Category Archives: Homepage (Features)

Tribute to Aileen Hammond

It was with sadness that BelSoc learned of Aileen Hammond’s death on 19 February.  A much-respected councillor for Belsize, a much-loved member of BRA and BelSoc, and a generous and selfless person, she will be very greatly missed. 

Judith Gubbay pays her tribute: 

My friend Aileen was clever, and witty, and kind, and energetic. Described by one friend as a Continue reading

Highgate Newtown Community Centre Wellness Cafe

has started a new Telephone Befriending Service to help people who are shielding or isolating and unable to meet friends and family members. If you’re feeling anxious or scared or are worried about your health and wellbeing, and would like to chat, then you could do so regularly with someone from this service. Its aim is to support residents in Camden, who are aged over 55 and are feeling lonely, to stay connected with a friendly listening ear at the other end of a phone.
All volunteers have had a DBS check, receive training and support and you will be matched with one who can call you on a regular basis. Referrals are accepted from Adult Social Care, GPs, Family Members, Friends, Carers, Hospitals or you can refer yourself. For more information, please contact or phone 07483 145587.

Belsize Village Streatery 2020

In 2017, Belsize Village was described as being “besieged by burglars” in the Evening Standard. In January, Robert Stephenson-Padron reflected at a Camden Council Meeting on what the Belsize Village Business Association has been able to do to revitalise the Belsize Village area.

The Association was started just over two years ago, a period when Bob had observed numerous businesses closing and footfalls dwindle. Despite the cloud of the Coronavirus pandemic, the past summer was one seeing economic vibrancy return to our Village. He’s particularly pleased that the employment created – estimated at 50+ jobs saved or created – were in part associated with commitments to pay the London Living Wage.

At the council meeting, Bob outlined some of the key steps in the changes seen. The first was raising the profile of the Village through social media. Looking at the Instagram, Twitter, WhatApp, Facebook pages of the Association, there is a lot of activity often centring on photos taken in Belsize Village. We all know the spot is picturesque, the central feature of recent TV ads (remember 2018 Visa advert) but the Association could really highlight the Village’s biggest strength: that all the hospitality, leisure and retail businesses in Belsize Village are independents, benefitting “from the love and passion of the families that run our unique local businesses.”

A second stage of the revitalisation has focused on beautifying Belsize Village so the outdoor spaces could be used. Historically, Belsize Village suffered from litter and fly-tipping. Residents in 2015 took Camden officials on a walk to highlight the state of the village area, and working with Camden Council and with volunteers, this has been improved. Perhaps most recently were the efforts in September as part of the Nationwide Great British September Clean.

That then brings us to the Streatery. With beautiful gardening planters installed, the scene was set for an innovative, new phase for the Village on July 4, 2020, which transformed Belsize Village square into a vibrant hub and led to the economic boom the Association is most proud of. They also see this success as transferable to other communities especially tackling what they view as a largely unrecognised “litter crisis”, which blights our communities but could reset such spaces to become more economically vibrant.

Village Business Association recommendations

At the meeting at Camden Council, Belsize Village Business Association pointed at where the Council might help:

1) Tackle the litter crisis. Use the council’s marketing and enforcement power to make littering and fly-tipping anathema.

2) Have a drive to rid the Borough of graffiti-based vandalism and step up enforcement against other Anti-Social Behaviour.

3) Continue to support the innovative use of public spaces such as pro-actively supporting the Belsize Village Streatery.

4) Designate Belsize Village as a Historic Action Zone to help, for instance, install visually attractive Belsize Village signs. 

5) Provide economic incentives to businesses and/or landlords to upgrade the frontages of their buildings because these upgrades benefit an entire community.

6) Pro-actively work on improving community infrastructure, perhaps extending Belsize Village square down Belsize Terrace.

FInd out more at: or social media handle @belsizevillage 

The Last Belsize Festival 1989

The sketch for the cover of the 1989 programme showed a Belsize village filled with festival-goers.

The Village has formed a focus of local activity of many kinds over the years.  Developed in the nineteenth century by William Willett, he gave up land in order to open up a triangular village green See “Streets of Belsize”, Camden History Society.  

Did you know that for many years Belsize Village hosted the Belsize Festival?  Organised by local people, and supported by the Belsize Residents Association, the Festival was held for the first time in September 1974 with Belsize Lane closed to traffic.    

The picture of the Village which you see on this page was drawn by Matthew Bell and was part of the cover of the 1989 Belsize Festival programme.  The Festival ran from 10-17 September.   The theme of the Festival was “Greening the Village”, reflecting the interest of Belsize residents in the environment which continues to this day.  The main day of the festival was Saturday 16 September.  George Melly opened the day and Belsize resident Ken Ellis was the MC.  Musical events took place in (among other places) the Village and St Peter’s Church.  There was a grand fancy dress parade, a toy and book market, and roundabout and inflatable castle.   

