London Baker Street Cornwall Terrace squat (1975)
Cornwall Terrace overlooking Regents Park.
I'm not sure when Cornwall Terrace was first squatted, or by whom. (see update below) When I found it in the summer of 1975 it was already occupied by a group of the Divine Light Mission who were quite well organised with rooms dedicated for meditation and communual activities. They even had their own health food shop where anyone could buy musli at a very reasonable rate.
Although the Divine Light Mission took much of the space available, the buildings were so large that there were many rooms colonised by other groups, and empty rooms free to use. For one summer the Cornwall Terrace squat housed homeless people from around London and the UK. There were also visitors from other parts of the world, some of whom had come to join the Divine Light Mission, but many others were just travelling through and needed a place to stay for a while.
'Our' room was one of two large reception rooms on the ground floor the walls of which were soon decorated with a large painting that stretched around the room.
I don't know when the squat came to an end ----??? (Katherine was there - see below)
If you have more information on the Cornwall Terrace Squat near Baker Street London in 1975 that could go on this page please email me.
At the beginning of 1975, Cornwall Terrace, a historic Nash building overlooking London's Regents Park left empty by the Crown Commissioners, was opened up and rapidly filled by over 300 people. http://www.steveplatt.net/squatting/realstory2.htm
squat n :
Famous 1970s London squats include Cornwall Terrace, Regent’s Park (since it was owned by the Queen)
Before I moved in I walked house to house looking for a room, I remember the Eastern meditation house I beleive number 3. I looked around to me then it was really wierd, anyway I secured a massive room in number 10. I remember Derek (the Irish guy) was doing a lot of home brewing in the basement kitchens. I made friends with 'the boys' upstairs from me and a highlight of my stay was a massive 3 day/night party we put on. (There was lots of drugs there too) I painted a big mural in the 'ballroom''. I remember taking trips and sneaking over to the park (REGENT PARK) at night, pinching a boat and rowing in the lake. Getting chased out by the park police. There were a lot of people wandering in and out STONED all the time but no hard stuff (heroin) at our house anyway. It was a glorious summer, the place was magnificent. My first boyfriend CLIVE lived there we lasted a year (wonder what happened to him????)
We got notice of the EVICTION and our house plus some others (ie TED the bum who collected mattresses) moved around the corner to two abandoned hotels in Baker street. I saw the end from regents park. TV crews and reporters everywhere. Police cut off surrounding streets and 9 or 10 coaches of police turned up for the BIG eviction day, but less than 40 people remained. I think it was OCTOBER time of year.
I did habour some resentment, as all my housemates pretty much had options for housing were as I was genuinely homeless and really Cornwall terrace was a glamourous break from the dingy squats I was used to and what came after......at the time I had a part time job and was going to school!
My name is Bruno and I am Italian. I have been in Cornwall Terrace squat, between the months of August and September; I came to London, for a journey in hitchhiking for the Europe, during the summer of 1975. I had eighteen years and travelled alone, a student with rucksack and sleeping bag, without money. I asked the money with a smile, in the roads and the railway stations, or I oiled the guides of the rolling shutters of the shops, equipped with a small bucket for lube oil, a small paintbrush and a long rod, (in a couple of hours I succeeded to make fifty € of today).
After to have spent a week to Manchester, from a girl of name Theresa met in Italy, I am returned to London with her fiancé, of name Tats. He worked to London as driver and lived in a spacious room with bath, to ground floor of Cornwall Terrace to the n°13.
I remained fascinated by the large white building, whit a facade of great architectural beauty, left empty by “NZ Embassy High-Commission”. Tats had a friend of name Mohammed; he was a man of colour, a very nice person, he worked in the subway. Mohammed inhabited in a part of the attic, with windows on Regent’s Park, on the third floor of Cornwall Terrace n°1. We have spent a lot of night together listening to music, speaking and to smoking joints.
Tats always was busy with the job or he went to Manchester from Theresa.
After a few days, which I slept from Tats or Mohammed, I moved to Cornwall Terrace n°1. To second floor there was two ample rooms left free from not long time, with wooden floor and window on Baker Street, water and electricity. In these rooms, communicating through a bathroom, disordered and a little dirty, there were a bed, a chest of drawers with a mirror, some mattresses, a sideboard, electric heater and an electric cooker. Tats and I have put the pad locks on the doors, together with a man of Greek origin named Angelino. He was not a friend of Tats; he had slept the night before in one of those rooms.
Angelino had thirty-two years; he had not work and lived of expedients, he knew all the people who lived in the “squat”. Angelino used hard drugs, but he did not demonstrate it, because he was robust fellow and very quiet. The day after, while Angelino and I cleaned the rooms, came, a Spanish man whit a trumpet. He was a political exile; he said that had lived in that room, he played with the trumpet some Spanish ballads and greeted us happy. He returned in Spain, for the imminent fall of the Spanish military dictatorship of “Francisco Franco”.
