Wednesday Picture: The Battle Of Little Green Street


‘If there’s a hierarchy of cute NW5 streets, then this one sits fatly at the summit’. Or so we said …



‘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.

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The Wednesday Picture now comes in association with Hotblack Desiato, who can be found on Camden’s leafy Parkway. All editorial, however, is our own.

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  • M@

    Excellent post. Have you read The Water Room by Christopher Fowler? It’s set down a very similar Kentish Town street to this, with a flooding River Fleet and the threat of redevelopment hanging over the characters. It’s also a cracking read, as are the other novels in the series.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Water-Room-Bryant-Mysteries/dp/0553587161

    • Kentishtowner

      Thanks Matt. Will def check out that book – and in meantime feel free to post the feature on your site if you wish!

  • Howard Rogers

    AT the end of Little Green Street as you enter the path to the Ingestre Road estate on the right there is a gnarled wooden post in my memory there was one on the left too……30 years ago Roger Robinson the ubiquitous councillor (and Local resident) assured me that they were all that remained of the access to a coaching depot (he said inn)……meaanwhile the developpers of the church on the corner of Chetwynd Road want to shut down some of the access to the top of College Lane…there is to be a Boris———-ordered public enquiry. This is one of the oldest thoroughfares in the Borough…..worth a note? Yours etc Howard Rogers

    • jim beggs

      The two timber posts have been re-located several times within the same area over the last 30 years. The final arrangement being located opposite each other just east of College Lane on the route from Little Green Street through to Ingestre estate.

      Some time ago, the post nearest the railway line was found lying on the ground as though it had been struck from the Little Green Street direction. I removed the damaged, shaped head which had become detached and which I still have.

      The council were advised of the accident and of the historic significance of the post and within 24 hours they removed it for ‘safe keeping’. I understand that the post can now not be located in their stores. The second post remains insitu, but its head is missing.
      Each post was approx 285x285mm in plan and 1740mm high. Above this sat the 310mm mm high timber heads of pyramid shape including a short reverse profile neck, matching a chamfer to the top of each face of the post. The heads were fixed to and located by two 10mm steel rods which projected from the main post into the head by 80mm.

      The remaining post has a 40mm hole drilled right through and a steel fixing ring on one face offset and below the hole.

      Without the head, the remaining post has its end grain exposed and unprotected and will surely deteriorate.

  • Alexa

    Love this place – I walked down it every morning for 3 years on my route from TP to Gospel Oak. Magical in the snow too….

  • Terry Morgan

    My Mother was born at No9 Little Green Street in 1936 before moving to 83 Highgate Road just before WWII and she can recall many stories about the characters and events in the area including Collage Lane too!