Today, June 29th, marks the 150th anniversary of the 1871 Hampstead Heath Act which preserved the land from being built upon – for future generations of Londoners to enjoy in perpetuity.
The current Heath landlords, City of London Corporation, celebrated the occasion with a day of festivities last weekend. We made sure we were also there to educate the public on the need to restore our collective land rights of free access to the ponds as enshrined in the 1871 Hampstead Heath Act. Additionally, our purpose was to highlight the irony of holding such an event when so many swimmers are financially excluded or no longer wish to visit the bathing idyll they once knew prior to the imposition of compulsory access charges in March 2020.
Hampstead Heath is London’s largest area of common land. Over the years, multiple public bodies have had ownership of the freehold granted to them by parliament. The Heath can never be sold and has legal protections preventing the land from ever being enclosed.
A number of articles have been published in the press this past week on the Victorians’ 40 year campaign to bring the heathland area in to public ownership.
- So how does the 1871 Act protect Hampstead Heath today? Hampstead and Highgate Express
- Hampstead Heath at 150: ‘Always under threat, always being saved’ Hampstead and Highgate Express
- Camden New Journal
- BBC – the Heath: lungs of the metropolis
For further reading, see also 2019 book from the Camden History Society