The Nineteen Thirties

From about the age of thirteen or fourteen I took to wandering among the new houses being built in Hampstead Garden Suburb. The centre of the Suburb, with its Lutyens church and houses built in short cull-de-sacs, had been started at the turn of the century. By the 1930s, building had reached the Mutton Brook and houses were spilling across Lyttleton Road towards the ridge of East End Road : the whole valley was being engulfed. For years these meadows had been used for tennis courts, athletics clubs, and football fields. A few of these still remained, but the majority were being built over. Four or five shops were open in Market Place, set among a sea of building sites and others were waiting to open. This was to be my hunting ground for years.

Half-made gravelled roads led to houses in all stages of building. Some had the foundations laid; others had walls started or rafters in place, roofs tiled, walls plastered, floors laid, doors and windows glazed, the house painted and decorated - one could follow the progress of building as if in a huge exhibition. Nobody seemed to object to a boy examining everything. In his autobiography, Richard Cobb(the hitorian) describes how at my age he walked down the length of a row of new houses with a catapult and, from the shelter of the woods behind, smashed a window in every house. I never saw vandalism like that and do not remember even a night watchman.

Layout Plan of Houses at Greenhalgh Walk Hampstead, N.W. London



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