Practical- “something that is likely to succeed or be effective in real circumstances”
I live in a block of practical flats – as described in the 1935 brochure advertising Northwood Hall. With their own private toilets, gas supply and close to London , this block was noteworthy for the time.
Designed by Architect George Edward Bright, Northwood Hall stands at 300 feet above sea level, one of the highest points in London, on a clear day you can see across the city as far as Crystal Palace.
Surprisingly untouched by bombs of the Second World War, the unique cruciform shape is believed to have been used as an aerial navigational aid. For such a significant building, there is oddly little known about George Edward Bright .
The block featured a restaurant for residents, guest rooms and outdoor amenities including a tennis court. Indoors, there were uniformed porters available 24/7 and an optional maids' service charged at hourly rates. Additional services included rubbish collection, shoe cleaning and delivery of papers, food and even cooked meals – all provided through a hatch which went from each flat to the corridor.
We find ourselves presently living in unreal circumstances and I ask myself how practical are these flats now ? Attempting to keep to social distancing controls in a block of 194 flats, 7 floors, 2 small lifts and some 400-500 people is not easy – or so you would think.
The early hours peace and quiet allows for exploration of this wonderful art deco building. Balustrade staircases, reminiscent of M C Escher graphics, lift shafts and corridors not unlike a Hitchcock film and surprising silence. The kind of silence which speaks volumes about the lives lived and of this incredible faded grandeur of a building.
Northwood Hall is one of many architecturally significant buildings in the Highgate and Hampstead area.
Another amazing London blog that has helped us out several times when doing research for new tours. No idea who the old lady in question is, she preserves her anonymity very well! But the blog has been going since 2004 so as you can imagine she has managed to compile information on just about every imaginable facet of London history and culture - a good one to browse when you have a bit of time on your Hands, (like during a Global Pandemic for instance!) Click below to check it out http://www.shadyoldlady.com/
Do you miss pubs? yep so do we, so in order pay homage to London's many drinking establishments we have complied a quiz about weird wonderful history associated with some of our local boozers...
One thing I love about living in Hampstead you will never run out of bits to explore, I was out for a socially distanced walk this morning when I happened to stumble on this incredible house.. (3 years in the neighbourhood and I didn't even know the damn thing existed!)
As you can imagine it has a rather interesting history... first and foremost it was the inspiration for the character of 'Admiral boom' in Mary Poppins (The author P.L Travers was living in the neighbourhood at the time.)
It also features in a painting by the artist Constable entitled 'A romantic house at Hampstead'.
The house was originally built as a masonic lodge and named 'The Golden Spikes' (The conspiracy theorists amongst you will no doubt be able to tell me the significance!)
In 1755 it was brought by a retired naval Captain named Fountain North who added the ship like elements as he was missing his life at sea.
Around this time it became known locally as the Admirals house as it was mistakenly believed to have been the home of Admiral Barton: An 18th century admiral who became something of celebrity after his ship was captured and he and his crew were held hostage by the king of Morocco for several months. (He did in fact retire to Hampstead after he was released where his eccentric behaviour became the stuff of local legend - apparently he kept a cannon on the roof of his house and would fire it in the air to mark important occasions -as you do!)
Other notable owners have included: Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott, known for his work on Westminster Abbey and the Gothic style Renaissance Hotel at St Pancras station.
writer John Galsworthy author of the 'Forsythe Saga' and winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 1932
writers John and Winifred Fortesque: Winifred was a novelist (best known for her 1930's bestseller 'Perfume from Provence') and John was a military historian.
It is also worth noting that the there is rumoured to be a tunnel in the gardens that connects the house to nearby Hampstead heath (possibly built during the house's early days as Masonic lodge presumably for some weird and wonderful Masonic carry on!)
As you I'm sure you are aware we at Peculiar are not the only ones to take an interest in London's long and colourful history, and so we feel it would be down right rude not to give a shout out to some of the other writers, bloggers and tour guides out there who are making humorous and thought provoking content about our pet subject....
We are kicking off this feature with a great blog I stumbled on yesterday when trying to come up some quiz questions... Cabbieblog.com
As the name suggest its written by a cabbie under the pseudonym Gibson Square and is full of all kinds of London trivia - After all who knows London better than taxi drivers right? As well as all lots of weird and wonderful stories about the life of Black driver. Apparently the author has a book coming out later in the year, called 'Everyone is entitled to my opinion' - love it! Definatly one to check out!
