Your scribe was honoured to witness this year’s Lord Mayor’s Show, a parade of livery companies, youth and military organisations, NHS and charities and some charitable companies working in and for London. Amongst the bands and floats are a couple of wicker giants representing Gog and Magog a tradition going back to medieval times and with mythical links even earlier you can read the history and fables here. This year made history too as due to COVID the previous Lord Mayor served 2 years and his succesor also served 2 years as Sheriff. The new Lord Mayor Alderman Vincent Keaveny a resident of Fulham is the 693rd to hold the post and unusually was born in the Republic of Ireland. In addition to the pageantry and ceremony the Lord Mayor’s main role is as an ambassador for the City of London’s business and financial activities across the world.
In May last year our Chairman led a group of us on a short tour of Chelsea Creek, the Gas Works and Sandford Manor House. All very much changed by gentrification of this highly developed former industrial area where Lots Road adjoins the Creek and Imperial Wharf. For those that were not there, here is the same ground covered somewhat earlier for the Fulham Society.
The Imperial Gas Company purchased the Sandford Manor Estate in South Fulham in 1824 for use as a gasholder station. The first gas holder, with a capacity of 30,000 c/ft., was erected a little south of Sandford Manor in 1824, a second one following soon after and two more being added in 1827. The Works were started with plant from Dutton Street, Grays Inn Road, a private gasworks belonging to William Caslon, the typefounder, begun in 1820 and purchased by the Company, who transferred the plant to their Fulham site in 1829. A listed gasholder dating from 1830 still stands on the site, with a plaque erected in 1948, bearing the words “has been in constant use since 1830”. It is the oldest known gasholder in the world. In 1856 Works Offices, and storage buildings, were built on either side of the new main entrance to the works in Sands End Lane. This office building is the small stuccoed building on the old Sands End Lane frontage. Coal was always delivered to the works by water, originally via the Kensington Canal and after 1862 from the docks connected to the canal. From 1926 sea-going colliers unloaded at the riverside wharf. In 1834 the Kensington Canal Company is recorded as “repairing the banks alongside the Gas works”, and in 1836 they constructed a lay-by for barges, with a second lay-by being completed in 1844. In 1856 a dock leading into the canal was built along No 4 Retort House and in 1859 the Company bought 6 acres of land on the far side of the dock. This whole area of the works was modified in 1862 by the construction of the West London extension railway in the bed of the Kensington Canal, carrying the railway across the bridge to Clapham Junction, – officially opening in 1863. Part of the canal leading to the river was left and became a large dock for the Gas Works, joined to the existing dock by the removal of the dock gates. Imperial Square, consisting of 28 cottages for key workers, was built in 1868 just off Sands End Lane. In 1878 negotiations were concluded with the Fulham District Board of Works over the construction of Imperial Road. The Gas Light & Coke Company agreed to pay £1000 and to construct this new road as a Public Highway in consideration of Permission to partially close Sands End Lane, thus enabling the Company to incorporate within their site boundaries the land they had acquired on the other side of Sands End Lane – Emden Street then being formed to join the two roads. From 1908 until 1917, low gravity gas was made and stored separately on the site for transmission to the Hurlingham Club, where it was used for ballooning – a sport which flourished briefly at the club. In 1908 five balloon contests are recorded with the number of balloons varying from 9 – 31. It is recorded that the Club paid £300 as the first annual instalment for the laying of a special gas main. Balloon contests were still being held in the summer of 1912, but seem to have lapsed just before the beginning of the First World War In 1928 a new Laboratory building went up to designs by Walter Tapper, consulting architect to the Gas Light & Coke Company, who in the same year was made Surveyor to Westminster Abbey. In 1952, two cast iron retorts, one circular and one D section, dating from around 1843, when clay retorts replaced the original iron ones, were found in a vertical position acting as traffic bollards. They were recovered and presented to the Science Museum. In 1948 the gas industry was nationalised and the Fulham Gas Works were taken over by the North Thames Gas Board, and since the arrival of North Sea gas have been continuously run down. The southern part of the site was sold off to a private company and a large new residential development, Chelsea Creek, is currently being built. This incorporates some of the original features of the old Gas Works, including the dock with an extension to the river. The 17 acre site along Imperial Road which was formerly used for converting and storing domestic gas is now being developed as a housing estate named Kings Road Park. Luckily all the listed building on the site are being preserved– the 1927 office building, the Laboratory building, the 2 Ware Memorials and the listed Gasholder 2 which was built in 1830. The over ground structures of this gasholder will be moved
and incorporated in the new development Unfortunately the developers claimed that it would not be possible to retain the magnificent No 7 gasholder of 1877-9, which dominated the views down Imperial Road, so this had to be taken down. It was one of six gasholders designed by Vitruvius Wyatt for the Gas Light & Coke Company of which only 3 remain in London.
