Churches, Statues, Stately Homes and An Ice House
Gillian Clegg highlights some of Chiswick's amazing attractions and their history
The arrival of the railways saw an explosion of new housing developments in London's suburbs. Bedford Park was one such development, but it was one of the most innovative since, unlike most others, its houses were designed by well-known architects; its layout was informal and leafy and its public buildings and activities generated a strong sense of community. The red-brick avant garde architecture made a refreshing change from Gothic and stucco, and its semi-rural feel led to Bedford Park being acknowledged as the prototype of later garden suburbs.
Bedford Park was developed by Jonathan Carr, a woollen merchant turned property speculator, as affordable housing for middle class people with a taste for art and interior decoration. The site's location was determined by its proximity to Turnham Green Station (opened in 1869), and by family ties - Carr's father-in-law lived in Bedford House, South Parade. In 1875 Carr bought land belonging to his father-in-law and land nearby.
Carr's first architect was EW Godwin, the lover of actress Ellen Terry and an architect with good aesthetic credentials, but the houses built to his two designs came in for criticism and in 1877 Carr replaced him with the distinguished R Norman Shaw who is the architect really responsible for the character of Bedford Park. Shaw was succeeded by his assistant E J May in 1880. Other architects involved were the firm of Coe and Robinson, William Wilson and local resident Maurice B.Adams.
By the middle of the 20th century the Bedford Park houses were becoming dilapidated, some had been unsuitably altered or converted into flats. Several important properties had been demolished and in an effort to prevent more houses disappearing and to preserve the character of the area the Bedford Park Society was formed in 1963. This achieved a statutory listing for 356 of the houses in 1967, following the first Bedford Park Festival, and the declaration of Bedford Park as a conservation area by Ealing and Hounslow Councils in 1969/70.
History : Chiswick House is one of the earliest and most important neo-Palladian villas in England. It was designed by its owner, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, with advice from his friend and protégé, William Kent, and built between 1726 and 1729. Burlington, known as `the architect earl’ ,was influenced by the buildings of Classical Rome and the drawings of Andrea Palladio and Inigo Jones. The villa, though, was not intended as house to live in but as an adjunct to the larger Jacobean Chiswick House that stood next door. Burlington left no record of his intentions in building the villa perhaps it was just somewhere to display his paintings and sculpture and to entertain company – a temple of the arts. The ground floor is devoid of much decoration and connected to the upper floor only by narrow spiral staircases. Burlington had his library here, also probably offices and there may have been some bedrooms. Guests would have entered the villa by the outside staircase leading to the upper floor with its splendid octagon-domed hall, long gallery and six lavishly-decorated rooms of different geometric shapes.
In the grounds, Burlington and Kent attempted to create the type of garden that would have been found in ancient Rome – lots of greenery and water, interspersed with statues and architecture. The elegant stone bridge replaced a wooden bridge in 1774 and the conservatory and Italian Garden were constructed after 1812 when the 6th Duke of Devonshire acquired Moreton Hall , the house next door.
After Burlington’s death Chiswick house was inherited by his daughter who married the 4th Duke of Devonshire and the house remained in the family of the dukes of Devonshire until 1929. The 5th Duke and his charismatic wife, Georgiana, made the house a centre of Whig society and it was at Chiswick House that Charles James Fox died in 1806 while Foreign Secretary. The Duke demolished the Jacobean house in 1788 and added two wings to the villa. These contained kitchens and living accommodation, so transforming Chiswick House into a proper country mansion. When The 6th Duke of Devonshire inherited the house in 1811 he bought more land, re-routed Burlington Lane further away from his property and constructed Duke’s Avenue as a private road to his mansion. Known as `the bachelor Duke’ he laid on lavish entertainments, attended by many distinguished visitors. These were no doubt enlivened by the presence of the Duke’s large menagerie of exotic animals which included giraffes, elephants, kangaroos and emus. After his death, the house was inherited by his sister and then let out to tenants, including the future King Edward VII and to the Tuke family who ran a mental home at Chiswick House. In 1929 it was acquired by Middlesex County Council. The grounds were opened to the public and the house was given a ten-year restoration (the two wings were demolished). It opened to the public in 1958 and is now in the care of English Heritage with the London Borough of Hounslow responsible for the grounds (management of the house and grounds will be transferred to the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust once Phase I of the regeneration project is completed).
