Hampstead Blue Plaque Ride

It was a dull overcast and rather 'heavy' day as eight 'heavy looking' cyclists, feeling the effects of 'Cold Turkey' no doubt, met outside Waitrose, Finchly Rd to cycle to view where the great and the good once lived in Hampstead.

Our first 'Blue Plaque' residence was a sudden steep walk up to Netherhall Gdns where Sidney and Beatrice Webb, founder members of the Fabian Society and the LSE, lived. We then mounted our bikes, took and deep breath and cycled round the bend to Marsefield Gdns to The Freud Museum where Sigmund Freud lived. After analysis, we all 'in harmony', peddled a few yards to the former residence of musicologist and folklorist Cecil Sharp.

There would be no more blue plaques for a while as we detoured down to Swiss Cottage and on to the Regents Canal at Lisson Grove via St. Johns Wood. We cycled along that pleasant towpath stretch to Camden Lock. We then 'emerged up' to cycle through Kentish Town up to Parliament Hill Fields across Hampstead Heath to South End Green where we had lunch in Mandy's cafe. Stopping on the way to 'examine' the bullet marks on the outside of the Magdela pub where in April '55 Ruth Ellis shot her lover David Blakely, she was the the last woman to be executed in Britain when she was hanged in Holloway prison in July '55.

After a welcome snack six of us(two dropped out!) cycled across The Heath again negotiating some muddy paths as we headed for the steepest climb of the day up to Highgate Hill via the private Fitzroy Pk Rd. It was downhill
from then on (almost!) via Hampstead Lane as we stopped to view plaques to the actor Sir Ralph Richardson and then social reformers Dame Henrietta Barnett and her spouse Rev Samuel Barnett.

We headed along Spaniards Rd towards Whitestone Pond where Charles bid us farewell. We finally visited 'a cluster' of plaques in the Mount Vernon area. The American singer and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson being the first in Branch Hill, then to Admiral's Walk where neighbouring plaques to the novelist John Galsworthy and the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott exist. We then passed a two Hampstead Plaque Fund plates , one to artist John Constable in Lower Terrace, and in Mount Vernon one to novelist R. L. Stevenson, also a blue plaque to composer Sir William Walton there. Finally, down the cobbled lane to a lady who thankfully is not in my very eclectic record collection. Gracie Fields had a very art deco hacienda style house built in Frognal Way in 1934 before she buggered off to Capri and gave our ear drums a rest!

After 15 miles of urban cycling we then all headed home to more 'Cold Turkey'!

I would like to thank Charles Harvey for the very insightful and informative talks he delivered at the plaques of The Webbs, Cecil Sharp and Dame Henrietta Barnett. He was very helpful.
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