Of course all but the listed GasHolder have now gone. How Fulham and Hammersmith have changed and continue to change from large country houses and market gardens to industrialised wharves and factories and now housing, retail and white collar work of all kinds! Where to next – FHHS will be there to record!
How many members are aware that Elgar lived in Fulham and that there is a London County Council ‘blue plaque’ on his former home?
Sir Edward Elgar, one of England’s greatest composers, was born at Broadheath near Worcester in 1857. His father was a piano-tuner who also ran a music shop and was organist at St. George’s Roman Catholic Church. Elgar succeeded him as organist between 1885-89.
Growing up in a musical family, Elgar won praise as a child for piano improvisations but had no formal musical training apart from violin lessons he received from a local teacher. Later he played in the orchestra at the festivals of the Three Choirs. He left school at 15 and for a while was apprenticed to a solicitor’s office but soon decided to devote his life to composing, and thereafter worked as a teacher and freelance musician.
A turning point came in 1886 when Caroline Roberts, the daughter of the late Major-General Sir Henry Gee Roberts, became one of his piano pupils in Malvern. She became his wife in 1889. They decided to set up home in London and took as their residence 51 Avonmore Road in Fulham, a backwater off the North End Road near Olympia, where their only child, Carice, was born. Here in 1890 he wrote his popular ‘Froissart’ Overture for the Worcester Festival. However, in 1891 the couple decided to leave London, where his works had not had much success. They lived in Malvern, then moved to Hereford in 1904.
His wife’s belief in his genius was a great spur to Elgar and he spent most of his time composing. By 1899 with the publication of the ‘Enigma Variations’, one of his most popular works, he was being recognised by the public as a major composer. The following year he produced what is considered his masterpiece ‘The Dream of Gerontius’, the setting of part of a poem by Cardinal Newman. Elgar drew inspiration from the culture and landscape of England, working in all the major forms of music except opera.
There now followed a period of great musical activity, his finest works were composed over a time span that lasted two decades. The most well known of the period include the Pomp and Circumstance Marches (1901-07) the first being known as ‘Land of Hope and Glory’; the overture ‘Cockaigne’ (1901); Introduction and Allegro (1905); the Symphonic Study – ‘Falstaff’ (1913); the Violin Concerto (1910) the first performance of which was given by the great violinist Fritz Kreisler; the 1st and 2nd Symphonies (1908 and 1911). His other famous work, the Cello Concerto (1919), immortalised in the public mind by the performances given by the late Jacqueline du Pré, was written as a reflection on the terrible catastrophe of the First World War. Elgar said it described ‘a man’s attitude to life’. The death of Elgar’s wife the following year had such a profound effect on him that no further major work ever again flowed from his pen.
Elgar’s climb to public recognition was slow but once he was seen as one of England’s greatest composers the honours flowed in. A Knighthood in 1904; Order of Merit 1911; appointed Master of the King’s Musick 1924; KCVO 1928, Baronetcy 1931, GCVO 1933, as well as numerous honorary Doctorates and Degrees from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, London, Yale and many others. Edward Elgar died at Worcester on 23 February, 1934, aged 76, and was buried in his wife’s grave at St. Wulstan’s Church, Little Malvern.
