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ART AND ALE: A WALK BESIDE THE THAMES

Walking along the river Thames between Hammersmith and Chiswick is a joy for lovers of history, architecture, art, and ale.

Cormorant near Hammersmith Bridge

Cormorant near Hammersmith Bridge

I was taking a photograph outside a house on the riverbank at Chiswick, when a man sitting in a van nearby called me over to tell me about the building. During our conversation, he said that the River Thames was used to carry freight, just like the M4 motorway does today. He was right. Before the early 19th century when the railways were built, the river, equipped with locks where necessary, was used to transport goods by boat or barge. After the advent of the railways, except for the tidal stretches of the river (particularly to the east of the city), the waterway almost ceased to be used for transport. This exploration follows the Thames from Hammersmith Bridge to the old village of Chiswick. On our way along this delightful stretch of the river, we will see many examples of buildings built in the 18th century and earlier and discover several lovely places to stop for a drink...

King Street, Hammersmith’s high street, was part of the Great West Road (the ‘Bath Road’, and more recently the ‘A4’). This road, which originated before the Roman conquest, connects the City of London with Bath and Bristol. As late as the mid-19th century, this road through Hammersmith was lined with orchards and market gardens. In his “View of the Agriculture of Middlesex” (publ. 1807), J Middleton wrote:
“From Kensington, through Hammersmith, Chiswick, Brentford, … the land on both sides of the road for seven miles in length … may be denominated the great fruit-garden, north of the Thames, for the supply of London…”
Gradually at the 20th century approached, these disappeared, and were replaced by residential (and other) buildings as London grew westwards.

In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, industrial buildings existed close to Hammersmith’s river front. On a 1936 map, the following are marked: a lead mill; a large water pumping building; an industrial bakery; breweries; a folding-box maker; and a motor works. Interspersed with these, there were many wharves, boat-houses, clubs, pubs, and private residences. Today, the industry has disappeared, but the homes, pubs, clubs, and boat houses remain, making a riverside walk between Hammersmith and Chiswick a pleasure.

Bradmore House

Bradmore House

Beginning at the Broadway centre, which incorporates one of Hammersmith’s two Underground stations, a shopping mall, and a busy split-level bus station, the first sight of interest is Bradmore House. This was originally an 18th century extension of a 16th century building, Butterwick House (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1192636). The extension was built by Henry Ferne, Receiver General of Her Majesty’s [i.e. Queen Anne’s] Customs, to house his mistress, the leading actress Mrs Anne Oldfield (1683-1730). Butterwick House was demolished in 1836, followed later by its extension. The 18th century baroque façade, which used to face the original house’s garden, was dismantled and stored. It was reassembled and put onto a 20th century bus garage, facing west instead of its original east. The garage was demolished, and then replaced by a newer Bradmore House, completed in 1994 with the original 18th century façade still facing west.

St Pauls Centre and Church

St Pauls Centre and Church

Directly across Queen Caroline Street in a large green space, stands the large neo-gothic church of St Pauls (consecrated 1883), which was designed by JP Seddon (1827-1906) and HR Gough (1843-1904). There have been churches on this spot since the early 17th century. In the late 1990s, I attended a couple of theatrical performances staged in the then rather neglected-looking church. Our daughter’s school also used the building for its annual Christmas carol service. More recently, the church has been restored and a modern extension, the St Pauls Centre (opened 2011), added to its west end.

Under Hammersmith flyover

Under Hammersmith flyover

Immediately to the south of the church, traffic races over the Hammersmith Flyover. Designed by G Maunsell and Partners, this viaduct, which is over 2000 feet long, was completed in 1961. Built using a design that was very new at the time, this road bridge allows traffic to avoid the very busy Hammersmith roundabout beneath it. Once, it took us an hour to drive less than halfway around it.

The Hammersmith Surgery

The Hammersmith Surgery

Immediately south of the flyover, there is a contemporary building with an original design, whose bold sculptural ‘façade’ consists of overlapping curved concrete slabs. This contains the Hammersmith Surgery, a medical practice. Completed in 2001, it was designed by Guy Greenfield Architects. It stands at the beginning of the road leading to Hammersmith Bridge.

Detail of Hammersmith Bridge

Detail of Hammersmith Bridge

Hammersmith Bridge

Hammersmith Bridge

The suspension bridge, completed in 1887, was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette (1819-91). It replaced an earlier one built in 1827, but uses its predecessor’s original pier foundations. Slightly chunky in appearance, it is covered with decorative features. It crosses Lower Mall, which runs along the Hammersmith bank of the Thames. This riverside thoroughfare and its continuation upstream, Upper Mall, is lined with buildings of historic interest.

Lower Mall: east end by bridge

Lower Mall: east end by bridge

Lower Mall rowing club

Lower Mall rowing club

Kent House Lwr Mall

Kent House Lwr Mall

The rowing club at number 6 Lower Mall with its prominent bow first floor window overlooking the river and supported on slender pillars is one of a row of several recognizably Georgian houses, all of which have been modernised. The elegant Kent House, built in about 1782 (maybe 1762), stands west of these. Over the years it has had many owners including Mr and Mrs Thomas Hunt who used it as a seminary for young people.

12 and 11 Lwr Mall

12 and 11 Lwr Mall

Blue Anchor pub Lwr Mall

Blue Anchor pub Lwr Mall

The Rutland Arms pub Lwr Mall

The Rutland Arms pub Lwr Mall

The lower, modest building neighbouring Kent House, numbered 11 and 12, was built in the 17th century, but although modernised it retains original features. The Blue Anchor pub close-by bears the date 1722, but its present home is a more recent building, if not a highly modified version of the original. The composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934), who was Director of Music at Hammersmith’s St Pauls School for Girls, composed his “Hammersmith Suite” (1931) in the pub (see: “Gustav Holst: A Research and Information Guide”, by MC Huismann, publ. 2011). The nearby Rutland Arms pub opened in the late 1840s, and was rebuilt in the 1870s. Before WW2, this building had a third floor and a pitched roof, but now it has only two beneath a flat roof.

Westcott Lodge Lwr Mall

Westcott Lodge Lwr Mall

Furnivall Park and storm outlet (maybe the former Creek)

Furnivall Park and storm outlet (maybe the former Creek)

Westcott Lodge, a modernised Georgian structure (built about 1746), has a porch supported by two pillars and two pilasters, all with Ionic capitals. Formerly St Paul’s vicarage, it stands on the eastern edge of Furnivall Gardens, a pleasant open space created in 1951. Before WW2, the area was covered with industrial buildings including the Phoenix Lead Mills, which stood east of The Creek, an inlet of the Thames that was filled-in in 1936. In earlier times, The Creek, which extended as far inland as today’s King Street, was centre of Hammersmith’s flourishing fishing industry. Writing in 1876, James Thorne described The Creek as follows:
“… a dirty little inlet of the Thames, which is crossed by a wooden foot-bridge, built originally by Bishop Sherlock in 1751 … the region of squalid tenements bordering the Creek having acquired the cognomen of Little Wapping, probably from its confined and dirty character.”
The Creek is long gone, but there is a storm outlet in the bank of the Thames close to where The Creek must have emptied into the river. This can be seen from Dove Pier at the western end of the Gardens.
The little bridge described by Thorne led west to the beginning of Upper Mall. Before looking at that, follow the path to the busy A4, across which can be seen the façade of Hammersmith Town Hall. Built 1938-39 beside the former Creek, it was designed by E Berry Webber (1896-1963), an architect best-known for his civic buildings.

Detail of Hammersmith Town Hall

Detail of Hammersmith Town Hall

Hammersmith Town Hall

Hammersmith Town Hall

The Seasons and the Dove and Sunderland Hse (topped with a balustrade)  seen from Dove Pier

The Seasons and the Dove and Sunderland Hse (topped with a balustrade) seen from Dove Pier

A narrow passage forms the eastern part of Upper Mall. Sussex House, brick-built and well-hidden behind its garden’s fencing, was built in the early 18th century (about 1726) on the site of an earlier 17th century house. Despite its name, it is unlikely that the Duke of Sussex (1773–1843), who laid the foundation stone of the first Hammersmith Bridge, lived here.

Sussex House Lwr Mall

Sussex House Lwr Mall

The east part of 15 Upper Mall

The east part of 15 Upper Mall

Across the passage from this house, there is another whose shuttered ground-floor windows resemble a shop front. This building is part of, or attached to, number 15 Upper Mall. The latter bears a plaque recording that Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson (1840-1922), the printer and bookbinder, founded his Doves Bindery and Doves Press in this building, where he also lived. Involved in the Arts and Crafts Movement, he was a friend of its great proponent William Morris, who lived and worked close by. Thomas was married to Anne, daughter of the radical Richard Cobden (1804-1865). Along with his sometime business partner, the engraver and printer Emery Walker (see below), Thomas developed a new type-face. When they fell out, Thomas dumped all the font’s casting punches and matrices for their new font into the Thames, and they were lost until some of it was recovered in was discovered below the water in 2015.

The Dove Upp Mall

The Dove Upp Mall

Dove Pier from Upp Mall

Dove Pier from Upp Mall

A quaint riverside pub, The Dove, is a few steps west. Beginning life as ‘Doves Coffee House’ in the late 18th century, it became a pub by the early 19th century. To its east, its neighbour is The Seasons, a narrower building with wide, tall windows overlooking the river. The Seasons might have been built as a ‘smoking box’ (a place to enjoy tobacco) for the Duke of Sussex (see above).

The Dove pub is joined to a larger building with a rooftop balustrade (best viewed from the river or from Dove Pier). This 18th century building is number 21, Sunderland Cottage, where William Morris housed the hand-operated Albion press used for printing an edition of Chaucer (see: “The Kelmscott Press: A History of William Morris’s Typographical Adventure”, by WS Peterson, publ. 1991). Prior to that (in 1867), the house was used by T Day, a coal merchant. The author George Borrow (1803-1881) was one of his customers in 1864 (see: http://georgeborrow.org/timeline/brompton1864.html).

