Marx & Engels on Hampstead Heath

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2021 by kmflett

Marx & Engels on Hampstead Heath.

I was reminded by the Camden New Journal that 2021 sees the 150th anniversary of the Hampstead Heath Act which became law on 29th June 1871. It was the result of much campaigning pressure to stop the then owner of the land from building on it. It remains a familiar story and battle.

The area of the Heath then protected is just a small part of what Hampstead Heath now covers. Parliament Hill Fields and Kenwood came later.

It’s a reminder too that just as now the Heath in the second half of the nineteenth century was a popular place for leisure activities.

Two noted Heath goers were Marx and Engels.

Marx’s friend William Liebknecht wrote that he often met up with the Marx family who walked to the Heath from their Kentish Town residence. Marx it appears enjoyed donkey rides then a regular feature on the Heath and a picnic invariably featured:

Jenny Marx often packed a picnic basket with roast veal, tea to which they added purchases from vendors on the Heath. Favourites were of shrimps, watercress, periwinkles, bread, butter, and cheese. For drinks, they bought hot water and milk for the tea and an abundant supply of beer.

While the picture above is noted as being taken on the Heath in 1864 there is nothing in the Marx and Engels correspondence which covers this. However since the correspondence invariably relates to when Marx is in London and Engels in Manchester this cant be definitive.

Once Engels retired and moved to a house in Regents Park Rd not so far from Marx there is no doubt both walked on the Heath and environs. Indeed their correspondence notes from time to time visits to the Heath and underlines a perhaps little understood aspect of Engels, his focus on exercise and keeping fit and of trying to make sure that Marx did the same.

He wrote to Sorge on 14th February 1874

This morning we(Engels and Marx) went out walking on Hampstead Heath, something he ought to do every day


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