Friday, 16 December 2011

Hampstead to Belsize Park Underground

A walk overground down the hill from Hampstead Station to Belsize Park Station. Hampstead Underground Station is on the Edgware branch of the Northern line. It was opened on 22 June 1907 by the Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway. The station platforms are the deepest on the London Underground network, at 58.5 metres or 192 feet below ground level. It has the deepest lift shaft on the Underground at 181 feet which houses high-speed lifts. There is also a spiral emergency staircase, made up of over 320 steps.
The Clock Tower was built in 1873: it is sited on the junction of Hampstead High Street, Holly Hill and Heath Street, the building housed the local fire station until 1915.
Just down from the station is a Penfold Pillar Box dating from around 1870 (not in use now but preserved as a historical monument). This is probably the most famous of the early designs of pillar boxes and is named after the architect who designed it, J W Penfold.
This is a reminder of the Hampstead Brewery which was established in 1720 by the owner of the nearby Jack Straw's Castle, and was located behind the King of Bohemia pub on Hampstead High Street. It was shut in 1931.
And now a slight detour to see St John’s on Downshire Hill. The church was built in 1823 using private rather tha parish finance. The building has a Regency stuccoed and cream painted fa├žade, typical of churches of that period in the New England region of the USA. Below the bellcote, the distinctive black and gold clock is as old as the church; made by John Moore and Son of Clerkenwell in 1823, its simple bold design is typical of timepieces of that period.
Another detour to see The Royal Free Hospital on Pond Street. This is a major landmark in the area – not the most attractive of buildings. The hospital moved to its present site in the mid 1970s, bringing together the old Royal Free Hospital in Gray's Inn Road with the Lawn Road, New End and Hampstead General Hospitals.
St Stephen’s Church, sits at the junction of Pond Street and Rosslyn Hill. Work commenced in January 1869 to the design of architect Samuel Teulon, and the church was consecrated within a year on 31 December 1869 by the Bishop of London. Unlike so many Victorian churches which remained uncompleted, St Stephen’s was finished within three years of its consecration with the clock and carillon being installed in 1873. The church is markedly French in outline, with steep roofs and a massive square tower. A Grade I listed building St Stephen’s was made redundant in 1977 and thereafter remaining empty until 2002 when it was deconsecrated. Thanks to the St Stephen’s Restoration and Preservation Trust work is now underway to restore the building.
Finally Belsize Park Underground Station is one stop nearer London than Hampstead. And opened on the same day as Hampstead station. It is served by three lifts which descend 33.2 m (108 ft 10 in) to the platforms. The station has 219 steps. Belsize Park is one of eight London Underground stations which have deep-level air-raid shelters underneath them. The shelter was constructed in World War II to provide safe accommodation for service personnel.

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