River Hse: 24 Upp Mall

River Hse: 24 Upp Mall

River House, number 24, was built in the mid-17th century. When Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705) lived in Hammersmith (in 1685 after her husband King Charles II died), some of her servants lived in this house. It western neighbour, a much larger brick building, built in the 1780s, is now called Kelmscott House. Built on the site of an old warehouse, this became the home of Sir Francis Ronalds (1788-1873) in the early 19th century. Sir Francis, an inventor, laid eight miles of insulated electrical cable in the house’s extensive garden, which in his time stretched as far inland as King Street, and with that he demonstrated the use of telegraphy for the first time in history in 1816. When he reported his discovery to Lord Melville, the First Lord of The Admiralty, he was told (by Melville) that telegraphs were totally unnecessary, because the semaphore did the job of communication just as well!

Kelmscott Hse Upp Mall

Kelmscott Hse Upp Mall

In 1878, the house, known then as ‘The Retreat’, was bought by the writer and artist William Morris (1834-1896), a leading exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement and a social reformer. It was renamed Kelmscott House (the name of Morris’s dwelling in Oxfordshire). Morris and his family lived in this large house, which also served as a meeting place for his many artistic and socialist friends and acquaintances. Its interior was decorated with wallpapers designed by Morris and his company, as well as with oriental carpets. There were also textiles woven to his designs. Today, the house, which is owned by the William Morris Society, is leased to private tenants.

Coach house of Kelmscott Hse

Coach house of Kelmscott Hse

The long narrow coach house attached to the west side of Kelmscott House was used as a lecture hall in William Morris’s time. It hosted many meetings of groups sympathetic to socialism, including that which Morris joined in 1883: the ‘Democratic Federation’, later known as the ‘Social Democratic Federation’. Like some of today’s leading British socialists, Morris was also far wealthier than the people whom he hoped to help with his left-wing political sympathies.

William Morris Soc Museum Upper Mall

William Morris Soc Museum Upper Mall

Today, the coach house, which bears a plaque in memory of Sir Francis Ronalds, houses the offices of the William Morris Society and a small museum. On the ground floor, there are a few chairs set in front of a screen where a short, informative film about Morris is shown. In the basement, there is a shop and two rooms full of exhibits. Most of them relate to Morris, but there is also a bust of Sir Francis. What particularly interested me was a temporary exhibit describing Morris’s interest in oriental carpets. It was he who persuaded the Victoria and Albert Museum to purchase (in 1893 for £2000) the now priceless 16th century Persian Ardabil carpet (Morris described it being of “singular perfection … logically and consistently beautiful”; see: https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/the-ardabil-carpet), and other fine woven carpets from Persia.

Printing press in William Morris Soc Museum Upper Mall

Printing press in William Morris Soc Museum Upper Mall

Sir Francis Ronalds at William Morris Soc Museum Upper Mall

Sir Francis Ronalds at William Morris Soc Museum Upper Mall

In another room, there stands a well-preserved example of a hand-operated printing press used by Morris’s printers. Next to it, there are racks of movable type ready to be set in the press. Seeing this, reminded me of my days at Highgate School in north London, where I helped print the school calendars using very similar equipment. The staff at the museum were friendly and knowledgeable.

Rivercourt Hse Upp Mall

Rivercourt Hse Upp Mall

Further west, Rivercourt House (number 36 Upper Mall), a large brick building topped with a balustrade facing the river, was built in 1808. In its grounds stood a house where the Queen Dowager, Catherine of Braganza, lived whilst she was in Hammersmith. The ruins of this were pulled down at the time the present house was built. Naomi Mitchison (1897-1999), the novelist, socialist, and feminist, lived here with her family between 1923 and ’39. One of her children is the famous immunologist Avrion Mitchison, who worked and taught at my university, University College London. Today, the house and its newer neighbour to the west of it contain The Latymer Prep School.

Between 1931 and ’35, the artist (and print-maker) Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) lived in the house on the east corner of Upper Mall and Weltje Road. ‘Weltje’ might refer to a place with a WW1 cemetery near Ypres in Belgium. Or, more likely, it refers to the actor Lewis Weltje (see: “Records of My Life: In Two Volumes, Volume 1”, by J Taylor, publ. 1832), who lived in Hammersmith, and died in the late 18th century. In 1781, he founded a club in Mayfair, which was noted for gambling and extravagant entertainments. Weltje Road crosses part of the garden of the now demolished Seagreens House, which was owned by Weltje. West of this, Linden House is set back from the River. This grand building with a central pediment was constructed about 1733. Today, it houses the London Corinthian Sailing Club and the Sons Of The Thames Rowing Club.

Linden House Upp Mall

Linden House Upp Mall

The Old Ship Upp Mall

The Old Ship Upp Mall

Next, we pass two pubs. The Old Ship is truly old. There has been a hostelry on its site since the early 18th century. West of that, and set back from the riverfront, is the Black Lion. It is housed in a much modified late 18th century building, and has pleasant gardens where I have enjoyed drinks on warm summer’s evenings. This pub was one of many Thames-side inns, where the once popular game of skittles was played seriously as late as after WW2. The pub’s skittle alley exists no longer.

The Black Lion and St Peters Church  from Hammersmith Terrace

The Black Lion and St Peters Church from Hammersmith Terrace

Hammersmith Terrace

Hammersmith Terrace

Hammersmith Terrace is separated from the river by a row of terraced houses, which were built in the third quarter of the 18th century. They vary in design, but all have attractive front porches. Edward Johnston (1872-1944) lived at number 3 between 1905 and ’12. Born in Uruguay of Scottish parentage, he was an important modern calligrapher. In 1916, he designed the type font, which, with small modifications made recently, is still used for of the lettering on London’s Underground. In addition, he was responsible for modifying the system’s logo to look as it does today: a circle with a horizontal bar crossing it.

Alan Herbert lived at 12 Hammersmith Terrace

Alan Herbert lived at 12 Hammersmith Terrace

From 1903 to ’33, number 8 was home to the typographer and antiquary Sir Emery Walker (1851-1933). An exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, he was a friend of William Morris. Walker’s collection of antique typefaces inspired Morris to set up his Kelmscott Press, which attempted to revive the aesthetics of the early era of European printing and illuminated manuscripts. After Morris died, Walker formed the Dove Press with Cobden Sanderson (see above). As already described, they fell out. Walker’s house now houses a museum, which I have not yet visited. Like Morris, Emery was a member, and one-time branch secretary, of the Hammersmith Branch of the Socialist League. After meetings held in the coach house at Kelmscott House, Morris used to invite the speaker and the audience to have dinner in his home. Emery was usually present at these meals (see: “William Morris”, by F MacCarthy, publ. 1994).

Sir Alan Patrick Herbert (1890-1971), writer, Member of Parliament, and law reformer, lived at number 12, whose porch is supported by Doric columns. A member of the Thames Conservancy and author of books about the river, he lived and died there. The Terrace leads west into Chiswick Mall, a small stretch of which is in the Borough of Hammersmith. Before the boundary of the borough is reached, we pass some 20th century houses. Soon after entering the Borough of Hounslow, there is a quaint house, Mall Cottage, with a neo gothic front door and windows framed by gothic arches.

Mall Cottages Chiswick Mall

Mall Cottages Chiswick Mall

Chiswick Eyot eastern end

Chiswick Eyot eastern end

Continuing along Chiswick Mall, we pass the eastern end of Chiswick Eyot. It is the easternmost island in the Thames except for the Isle of Sheppey, which is 44 miles east in the Thames estuary. In the past, this spindle-shaped islet was used for the cultivation of osiers (willows with long flexible shoots used in basket and furniture making). One of the houses facing the island is the over ornate heavily stuccoed Island House with Ionic pillars and Corinthian pilasters. It was built in the early 19th century. Nearby, is the appropriately named Osiers, whose stuccoed exterior hides an old structure built in the 1780s. Once a haunt of intellectual homosexuals, it was later the home of the pathologist Leonard Colebrook (1883-1967).

Island House, Chiswick Mall

Island House, Chiswick Mall

Osiers, Chiswick Mall

Osiers, Chiswick Mall

Osiers is the most eastern of a terrace of 18th century (and earlier) buildings. Its immediate neighbour, Morton House, which was built around 1726, has had many owners and uses, including housing a school for young children in the 1920s. Before that, the artist Francis Ernest Jackson (1872–1945) lived here between 1912 and ’19 (see: “F. Ernest Jackson and His School”, publ. by The Ashmolean Museum, 2000) prior to moving into Mall Cottage (see above).

Morton House Chiswick Mall

Morton House Chiswick Mall

Riverside Hse Chiswick Mall

Riverside Hse Chiswick Mall

Riverside House and its adjoining Cygnet House, both with pretty latticework porches, were built in the Regency period at the beginning of the 19th century. The Russian Vladimir Polunin (1880-1957), who lived in Cygnet House, not only taught at the Slade School of Art but also painted scenery for Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet. The Mall runs in front of the houses already described, but is separated from the Thames by a strip of private gardens belonging to the houses. Beyond the gardens, the Eyot provides a verdant backdrop.

A riverside garden with Chiswick Eyot behind

A riverside garden with Chiswick Eyot behind

Greenash Chiswick Mall

Greenash Chiswick Mall

The tall Greenash house makes an architectural contrast with its 18th century neighbours. It was designed by John Belcher (1841-1913), and completed in 1882 for the shipbuilder Sir John Thornycroft (1843–1928), who owned a wharf just west of the nearby St Nicholas Church. It was converted into flats in 1934 by its then owner the architect Ernest Brander Musman (1888-1972), a designer of many 20th century pubs in a wide variety of architectural styles.

Staithe Hse Chiswick Mall 19th cent

Staithe Hse Chiswick Mall 19th cent

Western end of Chiswick Eyot

Western end of Chiswick Eyot

Fullers Griffin brewery from Chiswick Mall

Fullers Griffin brewery from Chiswick Mall

Staithe House, part of a Victorian terrace which would not look out of place in Belsize Park, faces the western sharp tip of Chiswick Eyot. The house is separated from Fuller’s Griffin Brewery (building commenced 1845) by Chiswick Lane South. The brewery stands on a site where beer has been brewed since the 17th century or earlier. The Lane runs along the east side of the brewery, passing a brewery retail outlet, to a row of 18th century buildings, named Mawson Row in memory of Thomas Mawson (c. 1660-1714) of Chiswick, who took over the brewery in 1685.

