Remembered with Honour: The Great War Fallen of Hampstead St John Burial Ground Download ebook

Tour of New End

Teachers Script

(The walk takes between 45 and 60 minutes, depending on questions)

Using the New End map 


Start – The courtyard outside Wagamama’s on Heath Street

I want you to imagine you are in a time machine and you are standing here in 1914.

Question: How many years ago was that?

We are going to be history detectivesand look to see if we can see signs of what life was like then.

Question: If you look at the road imagine what would you have seen if you had been standing here in 1914? What would have been different?

There might be a few cars but no traffic lights or road markings or tarred roads. And there would also be horses. Horses were very important for everyday life. A lot of people still moved about in carriages pulled by horses which were also needed for pulling goods. Imagine the clip clop of horses’ hooves. Wealthy people would have their groceries, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables delivered every day either by horse and cart or a man on a bicycle.

Landmark (number 1 on the map): Have a look at Tesco – can you read the sign in blue above the door? What does it say? Express Dairies. Why do you suppose there was a dairy in the middle of town? You didn’t buy your milk at a supermarket – it came to your house on a cart pulled by a horse and it was measured out and poured from a large churn into your milk jug. The milkman did his round 3 times a day. The horse and cart would park round the back of the building.

On 4th August 1914 a significant event occurred – England declared war on Germany. People were used to England being at war – but this war was different – up till now these wars had only involved soldiers – this war would affect everyone in the country – men and women as well as boys and girls. It would be called the Great War or the First World War because so many countries were involved and it would last for 4 long years.

Landmark (number 2 on the map): Have a look at the clock tower – in 1914 it was the Fire Station for the horse drawn fire engines. It also taller (see image one) and was used as an observation tower during the First World War looking out for aircraft. (Note: I haven’t been able to find out why and when the top part was removed.)

One day someone on duty looking out for German planes fired a warning rocket – unfortunately he wasn’t very experienced and the rocket did some damage to the nearby Parochial School!  The fire station was closed in 1915 when it moved to Lancaster Grove.

(Turn right and walk to the next stop)

Second Stop – Back Lane (standing outside Cass Art and looking across Back Lane)

Where do you think this name came from?

When Hampstead was still a village this was probably an unimportant back street at the back of the High Street – so I imagine people just referred to it as Back Lane and the name stuck.

Look at numbers 1,3 and 5 Back Lane. They are nice looking houses. Today there is probably one family living in each of the houses. In 1914 there were 3 or 4 families living in each of the houses, often in only one room and all sharing one toilet, probably out at the back. There wouldn’t have been a bathroom and most of the families probably didn’t have proper cooking facilities.

Question: What would it have been like living in one of these houses in 1914?

Now lets move forward and imagine it is 1915. The War was declared last year and while life continued as normal there were some changes and we are going to find out more about life in 1915 and also changes during the war.

We are walking into an area called New End. In 1915 it was the part of town where the poor people lived. In 1915 life was very hard if you were poor and we are going to find out more about the lives of poor people then.

(Cross over Back Lane into Streatley Place)

Third Stop – Streatley Place – bottom of the steps

Look first of all at the alley way we are on. You can see the alleyways weren’t big enough for carriages or cars because the poor people didn’t have carriages and cars.

And the street lights would have been gas lights – a man would come along every evening and light them and the turn them off early in the morning.

Look at the chimneys. Why do you think there were so many? People used coal fires for heating and cooking so each room would have a fireplace.

What was life like for a poor family? – I said this was an area where poor people lived. I have also said that often poor families had to live in one room in buildings that were called tenements. Poor families had to do everything in this one room. Eating, washing, cooking and sleeping. It would have been very crowded. Often no proper facilities for cooking and the mother would have to struggle to cook over the fire. What do you think this would have been like? And as we have said these tenements would not have bathrooms and often several families had to share one toilet. Coal fires also meant rooms for smoky and dirty.

Question: How would you feel living in such accommodation?

Because the poor lived in crowded conditions children had to play outside as much as possible. They also didn’t have space for their rubbish so it often went in the street – so in 1915 this road would have been noisier and dirtier.

But there were people who tried to make the lives of poor people better and we are going to see what two of them – the Jackson brothers – Hugh and John – did. Poor food and poor sanitation meant that poorer people often fell ill and because of the overcrowding disease spread. The Jackson brothers felt it was wrong for poor people to have such terrible accommodation and they were instrumental in putting up buildings with better accommodation for poor people to rent. One of these was New Buildings.

(Turn right through a wooden gate on the right onto a path leading to New Buildings)

Fourth Stop – New Buildings (number 3 on the map)

I am going to tell you about one family who lived in these flats – the Richbells.

