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Over fifty years of Hampstead history in one incredible shop

10 November 2020

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Owners of our Belle Vue and No. 79 Fitzjohn’s Avenue communities along with other residents of Hampstead, may have happened across the renowned Aladdin’s cave that is Keith Fawkes on Hampstead village’s famous Flask Walk.

Keith has been selling a wide selection of antiques and second-hand books for over 50 years from his treasure trove of a shop. After more than half a century in the area he can certainly tell a story or two, not least concerning a rather controversial and famous ancestor.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Flask Walk shop?

My bookshop is the result of two shops knocked together so I have a good space for my dealings of books, furniture, silver, china and a huge combination of other items which I get from doing a lot of house calls. People also approach me to buy their treasured items to sale on.

In January, I will have been here in Flask Walk for 56 years. The two shops which now form my shop were once upon a time a chemist and a greengrocer - I live above what was once the greengrocer, which was derelict when I bought it. I converted them into my shop, initially buying the previous chemist and then the greengrocer shop a couple of years later. The chemist was originally a Tudor building so odd architectural findings were discovered under plasterwork like a great beam. The building was probably lived in by one of Henry VIIIs washerwomen. Hampstead was where they lived because of the water that fed the Chalybeate Well on Well Walk, which is at the end of Flask Walk.

We’d love to know some more about your background

Since I was 16, I have had an interest in all things historic. Really my principle passion was archaeology, history, antiques, and books were perhaps more an ancillary interest.

I was interested in it all and I now have a lifetime experience of doing this and a good working knowledge. When I opened the two shops originally, in my early twenties, one part of the premises was a bookshop and then when I bought the previous greengrocer, I was able to deal in antiques. We also have an outside trading licence which is principally antiques as they are less affected by the weather. 

 What is the most intriguing or unusual book or item that you have come across?

I have had such wonderful books come through my hands. One which has now gone to the British library was an original annotated catalogue of Strawberry Hill House by Horace Walpole, which is truly unique.

Hampstead is a good place to be based as there are a lot of influential and wealthy people as well as writers, artists who, over such a long period have brought me many beautiful things. So, over the years I have had some wonderful, illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and period furniture. However, unfortunately, demand for those sorts of pieces have plummeted as fashions have changed.

We hear you are a descendent of Guy Fawkes?

Yes, I am a direct descendant and when Guy Fawkes Night was a bigger event, I used to be interviewed all the time about my ancestry including being aired on Japanese and Australian radio stations.

Part of one branch of the family still live at Farnley Hall in Yorkshire which was given to the original des Faulkes as he was an illegitimate son of Henry II, who had quite a few! The name which was originally French became “corrupted” to Fawkes and both Guy Fawkes and I were and are his descendants.

Do you have any top tips or recommendations for anyone new to Hampstead?

Being a historian, places like Fenton House, Keats House, Kenwood or Burgh House are all favourites of mine. I would recommend buying any of Christopher Wade’s books on Hampstead, Hampstead Past or The Streets of Hampstead which are mines of information that share a great number of places to visit.

Hampstead is a very convivial place, and you get to know a lot of people. I am currently sitting in the William IV pub on the High Street, which is a favourite, with two friends. Hampstead is a friendly place otherwise I would not have stayed here when I moved from Muswell Hill, where I was brought up. It has changed a lot; once it was once full of intellectuals, many of them refugees from fascism in Europe and they would meet at Louis Patisserie. There was also many actors and literary types living in the areas including Michael Foot who used to come into my shop every day. I even sold my house to Richard Burton. It is a different world now but still an exceptional place to live.

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To enjoy all that Hampstead has to offer please contact No 79 Fitzjohn’s Avenue on 020 7980 8741 / [email protected] or visit lifestory.group/pegasus/our-developments/no-79-fitzjohns-avenue-hampstead/ and Belle Vue on 020 3936 9963 /  [email protected] or visit pegasuslife.co.uk/BelleVue. Prices at No 79 Fitzjohn’s Avenue start from £2,500,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and at Belle Vue from £792,500.