Mawson Arms at end of Chiswick Lane South

Mawson Arms at end of Chiswick Lane South

Near the Mawson Arms pub at the north end of the row, there is a plaque commemorating the oft-quoted poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744). Pope and his parents lived here in this row between 1716 and ’19. According to James Thorne, writing in 1876, Pope wrote portions of his translation of the “Iliad”, which appeared between 1715 and ’20, on the backs of letters addressed to him in the (then named) ‘New Buildings’ in Chiswick. Pope’s father died in this row of buildings in 1717, and is buried in the nearby churchyard.

Former Red Lion Pub Chiswick Mall

Former Red Lion Pub Chiswick Mall

Back on the Mall, immediately west of the brewery buildings, there is a building named Red Lion House. It was formerly a pub, the ‘Red Lion’, built in the 18th century. This, I was told by a passer-by, went out of business because of the reduced demand for alcohol following the legislation of pub opening hours that was introduced in WW1 (i.e. The Defence of The Realm Act of 1914). In its heyday, the pub was used by bargemen and, also, osier cutters, who sharpened their knives on a whetstone that used to hang by its entrance.

Thames View Hse Chiswick Mall

Thames View Hse Chiswick Mall

Said and Lingard Houses on Chiswick Mall

Said and Lingard Houses on Chiswick Mall

Thamesview and its neighbour Lingard House are both 18th century, and were originally parts of a single building. The illustrator and engraver Robert Sargent Austin (1895-1973), who advised on the design of British banknotes in the late 1950s, lived in Lingard. Frederick William Tuke (1858 - 1935), who helped his brothers run a mental asylum in Chiswick, lived in Thamesview in the late 19th century. Next door to Lingard House is Said House, whose façade is dominated by an overly large bay window. The building’s earliest structures date back to the 18th century, but much has been done since to distort its appearance. The actor and theatre manage Sir Nigel Playfair (1874-1935) was one of its inhabitants.

Eynham House Chiswick Mall

Eynham House Chiswick Mall

Bedford Hse Chiswick Mall

Bedford Hse Chiswick Mall

Bedford Hse detail Chiswick Mall

Bedford Hse detail Chiswick Mall

Eynham House and its adjoining Bedford House provide pleasant visual compensation for their ugly neighbour Said House. Originally, the two houses were parts of a single house, whose construction dates to the 17th century. The façade of the house(s) with its harmonious bow windows is 18th century and surmounted by a graceful pediment. One of the owners of Bedford House was John Sich, who owned the nearby Lamb Brewery (see below). There are sculpted heads above the ground floor windows.

Woodroffe Hse Chiswick Mall

Woodroffe Hse Chiswick Mall

The first two storeys of the nearby austere brick building, Woodroffe House, were built in the early 18th century, and the third added later. The sculptor Wilfred Dudeny (1911-1996) lived there from about 1963 onwards. Chiswick Mall ends just West of this building, and the roadway continues northwards as Church Street. At the corner, stands a house (pre-18th century, but much modified), The Old Vicarage. Opposite it, a slipway runs down into the river. It has been there a long time, and is marked on a detailed map surveyed in 1867. Near it, opposite the Red Lion Pub, this same map marks a ferry that ran from the pub, around the western tip of the Eyot, to the southern bank of the Thames.

The Old Vicarage Chiswick Mall

The Old Vicarage Chiswick Mall

Slipway at western end of Chiswick Mall

Slipway at western end of Chiswick Mall

"Couplet" by Charles Hadcock Chiswick Mall

"Couplet" by Charles Hadcock Chiswick Mall

Close to the landward end of the slipway (near the vicarage), there is what looks like a pair of oversized interlocking, rusting chain links with nuts and bolts. This is a cast-iron sculpture, “Couplet”, made by Charles Hadcock (born 1965) in 1999. The work of art, which reminded me of the works that my late mother, a sculptress, might have made. It stands beside the gateway into the churchyard of St Nicholas. Nicholas, whose church is beside the Thames and near at least two breweries, is patron saint for fishermen, sailors, and coopers (barrel-makers).

St Nicholas churchyard

St Nicholas churchyard

St Nicholas churchyard William Hogarth

St Nicholas churchyard William Hogarth

The idyllic, romantic, leafy churchyard by the river is chock full of graves. Two of them caught my attention. One is that for the artist William Hogarth, who lived close-by (see below). His monument, protected by a cast-iron fence, an urn on a plinth decorated with an artist’s palette and brushes, was erected after the death of his sister in 1781 (who is also commemorated on this monument), and was restored by a William Hogarth of Aberdeen in 1856.

St Nicholas churchyard Ugo Foscolo

St Nicholas churchyard Ugo Foscolo

The other grave that I found interesting was a monument to the Italian poet and patriot Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827). He spent the last eleven years of his life in England. He died at Turnham Green, and was buried in the graveyard at St Nicholas. In 1871, the poet’s remains were removed to Italy, which had recently achieved Unification and Independence. They were interred in the church of S Croce in Florence.

St Nicholas Chiswick

St Nicholas Chiswick

St Nicholas churchyard gargoyle on tower

St Nicholas churchyard gargoyle on tower

There has been a church on the site of St Nicholas since before the 12th century. The tower of the present building was begun in the 15th century. Its south face has a small picturesque gargoyle with prominent eye-brows and bulging eyes. The rest of the church was rebuilt in the late 19th century in Victorian gothic style.

Ferry Hse Church Str Chiswick

Ferry Hse Church Str Chiswick

The large Ferry House on Church Street and some of its neighbours were built in the 18th century. Even older is the half-timbered Old Burlington, an old coaching inn, whose construction began in the 16th century. Close to this, there is a building on a corner plot with timber-cladding and a ground-floor bow window. This was once The Lamb pub.

Former Old Burligton pub and behind it the Lamb Brewery Church Str

Former Old Burligton pub and behind it the Lamb Brewery Church Str

The former Lamb pub Church Str Chiswick

The former Lamb pub Church Str Chiswick

Established by about 1732, it became the brewery pub for Sich & Co brewery. It closed in 1909. It achieved fame in 1889 because it was here that an inquest was held into the death by drowning of a Jack the Ripper suspect, Montague John Druitt (see: http://www.closedpubs.co.uk/london/w4_chiswick_lamb.html). The buildings that housed Sich’s brewery, the Lamb Brewery, can be seen behind the former pub. The brewery was leased to the brewers John Sich and William Thrale in 1790. Brewing ceased in the early 20th century. The premises were then used until 1952 by the Standard Yeast Company, and now they have been converted into offices, studios, and flats.

Chiswick has been a centre for brewing since early times, since at least the 13th century when many of the local inhabitants owed taxes for making malt (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp78-86#h3-0007). Earlier than that, by the 11th century, Chiswick was known for cheese making. Its earlier name, the Old English ‘Ceswican’, meant ‘cheese farm’ (see: “A Dictionary of London Place-Names”, by D Mills, publ. 2010). By the late 16th century, there was at least one brewery in the area. Fuller’s brewery is the last of these to survive.

Old shop 6 Church Str

Old shop 6 Church Str

Pages Yard off Church Str Chiswick

Pages Yard off Church Str Chiswick

Number 6 Church Street has a large disused shopfront with central double doors and decorative masonry brackets ate each end of the former fascia. This building was marked as a ‘Post Office’ on old (pre-WW2) maps. It is almost opposite Pages Yard, a cul-de-sac lined with 18th century brick houses with luxuriant gardens. The north end of historic Church Street opens abruptly into to modern day life in the form of the busy Great West Road dual carriageway.

The George and Devonshire pub

The George and Devonshire pub

Boston House Chiswick Sq

Boston House Chiswick Sq

Chiswick Sq

Chiswick Sq

Many people whizzing along this road or stuck in a traffic jam probably do not notice the historic George and Devonshire pub, which has been in business since the 1650s, although its present home dates from the 18th century. Its neighbour Chiswick Square is dominated by the elegant Boston House. Pevsner compares the design of this building, erected in the 1740s, to London’s Albany (in Piccadilly). Its name probably derives from Viscount Boston, Earl of Grantham (died 1754), who lived there. The buildings on the other two sides of the square, whose north side has no buildings, are late 17th century.

Flyover at Hogarth Roundabout

Flyover at Hogarth Roundabout

St Mary's Convent and Nursing Home

St Mary's Convent and Nursing Home

St Mary's Convent and Nursing Home

St Mary's Convent and Nursing Home

Putting Boston House behind you, one cannot avoid seeing a stream of vehicles ascending the slope of the western end of the slender flyover that carries traffic eastward above the Hogarth Roundabout. St Marys Convent, a short distance west of Chiswick Square, was designed by Charles Ford Whitcombe and constructed in 1896. It bears some architectural details typical of the Arts and Craft Movement. Over the years, it has been considerably enlarged to encompass a hospital.

Corner Paxton and Short Roads

Corner Paxton and Short Roads

Paxton Road, which leads northwest from the Convent runs alongside the grounds of Chiswick House. It is lined by 19th century ‘villas’, which in this context mean mundane terraced houses. On the corner of Paxton and Short Roads, there is a house with extensive ground floor windows separated by orange tiling and surmounted by what might once have been a shop or pub fascia boarding above. It is more likely to have been a shop than a pub because no pub is marked on old maps of Paxton Road. Now, it is residential.

Hogarth's House

Hogarth's House

Paxton Road becomes Sutherland Road at its northern end, and the latter leads to the busy Great West Road (A4), known at this point as Hogarth Lane. This is no country lane, but a six-lane highway! When the artist William Hogarth (1697-1764) moved to Chiswick in 1749, the house he bought, which still stands today, was surrounded by quiet countryside. This building constructed between 1713 and ’17 is now bordered by the busy A4 and is only a few yards from the Hogarth Roundabout. The house, which cost all of £7, was run-down when Hogarth bought it. Like so many people who by run-down properties abroad today in picturesque places like Andalucía and Tuscany, Hogarth restored and extended it. For example, he added the first floor oriel window that projects over the front door.

