The Garden Guide

Book: London Parks and Gardens, 1907
Chapter: Chapter 8 Commons and Open Spaces

Hampstead Hill

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The hill which rises beyond the ponds and stretches away to the east, is part of the land adjoining the true Heath, which was bought in 1887, so as to double the area of open country, and prevent that side of the Heath being overlooked by houses. The character is quite a contrast, and lacks the wildness, but it is pretty, park-like scenery, and Hampstead Heath would have been greatly spoilt had this further wide space of pasture land not been saved. The first hill to the east of the Heath is crowned by a mound or tumulus, which was opened a few years ago; the investigations leading scientists to believe that it was a British burial-place of the bronze age. This used to be very picturesque with a group of Scotch firs-now, alas! all dead. The next hill is Parliament or Traitor's Hill, and there is no very definite solution of the name. It may have been a meeting-place of the British "Moot" or Parliament, or the origin may only be traced to Cromwell's time. As if to encourage the tradition being kept up, a stone suggests that meetings may take place within 50 yards of the spot by daylight. Below the hill are flat meadows by Gospel Oak, said to be so named from its being a parish boundary, and the Gospel was read under the tree to impress the parishioners, with the same object as the other and more familiar form of beating the bounds. These Gospel Oak fields are the typical London County Council greens for games, so gradually, after leaving the summit of the Heath, the descent is made, from the artistic and picturesque, to the practical and prosaic.