Primrose Hill certainly has a rich seam of Blue Plaques, and we are going to look more closely at them over the next few weeks.
Ever since the area started to expand properly in the middle of the 19th century, something has attracted the movers and shakers of the day – maybe that subtle balance of lovely homes so close to open space and the centre of town was a factor back then as it is now, although we shouldn’t forget that the area’s fortunes took a nosedive with the arrival of the steam train, and only began to re-gentrify once electric trains began to take over. We will look into that more in a future article.
So which of our illustrious past residents have been recognised with the esteemed Blue Plaque? And why? Let’s take a closer look and gain a deeper understanding of the fascinating history of our little patch of London.
To start our investigation, let’s turn to St Mark’s Crescent.
First, and worth mentioning, I think, despite the lack of Blue Plaque, is that Clive Jenkins (1926-1999), lived at number 16, the first house on the left as you enter the street from Regent’s Park Road. A white collar union leader (ASTMS) known for being a colourful character, who stated his recreational activities in Who’s Who as ‘organising the middle classes’, Jenkins had the debatable honour of being lampooned with a puppet of his own on Spitting Image, a certain mark of significance within the contemporary establishment. His Guardian obituary is a lively read, and can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/1999/sep/23/guardianobituaries.keithharper
Make your way further along the street, and you will be rewarded with three Blue Plaques in quick succession.
First of all, say hello to William Roberts, artist, who lived at 14 St Mark’s Crescent from 1946 to 1980, years that, incidentally, saw a marked decline in the status of Primrose Hill as a neighbourhood. The house in those days, in common with many others, had been sub-divided, but he and his wife Sarah gradually bought up the rest of the house as others moved out, and they spent their later years living there quietly.
Born in Hackney, the son of an Irish carpenter and his wife, he was awarded a London County Council Scholarship to the Slade in 1909, and from there his talent and his passion for painting led him on to become a significant artist of the early 20th century, with a number of his works having been displayed recently at Tate Britain.
Meanwhile, next door, was dwelling one of the most well-known and significant historians of the 20th Century: AJP Taylor, ‘the History Man’. He lived at 13 St Mark’s Crescent from 1955 to 1978, years considered to be the peak of his productivity and fame. An academic, a radio and later TV personality, his most celebrated works were ‘the Struggle for Mastery in Europe’ , published in 1954, and ‘the Origins of the Second World War’, published 1961. Anyone with an interest in European History, particularly 19th and 20th Century, must at some point have encountered his work.
But do you know what AJP stands for? Alan John Perivale. There you go.
So who’s next in this illustrious parade? Well, there must have been something in the canal water, because our next stop is two doors along: Arthur Clough, poet, 1819-1961. Taking up residency at 11 St Marks Crescent in 1854, he was almost certainly the very first resident of that particular house. He lived there until 1859, when with failing health he set off on his travels, to Malvern and the Isle of Wight, then further afield to Greece, Turkey and France, where he met up with the Tennyson Family. He then contracted malaria in Italy and died in Florence in 1861.
Born in Liverpool to a wealthy family of cotton merchants, Clough spent his early years in South Carolina, USA, (a cotton-growing state, so presumably a useful place for cotton merchants to be) then was educated at Rugby School and Balliol, Oxford. His poetry was largely inspired by his response to religion, and by his extensive travels. Clough was also a devoted unpaid secretarial assistant to his wife’s cousin, Florence Nightingale, around the time he moved into St Marks Crescent.
Look out for the next in the series, coming soon.
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