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Hampstead (St. John)

HAMPSTEAD (St. John), a parish, in the union of Edmonton, Holborn division of the hundred of Ossulstone, county of Middlesex, 4 miles (N. by W.) from London; containing 10,093 inhabitants. This place was bestowed by King Ethelred on the monks of St. Peter at Westminster, and, the grant having been confirmed by William the Conqueror, continued in their possession till the Dissolution in the reign of Henry VIII. The Grange house, of which scarcely a memorial remains, was the residence of the monastic superintendent of the manor, and the prior resided at Belzie House, which was subsequently converted into a place of public entertainment. Hampstead was anciently an inconsiderable hamlet in the parish of Hendon, from which it was separated in the year 1598, when its churchwardens for the first time attended the bishop's annual visitation. The election for the county members took place on the heath in 1681, and continued to be held till 1701, when it was removed to Brentford. Its pleasant situation, the salubrity of the air, and its proximity to the metropolis, early made the village the residence of some of the more wealthy citizens; and from the discovery of its chalybeate spring, in the former part of the eighteenth century, it became the resort of numerous invalids, for whose accommodation and amusement a pump-room, tavern, and coffee and assembly rooms, were successively erected. The water of the spring contains oxyde of iron, muriates of soda and magnesia, sulphate of lime, and a small portion of silex; and its mean temperature at the wells is from 46° to 47° of Fahrenheit. Saline springs were afterwards discovered at the south-eastern extremity of the heath, near Pond-street, in their properties generally resembling the Cheltenham and Harrogate springs; and the water continued for some time to be sent in flasks from the wells by accredited agents of the principal houses, called the Upper and Lower Flask Houses.

Hampstead is at present more regarded as a healthy and pleasant place of residence, than on account of its waters, which have within the last few years fallen almost into disuse. The village is situated on the southern acclivity of a hill, on the summit of which is a large heath, commanding, at different points, varied and beautiful views of the metropolis and the adjacent country, abounding in picturesque scenery, and agreeably diversified with richly-wooded hills, and extensive meadows, interspersed with elegant villas. The heath embraces the Upper and Lower Heath, the Vale of Health, and other subdivisions, possessing a temperature of climate proportioned to their several elevations, or to their different degrees of shelter from the colder winds, and consequently adapted to the various constitutions of the permanent inhabitants, or of the invalids who occasionally reside here for the recovery of their health. A telegraph is placed on the Upper Heath, forming the first in the line of communication between Chelsea Hospital and Yarmouth. The approach from the metropolis is by an excellent road, from many parts of which the prospect of Hampstead and Highgate is strikingly beautiful; and on ascending the hill which leads into the village, ranges of buildings, and detached mansions, rise in succession. The village is lighted, and derives its supply of water from a large reservoir in Shepherd's fields, and from pumps attached to the houses; the Hampstead Water Company have a reservoir on the heath, which supplies the inhabitants of Kentish-Town, Camden-Town, and Tottenham-Court road. The London and Birmingham railway passes along a tunnel 1120 yards in length, under Primrose Hill, near the southern extremity of the parish. Petty-sessions are held occasionally, and courts leet and baron on the Monday before Whitsuntide; a general court baron and customary court are likewise held within a month or six weeks after Christmas. The place is within the limits of the metropolitan police establishment.

The parish comprises 1200 acres, of which 533 are waste or common. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £887; patron and impropriator, Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, Bart.: the tithes have been commuted for £398. 4. The church, a neat brick building, was erected in 1747, on the site of an ancient edifice, which was taken down; the steeple is at the east end: among the monuments is one to the memory of Lady Erskine, beautifully executed by Bacon the younger. In 1771, William Pierce bequeathed £1700 three per cent. consols., to be applied in paying stipends of £24 per annum to the curate of Hampstead, and £5 per annum to the clerk, for performing divine service every Friday; £10 per annum to the Independent minister; and for other purposes. Hampstead chapel, in Well Walk, originally the pump-room of the Wells Tavern; and St. John's chapel, on Downshire Hill, a plain neat building erected in 1823, are proprietary episcopal chapels; and there are places of worship for Baptists, Wesleyans, Unitarians, and Roman Catholics. A national school is supported by subscription, and has a fund of £2100 three per cent. consols., for apprenticing the children, arising from a bequest of £1000 by John Stock, Esq., in 1780, and subsequent benefactions. There are also funds for the benefit of children, and the relief of the poor, bequeathed by the Dowager Viscountess Campden in 1643, the Hon. Susannah Noel in 1698, and several others. In 1774, sepulchral urns, vases, earthen lamps, and other Roman antiquities were dug up in Well Walk.

On the left side of the entrance from London is the mansion of Sir Henry Vane, one of the judges of Charles I., and who, after the return of Charles II., was arrested here. At Hampstead also resided Dr. Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham, author of the Analogy of Religion. On Haverstock Hill, a mile nearer London, is the cottage in which Sir Charles Sedley lived, afterwards occupied by Sir Richard Steele; and at a house formerly a place of public entertainment, named the Upper Flask, noticed by Richardson in his Clarissa, died George Steevens, the commentator on Shakspeare; prior to which it was the place of meeting of the Kit-Cat Club. Of the many distinguished persons interred at Hampstead, have been, Dr. Anthony Askew, a critic and physician; James Mc Ardell, an engraver in mezzotinto; John Harrison, who obtained a premium from parliament for his improvements on the chronometer; Archdeacon Travis, the opponent of Gibbon; James Pettit Andrews, author of a History of Great Britain; and John Carter, the antiquary.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.