Belsize Square to St John-at-Hampstead circular walk
Route: Start in Belsize Square; walk via Belsize Crescent onto Fitzjohn’s Avenue and then to Church Row. Visit the Churchyard of St John-at-Hampstead and the Additional Burial Ground. Walk down Frognal back into Belsize Park. Keep a lookout for the following features.
Trees in Belsize Square
Autumn in Belsize gives us the opportunity to look at the changing trees. In Belsize Square, there are two juvenile Malus Rudolph trees (Crab Apples) which currently display yellowing leaves and red fruit which are easily seen from the pavement. You may have spotted their beautiful pink flowers in spring. They are deciduous and part of the Rosaceae family. You will also see juvenile Sweet Gum trees (Liquidambar Styraciflua; family: Hamamelidaceae) with stunning maple-like leaves in different shades of red. They too are deciduous.
A walk up the hill
Now walk through the Village (noting the Ginkgo tree). Stretch your legs by walking uphill via Belsize Crescent and Akenside Road onto Fitzjohn’s Avenue and to Church Row Hampstead. Go into the Churchyard.
St John-at-Hampstead Churchyard
Follow the path around the Church to the memorial to John “Longitude” Harrison (1693-1776). The fascinating text on the memorial says that, as a young man, Harrison learned to clean and repair clocks and made a few clocks from wood. He went on to become the inventor of the Gridiron Pendulum and discovered a method for preventing the effect of temperature on clocks by using two bars of different metals fixed together. He introduced the secondary spring to keep clocks going while winding up. In 1735, his “first Time keeper” was sent to Lisbon. In 1764 his “much Improved fourth Time keeper” having been sent to Barbados, the Commissioners of Longitude “certified that it had determined the Longitude within one Third of Half a Degree of a great Circle, having erred not more than 40 Seconds in Time”. In March 2006, HRH Philip, Duke of Edinburgh unveiled a memorial stone for Harrison in Westminster Abbey. This is located near the graves of George Graham and Thomas Tompion, famous clockmakers, in the centre part of the nave.
You can also take the opportunity to see the gravestone of artist John Constable and his family, which is lower down the Churchyard.
Additional Burial Ground
Cross over to the Additional Burial Ground and walk uphill to the back corner. Here you will see a memorial to local artist Randolph Schwabe (1885-1948) who was Slade Professor of Fine Art at University College London from 1930. When the lockdown ends, you can learn more about Schwabe by visiting Burgh House whose exhibition “A Nest of Gentle Artists. Randolph Schwabe and his Hampstead Contemporaries” will run until 7 March 2021. See the back page of this Newsletter for details.
The memorial to Schwabe, which covers his ashes, is a statue of an angel by the sculptor Alan Durst (1883-1970). A member of the London Group of Artists, Durst contributed work to (among other places) cathedrals around the United Kingdom.
A wooden columbarium
Near the statue is the grade 2 listed columbarium, which was built of wood in 1940 to cater for the new demand for memorial tablets. There are very many tablets attached to the wood, of different styles and from different decades. You can read about the columbarium on the nearby metal plaque.
Walking down Frognal
Walk back to Belsize Park by dropping downhill on Frognal. Among the plaques to famous residents is one erected in memory of illustrator Kate Greenaway at 39 Frognal. The artist died here in 1901. The house was designed for her by architect Norman Shaw. English Heritage describes the house as an asymmetrical, tile-hung, gabled design reflecting the popular Arts and Crafts movement of the time. English Heritage’s website also tells the following story: “While living and working there, Greenaway was often visited by the artist John Ruskin, whom she had become close friends with. They had been introduced in 1880 and Ruskin had swiftly adopted Greenaway as one of his circle of female art protégées. Their correspondence continued for some 20 years, though much of it was left up to Greenaway. Ruskin even refused to write the address ‘Frognal’, remarking – ‘It might as well be Dognal-Hognal-Lognal – I won’t’ – and Greenaway was forced to keep him supplied with envelopes she addressed to herself for their correspondence” (see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/kate-greenaway/).
A Prime Minister and the founder of psychoanalysis
From Frognal, cut back to the centre of Belsize Park via Maresfield Gardens, looking out for the plaque where Herbert Asquith lived at No 27 and plaques commemorating Sigmund and his daughter Anna at the Freuds’ home at No 20. The Freud Museum which now occupies the house is currently closed due to the lockdown, but you can keep an eye on www.freud.org.uk/visit/ to find out about future opening plans. The statue of Sigmund Freud at the end of Belsize Lane is a further reminder of the refugees who settled in the area after fleeing Nazi Germany, and of the long association of Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage with psychoanalysis. Walk back into the Village and then to St Peter’s Church in Belsize Square to complete the circle.