Grove End Gardens 1935 - present day
Judy’s Family – Judy’s maternal grandfather, Herman Finck, was originally Dutch. He was a composer of light music and Musical Director at the Palace Theatre and Drury Lane, thirty years and ten years respectively. He was the conductor when Anna Pavlova appeared at the Palace Theatre. He wrote masses of light music, the most well known being “In the Shadows” and “Oh What a Lovely War”which was used in the film. His autobiography is My Melodious Memories. He and his wife and daughters, Judy’s mother and aunt, lived in the Finchley Road, opposite the Finchley Road station. Judy still has the piano on which her grandfather composed all his music.
Judy’s father was from Somerset, and worked at Lloyds. When they were first married, they lived in Gonder Gardens, West Hampstead, but after Judy was born they moved to a flat in Grove End Gardens. The block was newly built when they moved there in 1935.
Grove End Gardens – The flats were built by Sir John Mactaggart, from Glasgow, chairman of the Western Heritable Investment Co. They were built as affordable units for working people, having very small kitchens with a club, restaurant and bar, on the ground floor. Judy remembers watching people play darts from the doorway, as she was not allowed in, due to the licensing laws. There was also a hairdresser in the block, and other shops in the arcade accessed from the Abbey Road entrance (which is on a different level from the Grove End Road entrance). The current Mactaggart is still involved, being chairman of the Housing Association Ltd which owns the block.
When the Hame family moved in, they had not yet connected the electricity! Soon however, the flats were provided with an electric fire, cooker, fridge and a radiogram. There are nice gardens at the back of the flats away from the traffic. At first each family on the garden floor could care for the strip by their front door. Judy also remembers a sandpit in which she used to play.
Wartime – During the war, Judy was evacuated with her mother to South Wales, and went to school in Sussex, and Gloucestershire. Her father stayed in London. The shell of the block was solid concrete and people used to sleep in the corridors to avoid the air raids. Judy’s aunt and grandmother had moved into Grove End Gardens in 1939. Her aunt became an air raid warden stationed on the roof of the block, and her father a member of the Home Guard. His base was next door where the synagogue is now. The block received a direct hit, but fortunately those flats were unoccupied at the time, apart from one resident who was in the bar downstairs!
The 1950’s – In 1952, Judy and her mother moved into a smaller flat in the same block. Daleham Tennis Club occupied the site where the American School is now, but Judy joined Hampstead Cricket Club and played tennis there. It was very social. Her father would take her to watch cricket at Lord’s. He played elsewhere as a wicket keeper.
Next door to the block, in number 31 Grove End Road, lived the artist Simon Elwes. Judy remembers seeing a large car drive up from which the Queen got out. She was coming to sit for her portrait. Thomas Beecham occupied the house previously, as shown by a blue plaque.
Nugent Terrace – Judy’s family used the shops in Nugent Terrace. The premises there have remained much the same, though the shops have changed hands of course. Jordans shoe shop is well remembered, and Cliffords, the grocer, delivered the food. Several of the shop owners were related.
Working Life – Judy went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and performed in repertory, but soon the need to earn a living meant that she got a job in her uncle’s outfitters business. She later joined British Airways, where she spent most of her working life. But she has always retained an interest in the theatre, where she goes regularly.
Grove End Gardens today – In the flats where she still lives, there are now many different nationalities, and lots of the units are sublet. This makes it difficult to get residents interested in the block as a whole. Recently, however, some unified concerns have been expressed, due to the imminent building of penthouses by the freeholders.
The arcade has been used for a new heating system, and the small general shop can only be accessed from the outside.
Changes in St John’s Wood – The area hasn’t changed all that much, apart from new buildings, like the St John’s Wood Synagogue next door, and Arnold House School, in Loudoun Road. There used to be two underground stations, Marlborough Road station on the corner of Finchley Road and Queen’s Grove, and St John’s Wood Station, which was originally opposite Lords. These were both closed in 1939 when the present station opened. Further along Acacia Road was the United Dairies headquarters, where their horses were stabled. Deliveries from them used to include a lot of dairy products, apart from just milk and cream. Many pubs in the area have closed, as they have all over the UK. St John and Elizabeth Hospital was originally run by nuns, whom Judy remembers, as her grandmother was treated there.
Another sad change will come when the barracks close at the end of this year, as the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery will be moving away. The beautifully turned out horses parading along the local streets have been a spectacular feature of St John’s Wood over many years.