PDC’s offices are located in historic Highgate, one of London’s most attractive “villages”, some 5 km from Trafalgar Square. Highgate takes its name from a toll gate erected in the 14th century which charged people for passing between London and the north. Visitors used to stay over night in Highgate before descending to the city and for this reason there are numerous public houses (“pubs”) in the area.
Highgate still has much of the atmosphere of a 19th century village and being on a hill commands spectacular views, including much of the centre of London, including St Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye and the BT Tower, plus nearby the new Arsenal Emirates football stadium.
Highgate is on a steep hill and as a result a cable tramway was constructed in 1884. It used the continuous running cable system to which the cable cars were connected with a gripper. This is the system used today in San Francisco. Stanhope House (where the PDC office is located) was the location of the winding and depot house for the tramway. Cable cars were stored in what is now the garage of the building and were moved in and out of the depot using horses. The tramway was closed in 1909.
There is a strong connection between Highgate and Charles Dickens, the famous English writer who lived here in 1832 for a short period. His most autobiographical character David Copperfield lived in Highgate. Dickens’s mother and father are buried in Highgate West cemetery as is Dora his daughter.
Other famous persons buried in Highgate include Karl Marx, George Eliot (writer) and Michael Faraday (the discoverer of electro-magnetic induction).
Samuel Coleridge, the poet, lived in Highgate from 1816-1834 having previously lived with William Wordsworth. Coleridge wrote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Khan”.
Lauderdale House which is opposite the PDC offices was built in 1582. It is believed that Nell Gwynne, the mistress of Charles II lived here around 1649.
The children’s story of Dick Whittington and his cat is commemorated with a stone cat on Highgate Hill.
More recent residents of Highgate include the rock musician Sting, the violinist Yehudi Menuhin and the comedienne Victoria Wood.
Hampstead Heath can easily be reached on foot from Highgate. Kenwood House on the Heath was used as the backdrop for the film “Notting Hill” starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. The Member of Parliament for Highgate and Hampstead is Glenda Jackson who won two Oscar Awards for Best Actress in the films “Women in Love” and “A Touch of Class”.