Hogarth House

Hogarth House

Hogarth House staicase with panelled walls

Hogarth House staicase with panelled walls

During WW2, Hogarth’s home, which had become a museum, suffered bomb damage. This was repaired, and by 1951 the museum, having been extended, was re-opened to the public. When I visited it in October 2017, the upper floor was closed because work was being done to repair damage that had occurred in the ceilings. There is not too much to be seen in the two ground floor rooms. One of them is wood-panelled and feels and looks like the living room of a friend’s house in Kensington, which was built shortly after Hogarth’s home. The exhibits include a sculpture depicting the artist and several Hogarth’s prints. This place is worth visiting not because it is a wonderful museum, but because it is fun to stand where once the great artist stood, and, also, because it is interesting to see inside a house of this vintage, which is neither a palace nor a stately home. The house has a pleasant garden with a large lawn and trees.

Hogarth roundabout pedestrian subway

Hogarth roundabout pedestrian subway

This exploration ends here. If you feel stranded and surrounded by an unending stream of traffic, it is worth knowing that an escape route exists in the guise of a pedestrian subway beneath the Hogarth Roundabout.

The riverside between Hammersmith and Chiswick was once alive with industry and barge traffic. Interspersed among this were many houses of considerable vintage, some of which were the homes and workshops of artists, calligraphers, engravers, bookbinders, and printers. The industry and working river traffic has disappeared, but much of the early architecture remains alongside a series of pubs and boathouses, making this stretch of the Thames a delight for leisure-seekers.

8 Lower Mall, Hammersmith

8 Lower Mall, Hammersmith

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 14:13 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged architecture beer pubs thames hammersmith river_thames ale william_morris breweries chiswick Comments (2)

A RIVER IN LONDON: FROM TRICKLE TO TORRENT

An exploration of parts of a large, and once important, tributary of London's River Thames.

When I was a child living in the Hampstead Garden Suburb, my friends and I used to play beside a rather odd-smelling little stream that flowed near to the Market Place on Falloden Way. In those days, I had no idea that the water in this rivulet, Mutton Brook, eventually flowed into the Thames. This essay describes two parts of one of London’s longer tributaries of the River Thames, the River Brent. The first part deals with Mutton Brook, one of the sources of the Brent. The second explores Brentford, where the River Brent merges with the Thames. I wrote this following a recent visit to Brentford, where my wife was representing clients at the local County Court. While she was in front of the judge, I explored the estuary of the River Brent and its historic surroundings. The following day, I revisited Mutton Brook.

A heron on the Decoy Pond

A heron on the Decoy Pond

The River Brent begins where the waters of Dollis Brook and Mutton Brook merge near Golders Green. Dollis Brook has its sources near Arkley and Mill Hill in the London Borough of Barnet (see: https://www.ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Dollis+Valley+Greenwalk), about nine miles before it converges with Mutton Brook (the name being associated with sheep washing in the past).

Sketch map of the River Brent

Sketch map of the River Brent

Mutton Brook

Mutton Brook

The Brook rises from Cherry Tree Wood (formerly ‘Dirthouse Wood’, a remnant of the historic mediaeval ‘Finchley wood’ that was once well-known for its highwaymen). It is not far from East Finchley Station, which is where my ‘exploration’ begins.

East Finchley Station

East Finchley Station

East Finchley Underground station is above ground. Art-deco in design (architects: Charles Holden and LH Bucknell), this was built in the latter half of the 1930s. A ten-foot-tall sculpture of a kneeling archer, sculpted by Eric Aumonier (1899–1974) overlooks both the platforms and the station’s forecourt. It recalls that East Finchley used to be at the edge of the ancient Royal Forest of Enfield where both royalty and commoners once hunted.

Old White Lion at  East Finchley

Old White Lion at East Finchley

The Old White Lion pub on The Great North Road (A1000) next to the station has some interesting eye-shaped features in its roof tiling. These resemble the similarly shaped slits that appear in roofs of old buildings all over central Europe. This pub (in an earlier building) was in existence at the beginning of the nineteenth century, when it was known as the ‘White Lion’. Until 1900, there was a toll-gate on the Great North Road next to the pub.

Belvedere Court

Belvedere Court

The western part of Bishops Avenue, home to many wealthy people, leads to the A1 where it is called ‘Aylmer Road’. Belvedere Court on Aylmer Road is an unmissable brick and stone building with an un-British appearance. This block of flats, built 1937-38, was designed by the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s youngest son, the architect Ernst Ludwig Freud (1892-1970). Trained by the architect Adolf Loos (1870-1933), a pioneer of modern architecture, Ernst came to the UK with his father in 1934. At first, the flats in this building were rented mainly to Jewish immigrants fleeing from Nazi-occupied Europe. During his childhood, the TV personality Jerry Springer lived in Belvedere Court.

Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue in Norrice Lea

Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue in Norrice Lea

Norrice Lea leads south from Aylmer Road, and is home to the Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, which has an Orthodox Jewish congregation. The synagogue was designed by Maurice de Metz and completed in 1935 (see: http://www.hgstrust.org/documents/area-13-holne-chase-norrice-lea.pdf). With its elegant main portico, it was consecrated in 1934, and then enlarged far less elegantly in the 1960s (see: http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/London/hampsteadgs/index.htm).

View of Hampstead Garden Suburb from playing fields near Norrice Lea

View of Hampstead Garden Suburb from playing fields near Norrice Lea

A narrow pathway leads from Norrice Lea between private gardens into Lyttelton Playing Fields. There is an excellent view across this grassy expanse of the upper parts of Hampstead Garden Suburb with its churches designed by the architect of government buildings in New Delhi, Edwin Lutyens (St Judes with its spire and The Free Church with its dome).

Bridge over Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Bridge over Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Mutton Brook at Lytttelton Playing Fields

Next to a small café, which forms part of a Jewish kindergarten, a short path leads a few feet northwards to a small bridge. It is from this brick-walled bridge that we first catch sight of Mutton Brook. Confined between banks maintained with wooden planking and lined with bushes on both banks, it is no more than about two feet wide at this point.

Houses at Kingsley Way

Houses at Kingsley Way

Bridge at Kingsley Way

Bridge at Kingsley Way

By the time that the Brook reaches the brick and stone bridge which carries Kingsley Way over it, its width has almost doubled. A gauge next to the bridge projects vertically from the water. Its presence is suggestive of the possibility of the brook becoming much deeper during times of heavy rainfall. Near the bridge, there are a few houses with art-deco features, notably their upper storey windows. The water flows under the bridge after passing over a small waterfall (the first of many), and then leaves the bridge via two more step-like waterfalls.

View upstream from  bridge at Kingsley Way

View upstream from bridge at Kingsley Way

'Rapids' at Kingsley Way

'Rapids' at Kingsley Way

The Brook flows towards Northway in a stone-lined channel that curves gently through a strip of cultivated parkland. When I was a child, there was a small putting-green in this park, but that has gone. The single-arched bridge carrying Northway over the stream has iron railings.

Between Kingsley Way and Northway

Between Kingsley Way and Northway

Northway Bridge

Northway Bridge

The water flows next through Northway Gardens between almost vertical banks like a groove cut into the lawns. It passes some tennis courts on its left bank, and flows over another low waterfall. The Gardens, which vary in width, are flanked to the north by the back gardens of houses on Falloden Way, the westerly continuation of Aylmer Road. To the south, they are flanked by the gardens of the houses on Oakwood Road.

Falloden Way   bridge

Falloden Way bridge

Emerging from the Falloden Way Bridge

Emerging from the Falloden Way Bridge

Mutton Brook curves northwards and then disappears under Falloden Way beneath a bridge with brick walls topped with white stone slabs. It emerges from under the main road in two channels that merge into one. Brooklands Drive crosses the Brook over a bridge made from wood and bricks.

Brooklands Rise bridge

Brooklands Rise bridge

The part of Hampstead Garden Suburb north of Falloden Way, which includes Brooklands Drive, is sometimes called ‘Across the Jordan’ because of its large Jewish population. The stream then flows over another waterfall before before entering a concrete-lined conduit that carries it back under Falloden Way.

Conduit under Falloden Way west

Conduit under Falloden Way west

Between its emergence from under Falloden Way to where Finchley Road crosses it, Mutton Brook winds its way between steeply sloping meadows on its right bank and wooded land on its left bank. Walking beside it, one could imagine that one is in the middle of the countryside if it were not for the sight and muted sounds of traffic flowing along the Falloden Way.

The Brook just after it re crosses the Falloden Way

The Brook just after it re crosses the Falloden Way

Brook near east side of Finchley Road

Brook near east side of Finchley Road

Mutton Brook disappearing under east side of Finchley Road

Mutton Brook disappearing under east side of Finchley Road

At Finchley Road, the Brook flows unceremoniously beneath the roadway near to what used to be known in my childhood as ‘Henlys Corner’. This important junction of Finchley Road and the North Circular Road was so named because between 1935 and 1989 there used to be a branch of the Henlys Motors group of garages on its south-western corner. This has been demolished, and where it stood there is a widened roadway and grass. The junction is sandwiched between the merging of Falloden Way with the North Circular on its eastern side, and between the latter and the Great North Way (A1) on its western side.

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

La Delivrance

Finchley Road continues across the North Circular Road and becomes ‘Regents Park Road’. A spectacular sculpture depicting a naked lady holding a sword aloft stands on a traffic island immediately north of the Henlys Corner junction. This is the ‘La Délivrance’ statue (aka ‘The Naked Lady’), sculpted by the French artist Emile Guillaume (1867-1942), a pacifist. It is a cast made from the original that was exhibited in the Paris Salon in 1920, where it was seen by the proprietor of the Daily Mail newspaper (and an advocate of appeasement with the Nazis) Viscount Rothermere (1868-1940). Rothermere commissioned the lady who stands looking north with her backside facing the North Circular Road. The statue was unveiled in 1927 by a former prime minister, David Lloyd-George (1863-1945).

