The Street That Died
The images below illustrate my podcast, The Street That Died. Listen here: https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1774896.rss
St John's Wood Park was originally one of north-west London's most prestigious addresses, with a grand pillared entrance.
By the 1860s St John's Wood Park had established itself as a centre for London's literary and artistic elite. At number 16 Mrs Henry Wood was busy writing her famous novel, East Lynne. Her work was often disturbed by noisy children who had congregated in the garden that backed onto hers to watch Jean Gravelet walking back and forth along a rope strung across his lawn. The French tightrope artiste, who had just caused a sensation by crossing the Niagara Falls on a high-wire, was preparing for a sell-out tour under his professional name - Blondin (pictured below.)
Charles Dickens was also seen hurrying along St John's Wood Park on his way to the home of artist William Powell Frith, who was painting his portrait (below).
In the inter-war period St John's Wood Park became the home of Dennis Wheatley, who became renowned for the lavish parties. The picture below shows Wheatley and friends at one of his gatherings.
When World War Two broke out in 1939 many residents of St John's Wood Park left London. Some homes were left in the charge of caretakers while others were abandoned completely. During the Blitz a landmine destroyed five houses on the street and shattered the windows of many more. With no-one around to organise repairs, the once opulent properties became dilapidated.
After the War, the London County Council sought sites on which they could build new homes for thousands of bombed-out families. St John's Wood Park was earmarked for redevelopment and almost every house on the street was slapped with a Compulsory Purchase Order. After that, absolutely nothing happened for over a decade, during which time the street became derelict.
Throughout the 1950s arguments raged on what to do with St John's Wood Park. The authorities wanted to turn the street into a Council Estate but this idea was energetically opposed by local residents who preferred the idea of a privately-owned luxury development. In the event, neither project came to fruition and the leases were sold off piecemeal, creating a mismatched hotch-potch of blocks of flats alongside detached houses. Today, the only two survivors of the original St John's Wood Park are tucked away at its southern end, giving us a glimpse of what it looked like before war, neglect and squabbles destroyed it.