This article first appeared in the Fulham Society newsletter no 77 in July 2007 and we are grateful for permission to use it
This is just one of the 450 Personalities of Fulham and Hammersmith that are briefly summarised in our publication of the same name by Keith Whitehouse.
An article written by our Chairman for the Hammersmith and Fulham Historic Buildings Group.
Fulham was inhabited in Roman times, probably until the early 5th century AD. Archaeological excavations in the late 1980s uncovered a late 5th/6th century Saxon settlement on the site of the former Manbre sugar works at the end of Winslow Road, also the remains of Parr Ditch, which is the historic boundary between Fulham and Hammersmith. Incidentally, this was the site of Brandenburg House and its grounds, the home of Queen Caroline, the divorced consort of King George IV, who died here in 1821.
After the Dark Ages the first recorded date for this location is AD704/5 when the Bishop of the East Saxons (London) acquired a place called Fulanham from the Bishop of Hereford. It included Hammersmith and is virtually identical to the present Borough, Parr Ditch being the common boundary. The ditch was a branch of Stamford Brook that flowed down Brook Green, hence the name. After crossing Hammersmith Road, it became the boundary between Fulham and Hammersmith.
Originally the boundary was slightly south of the present day statue of Capability Brown. In the river wall may be seen the brick archway outlet of the brook and above it a stone bearing the initials HP and FP, pictured above, and the boundary line between Hammersmith Parish and Fulham Parish. The ditch was culverted as a sewer during the 19th century. This would tend to indicate that before the 8th century Fulham and Hammersmith were two separate districts but by the time of the Bishop’s acquisition the two districts had been united.
The boundary has slightly shifted over the years but basically runs along Chancellors Road, Yeldham Road, south of Margravine Gardens, west of Gliddon Road cutting through the former St Paul’s School playing fields and the school itself, then meeting the Hammersmith Road opposite Brook Green. It then turns right along the centre of Hammersmith Road ending at Addison Bridge. The other side of the railway line is Kensington. The railway follows the line of the culverted Counters Creek – also known as Billingwell Ditch – and where it enters the Thames known as Chelsea Creek (now Chelsea Harbour). Counters Creek separated Hammersmith from Kensington, and Fulham from Chelsea.
In 1857 London was a post town but due to its rapid expansion was divided up into many separate postal districts, hence SW, W, EC, N, etc. Fulham was designated as being SW, Hammersmith as W. In 1889, the Post Office decided that the part of Fulham north of Crabtree Lane would get a better delivery service from the Western District office that had its HQ at Paddington. This caused much controversy in Fulham and the Vestry Clerk wrote to the Postmaster General complaining. The Post Office was striking out Fulham on letters and writing Hammersmith. In 1906, Sir William Bull, MP for Hammersmith put a question to the Postmaster General in the House of Commons as Fulham people didn’t like being told they lived in Hammersmith. This was to no avail. The same applied to Fulham residents being told they lived in West Kensington, W. The number suffixes were added to London postal areas in 1917 to increase efficiency of delivery; it has been said to be due to the temporary employment of women postal workers due to the shortage of men because of the Great War.
The Office of National Statistics, in its Postcode Look-up User Guide 2011, states categorically that ‘Postcode areas are defined and used by Royal Mail for the purpose of efficient mail delivery and have no relationship with administrative and electoral areas’. So although Charing Cross Hospital is styled Hammersmith, W6 it is located in Fulham.
Fulham & Hammersmith Historical Society
Here are some more books to consider if we are in this lockdown for the long run. If not they’ll make great Christmas presents!
29 Angel 9780244803810. A book by Barbara Tinsley and her father I devoured rapidly it faithfully portrays a 1930’s world that is rapidly slipping from our community memory. In a charming if earthy style it is the story of young Stanley growing up in a Victorian terrace in Angel Walk Hammersmith. The area was later truncated by the A4 fly-over. It is a piece of powerful social history but also contains a story of a secret garden enjoyed by father and daughter. There is a detective story to be solved. Whose garden was it and why was it left neglected for decades?
