This Post was contributed by Caroline MacMillan who many of you will know from her guided walks and her well researched commentaries for the photographic books in the “Mad About…….” series see more at her website
In 1745 a single track weaved its way through farmland from the road which led from Shepherds Bush to Uxbridge and further south the Goldhawk Road.
In 1830 the area was covered with fields, orchards and market gardens which supplied fresh food to the ever-expanding city of London, the produce being transported by horse and cart or boat on the nearby river Thames whilst soft fruits such as strawberries would be taken on foot with women carrying baskets made from the willows which grew by the river. For an 1866 OS Map of the area go to the National library of Scotland website
Wealthy families often lived within easy reach of London and in the 18th century Adam Askew, a Cumbrian doctor, moved south and purchased land in what was then known as North Fulham. The Marryat family owned land in the area and Captain Marryat served for many years with the Royal Navy, leading a successful expedition up the River Bassein in Burma, so giving the name to Bassein Park Road. He is remembered today as the author of many books including Mr. Midshipman Easy and the children’s’ book, “Children of the New Forest”. Two other notable residents were Fleet Paymaster William Lovely RN who lived at Dehli Lodge whilst Dr. Harry Pope held his surgery at Bromsgrove Villa, his name is still inscribed on a stone outside his home overlooking Starch Green.
The continued growth of London created a demand for building materials and this encouraged the farmers to supplement their income by making bricks using the clay lying under the top soil. Commercial enterprises flourished, often digging 12 feet down and thereby creating many ponds and large lakes. Between 1870 and 1890 over 17 million bricks were produced and the Stamford Brook Brickfield, one of the largest in the area, covered over 50 acres and employed 250 men and boys.
By 1893 housing was rapidly covering the orchards and brickfields whilst shops and tradesmen’s premises were established along the Askew Road. Dairies provided fresh milk daily and many households supplemented their income by taking in laundry from the more affluent Kensington residents, in 1900 there were 62 laundries alone listed in the area around Becklow Road.
Factories had opened at the turn of the 20th century including Peal and Co. with a warrant to supply boots and shoes to King Edward VII and one of the largest engineering works was Lucas in Emlyn Road. Churches and schools were built, the former fields were now covered with houses and the Church Commissioners donated land for Wendell Park. The First World War saw the municipal kitchen in Becklow Road’s Victoria Hall providing up to 2,000 meals a day and in the Second World War the area suffered during air raids with the Sun pub in Askew Road receiving a direct hit, as did the Victorian ‘three decker’ school in Westville Road. The school was rebuilt to a design by architect Erno Goldfinger (whose name has been immortalized in the James Bond books written by Ian Fleming) and is now a listed building.
The trolley buses have long gone, the pond at Starch Green is now a neatly mowed green lawn, shops in Askew Road which once provided fresh milk from cows tethered nearby and vegetables grown in local orchards have been replaced by restaurants, delicatessens and cafes whilst the former factories are now apartments, that single track is now the busy Askew Road and continues to be the focal shopping area for the residents who live in this popular corner of west London.
Caroline’s walks are continuing in compliance with current COVID regulations.