Octavia Hill
1838-1912

Courtenay Crickmer, FRIBA
1879-1971

The development company called Copartners, owned 300 acres adjacent to the original Hampstead Garden Suburb and acquired other areas as well, so that their holdings stretched from Hampstead Golf Club to Brim Hill. For a time the Trust and Copartners worked together but, especially after 1919, they often disagreed in principle. Copartners traded more and more as a commercial venture, building at whatever price the market would bear. The area was conveniently near to town, yet green and leafy, served by East Finchley and Golders Green Stations, so the houses I used to watch being built in the 1930s were not for the working class. The new owners would be professional people, owners of small factories and others who could afford the prices.

At the week-ends the unfinished streets were full of visitors who had come to look over the houses. For some it was a weekly ritual to view the new buildings in Hampstead, Finchley and Totteridge, or anywhere else along the train routes where houses were being built. The same thing was happening all round London as the building sites moved outwards. An enormous game of leap-frog was taking place. People were moving out from the old centres, leaping from Highgate and Holloway and Clerkenwell, over Victorian houses built in the 1860s and 1880s and the Edwardian developments in Crouch End and Muswell Hill. Some planned to leap a short distance, others leapt further, while some made the extraordinry jump from the East End of London to the edge of the country, a change some of them were never quite to believe could have happened. How could they have made such a transition`? What force could have prompted such a leap? People who had never lived far from the juddering rattle of train wheels, were coming to a narrow, gravelled Lyttleton Road on a No. 58 bus with, in the early days, an open-top. To their amazement these buses would stop at the wave of a hand at any point along the route. This really proved it was the country.

To some house viewers it was a day out to look at a free peep-show, but for many it was a serious quest. In and out of the houses passed a stream of Sunday visitors, in highheeled shoes and sharp-pressed trousers, hopping over the puddles to examine the new houses. A threepenny bus ride from Highgate Archway took them into the country and perhaps a new life.

 

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