Author, best known for her short stories
Born in New Zealand in 1888, aged 19 she moved to the UK to study, away from the strict confines of her family she lead a very bohemian lifestyle and had several lovers both male and female. Eventually she settled with a young musician Garnet Trowell however his family disapproved and broke up the relationship, on discovering she was pregnant with Garnett's child Katherine had a shotgun wedding to a music teacher named Charles Bowden, the marriage was a disaster and she left him the same week to run away with her girlfriend Ida Baker.
When Katherine's mother discovered what her daughter had been getting up to she came over from New Zealand and whisked her away to a Spa in Germany where she suffered a miscarriage.
Following this this her mother returned to New Zealand and Mansfield decided to stay in Germany where she met a new lover Floryan Sobienowski who not only helped her develop her writing but also gave her nasty case of gonorrhoea, which remained untreated for over a year and (unsurprisingly) took a terrible toll on her health.
She returned to London the following year (1911) Where she published her first collection of short stories, it was around this time she met John Middleton Murray who was editor of a magazine called Rhythm to which she submitted a dark thriller called 'The Woman in the Store'. Middleton Murray was impressed with the story and got her a job at the magazine, the two of them began working closely together and quickly became lovers.
While working at Rhythm they rubbed shoulders with many great literary talents of the day including DH Laurence and many of the Bloomsbury group, in fact Virginia Woolf even published Mansfield's novel 'Prelude' in 1918 (a tribute to her brother who was killed in WW1)
Katherine and Middleton-Murray eventually got married and settled down in Hampstead but the relationship was a stormy one as she hated domestic life, and he was bad at managing money and often in debt, they had several separations (with various other lover in between) but finally parted ways in 1918. Later that same year Mansfield was diagnosed with tuberculosis,In 1919 on the advice of her doctor she travelled to Menton in the south of France with her friend and lover Ida Baker to get away from the cold English climate. In spite of her failing health the time in France was productive for her writing, she completed two critically acclaimed collections of short stories 'Bliss' and 'The garden party.' Before the disease claimed her life, in January 1923 she suffered a fatal lung haemmorhage and died age just 34.
As we are not running any events in the wake of Corona virus, it seems a shame for Peculiar to go into total hibernation but what to talk about instead? Perhaps this is not the most original idea in the world but after going for a stroll around Hampstead (home of Peculiar HQ) one thing I noticed we have in abundance is blue plaques, and while some names are well known others are really quite obscure, so for the time being we will be running a feature on obscure blue plaques of London - who were these people and what did they do that made them so blue palqueable??
We will kicking this feature off by talking about Sir Peter Medawar simply because he happened to live in this rather lovely house on Downshire Hill....
Sir peter medawar
British scientist, famous for his pioneering work in organ transplants
Born in Brazil in 1915 to a British mother and Lebanese father who had a business selling false teeth.
Peter was sent to the Uk age 12 to board at Marlborough college, his time there was not a happy one as he was picked on by both staff and pupils for being foreign. The bullying and racism he experienced at Malborough gave him a life long hatred of the British public school system which he later described as... 'A tribal institution founded on twin pillars of sex and sadism'...
In 1932 he went to Magdalen college oxford to study zoology, while he was there he met his wife Jean who he married 1937, they went on to have 4 children.
After graduating from Oxford he continued to work in academia researching ways to repair damaged nerves. When World War Two broke out he got a job at the burns unit of Glasgow royal hospital and began to develop new techniques in using skin grafting to treat burn wounds. Over the next 15 years he continued to develop this research with the help of Australian scientist Frank Mcfarlane Burnett and made several advances not just in skin grafting but also transplanting organs. In 1960 he was award a Nobel prize for his groundbreaking discovery on how tissues can be grafted to prevent the body from rejecting a donor organ
Sadly in 1969 suffered a stroke which left him physically handicapped but still mentally alert, he continued his research and also wrote several books including an autobiography entitled 'The Memoirs of a Thinking Radish'
He died in 1987 age 72 having received a knighthood for his contributions to medicine