Published: 18/08/2022Flask Walk is a side alley off Hampstead High Street that has become a fashionable place to live, but it has kept a plethora of small independent shops and a sense of community.
Keith Fawkes at 1-3 Flask Walk, for example, is crammed with used books from floor to ceiling, making it difficult to leave without discovering a new title or two. Vintage and limited edition teddy bears dominate the shelves at London's Hampstead Teddy Bear Emporium. Recollections Antiques, located at 12 Heath Street within the same courtyard, sell a variety of collectables. Tom Merrifield, 84 Heath St., creates and sells bronze sculptures, many of which are inspired by dance.
Flask Walk is otherwise famous for its street parties and its pub, which is now a more sanitary place to visit, as it used to be described as “a place where second-rate characters are to be found, occasionally in a swinish condition”.
It is notable in London for being entirely car-free. There is no traffic. In the 1970s, Camden's director of planning, Bruno Schlaffenberg, and the chairman of the Planning Committee, Ivor Walker, decided that pedestrianising Flask Walk would take too long if an official application was made. As a result, they did it themselves. The street between the shops was paved, bollards were installed, and traffic was stopped.
The whole street has a vitality and a buzz that comes from its interesting history and residents. There have always been a few celebrity residents and visitors to this sliver of Hampstead. From Alfred Lord Tennyson to Sid Vicious who, with a fellow Sex Pistols, squatted for a while in a top-floor flat in New Court, the block of flats built in the 1840s by philanthropists “to improve the condition of the working classes in Hampstead”. Kingsley Amis and his wife, Elizabeth Jane Howard, lived briefly, but in elegance, in the elegant Georgian Gardnor House. Brigitte Bardot was even spotted on Flask Walk during a film shoot called " Adorable Idiot".
However, in the nineteenth century, Flask Walk was primarily a working-class neighbourhood, with all cottages heated by coal fires. The washrooms were where people washed and bathed. They were built in 1888 but remained in use until 1978, much to the chagrin of many elderly ladies in the area who thought the washhouses were infinitely superior to the launderette.
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