The Vale of Health is a tiny group of around maybe 60 houses, two blocks of flats and a fairground, tucked into a rather boggy area (originally called Gangmoor) on the east side of the heath. To reach it you have to go down this small country lane.
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The first record of any building in the Vale of Health was in the early 1700s – a workshop, a cottage, a cowshed, stables and a small pond belonging to one Samuel Hatch. By the early 1800s it had grown to 18 houses, 5 of which were more substantial and by 1841 ‘the population of 112 included 5 gentry and 26 domestic servants….. Although described in 1852 as a ‘range of indifferently white-washed cottages . . . relieved by clothes-props and lines’, the Vale became increasingly desirable, both for permanent residents and visitors, especially after the opening of the Hampstead Junction Railway in 1860.’ (This and much more, if you are interested, comes from the excellent BHO, British History on Line, site.
They also suggest that the name, Vale of health, may have been a deliberate attempt to improve its image by one, John Rudd, who has acquired grants over much of the waste land and was busy building speculative houses.
In the 19th century Hampstead Heath was the go to place for a Sunday outing and by the mid 1800s the Vale of Health boasted two hotels and a fairground. ‘In 1877 the smaller hotel became the Athenaeum club, the members including many foreigners and political radicals. In 1882 the upper half of the building was let to the Salvation Army and in 1883 there were complaints about the noise and ugliness of the Vale, a compound of the swings and roundabouts, accompanied presumably by quantities of drink, with Salvation Army processions.’ Both hotels eventually failed and were turned into the two block of flats – but the fairground remains – and, I am pretty sure, even operates as a fairground in a non-COVID summer.
Those of you who have followed the battles over the centuries to keep the heath un-built-upon will be amused to hear that the latest battle was won a mere four months ago when the planning authorities rejected a plan to build seven permanent static caravans on the north fairgound site.
Bren Cottage, on the southern fairground site, was also the subject of a lengthy planning battle. Jita Lukka, who had bought the site in 2016, tried to get planning permission to turn what had been a squat on the site into a more permanent, but recycled home. See this report in the CNJ. Sadly (or not, depending on your point of view) Jita lost her case and, as the Heath and Hampstead Society say in their newsletter – We wait to see to what lawful use the site may now proposed to be put.
And finally, the pond – and enlarged version of Samuel Hatch’s original 18th century pond – stretches south from the houses in the vale so that only those backing onto it benefit from it. But very nice for them.
And here are those dogs….
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