The boundaries of West Kentish Town are not easy to define. The original development of the area began in 1840 when Lord Southampton sold the land between Haverstock Hill and Kentish Town for speculative housing development and continued through to the 1870s. The terraced houses that were built were seen as part of Kentish Town, which in the mid-nineteenth century was expanding in all directions from its medieval origins (see Gillian Tindall’s book ‘The Fields Beneath’, 1977).
Below: plan from 1862, before construction of Queens Crescent market
John Sainsbury, when he moved his first business from Drury Lane to 159 Queens Crescent in 1872, gave Kentish Town as his address, as did Karl Marx when he moved to Grafton Terrace 1855. The Kentish Town Evangelical church is located in Bassett Street. West Kentish Town estate is in west Kentish Town.
The area north of Queen’s Crescent became known as Gospel Oak, it is thought in reference to an oak tree near Southampton Road which was a favoured spot for Methodist preachers in the early nineteenth century. Old maps show the name referring to the area covered areas both north and south of Mansfield Road; the local centre was Lismore Circus.
In 1962 Camden Council saw the whole Gospel Oak and West Kentish Town area as needing redevelopment, and drew up plans for its total demolition and reconstruction; from 1953- 81 the area between Queens Crescent and Mansfield Road was redeveloped as social housing in phases numbered 1-9, and nowadays the name ‘Gospel Oak’ is more associated with this area.
The area around Haverstock Hill has historically been called ‘Haverstock’, and this name was chosen for the ward which covers much of West Kentish Town when ward boundaries were changed in 2000. However, it has not been used as a place name for over 100 years, and today it is no more likely that someone will say they are from Haverstock as they are to say that they live in Cantelowes.
The social media website Nextdoor identifies a community area of ‘Queens Crescent-Talacre’, with Queen’s Crescent the centre of a wider neighbourhood area, including Gospel Oak to the north.
Recent mapping of the Coronavirus Covid-19 refers to a larger area corresponding to the older understanding of Kentish Town.