‘If there’s a hierarchy of cute NW5 streets, then this one sits fatly at the summit’.
Or so we said in one of our first ever posts, back in November 2010. And yes, this cobbled, gabled haven of Georgian tranquillity, home to a handful of families, is a birrova gem, dating back to the 1780s. Having featured in both period dramas and alongside one of the first music videos – The Kink’s Dead End Street – it also has a pretty big cultural legacy.
Some of these two-storey houses, which were originally built for the area’s humbler residents, are bow fronted, once serving as shops selling ribbons and coffee – then luxury products from across the globe. They serve as a reminder of our Georgian past and of K-Town’s 18th century rural charm, much of which, including the now-underground River Fleet, was swallowed up by the industrial revolution.
This was an NW5 far removed from today’s hustle and bustle, although the area still served as a major thoroughfare: from outside nearby pub The Vine twice daily coach services would take well-scrubbed Regency era Kentishtowners to the far off big city.
Highgate road has long been a route into London for commuters and shoppers alike, dating from around 1700 and before that as an ancient track heading out of the city. Until the mid 19th century the busy road was known as Green Street as it led past Kentish Town village green. Little Green Street took its name from simply being a less significant sidestreet.
It’s fascinating that what’s so special now was so ordinary in the past. Resident Nick Goodall explains the strong connection he feels to those everyday lives of former occupants: ‘I love the fact that when the kids sit in the kitchen they know that where they sat used to be a ribbon shop for the racecourses where the Ingestre estate is now.’
Having survived both the explosion of industry in the 19th century and the Blitz – which destroyed an old railway station opposite the terrace – Little Green Street’s future still hangs in the balance. The residents’ 12 year battle with property developers began with the purchase of an old Railway clubhouse. Planning permission for the construction of 30 luxury homes with an underground car park was initially denied by Camden Council, but the then Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott overruled the objection. The only route into the construction site would be via Little Green Street meaning eight truck journeys per hour for four years.
After the community’s determined campaigns, in 2008 the developers’ third attempt to come up with a route for construction was rejected. Once again they appealed, this time to the UK Planning Inspectorate which granted them permission to use the tiny road as their truck route. The potential damage to the Grade II listed 2.5 metre wide street would have been as substantial as the disruption to locals’ daily lives.
The long struggle by residents has brought the community together. They are united by the uniqueness of their street, and islanded by modernity on either side – busy Highgate Road and red-brick and concrete Ingestre Estate. Their properties’ physical proximity to each other along with their shared perseverance has only reinforced their sense of identity.
Fortunately, attempts to continue development behind the street seem to have died down, quietened by the recession. Little Green Street seems safe for now.
Know any more stories about Little Green Street? Or maybe you’re lucky enough to live there? Leave a comment below.
Words & Pics: Amelia Horgan.