Thursday, 19 September 2013

Why Live in West Hampstead?

Image: freedigitalphotos

West Hampstead is an area of north west London, lying within the borough of Camden. It is one of London's inner suburbs, being about five miles from central London, and six miles from the Greater London boundary. There are green spaces nearby, including the famous 800-acre Hampstead Heath (which is an easy walk to the north east), and Fortune Green to the north west.


Development of the area began in the mid-Victorian period when the railway arrived. Until then, the only settlement had been a small agricultural village called West End (hence the name West End Lane, West Hampstead's main shopping street). However, Edgware Road , the area's Western boundary, began life as a Roman Road, the historic Watling Street.


Like its neighbour Hampstead Village, West Hampstead is a well-established residential suburb. Until the mid-twentieth century it had a substantial working-class community, but more recently it has attracted more professional and business people. There are plenty of well-known theatrical and artistic names amongst current and past residents.


There are two railway lines, and three stations, in the middle of West Hampstead, making it extremely well connected by train. The Capital Connect service via St. Pancras links to Eurostar services to France and Belgium. There are two underground lines; the Jubilee Line to Docklands and the Olympic Park, and the Metropolitan Line.


West End Lane has interesting shops, including one of London's few remaining independent bookshops. The O2 centre on Finchley Road offers indoor shopping and leisure facilities. There are plenty of chain stores on Kilburn High Road, and specialist shops in Hampstead Village. West Hampstead has a weekly Farmer's Market.


West Hampstead is more of a commuter base than a business area, although there is a substantial retail and service sector. Other local employers include private clinics and hospitals, reflecting Hampstead's historical reputation for having a healthy climate.


To the west and east are two famous small theatres; the Tricycle in Kilburn, and the Hampstead Theatre, formerly the Hampstead Theatre Club, which specialises in commissioning new work, and also has a small studio theatre. There is a cinema at Belsize Park, the Screen on the Hill, which is well-known for adventurous programming.


West Hampstead has a good choice of bars and restaurants, including an award-winning Sri Lankan restaurant, Elephant Walk. There are restaurants serving all kinds of British and European food as well as those from further afield, such as the Far East.


Families have long been drawn to the West Hampstead area because of the quality of its schools. The Hampstead School and Haverstock School are well-known secondary schools, and there are also local independent establishments, such as University College School.


West Hampstead's Victorian origins are reflected in its substantial nineteenth century villas, many of them now divided into flats. There are also good-quality mansion blocks from the twentieth century, and some well-designed modern properties.