CHISWICK PARISH CHURCH , ST NICHOLAS AND ITS GRAVEYARD
History : The tower of St Nicholas Church, which was built in the 15th century, is the oldest structure in Chiswick. The Church as seen today though dates only to the late 19th century. A church is known to have been on this site since 1181 and had been dedicated to St Nicholas by 1548. The church was enlarged, repaired and altered many times over the centuries and in the 18th century was noted for its splendid hammer beam roof, described as one of the finest in England. Between 1882 and 1884 St Nicholas’s was completely rebuilt to a design by ecclesiastical architect John L Pearson. The many burial vaults under the church were concreted over but some of the memorials were preserved, including the fine memorial to Thomas Chaloner. People buried in the vaults are said to include Barbara Villiers, mistress of Charles II, architect William Kent and Lady Fauconberg and her sister, daughters of Oliver Cromwell. There is a theory too that Cromwell himself is buried in this vault.
The graveyard was Chiswick’s only burial ground until the 1930s. It was closed in 1854 but re-opened in 1871 when the Duke of Devonshire gave the parish more land. Additional land was acquired in 1887 to form Chiswick Old Cemetery.
Well known Chiswick residents buried in the graveyard are William Hogarth, Henry Joy, Charge of the Light Brigade Trumpeter, Frederick Hitch of Rorke’s Drift fame and Charles Tilston Bright who laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic. There are fine tombs to two non-Chiswick residents, painters JM Whistler and Philip de Loutherbourgh.
CHISWICK (BUSINESS) PARK
History: Work began in 2000 on this large business complex, set in 34 acres of landscaped grounds. It was designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership and developed by Stanhope plc. It won a Civic Trust Award in 2002. It was built on the site of the London General Omnibus Company’s large overhaul works. This opened in 1921 and employed 3,500 people. It closed in 1928.
History: The public Chiswick Pier was officially opened in 1997 after the housing development at Corney Reach was built. Corney Reach, was originally the grounds of a large house called Corney House where Queen Elizabeth I was entertained in 1602 by the Russell family, the earls of Bedford. The house, rebuilt in the 18th century, was demolished in 1832 and the land was later used for industrial purposes. Between 1864 and 1909 Thornycroft and Co built torpedo boats and other large ships here and the local sewage works was built in Pumping Station Road in 1879 (closed 1936).
CHISWICK TOWN HALL
CHRIST CHURCH , TURNHAM GREEN
History : The only Anglican church in Chiswick was St Nicholas until Christ Church was built. Proposals to build a new church on Turnham Green were put forward in 1841 when the population of Chiswick had reached nearly 6,000 of whom at least 3,000 lived in Turnham Green which was nearly a mile away from St Nicholas. Money was raised by public subscription and the foundation stone laid in September 1841. Christ Church was designed in the Early English style by George Gilbert Scott (later to design the Midland Hotel above St Pancras station ) and WBMoffatt. It was consecrated on 27 July 1843.
Open : every day. Farmers Market every Sunday am.
History : This large area of open space now occupied by playing fields and sports clubs was once meadowland belonging to the Duke of Devonshire. The fact that this `lung for London’ has been preserved as such is something of a miracle. In 1902 it was intended to be the location for a model village called Burlingwick, in 1914 the site of a large gasworks and in 1926 the place for a large electricity generating station. None of these schemes came to fruition and in 1923 Chiswick Urban District Council acquired the land from the Duke of Devonshire. The Council designated the land for public use, laying out a riverside promenade, a children’s playground and installing a bandstand. Unfortunately, Dukes Meadows became sadly neglected over the years, the bandstand went out of use, the playground and promenade became sad and forlorn. A volunteer group, The Friends of Dukes Meadows, formed in 1998 (now called the Dukes Meadows Trust) is working with Hounslow Council and The Community Initiatives Partnership to restore Dukes Meadows to something like its former glory, by clearing litter, planting trees and painting buildings. A new Children’s Play area was opened in August 2006.
