March 5, 2016

To keep an eye on the fleet.

Lord Nelson is supposed to have lived for a while at the Castle Inn,“in order to keep an eye on the Fleet.”

As late as 1840 Kentish Town was still a half rural village with a community of artists. Its popularity was aided by a London doctor who praised the healthy air and clean water – calling Kentish Town “the Montpelier of England” – and came to live here himself. Mary Shelley, however, condemned the place as an “odious swamp.”  If it makes you feel any better, neighbors, in her words Naples was a ‘paradise inhabited by devils’, her villa on the Italian Riviera a ‘dungeon’. God only knows what she would make of Poundstretcher.

Forward to 2016, where the ‘up and coming’ status of Kentish Town is not without its detractors who, rightly or wrongly, believe their more ‘real’ experience of the area is now being corroded.  
Gillian Tindall says: “I don’t think there is any special current renaissance of Kentish Town. Like several other comparable inner London districts it has actually been 'renaissing' for the last fifty-odd years, ever since the steam trains departed, the whole place got cleaner, and young middle class couples (as my husband and I then were) realized they could buy nice houses here cheaply. Now the nice houses aren’t remotely cheap and I should think the young couples must be much richer, but the basic situation hasn’t changed. A more profound change took place between 1945, when the whole of Kentish Town was threatened with demolition under the Abercrombie plan, and the 1970s.”

“Men begin in Kentish Town with £80 a year, and end in Park Lane with a hundred thousand. They want to drop Kentish Town; but they give themselves away every time they open their mouths.”  ~Professor Higgins, Pygmalion

Well that’s torn it. Something to ponder as we sip our coffee in the garden, enjoy a craft beer on a cobbled mews, or queue in semi-darkness for some trendy grub.

James Boswell 'Café, Kentish Town'

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