Category Archives: Homepage (Features)

5-7 Belsize Grove Retrofit

David Thomas, lead Committee member on retrofitting, writes:

Upgrading work is nearing completion on this Camden Council-owned block of 58 bedsits and self-contained flats. Most of the residents have been able to stay in their homes while the work was carried out.  The two original mid-19th century buildings were converted in the 1950s, with a connecting block added in the 1980s.

In late February, Sim Dhinsa, Camden’s Retrofit Programme Manager, accompanied by a representative from their energy consultants and main contractor, kindly gave three of us a guided tour of work in progress. We were impressed.

The thermal mass of the building has been upgraded using wall insulation fitted externally on three of the elevations and internally on the fourth where space was limited. This has ensured the minimum disturbance to the residents and avoided any reduction in the usable internal floor area of most of the flats. It extends up to the soffit at the underside of the roof and ties in with additional insulation within the roof area. A render finish has been applied externally on the three elevations.

The original single-glazed timber sash windows have been removed and replaced with thermally improved, slim, double-glazed timber sash windows to match. The existing internal timber door sets with single-glazing panels have been replaced with more robust and thermally efficient double-glazed ones. The improvements to the windows and doors were necessary to meet the revised approved documents “L- Conservation of Fuel and Power” and the London Borough of Camden carbon climate emergency targets.

New architectural features have been installed on the front and rear elevations. Mouldings with stone effect form new quoins at wall corners, window surrounds, dentils and bands to recreate the appearance of the original two detached pairs of houses. The rear elevation is less decorative, with quoins, window surround and bands.

With the external walls upgrade and the improved airtightness of the building, it has been necessary to provide adequate ventilation to prevent overheating and high moisture content.

The mechanical ventilation system in the communal areas has been repaired and extractor fans now replace the airbricks in the individual flats.

Photo-voltaic panels have been installed on the front elevation roof to provide renewable energy. The building is four storeys high so that their visual impact from the street level will be minimal.

The Council and its residents were consulted throughout to ensure that the design is the best solution to improve thermal performance, reduce carbon emissions and combat fuel poverty.

In a separate scheme, heat pump adopters open up their homes to encourage other UK householders considering swapping their gas boiler for an electric heat pump: they can see how they work by visiting an early adopter in their area. A new service aims to help would-be heat pump adopters to book a visit with households that already have one installed through a website launched by the innovation charity Nesta. The site, VisitAHeatPump.com, allows potential users to locate one of 150 households that have signed up to show them their low-carbon heating systems.

Stay in touch on retrofit@belsize.org.uk.

Events at the Library and BelSoc support

BelSoc held a joint event with the Friends of the Belsize Community Library on 18 April. Local historian and former Chair of this organisation, Averil Nottage, presented an illustrated talk about the development of the Chalcots/Eton College Estate in the first half of the 19th century.

The talk started by introducing us to an Elysian Field of pastures and meadows, which was the portion of Belsize that is now home to England’s Lane, Fellows Road and parts of Primrose Hill. The talk introduced us to Cut Throat Lane and to the proposals for Primrose Hill, including a large pyramid, that were rejected so that it was maintained as an open space as it is today.

The well-attended event ended with drinks and a chance to engage with the presenter and catch up with members.

The Friends have an excellent series of talks for the rest of the year, starting with Dr Bea Lewkowicz speaking about the 85th Anniversary of the Kindertransport, on 16 May 2024, 7.30pm at the Library.

Events at the Library

There is an exciting programme of in-person speaker meetings at the Belsize Community Library, Antrim Road. All on Thursday evenings, 7.30pm and  £5 is suggested for donation and refreshments.

16 May –  Dr Bea Lewkowicz speaking about the 85th Anniversary of the Kindertransport.

19 June – Author Jennie Ensor will talk about how lockdown inspired her fifth novel  “The Bad Neighbour”.

19 September – Finding Nemon by Aurelia  Young. The extraordinary life of the outsider who  sculpted the famous. Aurelia Young tells the remarkable story of her father’s career which brought him close to those who shaped and impacted the 20th century.

17 October – Michelene Wandor will talk about her novel “Orfeo’s Last Act”. Set against the backdrop of seventeenth century Italy, Orfeo’s Last Act brings the magic of Mantua, Florence and Venice to  vivid life.

