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Down Among the Jellymen: Safe Blowers in West Hampstead

What are the chances of finding two safe blowers in West Hampstead? Even more unlikely is the fact that they were both living there in 1955. But surprisingly, there is no obvious link between the men. The First Raid at Stanstead On the night of 3-4 February 1955 thieves blew open the safe in the wages office of Skyways Ltd at Stansted Airport, and stole cash and National Health stamps. Leading from the safe to the door were two strands of wire, and in the passage the police found a live unused detonator. The next day, presumably acting on a tip-off, Detective Superintendent Tom Bradford and members of the Flying Squad went to a house in West End Lane. The number was not given in the newspaper reports and it was rather oddly called a bungalow, but there is no obvious house like this in the road. Eddie Rice, aged 34, still dressed in pyjamas, opened the door and said, ‘I have been expecting this. You are lucky because I was going to leave here tomorrow. Things were getting too hot’
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Amusements in Cricklewood

As the local population grew, several buildings were opened to provide amusement in Cricklewood.  The Cricklewood Dance Hall and Skating Rink, 1920s In the 1920s at No. 200 Cricklewood Broadway  (over time the numbering changed), there was a dance hall, a roller skating rink, and a cinema all next door to each other. This postcard shows the dance hall and skating rink. The Palace, or Electric Palace cinema (which was out of view on the right-hand side of the above picture), opened in November 1910 and continued to the early part of WWII. It was built by converting existing shops, and was part of a small chain of 11 London cinemas which was registered as a limited company in January 1909. There were performances of films from 2.00 to 11.00 daily, and the Cricklewood cinema was licensed for 400 seats. One resident remembers going to the Saturday morning children’s sessions in the 1930s. He saw, ‘Cowboy films, The Three Stooges and cartoons. There was a piano player for the silent movie

Morton Selten, was he the son of Bertie the Prince of Wales?

On 27 July 1939 the 79-year old actor Morton Selten was suddenly taken ill and died from a heart attack at his home, 34 Fairfax Road in South Hampstead. His obituaries said he was the oldest working actor with a career spanning 60 years. Just two days before, he had finished filming ‘The Thief of Bagdad’ directed by Michael Powell and starring the young Indian actor 15-year old Sabu Dastagir with whom Morton developed a good working relationship. Morton Selten with Sabu in The Thief of Bagdad Selten was wheeled on set in a bathchair by his elderly valet. He played the Old King who dies gracefully as the magic carpet carrying Sabu flies into the sky. Their scenes were shot at Alexander Korda’s Denham Film Studios, but the outbreak of War meant the film was finished in Hollywood. It was released in December 1940 and was very successful, both critically and financially. Morton began his stage career in London but soon went to New York where he starred in numerous Broadway productions. He

Smith’s Crisps

This is the story of how Frank Smith and his friend Jim Viney, began in a small way in Cricklewood and built the large and successful company of Smith’s Crisps. Early years Frank was born in 1875, in Hackney. His parents had left their native Suffolk by the mid-1860s for London, where his father ran a fruiterer and florist business. By 1881 the family were living over their corner shop at 128 Stoke Newington High Street, moving to Kingsland Road by 1891. Frank started working when he was 10-years old and went with his father to Covent Garden each morning to buy produce for their shop. Frank married Jessie Minnie Ramplin in Southwark in 1902. The couple and their six-year old daughter Laura were living in Mona Road Deptford in 1911, when Frank gave his occupation as ‘commercial traveller, confectionery’. Soon after this he went to work for a wholesale grocer by the name of Carter, in Smithfield. Carter had a side-line making potato crisps and Frank saw great potential in the product and

New History of Camden blog

We have just begun a new blog about the history of Camden which covers Hampstead, St John's Wood, Camden Town, Kentish Town, St Pancras and Holborn. The first story looks at the Hampstead Smallpox Hospital which opened 150 years ago to try and cope with the pandemic. Another story examines the strange 1907 Camden Town Murder. We will continue to post stories about Kilburn and West Hampstead on this site. Here is the link to the new site: https://historyofcamden.blogspot.com/      

The Disappearance of Arthur the TV cat

Do you remember Arthur the white cat, who appeared in a series of clever adverts for Kattomeat? This is an odd story from the late 1960s which involves the Russian Embassy in London and West Hampstead. In February 1968, 25-year old Irish actor Toneye Manning had a legal dispute with the pet food company Spillers over the ownership of Arthur. Manning, who was living in a bedsit in Sylvester Road East Finchley, issued a writ against Spillers for the return of, ‘one white cat, Arthur’.  Spillers did not have time to enter a defence and the court agreed Arthur should be returned to Toneye. He went with a bailiff to collect Arthur from Sonja Colville’s cattery at Horndon-on-the Hill in Essex. But Spillers subsequently contested the verdict, and the case went to the High Court on 20 February. The judge ordered Manning to return Arthur to Spillers who said they had legally bought the cat from Manning. But he refused, saying he had gone to the Russian Embassy and they had offered Arthur ‘polit