Whoever she is, her exact identity remains an area of fierce and divisive debate for residents. Does she exist at all? What are her boundaries? Nevertheless, straddling Kentish Town proper and Tufnell, and indeed the boroughs of Camden and Islington, lies the part of the old manor of Cantelowes first developed by the 4th Earl of Dartmouth – our elusive D-Park.
Whilst parameters may be difficult to pin down, her history offers itself up to the eagle-eyed. A glance at the side wall of number 54 Chetwynd Road hints at the genesis of the area: a faded advert for local builder John Hirst, who inhabited the same house, of his own construction, from 1877. Hirst also built much of Chetwynd (then known as Carrol) Road, including numbers 28 to 38 and 41 to 59 across the street.
Just round the corner lies the best Edwardian signage in the area. On the side of Truffles, a deli boasting a reassuringly large range of cheeses, is an advert for a drapers firm. This dates back to the early twentieth century when sisters Kate and Louise Larn stocked a large range of haberdashery goods, from ‘fancy work overalls’ to hats, even ‘underclothings’. The maids’ dress they sold catered for wealthier customers who tended to live further up the hill towards Highgate. Charles Booth, the philanthropist who surveyed poverty in the capital, described Dartmouth Park Road as ‘the dividing line of middle class respectability’, with houses to the south, such as Hirst’s, occupied by working class families.
Whilst we’re here, across the street lies a shop steeped in local history, if lacking in decaying wall adverts. The Continental Provision Store, know to Dartmouth Park locals as ‘George’s’ after its previous owner, George Gergiou, was owned by the same family from 1956 to 2008, generations having been raised on a Cypriot diet of olives and feta cheese. (Long-term residents may recall that during the 1960s and 70s another of the clan ran one of London’s first dedicated pitta bread bakeries on Chetwynd road). And happily the new owners have continued George’s legacy, selling fresh bread and all manner of Mediterranean produce.
Anyway, back to signage. Further up Highgate road, just beyond what even the most fiery supporter would call Dartmouth Park, is one more shop wall flashing its history about a bit. This building, currently occupied by Bistro Laz, a perfect stopping place for the Heath-weary, has long been serving food and drink to locals and visitors alike. Its wall advert enthuses of ‘Beanfeasts’ – raucous works outings involving much bonding over some light flatulence – providing yet another window to the world of our faded past.
Words & Pics: Amelia Horgan (Dartmouth Park born and bred)