22 June 2022

A marvellous manicule in NW5

The Way To Church Lands

Walking along Gordon House Road a few months ago I spotted a directional panel at low level here just to the right of the protuding block. I took a couple of crude snaps:

This manicule (pointing hand) is probably the most elaborate device of this kind I have ever seen in London. It is not simply painted onto the slab but instead has been carved in low relief complete with chubby fingers and a lacy cuff hinting at wealth and prosperity. This ties in nicely with the kind of well-to-do traders and businessmen who would have moved their families to this area in the eighteenth century – a perfect location adjacent to the open spaces and clean air of Hampstead Heath with direct access into the City via St Pancras and the New Road (Euston, Pentonville and City Rds today). For an idea of this, you need only look the impressive houses along Grove Terrace, set back from Highgate Road. 

Other words are carved into the panel at either side of the ellipse – there is a large cap N on the left and what might be '15 Feet' on the left. There may well be more at the bottom under that veil of render. 

I think the sign points to the beginning of a footpath but I cannot find evidence of that and neither can I work out which church this might refer to. It's also extremely doubtful that the sign is in exactly the same position as when it was first sited because the panel is embedded in a wall that was constructed in 1965 as part of the Haddo House development.

I will update this when I find out more info

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Thanks, Jane