21 November – Pamela Holmes will give a talk about Elizabeth Blachrie Blackwell (c1700-1758) the first British woman to produce an illustrated book on herbs.

12 December – An illustrated talk by Karin Fernald. Hans Christian Andersen. A question of Imagination. Wit, Traveller and Artist

Launch of Remarkable Homes of NW3

At an event in central London, NW3 residents gathered to celebrate the launch of David Percy’s book, “Remarkable Homes of NW3”. Local resident David has brought together stories about 100 houses in our area as well as Hampstead and Primrose Hill. The selected houses are a diverse pick of the fine homes in the area. The book combines history with architecture, interior design and also insights from the current residents of the houses. Many of these residents were able to attend the launch.

At the event, David was presented with a commemorative award sponsored by the Belsize Society and the Belsize Conservation Area Advisory Committee to mark David’s contribution to local history. Members may remember the premiere of the second part of the Belsize Story that the Belsize Residents Association, BelSoc’s precursor organisation, hosted over ten years ago. David has also been responsible for compelling glimpses of the past and present of the Belsize area through other books, writing and photography as well as through the belsizevillage.co.uk website. 

Remarkable Homes is published and supported by local independent estate agency, KIRE, who teamed up with David to produce this iconic book in 2022. KIRE’s Mike McHale and Samuel Patterson described how it was conceived and the effort and care taken to assemble the rich historical detail, the 750 photographs and the participation of homeowners. They gave thanks to the homeowners that helped.

Remarkable Homes of NW3

 “David S Percy’s beautiful book brings out the remarkable variety of architecture from magnificent mansions to charming cottages, built in so many different styles over the last 300 years or so, that make every Hampstead street so intriguing. He looks at who built them, how they have fared over time, and talks to present owners about how they care for them. Wonderfully illustrated, with interiors and gardens, this book is a ‘must-have’; a most welcome contribution to Hampstead history which will give hours of pleasure to anyone who, like me, loves looking at and reading about interesting houses.”

– Helen Lawrence, former Chair, The Heath & Hampstead Society 

“At the heart of this fascinating book are David’s stunning photographs. NW3 at its most beautiful.  And as David guides us systematically around the area, he introduces us not only to the houses, but also to the streets and neighbourhoods where they are located.  We find out about the country estates that predated the housing, and why and when they were developed.  And we see how they looked in previous centuries through a wonderful array of engravings, paintings and old photographs.  And if you want to lift your spirits on a damp grey day, the bright sunshine and clear blue skies in David’s photos will surely provide the perfect tonic!”  

– Averil Nottage, former Chair, Belsize Residents’ Association,

Hardcover 320 pages, full colour throughout with over 750 photographs, and available at Daunt Books £60

BelSoc Spring Walk: Belsize House and other local country mansions

Belsize House and other local country mansions – the story of the Belsize Estate before the 1850s.

12 May 2024 at two times: 11:00 am and 2.30pm. Tickets are at Eventbrite, link for 11am and link for 2.30pm.

Join us for a guided walk led by Averil Nottage.

Belsize means beautifully situated.  Surrounded by countryside and with fine views of London, it was a perfect location for an aristocratic country estate. Belsize House, a mansion surrounded by a 25 acres walled garden, was occupied by aristocrats in the 16th and for much of the 17th centuries. In 1720 it became a pleasure garden which was at first very fashionable and then became notorious for bawdiness and gambling.

At the beginning of the 19th century the whole of the Belsize estate was sub-divided into 8 to create mini country estates within the reach of successful businessmen.  During the walk you will hear the story of Belsize House and how the sub-estates were developed. Few of those buildings remain, but they have, nevertheless, left their mark on Belsize as we see it today.

Belsize Society Newsletter February 2024

Welcome to the February BelSoc Newsletter.

It was good to see many members at this year’s carol singing. We were joined by Primrose Hill Community Choir, raising funds for Marie Curie. In January, local historian Martin Sheppard attracted a large audience when, at a joint event hosted with the Friends of the Belsize Community Library,  he spoke about Belsize during the Second World War. An interesting talk included some music from the period.