Kinloss Schul

Kinloss Schul

Henleys Corner

Henleys Corner

Close to the Naked Lady stands the ‘Kinloss Schul’ also known as ‘Finchley United Synagogue’. It is a striking building with its multiple external vertical reinforced concrete elements. Home to one of Europe’s largest Jewish congregations, capable of accommodating two thousand people, this edifice was completed in 1967 by the architects Dowton and Hurst.

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Mutton Brook continues west of Finchley Road almost parallel to the North Circular Road. It flows through pleasantly rustic parkland, lawns and woods, until it reaches a point where the North Circular Road has begun curving in a south-westerly direction.

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Between Finchley Road and North Circular

Under the North Circular

Under the North Circular

After passing a fading sign that declares “Polluted Water Keep Out”, both the footpath and the brook pass under the main road in a large diameter concrete-lined tunnel, circular in cross-section. This is surveyed by a cobwebbed CCTV camera. The footpath follows the Brook for about one third of a mile from the tunnel before reaching the last bridge that crosses Mutton Brook. This footbridge with wrought-iron railings crosses the stream a few feet from the point where it joins Dollis Brook at right angles.

Lowest Bridge over Mutton Brook

Lowest Bridge over Mutton Brook

Where Mutton Brook flows into Dollis Brook to form The Brent

Where Mutton Brook flows into Dollis Brook to form The Brent

This almost insignificant meeting of two streams is where the River Brent is deemed officially to begin its passage towards the Thames at Brentford.

Bridge Lane bridge

Bridge Lane bridge

Bridge Lane Bridge

Bridge Lane Bridge

The Brent at Bridge Lane

The Brent at Bridge Lane

A few yards away from its commencement, the River Brent flows under a road bridge with white stone balustrades. This bridge marks the southern end of Bridge Lane, which begins in Temple Fortune, and Bell Lane, which leads towards central Hendon. At this point, the River Brent is many times wider than Mutton Brook was at Lyttelton Playing Fields several miles upstream. After crossing Bridge Lane, another footpath enters Brent Park, which is, like all the green areas that have been described already, maintained by the London Borough of Barnet. The River Brent flows along the northern edge of this strip of parkland, which runs parallel to the North Circular Road until it meets the A40. A more picturesque name for this busy road might be ‘The Brent Valley Highway’.

Brent Park Decoy pond looking east

Brent Park Decoy pond looking east

Brent Park bench with Barnet crest

Brent Park bench with Barnet crest

Brent Park, which was opened to the public in 1934, contains a piece of water of historic interest, the Decoy Pond. Decoy ponds were used to capture waterfowl for food. When the birds entered such a pond, the hunters lured them with food to narrow inlets where they were easily trapped in tapering nets. The age of the pond is uncertain, but by 1754 there was a house ‘Decoy House’, named after the pond, in existence (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp5-11). The pond is now a good place to spot a variety of waterfowl including ducks, moorhens and herons. It is surrounded by decorative iron benches in various states of disrepair. Each of them bears the coat of arms of the Borough of Barnet. While the waters of the pond are placid, and covered in many places with a good growth of green weeds, the Brent that flow past its northern edge is quite a torrent in comparison.

The BRENT in Brent Park

The BRENT in Brent Park

At one point, the river drops about five feet over a spectacular waterfall. Meanwhile, on the south side of the pond, but high above it, traffic rushes along the North Circular. Oddly, this hardly disturbs the peace of the lovely park.

Brent Street Bridge

Brent Street Bridge

Brent Street crosses the Brent over a brick bridge with wrought-iron railings. Beyond this, the river flows south-westwards between the back gardens of buildings on both sides of it, and there is no footpath to follow.

Weir at former Brent Bridge House

Weir at former Brent Bridge House

Garden structure by the weir at former Brent Bridge House

Garden structure by the weir at former Brent Bridge House

On the eastern side of the bridge, and only just visible through the dense vegetation, it may be seen that the river flows through a narrow artificial weir built between two ruined circular towers covered with graffiti. Each of these has a conical roof with several tiles missing. They appear to have been designed as viewing points or gazebos. These stand in what used to be the grounds of Brent Bridge House, which was an 18th century stuccoed building, once the seat of the Whishaws (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol5/pp5-11). Charles Whishaw had converted it from a farm house into a ‘gentleman’s residence’ by 1828. A John Wishaw, who was a son of the lawyer Richard Wishaw (1707-1787) also lived there (see: http://www.turtlebunbury.com/history/history_family/hist_family_whishaw.html#pope). Later, parts of this building were incorporated into the now long-since demolished Brent Bridge Hotel (opened just before 1914). In 1963, eleven years before it was demolished, my parents spent a few nights in the hotel whilst our damp house in Hampstead Garden Suburb was being dried out. It had been left unheated during the three winter months that we had spent in the USA.

The Brent   east of Brent Street

The Brent east of Brent Street

Having explored something of the source of the Brent, we now shift several miles downstream, south-westwards to its ‘estuary’, where it flows into the River Thames at Brentford. The name ‘Brentford’, which appears in an early 8th century (AD) record, might either refer to a ford over the River Brent or the River Thames, which was in earlier times quite shallow where the Brent enters it. In any case, during the 1st century, there was a settlement there on a Roman Road from London to the west country. Archaeological evidence has been discovered (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol7/pp113-120), which suggests that there was a Neolithic settlement in what is now Brentford.

Brentford County Court

Brentford County Court

I began my exploration of Brentford outside its simple but elegant County Court, which was designed by CG Pinfold, and opened in 1963. Despite its age, it looks almost contemporary.

Alexandra House

Alexandra House

Next door to it, is Alexandra House, an asymmetric brick building with some circular windows and flat roofs at different levels. It was built as a health centre in 1938. It was designed by LA Cooper and KP Goble (see: http://www.brentfordhistory.com/category/places/page/11/) in a ‘cubist’ design that looks bit like a three-dimensional version of a Piet Mondrian painting.

Old Fire Station Brentford

Old Fire Station Brentford

Both of these buildings are on the High Street, as is the Old Fire Station, which is east of them. The gables of this lovely red brick building are decorated with terracotta tiles bearing floral designs. Designed by Nowell Parr (1864-1933), it was opened in 1898. The fire station was closed in 1965, and then used as an ambulance station until 1980 (see: http://laytoncollection.org/index.php/thomas-layton-brentford/the-layton-trail/). Since 1990, it has been used to house a restaurant.

Ferry Lane leads from the High Street to Soaphouse Lane, passing the Watermans Arms pub, which was first established in 1770, but the present establishment occupies a much more recent building.

Watermans Arms Ferry Lane Brentford

Watermans Arms Ferry Lane Brentford

Facing a small dock at the end of the eastern ‘arm’ of Ferry Lane, where canal longboats serving as houseboats are moored, stands the 18th century Peerless Pump Building. This was built in about 1720 (although it bears a sign with the date ‘1704’). It was home to the Rowe family, who were proprietors of the former ‘Thames Soap Works’, which flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries. By the end of the 19th century, the soap works occupied almost all the area between the High Street and the two branches of Ferry Lane. The small dock, an inlet from the Thames near the mouth of the Brent used to be called ‘Soaphouse Creek’ (see: http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk/local-history/industries-and-crafts/the-thames-soap-works-messrs-t-b-rowe-of-ferry-lane-brentford/).

Thames Soapworks creek

Thames Soapworks creek

Peerless Pump Building 1704 Brentford

Peerless Pump Building 1704 Brentford

The company prospered until the early 20th century, when it began to go into decline. Between 1916 and 1933, Lever Brothers tried to keep it going, but eventually closed it down. In 1952, some of the premises were used by Varley Pumps, and then later by Peerless Pumps (until 1989). In the 1990s, Rowe’s 18th century house was restored to its former glory, and retains the name ‘Peerless Pump Building’.

Travelling Crane rails

Travelling Crane rails

Lock Gates at Thames Soapworks creek

Lock Gates at Thames Soapworks creek

A cobbled lane with inset steel rails, along which a travelling crane once used to move, runs along the eastern edge of Soaphouse Creek towards the Thames. At the end of the tracks, there stands a large beautiful curved, curtain-like, steel sculpture, whose silvery surface is covered with delicate patterns. This is called ‘Liquidity’, and was created by Simon Packard in 2002.

Liquidity

Liquidity

Liquidity  detail

Liquidity detail

After it was completed, some locals objected to it, and wanted it pulled down (see: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2003/dec/01/arts.artsnews), but it has survived … so far. It stands close to where for many centuries a ferry used to cross the Thames to Kew. This ferry was free to locals until 1536, when John Halle was appointed its keeper and charged one quarter of a penny to pedestrians and twice that to horsemen. The ferry continued to operate from this spot close to the former soap works until 1939.

Mouth of the River Brent at Brentford

Mouth of the River Brent at Brentford

From the sculpture, it is easy to view the mouth of the River Brent. The wedge of land formed between the two rivers is now covered with housing that surrounds Brentford Marina. This piece of land, reached by driving along Dock Road, was formerly dockland: ‘Brentford Docks’. In addition to the docks, there was a vast, now demolished, railway marshalling yard reached by a side-line that branched off the main Great Western Railway (‘GWR’) at Southall. Opened by the GWR in 1859, it continued working until 1964. A few years later the former dockland was re-developed for other purposes.

Between Brentford and southern Hanwell, the River Brent shares its waters with a branch of the Grand Union Canal. Until 1794, when the lower stretch of the Brent was engineered to become part of the canal system, the river could only be navigated by small craft (see: http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk/publications/the-journal/journal-6-1997/the-history-of-brentford-bridge/).

Thames Lock on River Brent

Thames Lock on River Brent

Thames Lock looking towards the Thames from River Brent

Thames Lock looking towards the Thames from River Brent

A few yards from the Brent’s estuary, there is the ‘Thames Lock’, which is overlooked by the bridge carrying Dock Road. This lock was built to bypass the last waterfall over which the Brent flows before entering the Thames. At the lock, the river bifurcates, some water going via the lock, and the rest via the falls. A small island covered with boat-repair yards exists between this fork in the river and where the two branches re-join downstream.