The Richbells had 8 children – 7 boys and a girl called Gladys. Mr Richbell, John, was a porter in the post office and his wife was called Mary. They would have been so pleased to move into New Buildings. Because the accommodation of poor people was crowded children played in the street which could have been dangerous, but here was safe open space for them. First of all they moved into 1 New Buildings. It was nice because it had piped water and each flat had a toilet. However it only had one bedroom so it would have been very noisy and crowded with all the children. Later the family moved across the courtyard to number 35 the new block which had 3 bedrooms. Neither flat in 1915 had a bathroom or hot water.

Question: What do you think their diet was like? They would have lived mainly on bread and jam or dripping which was beef fat. Mrs Richbell wouldn’t cook much because coal was expensive. She may have cooked bacon and greens on some days and the family probably only had meat one day a week. They would only have sweets on very special occasions like Christmas. During the war with her husband away life was very difficult for Mary Richbell. Food, especially bread which was an important part of the family’s diet because very expensive and other food increased in cost and became scarce.

The Richbells were a big family. There were over 40 members of the wider Richbell family living around Hampstead so Mary and John’s children had lots of aunts and uncles and cousins.

(Move over to the war memorial. It is on the wall of the original building.)

Fifth stop – the war memorial on New Buildings

What happened to the Richbells when the War was declared in 1914? The Richbells’ wanted to do their bit. This war memorial is unusual because it shows all the people in these building who went to war. Those who died are marked with a cross. You can see from the names that people had big families.

John Richbell and his eldest son John, and his second son William signed up when war was declared. Altogether 12 men from the large Richbell family signed up to fight. Sadly John’s son William was killed in 1915 at the big battle of Ypres. It must have been a very worrying time for Mrs Richbell, particularly because by 1916 her third son Bert (Herbert) was old enough to sign up to fight. Altogether 3 members of the Richbell family were killed in the First World War – very sad.

What do we know about John and Mary’s son William who died? He went to Hampstead Parochial School. He left school at 15 and probably with the help of his father got a job in the post office as a telegram boy. He would have had a uniform and ridden a bicycle.

Question: Does anyone know what a telegram is?

In 1915 only wealthy people had telephone and computers hadn’t been invented. If you wanted to get an important message to someone you send a telegramand it would have been delivered by a telegram boy, like Will. (See images two and three – the telegram machine and the example of a telegram)

Poor people didn’t often receive telegrams – they were expensive to send because you had to pay for each word. During the War if your son or husband was killed you would receive a telegram telling you the sad news. People in New Buildings would see a telegram person coming and would probably watch to see which flat they went to and then go and comfort the family.

William was 20 when he died.

Question: Does anyone know someone aged 20? Do you think they are young or old? Can you imagine them going off to fight for 4 years.

(Walk down Lutton Terrace onto Flask Walk and turn left. Walk down to the corner where Flask Walk bends to the right.)

Sixth Stop – Opposite Flask Cottages (number 5 on the map)

Have a look at the chimneys on Flask Cottages.

Question: Why do you think the chimney has a bend in it?

Sir Benjamin Thompson (later Count Rumford) was a late 18th century physicist who developed the idea that for chimneys to draw properly they needed to be restricted and angled. This also meant that rain water did not drop straight down the chimney. Most chimneys have this feature within the house but the builders of this cottage may have realised the need after the cottage was built!

Landmark (number 6 on the map) (Look left and see the large New End chimney.) This chimney is 89 foot high and was part of the workhouse hospital which became a military hospital which you are going to see.

Question: Do you know why it had such a big chimney?

Hospitals were big places and they had a single chimney connected to the boiler. Why did they need such a big chimney? For heating because sick people need to be kept warm and heated water went through a systems of pipes – early central heating. Heat also need for laundry – the dirty sheets may be infected so they had to be washed in hot water. Heat also needed for cooking. And in 1914 if a limb became infected there were no antibiotics – the limb had to be cut off and burnt!

(Cross the road and turn right toward the Bath House)

Seventh Stop – the Bath House (number 4 on the map)

You will remember that poor people, such as those living in New Buildings, did not have baths and hot water in their homes. If they wanted a bath or to wash their clothes they came here to the Bath and Washhouse.

Downstairs was the washhouse which had large basins and huge drying racks. Before you could put your washing on the drying racks you needed to squeeze out the water. To do this you used a mangle (see image four). Using a mangle was extremely hard work. You put the item between the rollers and turned the handle to squeeze out all the water. Doing the weekly wash was very hard work for the housewife and often the eldest girl would stay off school to help her.

Upstairs you could have a bath. There were separate bath days for men and women and you could choose whether to have a hot bath or a cold bath, and whether to have a first class bath or a second class bath.

If you had a second class bath the towels were a bit thin and the superintendent controlled the taps and how much hot water you could have. If you had a first class bath you could have more hot water, a brush and comb, a looking glass and an extra towel.  If you look to the left of the front door you see where the superintendent of the bath house lived.

Hot baths cost 2 0ld pence and a cold bath cost 1 old pence.

Most people didn’t bath more than once a week. Young children were usually bathed in a tin bath at home in front of the fire.