FULLER’S GRIFFIN BREWERY
History : Brewing has been taking place on this site since at least 1701 when it belonged to Thomas Mawson. He sold the brewery to a Chiswick family called Thompson in 1782. John Fuller joined the firm in 1829, providing a much-needed injection of capital. In 1845 his son acquired the brewery and, along with Henry Smith of Romford brewers Ind Smith, Smith’s son Henry and son-in-law John Turner, formed Fuller Smith & Turner. Descendants of these families still run the brewery today. The company owns over 363 pubs and its beers have won CAMRA’s Beer of the Year Award many times.
The wisteria which clads the brewery’s walls is the oldest wisteria plant in England. The first wisteria was brought to Kew Gardens from China in 1816 and a cutting was given to Fuller, Smith & Turner since it supplied beer to Kew. The Kew plant perished while the Griffin Brewery plant flourished.
GUNNERSBURY TRIANGLE NATURE RESERVE
History:This piece of land, with a large amount of flora and fauna was hemmed in by railway lines in the 19th century. In the 1980s it was threatened with development but, due to a large public protest, it was bought by London Borough of Hounslow in 1984 and designated a Local Nature Reserve in 1987. It is managed by the Chiswick Wildlife Group which is affiliated to the London Wildlife Trust and is run by volunteers
History : William Hogarth was 52 years old and already an established artist in 1749 when he purchased a second home in Chiswick. Hogarth and his wife spent the greater part of each summer here in what he affectionately described as `his little country box’. Hogarth made several modifications to the house which had been built around 1715 . The walled garden contained an avenue of filbert (hazelnut) trees, where Hogarth played ninepins, and an outbuilding which he used as a studio. The garden still contains the mulberry tree from the fruit of which Jane Hogarth made tarts for visiting children. The house passed through several later owners, becoming increasingly derelict. In 1901 it was purchased by Lt Col Robert Shipway who lived in nearby Grove House. Shipway restored it, furnished it with replica 18th century furniture and prints by Hogarth, and opened it as a Hogarth museum in 1904. In 1909 he conveyed it in trust to Middlesex County Council and it was transferred to the London Borough of Hounslow in 1965.
LONDON BUDDHIST VIHARA
OUR LADY OF GRACE AND ST EDWARD
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CATHEDRAL
History : The most attractive addition to the Chiswick skyline in recent years is the blue and gold dome visible to drivers on the M4 motorway. It belongs to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral which was opened in 1998 and is the only `purpose-built' Russian Orthodox church in the UK.
ST MICHAEL, SUTTON COURT
History: The red-brick church of St Michael in Elmwood Road was financed by the sale of St Michael, Burleigh Street off the Strand (the Strand Palace Hotel was built on the site). It was designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Caroë and Passmore and consecrated in 1909. It replaced a temporary corrugated iron church which was used as the church hall until a new church hall was built and opened in 1998.
ST MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS
History : The church was designed by R Norman Shaw and built in 1876 (consecrated 1880) as the parish church for a separate parish incorporating the new Bedford Park estate. The north aisle (held over for want of funds) wasn't completed until 1887 and was designed by Maurice B Adams who was also responsible for the church hall in the same year, the font and pulpit and, in 1909 for the Gothic chapel of All Souls. Like most of Bedford Park, the architecture of the church is mainly in the Queen Anne revival style and St Michaels was one of the few attempts to adapt this style to an ecclesiastical building. The architect G E Street described the new church as `very novel and not very ecclesiastical'. From the outset St Michael and All Angels has been a church in the Anglo-Catholic tradition and in its early years, when there were deep divisions within the Church of England, encountered much hostility for its `Popish and Pagan mummeries'. The Church Hall was completely refurbished between 1999 and 2001 .
ST PAULS, GROVE PARK
History: The Gothic-style stone church of St Paul was designed by H Currey. It was erected by the Duke of Devonshire in 1872 to serve the population of the new Grove Park estate .
Written by Gillian Clegg and reproduced with kind the permission of Open Chiswick.
August 8, 2007