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Routemasters for hire on Dock Road Bentford

Routemasters for hire on Dock Road Bentford

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Boat repair yards near Thames Lock

Lowest waterfall on the River Brent view under Dock Road Bridge Brentford

Lowest waterfall on the River Brent view under Dock Road Bridge Brentford

The small Johnsons Island is immediately upstream from the lock and the waterfall. It was named after Dr Wallace Johnson (1730-1813), who lived in The Butts (see below). A map dated 1900 marks it as the home of ‘Staffordshire Wharf’.

Johnsons Island Brentford

Johnsons Island Brentford

Entry to creek surrounding Johnsons Island Brentford

Entry to creek surrounding Johnsons Island Brentford

Since the 1990s, the island has been used as an artists’ colony (see: http://www.johnsonsislandartists.com/). Further upstream, Augustus Close crosses the Brent obliquely over a bridge, which is in the same spot as that which used to carry the railway to Brentford Docks. This bridge incorporates parts of the original rail bridge built as part of Isambard Brunel’s (1806-1859) last great engineering project.

Augustus Close bridge, formerly railway bridge to Brentford Dock

Augustus Close bridge, formerly railway bridge to Brentford Dock

Brentford Bridge

Brentford Bridge

The Brent curves northwards and passes under Brentford High Street which is carried across Brentford Bridge. This stone bridge, which is largely hidden by ugly metal cladding and parapets, was built in 1818. It is the latest ‘reincarnation’ of the first bridge, which was built in 1284.

The Six Bells near Brentford Bridge

The Six Bells near Brentford Bridge

The Six Bells pub is close to the bridge. Already licensed by 1722, the present building has existed from 1904. The ‘six bells’ refer to six bells that used to be rung in the nearby St Lawrence Church on special occasions.

A short distance upstream from the bridge, the Brent widens where the Brentford Gauging Lock with its two lock basins stands. This was once one of the busiest places on the Grand Union Canal. Its name refers to the fact that it was there that the toll-keeper assessed how much cargo was being carried by each barge (see: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/places-to-visit-pdf/Brentford_Gauging_Lock.pdf).

Brentford Gauging Lock

Brentford Gauging Lock

Toll house Brentford Gauging Lock

Toll house Brentford Gauging Lock

Milestone at Brentford Gauging Lock

Milestone at Brentford Gauging Lock

The present toll-keeper’s office was built in 1911. It contains a small exhibition. A mile-post next to the western lock basin informs that the lock is 93 miles from Braunston (in Northamptonshire), a central location on the canal system of the Midlands.

Weir just upstream from Brentford Gauging Lock

Weir just upstream from Brentford Gauging Lock

View up River Brent to Great West Road

View up River Brent to Great West Road

The Brent divides above the lock. One branch serves as the canal, and the other, which curves around an island covered with new housing blocks, falls picturesquely over a waterfall. The Brent then continues towards the A4 road, and the view along it is dominated by the recently built GlaxoSmithCline skyscraper. After viewing the lock, I left the Brent and entered the town of Brentford.

The Weir, formerly The White Horse

The Weir, formerly The White Horse

Turner lived here at The Weir

Turner lived here at The Weir

The Weir Bar, clad with green tiling around its ground floor, is a short distance from the waterfall mentioned above. Before 2004, it was called ‘The White Horse’. The pub has been in existence since the beginning of the 17th century, or earlier. The building that now houses it once belonged to the butcher William Marshal. His nephew, the greatest (in my opinion) British painter William Turner (1775-1851), lived here with his uncle between 1785 and 1787. It is said that Turner painted some of his first watercolours while living in this building.

The Butts

The Butts

The Butts

The Butts

Beaufort House, The Butts

Beaufort House, The Butts

Corner of The Butts and Upper Butts

Corner of The Butts and Upper Butts

A small road next to The Weir leads into The Butts, so-named from 1596. A ‘butt’ is an archery or shooting target or range (and, also, it can be a piece of raised ground, a word derived from the French ‘butte’). Whatever its meaning, the Butts is an open space surrounded by beautiful houses built mainly in the 18th century. Some of them are even older, dating from the late 17th century. Being so close to what is quite a mundane High Street, this historical ensemble comes as a delightful surprise, and it alone makes a visit to Brentford worthwhile. With their lovely architecture, well-tended gardens, attractive doorways, these buildings are worthy of close examination.

Boatmens Institute on The Butts Brentford

Boatmens Institute on The Butts Brentford

One building on the Butts is newer. Bearing the date 1904, this is the Boatmens Institute. Designed in the Arts and Crafts style by Noel Parr (1864-1933), who built many pubs for the west London Fullers Brewery, this was built on the site of an old mill (close to the waterfall mentioned above) for the London City Mission. Its original purpose was to educate the children of boatmen and to provide medical assistance for the boatmen’s wives (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1380286 & http://brentfordandchiswicklhs.org.uk/publications/the-journal/journal-13-2004/the-brentford-boatmens-institute/). The ‘boatpeople’, who, like the Roma and Travellers, lived a life in constant motion, lived apart from the rest of the population, and were barely catered for. Therefore, the Institute, which cared for them, was much appreciated by them. It is one of only five or six examples of such an establishment to have ever been set-up in the UK.

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

St Marys Convent Brentford

Near to the Butts, there is another charitable institution, the St Mary’s Convent, also known as ‘St Raphael’s Convent’. The oldest part of the convent, which is almost opposite Beaufort House, was built in about 1792, and was originally the home of a Dr Cooper. It was bought in 1880 by Mother Mary Magdalen, a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism who had nursed in the Crimean War in the 1850s. The convent was gradually enlarged (with an unattractive brick building) in the early twentieth century. It houses, and caters for, women with learning difficulties and other problems.

Brentford's former court house

Brentford's former court house

The Butts was an extension of the Market Place. Its most interesting structure is now occupied by The Verdict, a beautiful café housed in the ground floor of what was once the Court House. This stands on the site of a market building for almost 300 years until it was demolished in about 1850. The present building, built as a town hall in 1852, was never used as a town hall. Instead, it became used as a courthouse. In 2012, the court was closed, and the building converted into flats above, and the restaurant below (see: http://www.brentfordhistory.com/2013/11/11/magistrates-court-2/#more-1243).

Returning along the High Street towards the present County Court, we reach the Brentford Monument. When I visited it recently, it was enclosed in a wooden casing as it is about to be restored. However, I have seen this tall cylindrical stone monument on a previous visit. Originally, this granite pillar stood at one end of Brentford Bridge (see above). According to a historian of Middlesex Sir Montagu Sharpe (1857-1942), it was at Brentford that Julius Caesar crossed the Thames in 54 BC during his exploration of Britain (see: http://www.brentfordtw8.com/default.asp?section=info&page=localhistory042.htm). The monument records that a confederation of British tribes led by Cassivellaunus “bravely opposed” Caesar’s advance towards Verulamium (near the modern St Albans). The monument also commemorated both Edmund Ironside defeating the Danes (led by King Canute) in 1016, and the Civil War Battle of Brentford (1642), a Royalist victory over the Parliamentarians.

Former court house,  now cafe

Former court house, now cafe

This concludes my exploration of a source and the mouth of the River Brent, a once important tributary of the River Thames because of its inclusion in the Grand Union Canal network. At Brentford, we encounter sites that figure early in the history of London, and at Mutton Brook we travel through a part of London that was open countryside until the beginning of the twentieth century. In the future, I hope to explore the rest of the Brent, much of which flows, like Mutton Brook, through park land.

Footbridge over Brent at Brentford

Footbridge over Brent at Brentford

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 06:06 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london river thames brent romans river_thames river_brent mutton_brook barnet brentford Comments (4)

TO THE LIGHT HOUSE, with apologies to Virginia Woolf!

East India Dock Basin, London City Island, and Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Trinity Buoy Lighthouse lantern

Trinity Buoy Lighthouse lantern

For those literary types, who are hoping that this about Virginia Woolf, please forgive me because it is not. I thought that her 1927 novel's title would make a great heading for this essay, which is, in case you are becoming worried about its relevance, about a lighthouse - the only such structure on the River Thames. First, let me set the scene!

Bow Creek  today: map

Bow Creek today: map

The River Lea is a tributary of the River Thames. Rising in the Chiltern Hills northwest of London, it winds its way southeast into Hertfordshire, and then southwards through east London. It joins the Thames in Poplar. At the point where the Lea enters the Thames, stands the only lighthouse on the River Thames. Erected in 1864-66, it stands in an area known as ‘Trinity Buoy Wharf’.

The River Lea makes two sharp turns just before it joins the Thames. Here, the Lea is called ‘Bow Creek’. Each of the curves flow around finger-like peninsulas of land, each of them almost an island. It is the last of these two peninsulas, which is the subject of this essay.

The reason I visited this area was to visit Trinity Buoy Wharf. Following instructions on the Wharf’s website, I disembarked from a DLR train at Canning Town Station, and headed for the new, bright red pedestrian footbridge that crosses Bow Creek onto a part of the peninsula that is being re-developed to become London City Island – a mini-Manhattan that will eventually consist of high-rise apartment blocks. Currently, it is a gigantic building site around which Bow Creek flows silently. When it is completed, I fear that like so many of the riverside estates east of Tower Bridge it will become yet another sterile dormitory area that only comes to life when its residents scurry to and from their jobs in the City.

Bridge across the Lea (Bow Creek) near Canning Town

Bridge across the Lea (Bow Creek) near Canning Town

The tide was out. The sun was low in the sky, highlighting the folds in the mudflats.

Bow Creek at low tide

Bow Creek at low tide

I was curious to know what existed before the developers of London City Island moved on to this peninsula almost completely surrounded by Bow Creek. An essay in The Survey of London (Vols. 43 & 44, published by London County Council in 1994) provides a good detailed history, which I will attempt to summarise.

London City Island map: under construction

London City Island map: under construction

The peninsula was one of the least accessible parts of Poplar by road. With the construction of the East India Dock Basin in 1803-6 at the base of the peninsula, it became even more isolated. At the end of the 18th century the peninsula consisted of two freehold estates: Orchard House and Good Luck Hope. The former, nearer the Thames, included what was to become Trinity Buoy Wharf; the latter to its north is where London City Island is being put up.

