Site Unseen: Admiral House

Every month CabbieBlog hopes to show you a little gem of a building that you might have passed without noticing, in the past they have ranged from a modernist car park; a penguin pool; to a Hanoverian gatehouse.

Painted many times by John Constable who incidentally is buried in nearby St. John’s Churchyard Admiral House off Hampstead Grove is a building made famous by none other than Walt Disney.

[B]uilt around 1700 its roof which resembles a ship’s quarterdeck was adapted in 1791 by the then occupant Lieutenant Fountain North who would fire a canon from his roof to celebrate naval victories or the King’s birthday.

Other occupants have been Sir George Gilbert Scott, the architect of St. Pancras Station and the Houses of Parliament (he would go on to complain that Hampstead was rather too cold for his taste); and the actor Russell Crowe. Next door at Grove Lodge lived John Galsworthy, he of Forsyte Saga fame. The wall of Grove Lodge is visible on the left of the picture.

But to return to Disney, A neighbour of Admiral’s House was Australian writer P. L. Travers, recently featured in the film Saving Mr. Banks starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. In 1934 P. L. Travers published the novel Mary Poppins, it would take Walt Disney 20-years to obtain the movie rights to her novel, and it was only when book sales tailed off the uncompromising curmudgeonly author reluctantly agreed to Disney’s proposal.

In the book and film Admiral Boom perpetually unleashed his cannon to the discomfort of his neighbours.

You can’t help but think that the irascible Travers would have had sympathy with these objections had she lived in Hampstead at the same time and also she would have seen many dads flying kites upon Hampstead Heath. Cue for a song.

Featured photo: Admiral House by Peter O’Connor (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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