This Newsletter features a piece by Averil Nottage about Belsize House, other mansions and the development of Belsize since the 16th century. There is to be a local history walk around this theme in May led by Averil and the Newsletter also gives details about how you can book for this using Eventbrite or by contacting us if this option is not possible.

Whether there is adequate provision for those in our community who are not online has become a concern as Camden considers removing paper visitor parking permits. The Newsletter covers our contribution to the consultation where, with other resident bodies, we are raising the need for scratchcard permits for those unable to access services online. This Newsletter also covers the consultation on the Camden Local Plan, and has a piece about what’s on at Hampstead Theatre.

We are getting ready for the AGM. Papers are with this Newsletter, and you’ll also see an article about our request at the AGM to raise the membership fee level. There is a request for volunteers, especially if you are interested in joining the Society’s committee. We would also be grateful for any member recommendations for Tradesmen You Can Trust, with a form enclosed with this Newsletter.

We hope you enjoy this Newsletter.

What’s coming up at Hampstead Theatre?

On the main stage – Double Feature  From 8th February

Alfred Hitchcock – the world’s most celebrated filmmaker

Tippi Hedren – Hitchcock’s muse and leading lady

Michael Reeves – brilliant new director trying to prove his worth

Vincent Price – seasoned hero of the horror genre

Two stories splice together seamlessly, exploring the glamour – and the grit  – associated with the silver screen. Where does the power in Hollywood truly sit: with the star on screen, or in the director’s chair? John Logan is an American playwright and screenwriter with first-hand experience of the movie world having written the screenplays for The Aviator, Skyfall and Gladiator. His stage work includes the Tony Award-winning play Red (West End and Broadway), Peter and Alice (West End) and the book for Moulin Rouge (West End and Broadway)

Jonathan Kent returns to Hampstead where his previous productions include Good People, The Slaves of Solitude and The Forest.

Next on Downstairs – Out of Season  From 16th February

The band is back in town!  Michael, Chris and Dev are returning to Ibiza and the hotel where it all began thirty years ago…  But Michael’s stuck in London, Dev’s got a bad back and Chris… well, he’s just Chris.  And it turns out that none of them are in their twenties anymore!  As this middle-aged trip down memory lane is about to hurtle off the tracks, Holly and Amy arrive, so down-to-earth they might just save our feckless heroes from really humiliating themselves…

Neil D’Souza’s comedy picks over the gulf between past aspirations and present realities – how we can come to terms with the past and find a way to face the future.  D’Souza’s other plays include Small Miracle (Colchester) and Coming Up (Watford).

Alice Hamilton is Hampstead Theatre’s Associate Director.  Her credits include the Downstairs productions of Every Day I Make Greatness Happen and Paradise, and The Dumb Waiter and The Memory of Water on Hampstead’s Main Stage.

Belsize House and other local Country Mansions

In this article Averil Nottage provides a short taster of her local history walk on 12 May

Belsize means beautifully situated. Surrounded by open countryside and with fine views of London, Belsize was a perfect location for an aristocratic country estate.

Belsize House, situated near the junction of Belsize Park and Belsize Avenue, was probably built at the end of 15th century. In 1568 the house had 24 rooms, including a hall, long gallery, and a great chamber. Its 25 acres park was enclosed in a pentagonal wall surrounded by over 200 acres of farmland. The estate was leased to William Waad, an eminent statesman and diplomat whom Queen Elizabeth entrusted with her most delicate missions. 

After the Restoration the house was rebuilt, and the estate passed to the Chesterfield family.  By the early 18th century, they had moved out and the house was sublet. In 1720, with a flourish of trumpets, James Howell opened the house and grounds as a pleasure garden. It offered fine dining and wines, music, dancing in the lavish ballroom, fishing, hunting and betting. Initially it was very fashionable, and the Prince and Princess of Wales dined there, but soon after it was described as a “scandalous Lew’d House.” Magistrates intervened to prevent unlawful gaming and rioting.

It wasn’t until 1746, when the house was rebuilt as a private residence, that the area regained its respectability. After Ken Wood, it remained the pre-eminent park on the northern heights for another century.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries several houses were built around Belsize Lane.  In 1794 Baron Loughborough, the Lord Chancellor, bought one as his country residence. It was a substantial mansion in 21 acres and had a private drive. He held extravagant banquets there with guests including the Prince of Wales. The house was renamed Rosslyn House after he received an earldom in 1801.  