CITY ISLAND: Map showing old estates: Good Luck Hope and Orchard House

CITY ISLAND: Map showing old estates: Good Luck Hope and Orchard House

The former Good Luck Hope estate is that part of the peninsula onto which I stepped after crossing the slender new red footbridge. Its name goes back to at least the 14th century, when it was called ‘Godelockehope’ or ‘Godluckhope’. This ancient name persists in the existence of Hope Street that runs through what will be the new London City Island. At its southern end, Hope Street becomes Orchard Place, a street whose name recalls the Orchard House estate. In the 15th century, the land on the Hope was used for farming and fishery. By 1804, after a few changes of ownership, the Hope had been acquired by the East India merchant Sir Robert Wigram (1744-1830). He was a shipbuilder, businessman, and a Member of Parliament (for a few years). Later at the beginning of the 19th century, Wigram bought several pieces of the neighbouring Orchard House Estate. Until the 19th century, the Hope remained largely undeveloped. Thereafter, various industrial buildings were erected on it.

GOODLUCK HOPE in 1867: map in Nat. Liby. Scotland

GOODLUCK HOPE in 1867: map in Nat. Liby. Scotland

An Ordnance Survey map dated 1867-9, reproduced in the Survey and is also accessible on the Internet (http://maps.nls.uk), shows that these included a plate glass factory, an iron foundry, and an oil mill. All of this has disappeared, and is now being replaced by the new housing estate.

The Orchard House Estate, whose southern limit was the bank of the Thames, was located to the south of the Hope. This plot of land was also known as ‘Leamouth’. During the 16th century, this plot of land contained a moated property on which Orchard House and its orchard stood. Orchard House is believed to have been a public house (a ‘pub’) between the 18th century and the 1860s. The moat survived until the early 19th century. The name of the house that it surrounded has survived the destruction of the building (in the 1870s) and the passing of time. The street names Orchard Place and Street attest this.

BOW CREEK:  OS map 1870 to 1872

BOW CREEK: OS map 1870 to 1872

During the 19th century, the Orchard House Estate, like the Hope to its north, became used for industrial purposes including coopering. To its west, stands the former East India Dock Basin (see later). The eastern most part of the former Orchard House Estate is now the Trinity Buoy Wharf area. A lighthouse was built there first in 1852, and then demolished in the late 1920s. The surviving lighthouse was built between 1862 and 1864 for Trinity House (a corporation chartered by the Crown), which maintains all of Britain’s lighthouses. This one was used mainly to test developments in lighthouse technology. The two lighthouses were also used to train lighthouse personnel. Trinity House continued using the existing lighthouse for training purposes until 1988, when it shifted its operations to Harwich.

View from 'City Island' westwards across Bow Creek

View from 'City Island' westwards across Bow Creek

The scientist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) conducted experiments at Trinity Buoy Wharf. He had a great interest in the construction and operation of lighthouses, and conducted experiments at Trinity Buoy Wharf. His workshop, where he did experiments to develop electric lighting for lighthouse, was above the Cable and Buoy Store and still still exists. Faraday was appointed as Scientific Advisor to Trinity House in 1836, a position that he held for 30 years. According to an article (http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/london/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8516000/8516036.stm) on the internet, Faraday:
“… worked on the optical adjustments of lighthouse lenses, ventilation and improvements. He invented a new form of chimney for lighthouses which would prevent the products of combustion settling on the glass of the lantern. The result proved so successful that it was installed in all lighthouses run by Trinity House. This was the only invention of Faraday's ever to be patented.”

The reason for the wharf’s name is that in 1803 Trinity House set up a workshop for making and repairing wooden buoys. Later, iron buoys were both developed and repaired here. By 1910, the workshop employed 150 workers. Today, in 2017, many of the original buildings remain at Trinity Buoy Wharf, but alongside some exciting new additions, which I will describe later. No longer is this place a centre for maritime safety. Now it has been given a new lease of life. It has become an active creative arts zone.

I crossed Bow Creek by means of the new red bridge. Then, I walked along a path that threaded its way between the building construction sites on what was once Good Luck Hope. I was reminded of my only visit to New York’s Roosevelt Island, a strip of land parallel to Manhattan but quite peaceful in comparison to it because it consisted mainly of residential high rise buildings by the water’s edge and it was devoid of crowds. At the southern end of the future London City Island development, where Hope Street changes direction and becomes Orchard Place, I noticed two things of interest. One of them is an entrance to what remains of the East India Dock Basin, which I will describe later. The other is a curious sculpture.

Taxi/tree sculpture

Taxi/tree sculpture

This consists of a traditional London taxi (‘Black Cab’) which appears to have a tree growing up through its roof. The tree is an artificial sculptural construction made of metal. It was made by the artist Andrew Baldwin, who spent many years training as a master blacksmith and welder. The taxi/tree sculpture is a good example of Baldwin’s witty approach to artworks. There are some more of his unusual and original metal sculptures to be seen in the Trinity Buoy Wharf.

Beyond the sculpture, Orchard Place heads towards the wharf area, passing between industrial buildings some of which are still in use. Baldwin’s taxi piece is the first of many artistic visual delights lining the rest of Orchard Place.

Buoy and girl

Buoy and girl

One of the first is a giant metal buoy painted with the words ‘Trinty Buoy Wharf’. Behind it there is a large mural showing a woman’s face. On the same side of the road, there is a large mural depicting maritime creatures on a blue background.

Wall painting

Wall painting

This was painted by the artist Bruce Mahalski. A tree was growing through part of it. Further along the road, there are more entertaining art works to be seen. These include a huge model of a white fish suspended between two neighbouring buildings.

Suspended fish

Suspended fish

High above the road, a pair of shoes was suspended from a wire that crossed from one side of the road to another. I am not sure whether that was an artwork or someone’s idea of a joke.

Suspended shoes

Suspended shoes

Further along from this, I spotted a large, battered, spherical metal buoy that was suspended next to a wooden door, decoratively painted.

Painted door and spherical buoy

Painted door and spherical buoy

Finally, I reached the entrance to Trinity Buoy Wharf. To one side of it, there is another large buoy like that next to the wall painting of the woman’s face at the far end of Orchard Place. There is so much to see in Trinity Buoy Wharf that at least several visits are needed to do it justice. But, let me tell you my first impressions of the place having spent almost two hours there.

THE LIGHTHOUSE!

THE LIGHTHOUSE!

The whole place is dominated by the brick-built lighthouse that is attached to a warehouse like brick building. It is right next to an American-style metal and glass ‘diner’ called ‘Fatboy’s Diner’. Maybe, ‘Fat Buoy’s Diner’ would have been a more appropriate name!

Fat Boy Diner

Fat Boy Diner

Moored in Bow Creek opposite the diner and lighthouse, there is a red painted lightship, which is now the home of a recording studio.

Lightship used as studio

Lightship used as studio

The lighthouse overlooks an open space containing a car park and an artwork that emits sounds according to the state of the tide.

Tidal artwork and Canary Wharf  skyline

Tidal artwork and Canary Wharf skyline

Parallel to the lightship but on terra firma, there is a café, the ‘Bow Creek Café’, which faces the diner across the open space. A modern building housing the Royal School of Drawing also fronts the open space. Behind it, stands the Faraday School, a small independent primary school (for children aged 4 to 11 years) that was founded in 2009.

Royal Drawing School

Royal Drawing School

Trinity Buoy Wharf, a square-ish plot of land, is surrounded on three sides by water: to the north and east by Bow Creek, and to the south by the Thames. The views across the Thames are spectacular. The Millennium Dome can be seen in all its splendour. Beyond it, the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf rise from the horizon. In another direction, downstream, the cabins of the Emirate Airlines cable-car drift past from north to south and vice-versa.

Faraday  Effect hut

Faraday Effect hut

Close to the warehouse, to which the lighthouse is attached, there is what looks like a garden shed. There is a sign above its door that reads ‘The Faraday Effect’. This has little to do with the scientific phenomenon that bears this name, but rather more with what Faraday did to enlarge scientific knowledge. The inside of the shed is furnished with various objects and papers that are supposed to document the life and times of the great scientist who worked a few feet from this shed. I did not spend enough time in it to gain any insight into what Faraday contributed to the world.

Inside the Faraday exhibit

Inside the Faraday exhibit

The shed is next to a large warehouse, in which several artists (sculptors, I think) were working and chatting. This building used to be the Chain Store. It is attached to another building that contains spaces for performance art and training. These buildings characterise the present purpose of Trinity Buoy Wharf: an area dedicated to artistic pursuits.

Quirky sculpture

Quirky sculpture

A sign made with Lego bricks

A sign made with Lego bricks

Amongst the amazing things to be seen at the Wharf is what is known as ‘container city’. Enormous shipping containers have been put together and piled on top of one another to create buildings. Windows and doors have been cut into the containers to create offices and workshops. There are at least three of these container constructions. Many of the ends of the containers have been modified to create balconies.

'Container City': offices

'Container City': offices

Container City: view

Container City: view

Container City: another view

Container City: another view

Container City: balconies

Container City: balconies


Trinity Buoy Wharf is well supplied with sculptures. Many of these are by Andrew Baldwin.

A couple of lifelike human figure sculptures made in metal are suspended from the walls of a building, Trinity Art Studios, that faces the Bow Creek Café.

Staircase with sculptural figures

Staircase with sculptural figures

These figures, a woman and a man, appear to be holding up an outdoors staircase with their outstretched arms. I am not sure whether these figures are permanent or on temporary display, but they looked most impressive.

BOW CREEK CAFE

BOW CREEK CAFE

Of the two refreshment places in the wharf area, I chose to try the Bow Creek Café. I will save Fatboys Diner for a future visit. Bow Creek is housed in a shoe-box shaped building of contemporary design with huge plate glass windows looking out across the parking area. The café sits on the bank of the River Lea a few feet from where it merges with the River Thames.

Inside BOW CREEK CAFE

Inside BOW CREEK CAFE

Quirkily decorated inside, there are tables with chairs and a few really comfortable armchairs. A wide range of savoury snacks is available as well as hot and cold beverages. If you fancy something more substantial than a snack, then heartier dishes are on the menu. It is a lovely place to ‘chill out’.

