From obscene publications to Hampstead Heath

Lady Chatterly's LoverOn 24 March 1960 a US appeals court ruled that the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover was not obscene and could be sent through the mail. When the full, uncensored edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published by Penguin Books in Britain in 1960, Penguin was tried in court under the new Obscene Publications Act. Having been found guilty, the publisher dedicated the second edition of the book to the jury.

The book’s author, DH Lawrence, lived in London, in Hampstead’s Vale of Health. In the Domesday Book, these six acres of land are noted as belonging to the Abbot and monks of Westminster. By the 18th century it was anything but healthy, consisting mainly of swampy, malarial land and the only inhabitants were paupers in charity cottages. The name was first Gangmoor and then Hatchetts Bottom, from a Samuel Hatch who owned a cottage there prior to 1770.

DH Lawrence plaque
Photo: Simon Harriyott

The marsh was drained late in the 18th century to keep up with water demands from London’s population. The nature of the land had changed enough that more fashionable residences began to spring up there, in a “curious little cluster of buildings”. The current name was in use by the turn of the century, presumably to reflect the dramatic changes which had taken place.

Building in the Vale was halted towards the end of the 19th century when the 1871 Act for the Preservation of the Heath decreed that development in the Vale could not encroach on the heath.

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