The programme – which is now part of the BelSoc archive – says that Mr Newman “will be there as usual with his donkeys.”  The Festival raised money for St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney, the Simon Community and the London Wildlife Trust.   The BRA itself contributed £39.11 to these charities from cake sales – showing that the tradition of Belsize cakes is a long one.  The BRA organised a ceremony to hand over cheques to the charities.        

This was the Festival’s final year.  In 1987, the Festival was rounded off by Lord Eric Sugmugu and his Band in the rain.  After rain affected the 1988 and 1989 festivals, enthusiasm waned and the BRA Committee decided not to initiate it again.  

We are 50 years old

It is 50 years since Belsize residents came together to preserve the amenity of Belsize Park.

  • FIFTY YEARS AGO:  A group of local residents ran a campaign against a proposal for a ring road around London that would have destroyed Victorian houses and cut Belsize Park in two.  This turned into the BRA in 1976.
  • FORTY YEARS AGO: The BRA Constitution was adopted in 1982 and a campaign against estate agent boards was started.
  • THIRTY YEARS AGO: In February 1991, Harold Marks was Chairman. The BRA was contributing to the Camden Borough Plan.
  • TWENTY YEARS AGO: In February 2001, Gordon Maclean was Chairman.  The BRA was campaigning about the Swiss Cottage redevelopment; opposing a major redevelopment of the Load of Hay pub in Haverstock Hill; and welcoming the green recycling boxes (members supported the boxes but did not like the loose lids!).
  • TEN YEARS AGO: In February 2011, Averil Nottage was Chairwoman.  The BRA was gearing up for the formal consultation on HS2; taking action about budget cuts to libraries; and investigating the impact of basement developments.
  • NOW: The BelSoc Committee continues to meet by Zoom and is arranging the first (and hopefully last) Zoom AGM.  Our work on planning applications continues and new ideas for digital content are in train in order to keep up community spirit in a pandemic.

Commemorative tree for Consuelo Phelan at St Peter’s Church

Anne Stevens, Committee member, updates us:

Rowan from Belsize Park

Very many members of Belsoc will recall Consuelo Phelan’s love of trees, and the care she took to ensure that applications to fell or prune them were rigorously monitored and trees preserved and protected whenever possible. Her family in Melbourne were keen that a tree should be her memorial and kindly passed funds from her friends and themselves to BelSoc so that we could arrange this in the neighbourhood she loved so much.

A Mountain Ash (Rowan) tree has been planted where many of us frequently walk by. Do look out for it in the north east corner of St Peter’s church garden, close to the corner of Belsize Park and the east side of Belsize Square: it’s sparse and bare now, but will have delicate leaves, white blossom in spring and red berries in autumn. We are very grateful to Kenneth Robbie, the churchwarden, and to Paul Nicholson, the vicar, for arranging this.  In a short ceremony in late November, which was necessarily limited to a few members of the Belsoc Committee and a an equally small number of Consuelo’s friends, her ashes were buried at the foot of the tree.  We are delighted to have a beautiful reminder of her and so are her family, who will visit as soon as  conditions allow.

News from Friends of Belsize Library

Belsize Community Library Zoom talks
Pat Holden writes:

Thanks to Zoom, the Friends of Belsize Community Library have managed to continue with their monthly library talks since September. 

Stephen Duncan, the son of Beata (Susanna) Duncan, spoke about his mother’s early life in Germany during the turmoil of Weimar Berlin and read from her poetry collection Berlin Blues (Green Bottle Press) reflecting that period . Beata also wrote poems about her life during the London blitz in Breaking Glass (WriteSideLeft.) Beata was a long time resident of Belsize Park and a strong supporter and campaigner for Belsize Library. 

Tudor Allen, the archivist, took us on a historical tour of Swiss Cottage and we saw some of the enormous changes that took place during the twentieth century.

Karin Fernald, the actor, writer and performer described and illustrated how Englishwomen such as Mary Wollstonecraft, who were critical of their own society, crossed the Channel early in the French Revolution with high hopes. We saw paintings, portraits and caricatures by French and English artists.

The actors Colin Pinney and Noelle Rimmington performed the story of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath using the couple’s own words to show their marriage and its conflicting passions.

The talks are held on the third Thursday of each month at 7.30 and we have the following planned.

February 18  Laura Spinney, the writer and science journalist will talk on “Pandemics old and new: parallels between the ‘Spanish’  flu of 1918 and Covid-19”:
March 18 Josh Levine, who worked on the script of Dunkirk (topic to be agreed)

If you would like to be on our mailing list and receive the Zoom link, please email                      


Belsize Poetry

Belsize Poetry

In these difficult times, we asked Belsize poet, Robert Ilson, for something to give us hope.  We are very grateful for the poem which he sent us. 