Inside  BOW CREEK CAFE

Inside BOW CREEK CAFE

My first visit to Trinity Buoy Wharf was made on a weekday. A security man at the gatehouse told me that the best time to visit is in the weekends, when the place really lives up, and also it is possible to climb up the staircase in the lighthouse. Well, my first visit to the wharf, albeit on a quiet weekday, has whet my appetite for many more visits.

Trinity Buoy Wharf:  Trinity House crest

Trinity Buoy Wharf: Trinity House crest

I retraced my steps along Orchard Place until I reached the entrance to the East India Dock Basin. This entrance has curious looking gates, which I photographed. They are called the ‘Salome Gates’. It was only much later that I realised how special these gates are, and that I have a very vague connection with the artist, who made them.

East India Dock Basin: Salome Gates

East India Dock Basin: Salome Gates

My late mother was a sculptor. For a while, she worked at the Saint Martin School of Art in its sculpture department. While she was there, she worked alongside the late Sir Anthony Caro (1924-2013). I believe that Caro was one of the people who taught my mother how to weld metal. It was Caro, who created the ‘Salome Gates’, and when you look at them, it is easy to see that they are typical of his sculptural woks, most of which I admire.

East India Dock Basin:  looking west

East India Dock Basin: looking west

The East India Docks were built between 1803 and 1806 to allow docking of the large East Indiamen vessels, the largest ships in Britain’s merchant navy at the end of the 18th century.

East India Docks Basin:  Birds and DLR train

East India Docks Basin: Birds and DLR train

The East India Dock Basin was connected to the River Thames by a series of lock gates, which have recently been carefully restored. Separate short canals connected the Basin to each of two docks: The Export Dock and the larger Import Dock.

East India Docks Basin:   bird tracks in the mud

East India Docks Basin: bird tracks in the mud

During WW2, the Import Dock was drained for the construction of Mulberry floating harbours (used to disembark men and materials during the invasion of Normandy in 1944). It was never re-used as a dock. During that war, the Export Dock was badly damaged by bombs. Despite the damage inflicted by bombing, the East India Docks (Basin and Export Dock) continued to be used until the late 1960s.

East India Docks Basin: outer  lock gates

East India Docks Basin: outer lock gates

Now, all that remains is the Basin and a short stretch of the wall of an original building on the west side of the basin. This may be closely approached by walking along Newport Avenue in the housing estate west of the Basin. Today, the Basin, which has been tidied up with footpaths and lawns, has become a wildlife sanctuary. When I visited it, I saw some waterfowl, but, apparently, there is a great range of flora and fauna that can be observed by someone who knows what they are looking at!

By the time that I had looked at the Basin, I was becoming weary, but was a long way from any public transport. I could have retraced my steps to Canning Town, but instead I walked a short way upstream along the Thames Path until I reached what little remains, a mere memory, of Virginia Quay. It was from near here in December the year 1606 that 105 intrepid settlers set sail for Virginia in what is now the USA. They departed in two ships, ‘The Susan Constant’ and the ‘Godspeed’, to start new lives, and to make their fortunes, in Virginia. They arrived in America in April and May 1607.

Virginia Quay: Monument to the settlers in Virginia

Virginia Quay: Monument to the settlers in Virginia

There is an attractive monument, made of granite and metal, to commemorate these enterprising souls. Sadly, it stands against a background of soulless, drab new residential dwellings. The view from the monument across the Thames to the Millennium Dome compensates for the dreary backdrop. Virginia Wharf is a short walk from East India DLR station, from where I returned to central London.

Although my essay has had nothing to do with Virginia Woolf and her lighthouse, it is about a lighthouse and Virginia, but not Woolf.

I am indebted to my friend Sue Dossa, who recommended that I took a look at Trinity Buoy Wharf. I hope that many others will want to follow her advice, having now read my article!

Trinity Buoy Wharf: view of Millennium Dome

Trinity Buoy Wharf: view of Millennium Dome

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 12:37 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london lighthouse thames docklands east-end lea Comments (4)

WOOLWICH - above and below

Retired cinemas, a ferry, a station, and a tunnel

My wife is a legal professional. Her work takes her to courts all over Greater London. When I am not working, I often meet her near a court, where she is working, for lunch or a snack. Recently, she was working at Woolwich County Court, near which I met her for lunch (at the good Granier Cafë in Powis Street). After lunch, I headed north a short distance to wards the River Thames.

The name Woolwich might be derived from the Anglo-Saxon words meaning 'place for trading wool'. What was once a small town used to be in the County of Kent, but is now part of the London Borough of Greenwich.

Gateway House

Gateway House

Within a few yards of the Thames bank and several feet above it there stands Gateway House. This magnificent art-deco building designed by George Coles and built in 1937, used to be the Odeon Cinema of Woolwich. Since about 2001, it has been used both as a conference centre and a religious centre.

Gateway House detail

Gateway House detail

Across the road from Gateway House, there stands a brick building that calls itself 'The Cathedral', or CFT Cathedral (Ebenezer Building).
Formerly, this building housed the Grenada Cinema. It was opened four months before the Odeon, which it faces, and it could seat an audience of almost 2500. Designed by a team that included Cecil Massey, Reginal Uren, and Theodore Komisarjevsky, it is now used and maintained by the Christian Faith Tabernacle. This organisation also restored what had once been a luxurious cinema to its former glory.

Theodore Komisarjevsky (1882-1954) was Russian but born in Venice (Italy). Apart from being a noted theatre director and designer, Theodore is also famous for having taught the influential Russian theatre director Konstantin Stanislavsky. In London, he designed a number of theatre and cinema interiors, of wihich the Grenada in Woolwich is a fine example.

CFT  Cathedral

CFT Cathedral

.

These two ex-cinemas were not actually where I was heading, but they caught my attention, and have proved to be of interest. Sadly, i was unable to enter them. My aim was to reach the nearby WOOLWICH FREE FERRY.

Woolwich Free Ferry loading at North Woolwich

Woolwich Free Ferry loading at North Woolwich

There has been a ferry across the River Thames at Woolwich since the 14th century, if not before. Various ferry services crossed the river hera at woolwich between the 14th and the 19th centuries. In the same year as the Eiffel Tower was completed, 1889, the 'modern' ferry service was inaugurated using a paddle steamer. As motor traffic increased during the ealy 20th century, the idea of a bridge from Shooters' Hill to East Ham was discussed, and rejected, in the House of Commons. During the 1960s the ferry service was improved to handle the large volume of traffic more efficiently.

Woolwich Free Ferry fully loaded

Woolwich Free Ferry fully loaded

In 2015, more than two million passengers (foot-passengers, vehicle drivers, and vehicle passengers) used the ferry service. Of late, pedestrian usage has decreased, but there has been no diminution of vehicle users. To this day, the ferry is FREE OF CHARGE for both vehicle users and footpassengers. This is in common with the nearby Blackwall Tunnel. Further downstream, the newer Dartford Crossings attract an ever increasing toll payment.

Woolwich Free Ferry: view of Canary Wharf and Thames Barrier

Woolwich Free Ferry: view of Canary Wharf and Thames Barrier

I walked down to the embarcation pier. Looking across the river you can see the northern terminal of the ferry, and also watch 'planes landing and taking off from nearbt london City Airport. Looking upstream, you get most wonderful views of the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, and in front of them the sections of the Thames Barrier that operate the barrage gates.

Two ferry boats operate simultaneously: one leaving the north terminal at about the same time as the other leaves the southern one. I waited at the pedestrian gangplank until the ferry was ready to board.

Woolwich Free Ferry: Passenger 'gangplank' at South Woolwich

Woolwich Free Ferry: Passenger 'gangplank' at South Woolwich

Passengers travel under cover below the car deck, which is open air.

Woolwich Free Ferry: Vehicle deck

Woolwich Free Ferry: Vehicle deck

The passenger accomodation is spacious, but a little bit 'spartan'. There are plenty of benches on which to rest during the less than five minute long voyage.

Woolwich Free Ferry passenger deck

Woolwich Free Ferry passenger deck

From the passenger deck, views are somewhat restricted because there are limited openings through which to see what is outside.

Woolwich Free Ferry Ferry and Canary Wharf

Woolwich Free Ferry Ferry and Canary Wharf

The observant ferry user will not miss noticing that close to each terminal of the ferry there is a small circular building made out of red bricks.

Woolwich Free Ferry Ferry and small round, red building near southern ferry terminal

Woolwich Free Ferry Ferry and small round, red building near southern ferry terminal

These two small, round, red brick buildings with conical roofs mark the northern and southern access points to another way of traversing the river Thames: THE WOOLWICH FOOT TUNNEL. Like the ferry, the use of this tunnel is free of charge. It is for use of pedestrians only, not cyclists.

Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Opened in 1912, the tunnel is 504 metres long, and about 3 metres below the river bed. It is fitted with a system that allows mobile telephone users to use their phones whilst in the tunnel. There are two ways of reaching the tunnel from the surface:

by stairs

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: North staircase

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: North staircase

Or by lift:

Woolwich Foot Tunnel:   Lift entrance below ground

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: Lift entrance below ground

Woolwich Foot Tunnel:   inside the lift

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: inside the lift

The tunnel is for the more energetic traveller or for those who get seasick easily. It also 'operates' when the Woolwich Free Ferry is not working.

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: North Woolwich entrance

Woolwich Foot Tunnel: North Woolwich entrance

Beyond the northern terminal of the ferry at North Woolwich, I came across the OLD NORTH WOOLWICH STATION

North Woolwich Old Station

North Woolwich Old Station

Its windows are boarded up, and from what one could see through the railings surrounding its rear, it is falling to pieces. This was once North Woolwich railway station. The lovely red bricked building that dates back to 1854 served as the ticket office until 1979.

North Woolwich Old Station: view of interior

North Woolwich Old Station: view of interior

Between 1984 and 2008, this disused station was used to house a museum. It has been closed for years. I have no idea what the future holds for this fine example of station architecture. I hope that it will not be demolished.

North Woolwich Old Station

North Woolwich Old Station

So, what started out as being my desire to travel on the Woolwich Free Ferry has ended up as being an excursion filled with interest.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 07:04 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london river tunnel thames ferry woolwich Comments (1)

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