Harvard Court

Harvard Court brochure, West Hampstead
Harvard Court, West Hampstead
Harvard Court, West Hampstead

We know Harvard Court

Harvard Court was built on the former West End Hall Estate and completed by 1904. It was originally conceived by the great mansion block builder, Edward Cave, and competed by his son, Charles.

In keeping with the rest of the Cave architectural legacy, Harvard Court set new standards of modernity in its style and specification: electricity as well as gas was designed into the building, drains were of a contemporary build and there was electric light throughout.

Publications show that Harvard Court was no different from other mansion blocks in having a broad appeal. Clergymen, doctors, army officers were typical of the resident population, although it seems that it was also a place for children. Two advertisements were placed by the occupiers of 70 Harvard Court in 1928 and 1930. The earlier advertisement was for a nanny for a two-month old baby and the second one was for a nurse who had to be ‘clean and understand health’ to care for a month-old baby.

In fact, the papers reveal a whole slew of advertisements over the years for ‘help’, giving a taste of the social customs and class divides of the time. In 1919 a resident of 50 Harvard Court placed an advertisement for a ‘cook-general’ for a ‘small, newly decorated flat, three in family, no children, rooms turned out by daily maid, wages £40’. In 1922 there was another advertisement for a ‘cook-general’ placed by the resident of 17 Harvard Court. The applicant had to be ‘under 30, do the entire work of a very small modern flat, easy place, good outings, good references essential’. In the 1930s there were two advertisements placed by the ‘elderly lady’ who occupied 79 Harvard Court: in 1935 she sought a ‘nurse attendant, willing help with house work, young, strong, £52’; and in 1937 she advertised again for a ‘nurse companion, young, good lifter, moderate salary, interview after 7:30’.

In amongst the mundane but illuminating employment notices lurked the odd lovely vignette. In 1938 a notice was placed in The Times by Henry Evans of 68 Harvard Court. His particular problem? A profligate wife seemingly, as in the notice he withdrew all authority for his wife, Ethel Elizabeth Mabel, to contract for him or pledge his credit, saying that since 1930 she had had sufficient allowances from him to provide herself with all suitable ‘necessaries’, and he would not be responsible for her debts.

With Harvard Court, as with every ‘all life is here’ mansion block, there has been both tragedy and comedy and everything in between. In 1913 there was a fatal accident involving a resident, Major-General George Buchanan, who accidentally shot himself with his revolver while showing it to a friend at his flat, thinking that the gun was not loaded.

While in the 1960s, the great comic actor Tony Hancock lived for a short while at number 6, the home of his second wife Freddie Ross and her parents. In 1970 Harvard Court was even name-checked in a Times article on the court award to Mrs Hancock of half of the comedian’s estate after his death in 1968.

The Property Ombudsman