Those rooms soon became a port of sea; there was good feeling and harmony. Many boys, as me, of various nationalities that travelled and had need of place where to be, came to stay there for a while: Nadine, Patrizio and Luciana, Ronan, Luisa, Silvia, Sophie, Luca and Francoise, Mark, Danielle, Giorgio, Astrid, Jane, Michael and another……. Nadine and Danielle after have been my girlfriends in those days. Sophie gave me hospitality in her home nearby Paris for a week, in October of the same year before of return to home.
I do not remember much about the group of Divine Light Mission, only a large reception room with huge windows, to first floor of Cornwall Terrace n°1, where I went an evening with Angelino, while we wandering “stoned” in and out for all the “squat”. There were many flowers, an intense incense scent and oriental mural pictures, whit a lot of strange people that hosanna they. Just opposite, inhabited Tony and Cinzia, an Irish boy and an Italian girl, very friends of Angelino. In the attic beside Mohammed, lived a boy and girl very reserved, they was French. I have been from them an afternoon, for drink one cup of tea together, but I do not remember their names.
A group, of four or five English boy, still lived upstairs from me in the attic. They was “soft drug dealers”, had also the telephone and listened to the good music, “soul, bleus and rock”, I heard it of the night. One of first evenings that I was in Cornwall Terrace n°1, I went from them in order to buy little of hash. When I said: “I want to buy a pound sterling of hash” all burst out laughing, they gave me little of hash and every time we met, they laughed of heart. After some days, I realized that they sold only large amount of hash.
In another large reception room to ground floor of Cornwall Terrace n°5, there was instead a distinguished man who issued certificates of residence for people of the “squat”, it was useful for to obtain an unemployment benefit.
In the month of September, the Police have come several times. A few day before that I left the “squat” around the end of the month, the Police have took a census door to door, of the people who lived there. Various “Pushers” lived in Cornwall Terrace squat, and many Junkies come for shoot up, I was present at some overdoses, with Angelino that repeated continuously “Too much water”. There were much hard drugs and many financial interests for that historic Nash building overlooking Regent’s Park, to the heart of London. I think this was the main reason of end its. I learned of the closing occurred in October of the same year.
I know that Cornwall Terrace building was leased to “British Land” as their headquarters, between 1978 to 2006. Recently “Crown Estate Commissioners” has sold Cornwall Terrace building. Restoration works are underway now, by “Mirax Group Corporation”, the building is divided into independent luxury residences, one thousand square meters each. I have written these memories with the help of my diary notes of “Journey in hitchhiking – Europe 1975”.
Geoff's memories - and requests
The squat was opened by Piers Corbyn of the Elgin Avenue squat and, I believe, Mad Mick (Guerilla Bookshop) and others from the squat in Tolmers Village. It was nearly full when I arrived, but there was a room at the very end in number 20.
Those researching events '73-'79 and beyond will grasp the significance of the squat being on Crown Estates Land.
Does anyone remember a group who turned up at the first meeting and shouted out a warning about an earlier squat, on Ministry of Defence land, in which some very strage things had happened before eviction?
It was not all Junkies (concentrated houses 1-3) or Divine Lighters (approx 4-11).
I am particularly interested in seeing again Sid (Secretary of "Cromwell Residents Association") and Jill Jeffries, Joe (Treasurer), Dave Carrol and Eddie the Architect. Any information on the whereabouts and doings of Charlie Bata would be very welcome indeed. Was anyone else poisoned at the time of the court case in the Strand?
Geoff Lee (second email)
I was suprised to hear of another phone - the only one I knew of was installed by Charlie in number 3 (or near to 3) the mews. No bill was ever sent nor was he charged for installation.
Sid and Jill were at 19 along with the synthesiser guy + girlfriend and the dancer girl. The communal kitchen was also at 19, run by ex-army Vince and, if I remember rightly, Spenser.
I would be very interested if anyone can tell me anything of Jim Horne or Peter Guest. Perhaps the guy who hid Rhino's knife would know? Was that you?
Does anyone know anything of the involvement of GB75?
On a happier note does anyone know what happened to Mark Stone (not the treacherous copper, but the ex-guitarist from the Purple Alchmist who used to be the resident band at the Magic Village in Machnchester in the late 60's)?
I was with Robin and a couple of others from the Camden squatters meeting he mentions; the guy who set it up was a Time Out journalist called Richard. We occupied No.10 and it was a bit of a haven from the junkies – the Divine light people were next door and were pretty good neighbours, their leader often came over to our fairly well-organised squat to soak up a bit of relative normality. We got the central heating system set up, and everyone enjoyed heat and hot water until the coal ran out – it was hard to raise the cash for more. Many more memories if anyone is interested.
Very interesting, thanks for following up on the link. Some of the posts of the origin of the squat are definitely incorrect - I was there, and was definitely NOT anything to do with Jeremy Corbyn though he did try to get involved later. The guy who set it up was Richard Brown ex Capital radio and Time Out
I would love to get in touch with Katherine, who lived in our house; I knew her after the squats and have lost touched. If you connect us would be great - she would have known me as Pru
If you have a memory please email me