Queen Victoria visited it to see whether it would be a suitable place for her children to spend their summers. In 1808, when the 5th Earl of Chesterfield needed to clear his debts, the Belsize Estate was sold off as 8 sub estates.  These miniature country estates, with “capital mansion houses” set in a few acres of park and surrounded by meadows, would be within the reach of successful businessmen.

The lease for the most northern plot went to George Todd, a Baltic merchant who had made his fortune in Riga. He demolished a house in 16 acres of land to build a magnificent mansion called Belsize Court. Opposite the mansion, William Tate build a large cottage orne with gothic towers on the site of a “Chinese” cottage. Now known as Hunters Lodge, it remains on the corner of Belsize Lane and Wedderburn Road. Todd also built a grand house between Belsize Lane and Belsize Avenue called Ivy Bank.

Edward Bliss, who made his fortune by manufacturing gun flints in the Napoleonic War, bought the sub-estate between England’s Lane and Belsize Grove. He leased individual plots to builders, creating a piecemeal development.

Nearly 38 houses were built by 1830 and occupied by “persons of quality”. Three “post Waterloo” houses at 129-133 Haverstock Hill, and a row of 1820s stuccoed houses on the south side of Belsize Grove, remain. John Maples, who owned the furniture store, lived for many years in Bedford House, a substantial property on the corner of Belsize Grove. It was advertised in the Times in 1905 as comprising of 13 bedrooms with dressing rooms, three bathrooms, dining, drawing, morning and billiard rooms, a library, conservatory, stabling for five horses and a garden with lawns, greenhouses etc.

By the middle of the 19th century London was extending northward, creating demand for suburban housing. Belsize House was demolished in 1853 and replaced with the large stucco villas that characterise Belsize Park. In the 1860s land from the Rosslyn Estate and Belsize Court was taken to build Lyndhurst Gardens. Gradually other grounds and mansions made way for housing. Rosslyn House was sold to developers in 1896.  In the 1920s the site of Ivy Bank became a motor car garage. Belsize Court was demolished in 1937 and replaced by blocks of flats of the same name. The houses on Bliss’s estate were mainly replaced by flats in the 1960s and 70s to meet the needs of the time. Bedford House wasn’t demolished until the 1980s.  But whilst the mansions and estates have gone, we can still see their traces all around us when we know what was there before. 

34 Belsize Lane receives Grade 2 Listing

Historic England has let us know the details and background of a new listing of a Belsize house designed by architect Georgie Wolton 

No. 34 Belsize Lane, designed by Georgie Wolton (1934-2021), has been listed at Grade 2 by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on the advice of Historic England. It is the first building by Wolton on the National Heritage List for England – the official record of all buildings and structures of national architectural and historic interest. The listing includes the boundary wall to Belsize Lane.

34 Belsize Lane was designed by Georgie Wolton as a home and studio for herself and her family in 1975-1976. It remains a private house. It is one of a small number of buildings by the architect, who increasingly specialised in landscape design as her career progressed. Wolton had a pivotal, though short-lived role in the formation of the architectural practice, Team 4 in the early 1960s. She went on to work in independent practice, one of few women architects in the post-war period to do so.

Georgie Wolton’s buildings are little known, but she made an important contribution to post-war Modernism in England. 34 Belsize Lane is a very personal work which has survived remarkably intact. There is no street frontage.  Behind an unassuming boundary wall (which you will have passed many times going into or out of Belsize Village) lies a small masterpiece – a house she called the “last of the English follies”, one totally in touch with the exciting architectural zeitgeist of its day, but also unique and uncompromising.

34 Belsize Lane captures many of the ideas which influenced her practice as well as her skill as a designer.  Bomb-damaged sites and the subdivision of large houses and their gardens offered challenging but affordable plots for young architects after the Second World War. Wolton chose to create a single-storey house almost completely hidden from view, shielded behind the old brick boundary wall which extends along Belsize Lane. Behind the wall, the brick and glass building sits nestled amongst greenery with three distinct courtyard gardens created around it so that every room feels connected to the outdoors.