When children cluster round you, say
It hasn’t always been this way :
There was a time when you could meet
Your friends and neighbours in the street
And go with them to have a meal.
It was no fantasy ; it was real.
The children may begin to ask
Did everybody wear a mask ?
Not then, you’ll say, and shed a tear
Recalling many a former year.
The children will as children do
Try all they can to comfort you
But you’ll remind them nought can stay
For ever as it is today
And just as winter yields to spring
There is a seed in everything
That will if given patient care
Make all things better than they were.

Robert Ilson

Abacus Belsize Primary School Online Auction

We have been asked on behalf of Abacus Belsize Primary School to let you know about their annual online auction. Local businesses big and small, as well as members of the Abacus community have very kindly donated goods, services and unique experiences for anyone to bid on. Any funds raised  in the online auction will go towards the Shakespeare drama project at school in spring 2021, which all year groups take part in.

The auction will run between 23 November and 6 December:

Looking at Camden’s tree register

We know we live in a leafy part of the city, with Primrose Hill and the Heath attracting countless Londoners to relax attracted by these green spaces. However, a recent research project has placed Camden in the top 20 places in England and Wales with the most tree cover. Gardens, tree-lined streets as well as the parks, place our Borough ahead of rural areas, which the study finds have the least tree coverage, including parts of the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.

The mapping experts – the credit for study goes to ESRI and Bluesky – use aerial images to detect trees, finding around 400 million in England and Wales. They report that almost a third of Camden is covered in trees, with the northern portion of Hampstead Heath being the most verdant and the Kings Cross areas and the Borough south of Euston Road being least. Belsize is a sea of green with the roads being discernible.

Looking at trees from above provides a valuable story about the nation’s greenery but for many of us the pleasure is through walking around our area and seeing trees in their setting or enjoying relaxing in the open spaces. The Council has released data about our trees, very much at ground level. Its list of Council-managed trees, mapped at the site, corroborates the results of the study, listing over twenty thousand trees in the Borough. This total excludes those on the Health and in the Royal Parks.

In Belsize ward, there are 686 trees listed, of which 375 are mature, 157 are middle-aged and 142 are juveniles. In the Fitzjohn’s and Frognal ward, there are 1,320 trees, of which 564 are mature, 492 middle-aged and 223 juvenile. The lists locate each tree both in terms of the street or park and the exact geolocation. The height and spread of the trees is noted.

Also, the list highlights the importance of environmental impacts, recording the carbon stored in each tree and the amount of carbon and pollution captured each year. A copper beech tree in St John’s cemetery (which you may see on the walk described in this Newsletter) stores the most carbon (6 tonnes) across the two wards of Fitzjohn’s and Frognal and Belsize; the London planes on Belsize Avenue are storing slightly less but head the list for that ward. The plane trees lining Eton Avenue, Fitzjohn’s Avenue as well as Belsize Avenue are important in removing pollution with the data indicating each tree – and there are over a hundred in the area – removes around a kilogram of pollution each year.

In our Newsletter article in May, we highlighted some of the notable trees of the area. These are documented in Camden’s list, allowing you to locate both the mature examples recommended in the Newsletter and to see the newer plantings. Further, that article indicated some website applications available to guide you around Belsize and see some of our best trees (you can put your postcode into the website which will design a walk for you).

Trees in Primrose Gardens

Originally, Stanley Gardens was named after a Dean of Westminster of that name, the Deans being landowners here. At one time, it was used by Hampstead Cricket Club. The houses of Stanley Gardens were built in the 1880s.

The garden was acquired by Hampstead Borough Council in 1920, the name changing to Primrose Gardens in 1939. The garden consists of two railed enclosures with grass and trees with a small central paved seating area between. All the trees in the garden are documented in the council’s list. A pair of beech trees (Fagus sylvatica ‘Purpurea’) are central to the garden, their leaves colouring well through the winter. Three birch trees (Betula pubescens) are also in the garden, in their yellow autumn colour.

Mapping Primrose Gardens’ trees

Facts from the tree register

  • The tallest tree in Belsize is in the Adelaide Road Nature Reserve, a small leaved lime tree (Tilia cordata) rising to 45m, lat-long (51.543707, -0.160565)
  • A London plane tree (Platanus x hispanica) in Belsize Avenue has the largest diameter at 1.33m, lat-long (51.549665, -0.169023)
  • But a London plane tree in Eton Avenue captures the most pollution each year, removing 1,300 grams, lat-long (51.543865, -0.17458)
  • The trees in Belsize ward are diverse: there are 61 varieties amongst the 375 mature trees
  • The newest plantings – juveniles – have maintained that diversity with 60 varieties in 142 trees in Belsize ward.