The Bath House closed over 60 years ago because it was no longer needed.

Question: Why do you think the bath house was no longer needed? Probably because people now had bathrooms in their houses and flats and washing machines.

(Walk back towards Flask Cottages and walk up the steep path on the right of them. At the top turn right and stop on New End road)

Eighth stop – New End Road.

Look to the right and across the road is Burgh House the Museum of Hampstead where there is going to be a display of World War one objects and paintings

Turn left, and walk to New End Square. In 1914 New End Square would have been busier with shops and stables. Cross over the square keeping on the left hand side of the road, to number 16 (now a school).

Ninth Stop – the Provident Dispensary and Soup Kitchen (number 8 on the map)

In 1914 for poor who didn’t have regular work there was no National Health Service. They had to pay to see a doctor and then pay for their medicine. If you had no regular work and your children were living in crowded conditions and getting sick you probably didn’t have enough money to do this.

Landmark – read the plaque on the side of the building.

Question: The plaque describes an outbreak of Cholera. Do you know what causes cholera, a disease that still affects poor people in the third world?

We need to go back in time 150 years to the time described on the plaque. Water in London was horrible. People threw rubbish and sewage into rivers and then poor people used this water to drink. What do you think happened? They caught cholera from the contaminated water. And 150 years ago there was a big outbreak of this disease in London and many people died. But Hampstead was hardly affected because a lot of its water came from uncontaminated springs on Hampstead Heath. The vicar of Hampstead –Thomas Ainger – who was very concerned about the welfare of the poor said the people of Hampstead should give thanks to God for being saved from the cholera and each church congregation gave money to build this building which was called the provident dispensary. Well off people would contribute money to provide medicines for poor people who were sick and earning less than 25 shillings a week (about £1.25 p). This building also included a Soup Kitchen poor people could pay a penny (half a pence in today’s money) and buy a quart of soup. . Good nourishment for a hunger family.

Cross over the road and walk up a bit toward Heath Street and look across at the tenth stop.

Tenth Stop – the New End Workhouse and Military Hospital (number 10 on the map)

Do you remember the tall chimney? It was part of the Workhouse but after England went to War in 1914, the inmates were moved out of here to the workhouse at Marylebone and it became a military hospital for wounded soldiers being sent back from the Front.

Question: What was the Workhouse?

It was pretty awful. The workhouse had 3 sections – the casual ward, the actual workhouse and a hospital for people who were really sick (and often mentally ill as well). The workhouse was where poor families lived. These were people who had nothing and no jobs and had to rely on charity. There was no Social Security then. Sometimes it happened because the father who was the breadwinner had been injured and couldn’t work anymore. Families were separated. Men and women lived separately and children didn’t live with their families. Mothers could keep their babies but if the babies had no father if the mother left the workhouse they would keep the child and give him or her training for a trade. It was very hard for families to be split up. The poor people living here didn’t get their accommodation for free. No they had to do work to earn their keep. Maybe working in the boiler house which was very hot or doing carpentry or printing or working in the laundry.

The workhouse also provided temporary accommodation for tramps or people living rough on the street. They would be housed in the casual ward. They could turn up and ask for somewhere to sleep for the night. They would be given a meal and a bath and possibly some new clothes, and a bed for the night. Tramps often had more baths than most of the other poor people in Hampstead! Then in the morning people who had had a bed for the night had to work – usually breaking large stones and then passing them through a grid to make sure they were small enough – the stones would be used for making roads. It was very hard work. And then they would be given breakfast and would leave. It was very hard work and so people would only ask for a bed for the night if they were really hungry and desperate.

Those in the workhouse who were sent to Marylebone workhouse complained that conditions were much worse than at the New End Workhouse and that the food was terrible!

For people living in the workhouse the War brought some advantages because with young men going off to fight there was now more work about.

With New End Workhouse becoming a military hospital there were now wounded soldiers seen walking around the streets – often men or boys who had lost limbs or an eye or with awful facial wounds. The wounded men didn’t wear soldiers’clothes – instead they wore a blue suit with white lapels and a red ties so that you would know that they had enlisted but were wounded.

Eleventh Stop – The Mortuary (opposite what was the workhouse and number 9 on the map. It is now a Jewish school)

Not all the soldiers got better. Some died. This was the mortuary where their bodies would have been taken before burial. After it stopped being a mortuary it was the New End Theatre.

End –

On 4th August 2014 in events around England people remembered the day the First World War started.there will be events on TV and all over the country to mark the day the First World War started.

Question: Do you remember how long this war lasted? 4 years. Imagine what you will be doing in 4 years’ time. How much will change for you in that time. Imagine for the next four years the country being at war with food shortages, the fear of being bombed and receiving news of people you know being killed. The First World War affected everyone and it is important that this year we will be remembering it.

Additional Exercise

Using the New End Map go to the Map Exercise and fill in details of what occupies the space today

This page was last updated on November 14th, 2014.


Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Top of page