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)

Katherine's memories
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!


Tarlach's memories

My name is Tarlach.
I was squatting in Cornwall Terrace during that year.
I came to London to 'get Knowledge' from the Divine Light Mission.
I went to the Palace of Peace and was told it might take a while for me to be considered ready.
I needed some where to live so I was told about Cornwall Terrace.
I got a room in number 3. I was sharing with another Irish guy (I am Irish also) called Tommy.
There was a woman with red hair also sleeping in the room.
We where only there on our second night when we decided to cook on a small gas camping cylinder.
You know the small blue ones. The squat was very new then. Only a few weeks old.
There was a meeting going on in the next room, some of the original squatters.
They where getting organised. The dam cylinder blew up and the wall, which was partition wall made of
a wooden frame and plaster, board blew out and into the room where the meeting was being held. The wall just fell into the room intact. Lucky for the people in the room there was a support pole, which the wall leaned against, preventing it from falling on them. They looked so shocked.

Meanwhile the gas was on fire in our room. I opened the window and shoved the woman with red hair onto the balcony and helped Tommy put out the fire. What an entrance.
Then I got my own room, in number 5, I think. On the first floor.
Became friends with a guy called Greg, with whom I did a lot of LSD.
We had a tripping room, no shoes, incense, nice materials hanging and lots of comfort with mattresses covered with nice materials. Lots of people came to the room to trip out and ask advice on tripping.
We used to go into Regents Park at dawn and pick the daffodils. Huge bunches. We took them back and used to leave small bunches outside each door, in the long corridors that connected the buildings on the inside.
The corridors where great, you could go from building to building almost the length of the street without going outside. I think some people never went outside for months on end.

The people I remember are Greg, whom I have mentioned and Irish Tommy.
A beautiful black woman called Catherina, she had a son and had been traveling in India.

Danny, with mad looking red henna hair. He was a hair dresser living in the Divine Light house.
His girl friend was Moroccan, or from someplace like that. She had fallen asleep on the bar of an electric fire and marked her face badly. On some sleeping pills.

A big German guy who used to give massages, mostly to the women.
Cleansing a room which a guy had used to perform a black mass. Up-side-down cross painted on the wall, along with strange magic spells and symbols. We chanted and painted the walls white.
I met a woman called Andi there and we moved to Wales a short while before the terrace was closed down.
We stayed together and had a daughter.
The beginning, the first two months where idealistic. Negotiations with the council to put in plumbing, bathrooms and kitchens. They began the work, installing copper tanks and plumbing. They got as far as number 3 when one night some junkies ripped off the copper and sold it. That was the end of the council doing anything for the street. The demise was related to drugs. At first it was a gentle hippy vibe, hash and acid.
Then slowly the junkies began to exert their negative influence. Rooms robbed. This infulence slowly took over the street. Cumulating in some bank robbers hiding out in number 1 with guns.

I had many acid trips there. I was taking 'Operation Julie' blue slate acid at the time.
Lovely stuff, which I was getting from Wales. Good old Buzz and Smiles. : )
I remember sat sang in the ballroom.
The free food kitchen in number 19. Chanting in the kitchen.
The corridors. Being on the roof. The great summer weather.

The access to the park at night.
The huge windows and lovely wooden floors.
I would love to hear from people who where there.
I wonder what happened to the people I remember.

That's it.
Tarlach.



How it got started
Can't say much but we entered thru no.1 ground floor (which may have technically been Baker st?) It was an empty NZ high commission! A window had been left open. Got in with a backpack full of yale locks to be fitted on the front doors. Luckily from about no. 3 on there was a corridor all the way thru the terrace so we didn't have to keep going on the roof! We were nuts and naive......I didn't personally organize it. Lots of people were involved. I was squatting in Chester gate at the time - another crown commission prop....and never returned to the terrace. Sorry to hear that it didn't work out. Probably too big to manage properly.....There were many other successful smaller scenes. One thing it brought to light was the power of the 'crown estate commissioners' - and just how much land the crown has - there is a reason why 'Regents Street' is so named.

best paul.


Bruno’s stories
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”.

Ciao, Bruno.

Robin's story,

I went to a meeting held by the Camden squatters advisory service with a few friends and on 3 jan 1975 we occupied the terrace, about 20 houses. No. 11 was being used as an office. We ended up in no.10 next door to the divine light people, that was the only house they occupied.

We left in sept. and moved to another squat, 164-166 Gloucester Place, the Terrace was evicted by the end of the year. I hope that was helpful,

yours, robin


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

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)?

Jeremy Martin

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

Giorgio's story

I squatted in London for a very short time in the summer of 1975. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I was the guest of a squatter, most probably the Bruno whose post of his squatting experience in Cornwall Terrace in August and September of 1975 can be found on this webpage. In his post, Bruno mentions a Giorgio, but my guess is that he is not referring to me but to the other Giorgio who traveled with me to London that summer, and with whom I believe he was in touch for a while. 

For many years I tried to recollect where exactly I stayed in central London. All I could remember was that the place was close to Baker Street station and my impression was that I would enter the building from Allsop place. Then a few days ago I came across this website and I realized the building where I stayed was Cornwall Terrace. 

I can't remember exactly how my friend Giorgio and I ended up there.  For a while we stayed up in the Crystal Palace campground, the only place we could afford, being two Italian hitchhikers with little or no money in our purses. I in particular was completely broke after having quickly spent the little money I had made working the night shift in a pickle-canning factory in Amsterdam. An English fellow I had met there had given me the address of a London cleaning company and I got a job there for a while. The pay was meager, and I was dispatched  everywhere in the city. I met some interesting people, though. My friend Giorgio (whom I have not seen or heard from in years) was not working and my guess is that he met Bruno somewhere in London, maybe in Piccadilly Circus, where loads of young people used to congregate. I can't remember the details but now, after checking the information on this webpage, I am sure we ended up moving to Cornwall Terrace, where other Italians were also staying. Some of the names mentioned in Bruno's post sound familiar. I also remember quite well that at some point -- as he writes -- policemen showed up to take a door-to-door census. For all I can remember, they were polite.

One more detail in Bruno's post that matches my own memory of that summer is the bit about the possibility of picking up residency papers from the people who were in charge of the occupation. I got one of those papers, and I was eventually able to use it to collect an unemployment check. It wasn't a lot of money, but enough to pay for my ferry to France, where I went for the grape picking season (another great adventure!).

As others have said, there were many people high all the time, or most of the time, on the premises. Most people indulged in soft drugs (myself included), but there were heroine addicts as well. I remember one night an English guy overdosed and was taken to hospital. He was treated and came back the same night. We were quite surprised as we all thought that in Italy most probably he would have been detained for having done something illegal.. 

I too remember taking walks in the park, especially at night. The summer of 1975 was an exceptionally warm and dry summer throughout Northern Europe. I have no recollection however of the Divine Light folks. I really can't remember anything about them.

Bruno says in his post that he had electricity and running water in his rooms. He must be right, of course, but I remember that to take a bath one day I had to ask one of the people in charge of the building to use a flat with a bath tub because to the best of my memory in the rooms we occupied there was neither a shower nor a bathtub.

My squatting experience was brief, but it surely was intense. That whole summer -- four long months on the road, with no savings in my pocket -- was the most memorable adventure of my life. I am grateful to the person who created this webpage, as it has helped me piece together some memories from that special time. I hope if Bruno reads my post he will try to get in touch with me. The creator of this page has my email and is authorized to give it to him.

Ciao, Giorgio

 





 

If you have a memory please email me