Wednesday, 27 January 2010
The 'Ampstead Way
"It's so absolutely different and delightful when you dance The 'Ampstead Way. It's so far ahead of dreaming, why it's practically romance. The 'Ampstead Way ..." sings Beryl Davis with a bit of support from comedian Sid Field on the number The 'Ampstead Way from the 1946 big screen spectacular London Town, which it seems misjudged the mood of the nation with its technicolour brashness in that immediate post-WW2 period. Despite its Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke score the film wasn't a success, but this is a lovely little number. The film also featured Petula Clark, barely into her teens but already a showbiz veteran. Londoners and their dropped aitches eh? Tsk. 'Ampstead seems particularly prone to it. Hmm. Well, 'Ampstead 'Eath in the 19th century was THEE place for Londoners to go on a day out. The opening of the railway station there in 1860 made it more accessible, and brought crowds from other parts of London, particularly on Bank Holidays. A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 9: Hampstead, Paddington (1989) states: "Damage, particularly fires among the furze, and rowdiness were often a problem in the 1870s, when there might be 30,000 visitors at the August holiday and 50,000 on a fine Whit Monday. Violence was also a problem at the bonfires and processions held from before 1850 on Guy Fawkes day, until in 1880 a committee was set up to regulate them. Numbers reached 100,000 in the 1880s, although that estimate included trippers to Parliament Hill Fields, which were not yet part of the heath. The crowds were thickest in the south-east corner near the station, where in 1892 nine people died in a rush to escape from the rain. 'Appy' Ampstead became a nationally known phrase in the 1890s, when celebrated in a song by Albert Chevalier and in the cartoons of Phil May." The phrase 'Appy 'Ampstead was also used by the painter Arthur Rackham. His earliest sketches of life in Hampstead in the late 1880s reflect an eye for detail or what he himself declared a cockney ability to be 'very observant of small, new, strange things'. And 'ere's Gracie Fields singing 'Appy 'Ampstead showing what a great character player she was. Mind you, she was a 'Ampstead resident herself.