An area, known as "le Rudyng" (indicating a woodland clearing) in the mid-13th century, had by 1534 come to be called West End." It was then a freehold estate belonging to Kilburn Priory, and was so called because it was at the west end of another, larger estate. Although it is possible that there was a dwelling on the estate prior to 1244, an estate house was certainly extant by 1646. West End Lane (named as such by 1644) is still bent at a right-angle at the north and south ends where it connects to Finchley Road and Edgware Road respectively. This is because the lane used to form the boundary between a number of different estates.
By the early 17th century a number of houses were present, and by the middle of that century London merchants were building larger houses in the area, so turning a hamlet into the village of West End.
Modern West Hampstead developed with the arrival of the railways, which led to the transformation of the area from farmland into housing estates. In 1879, the Metropolitan Railway adopted the name West Hampstead for its station on West End Lane, the main road through the area.
The first public library in West Hampstead was opened in 1901, but it was destroyed by a fire bomb in 1940.
The West Hampstead Fire Station was also opened in 1901 and is still operating, responding to over two thousand emergency calls a year. Its service area covers 12 square miles (31 km2), including Hampstead, West Hampstead, Kilburn, Cricklewood and parts of Golders Green.
The power signal box (PSB) for the northern end of the Thameslink route is in Iverson Road, West Hampstead, just around the corner from the Thameslink station. The Network Rail signal box can be seen from the north end of the platforms on the left. As well as being a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week operational building, it also houses engineers and acts as a base for Mobile Operation Managers (MOMs). The upper floor of this box controls the signals and operation of the railway from Farringdon/St Pancras International as far as Sharnbrook (just north of Bedford Station). Also located in the signal box (in the same room as the signalling panels) is First Capital Connect's Thameslink control (also known to staff as the Service Delivery Centre or SDC). FCC's services between London Blackfriars and Bedford are controlled from here. South of Blackfriars, FCC trains are either controlled by southeastern control (to Sevenoaks) or FCC's other SDC at Croydon (for services to Brighton and Sutton/Wimbledon). Information on the service status of the line, including the operation of the information screens, is also controlled from here. East Midlands Trains do not have controllers at West Hampstead however.