Wolton was interested in creating a strong relationship between inside and outside and needed plenty of wall space to display her personal collection of Turkish kelim rugs. She introduced rooflights, bespoke sliding timber shutters and conservatory-like antechambers into her design – these areas illustrated the concept of what she called “pause” spaces separating the living and working parts of the house.

Wolton had a longstanding interest in buildings designed to function as both domestic and work spaces. Two of her three key buildings were designed as working houses: Cliff Road Studios and 34 Belsize Lane, both in Camden.

The following biographical details have been supplied by Historic England.  Georgina Cheesman attended Epsom School of Art before studying architecture at the Architectural Association, London between 1955 and 1960. She married publisher David Wolton in 1962 and had their daughter, Suke, the same year.

In 1963, after a brief stint working for Middlesex County Council, she formed the architectural firm Team 4 with Richard Rogers, Su Rogers, Norman Foster and her younger sister Wendy Cheesman (later Foster). It was Wolton who allowed the practice to function, being the only member of the group who was at that time a fully qualified architect. She moved on very swiftly however, partnering for a short time with Adrian Gale, formerly of Mies van der Rohe’s studio, before spending the rest of her career as a sole practitioner.

Her Fieldhouse in East Horsley, Surrey (now demolished) was built in 1968 with a corten (weathered) steel frame. It is amongst the first domestic uses of corten steel in the UK. It was one of several of the houses designed by British architects in the 1960s and ‘70s which were heavily influenced by Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Illinois.

Wolton’s Cliff Road Studios, Phase I (1969) and II (1971-2), are her best-known work. The scheme drew admiration in architectural circles for its reference to early European modernism and Parisian studio houses of the 1920s.

As a landscape designer Wolton worked for private, public and commercial clients.  She completed many schemes for her longstanding friend, Richard Rogers, as well as others at Dartington Hall, Devon and The River Café, Hammersmith.

Finding Comfort Among Strangers

A new novel from Belsize resident 

Ranee Barr

In Ranee’s recently published novel “Finding Comfort  Among Strangers”, set in 1970s Belsize Park and surrounding areas of London, many of you will recognise places and landmarks which are no longer there, and a way of life which no longer exists. Writing this novel, a work of fiction which draws on her own experiences, has also given Ranee the opportunity to weave into the narrative the social history of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), where she was born and raised.

The novel began as a short story when Ranee was studying creative writing at City Lit, London many years ago. It only began to take shape after she retired from her day job and after publishing the book “Belsize Remembered”. She is currently working on her second novel, a psychological thriller set in Mexico, where she spends several months during the winter.

Finding Comfort Among Strangers is available at Daunt bookshop Belsize Park, from Amazon and as an ebook on Kindle.

Belsize Remembered (Compiled by Ranee Barr and David S Percy; edited by F Peter Woodford; photographs by David S Percy) is also available at Daunts.

Open House Festival: Belsize Court Garages

Belsize Society committee member and architect Sanya Polescuk writes: 

On 31 September, Open House Festival took place all over London. It was a great opportunity to step into and see many amazing buildings, usually not open to public. As every year for the last decade, following the project’s win of Architects Journal’s Retrofit Award 2013, Sanya Polescuk Architects opened the doors to their studio and the HMO flat above at 8 Belsize Court Garages.

Over 100 visitors came during the weekend of 9 and 10 September. With the help of four wonderful volunteers organised by the Open House Team, the practice’s architects conducted a tour, sharing knowledge of the building including its and the local area’s history. The talk illustrated various stages of design and construction which turned the original 19th century horse stables with coachman’s living quarters into the architects’ studio with the flat above. 

The Open House atmosphere never disappoints. Visitors engage in conversations and ask questions about this and other similar projects of the practice. They all tend to be in conservation areas or are listed buildings so complex planning process is the norm. Questions about the challenges of working with existing buildings and details of sustainable solutions are typical. This year however it was particularly encouraging to see an increase in the interest in technical matters of retrofit such as types of sustainable insulation, carbon-reducing design and modern ways of on-site energy generation. 

If you missed your chance to visit 8 & 8a Belsize Court Garages this year don’t worry, we will welcome the visitors next September again.