the form of a Heath doubled in size by the addition of East Park, Parliament Hill and Fields, and part of Lord Mansfield's Elms estate.

The next addition was that of the 36-acres. Golders Hill Estate, at North End but in Hendon parish and adjoining West Heath.

Funds were sought in 1897 for the purchase of 20 acres and in 1898 for the whole estate, although it was saved from speculators only when the local historian Thomas Barratt bid beyond the guaranteed total.
Barratt conveyed his contract to the guaranteeing committee, which, strengthened by the duke of Westminster and Shaw-Lefevre, recouped its expenses after a public appeal; the L.C.C. promised £12,000 and Hampstead vestry £10,000.
The property was conveyed in 1898 to trustees appointed by the committee and in
1899 to the L.C.C., whose parks committee drew attention to the damage which might have been done if building had been allowed to press too close, as at Clapham common.

Similar arguments, and a similar mixture of public and private contributions, secured the addition of c. 80 acres in Hendon, adjoining Sandy Heath.
The campaign to buy the land, which was part of Eton college's Wyldes farm, was stimulated by plans for a tube railway under The Heath, with a station at North End and the consequent prospect of building.

Hampstead Heath Extension council was formed in
1903 by Henrietta Barnett, with Shaw-Lefevre as president, and public contributions were permitted by an Act of 1905.

Although support from the L.C.C. and Hampstead borough council was inadequate, Hampstead bearing a much smaller proportion of the cost than in
1898, the 80 acres were bought in 1907.

They came to be known as the Heath Extension, while the rest of Wyldes Farm was taken for Hampstead Garden Suburb.

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