Henrietta Barnett founded the Hampstead Garden Suburb in 1907. She and her husband, Canon Barnett, had been responsible for starting a series of charitable and educational institutions of which the best known are the Whitechapel Art Gallery and Toynbee Hall. The area was an exercise in community living. The community spirit is still very much alive today, and is maintained by an active Residents' Association.
When the project for the building of the Hampstead Tube with a station on the West of Hampstead Heath became known, Henrietta Barnett's first thought was of the threatened "ruin of the sylvan restfulness of that portion of the most beautiful open space near London". Her immediate reaction was the organisation of the Hampstead Heath Extension Council to save 80 acres of land from the "rows of ugly villas such as disfigure Willesden and most of the suburbs of London". The idea of the Garden Suburb grew out of the Heath Extension, for which the money was raised and the land handed over to the London County Council to be dedicated to the public as an open space forever.
Henrietta Barnett outlined the plans in an article in the Contemporary Review of 1905. The broad lines of the scheme were –
That persons of all classes of society and standards of income should be accommodated and that the handicapped be welcomed; that the cottages and houses should be limited, on average, to eight to an acre; that the roads should be 40 feet wide, and that the fronts of the houses should be at least 50 feet apart, gardens occupying the intervening space; that the plot divisions should not be walls but hedges or trellis or wire fences; that every road should be lined with trees, making when possible, a colour scheme with the hedges; that the woods and public gardens should be free to all the tenants without regard to the amount of their ground rent, i.e., the best for all classes; that noise should be avoided, even to the prohibition of Church or Chapel or Institute bells; that lower ground rents should be charged in certain areas to enable weekly wage-earners to live on the Estate; that the houses be so planned that none should spoil each other's outlook or rob its neighbour of beauty.
In March 1906 the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust Limited (the Old Trust) came into being for the purpose of buying 243 acres of land near the Hampstead Heath Extension from the Trustees of Eton College. In 1909 there were three co-partnership societies in the Suburb. They were formed under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act in order to take leases from the Old Trust for building development. These companies were Co-partnership Tenants Limited, which was founded in 1907 and not confined to Hampstead Garden Suburb alone, and Hampstead Tenants Limited and Second Hampstead Tenants Limited founded in 1909 for the Suburb. Their object was to provide housing and social, recreational and educational institutions. They had close links with the Old Trust. In 1911 the Old Trust took possession of a further 112 acres, which included Big and Little Woods, from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Part of this land was developed by the co-partnership societies under strict Trust control and the whole eventually re-leased to them in 1919. The co-partnership societies took another 300 acres from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners with the consent of the Old Trust, and Oakwood Tenants Limited and Hampstead Heath Extension Tenants Limited were constituted to undertake this development. The Board of the Trust appointed Raymond Unwin as Architect and Surveyor in 1906. He was responsible with his partner, Barry Parker, for the preparation of the plan of development and for designing a large number of the early houses and supervising the plans and elevations of houses designed by other architects. From the start, Edwin Lutyens was associated with him as Consulting Architect and he designed many of the principal buildings. He managed to successfully set the tone of the area with the Central Square, well-designed terraces of houses and flats on spacious, tree-lined streets with closes and cul-de-sacs. Weaving but not unruly streets with many Grade II-listed, exposed-brick cottages, houses and mansions are also typical of the area.
The Hampstead Garden Suburb Residents Association is a voluntary organisation open to all residents, with an elected Council and appropriate standing committees. It can call on members with a variety of specialised knowledge who give their services free for the community. Council meetings, which are open to all residents, are held on the first Tuesday of each month (except August) at 8.00 pm in Fellowship House, Willifield Way, NW11. The Association is a watchdog for the welfare of the Suburb and acts as a strong pressure group. It conveys the views of its members to the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust, to the Borough of Barnet and to Government on a wide range of Suburb issues such as traffic, conservation and amenities. www.hgs.org.uk
The Trust is the estate management company for the area and was established in 1968 to help conserve and preserve the Suburb. Freeholders are subject to a Scheme of Management passed by the High Court in 1974, while in the case of most leaseholders the Trust is the ground landlord. Residents are required to get the prior approval of the Trust before altering the external appearance of their properties. Consent is also required for significant changes to gardens, erection of garden sheds and felling or pruning of trees. Within the London Borough of Barnet, the Suburb is the largest Conservation Area; and so local authority approval, too, is required for alterations. Over 500 buildings have been individually 'listed' and owners are required to get the approval of English Heritage for internal alterations. The Trust is a registered charity and membership is open to residents who have lived on the Suburb for three years. There are eight unpaid Directors, four elected and four appointed by professional bodies. Their Architectural Advisor will be pleased to advise you on any alterations you may wish to undertake. The Trust employs a landscape consultant, to help residents with problems involving gardens, hedges and trees. The Trust maintains a list of builders and specialist contractors recommended by residents and welcomes additions to this list. The Trust can be found at 862 Finchley Road, NW11 6AB Telephone: 020 8455 1066 and 020 458 8085. Visit www.hgs.org.uk and www.hgstrust.org
Hampstead Way, Asmuns Hill for the village feel, Central Square for Sir Edwin Lutyens architecture and North Square / Erskine Hill for grand mansions. Other smart streets include Winnington Road (the less well-known twin of Millionaire's Row – The Bishops Avenue), Ingram Avenue, Wildwood Road (which dates back to Roman days). Prices range from a modest £200,000 apartment to imposing mansions of £40,000,000 plus.
Elizabeth Taylor, Sir Donald Sinden, Harold Wilson, Jonathan Ross, Richard and Judy, Lord Mandelson and Des O'Connor have all been smitten by the Hampstead Garden Suburb bug at one time or another.