Belsize, or Bel Assis in old French, means beautifully situated. The Manor of Belsize, a subdivision of the Manor of Hampstead, was left to the monks of Westminster in 1317. Henry VIII returned the estate to the newly constituted Dean and Chapter of Westminster in 1542 after the dissolution of the monasteries. In modern terms the estate extended from the top of Rosslyn Hill to England’s Lane and from College Crescent to Haverstock Hill, with additional land projecting east towards Parliament Hill.
By the middle of the 16th century, the estate consisted of a number of farms and a manor house. Belsize House, which stood in an irregular five-sided park, had 24 rooms including a hall, long gallery and great chamber. It was the only “aristocratic” house in the parish of Hampstead at that time. It was situated between the present day St Peter’s church and the junction of Belsize Park and Belsize Park Gardens. It could be reached from “The Great Road to Hampstead” by a carriage driveway along what is now Belsize Avenue.
The house was rebuilt in 1663 in the restoration style and two diarists, Samuel Pepys and Sir John Evelyn, recorded visits there.
The overlays that highlight 17th century London features are approximate and derived from Wenceslaus Hollar’s maps:
Open location in Google Maps: 51.548156, -0.171146
"The name is derived from French bel assis meaning 'well situated'. The Manor of Belsize dates back to 1317....The name comes from the original 17th century manor house and parkland (built by Daniel O'Neill for his wife, the Countess of Chesterfield) which once stood on the site. The estate built up between 1852 and 1878, by which time it extended to Haverstock Hill." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belsize_Park#History
"The Belsize estate, with its frontage on both sides of Haverstock Hill, was an early magnet for merchants and others who wanted a country house within easy reach of London. Apart from the manor house of Belsize, there was one house on the estate by 1549, probably on the eastern side of Haverstock Hill, near the southern boundary of the parish....A large house, assessed at 16 hearths, was built between 1650 and 1664 on the north side of Belsize Lane. (fn. 65) Thomas Hawley or Haley (d. 1681), the London mercer who lived there, left it to his nephew to sell. (fn. 66) In 1714 it was called the White House and untenanted. Hawley may have built one or more houses nearby, which in 1714 were leased to Mrs. Hall." http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?comp…
In 1786 J Cary showed a "Mr. Richardson" at the house at the end of Belsize Lane south of Hampstead (upper right on this segment of the MAP OF 15 MILES ROUND LONDON )
An extract from The Belsize Story Volume 1
The first Belsize House was a manor with a generous courtyard and extensive, walled grounds and gardens that once occupied the area of today’s central Belsize for hundreds of years. The house and grounds were bounded by 1,400 yards of walls, and the grand carriageway to the house is today’s Belsize Avenue.
The Manor was a long-established country retreat within reasonable reach of London. So how far back can we trace the Manor House? At least to 1496, the dawn of the Tudor Period, when the Abbey in Westminster ordered a large number of building bricks locally in Belsize.
The property was rebuilt and improved upon many times during the centuries that followed. There were at least four successive manors, all called Belsize House. Tenants came and tenants went. It was probably in 1663 that one of the richest men in England, Colonel Daniel O'Neil, began building a mansion for his wife, Katherine, the Countess of Chesterfield – by a previous marriage.
With projecting wings, and added central tower, the manor now spanned about 120 feet – as depicted in this wood engraving.
The diarists Sir John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys both recorded visits to the estate. Pepys called upon Lord Wotton in 1668, and this is what his diary for the 17th of August says:
“…Went and saw the Lord Wotton's house and garden, which is wonderfull fine: too good for the house the gardens are, being, indeed, the most noble that ever I saw... ”
The gardens were said to be on a par with other great gardens in London such as New Spring Garden – later called Vauxhall Gardens.
Deer hunting was introduced to the park – all part of the pleasure activities of Belsize House. The Daily Post of 1720 (founded by Daniel Defoe) stated that: The "ancient and noble house" had been fitted up for entertainment during the summer season, and to be opened with "dancing and music."
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.