A must read for anyone living in the area or students of social history and the very different lives of our grandparents and greatgrandparents era.
A snippet is online here. It can be bought from Blackwells or Lulu.
Some more gems:
Fulham Past by Barbara Denny 9780948667435 lots of detail and photos
London’s Lost Rivers by Paul Talling 9781847945976 this includes several of our own.
How to Read London by Chris Rogers 9781782404521
More local books this time from Caroline MacMillan who will be familiar to the many who have taken her guided walks. www.westlondonwalks.co.uk The vibrant modern photographs are interspersed with historical notes anchoring them to the past. As well as the history of the area, each book contains two guided walks.
Wild about Fulham 9780993319310
Wild about Hammersmith and Brook Green 9780957044777
Wild about Shepherd’s Bush and Askew Road 9780993319327
Again for those seeking fiction anchored in our area then try:
London by Edward Rutherford of Sarum fame 9780099551379
Capital Crimes Edited by Martin Edwards 9780712357494
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz 9781784757236 opens on the Fulham Road!
Having taken the advice offered in the latest Newsletter to consider our publications I selected at random West London Nursery Gardens. I must be frank up front I have little interest in gardening and tended to render what I touched brown! This is especially true now we only have a balcony and my limited skills of mowing, digging and harvesting apples are no longer required!
I got stuck into this 163 pages plus illustrations volume and was pleasently surprised. The names of flowers leapt out to prompt my memories of my Northern Grandfather banging on about his successes on the allotment. In fact the book is as much a social history as a botanical one. The histories start in the 1660s through to the start of the 20th century. Information gleaned from rate books, directories, private papers and gardening magazines and catalogues has been used to set out not only the bare facts but a little about the owners of each enterprise.
These men, and sometimes their widows, created a new line of business initially centred on London and botanical trophies of the age of discovery. A fashion for ornate gardens and unusual plants amongst the landed gentry fed the businesses. This grew eventually to the classless hobby of many but by then nurseries were more widespread and the land in London was more valuable for housing.
These were often men of humble origin from all over the country gardeners to the rich who grasped an opportunity. The work and fresh air clearly had its rewards as several lived into their 80’s and 90’s. The opposite is also true – at least 2 careers were ruined by falls from horseback. In the 19th century more
middleclass businessmen tried their hand in this world of plants often driven by an interst in botany or exploring for species to cultivate.
Families are also featured heavily with sons following fathers into the business or associated areas. Many had 2 or more wives and very many children with many dying young. Whilst I know my grandparents were from large families the levels of child mortality and deaths in childbirth have slipped beyond living memory.
It also relates much about the geography of our streets today as land was given up for building the pockets of land often recognisable.
This book is definitely worth a read; gardener or not!
II – Post Script
Anyone thinking about reading this book or just curious will find this map from the excellent National Library of Scotland’s website very helpful. Although later than most of the activity it does show many of the remaining nurseries surviving as development crept westwards.
It also shows the scattering of large houses amongst the market gardens that may feature in Keith’s talk post lockdown!
THE LILLIE ENCLAVE: A HISTORY OF BRITISH INDUSTRY, ART, CRAFT AND FUN WITHIN A QUARTER OF A MILE.
An illustrated talk on this interesting part of Fulham centred on
Empress Place adjoining the now demolished Earls Court Exhibition Centre. This talk is by Ann Kutek, who was involved in the fight to save Earls Court, and is still fighting to save the Victorian houses in Empress Place from demolition. Ann has spent most of her life a stones throw from either side of “Counters Creek”.
Come and hear this talk on a lesser known part of Fulham.
Venue: St Matthews church, on Wandsworth Bridge Road, corner of Rosebury Road SW6 2TX
By Bus: 295 & 28 both pass the door, stop TK Oakbury Road is the nearest.
By tube: to Fulham Broadway and catch one of the buses above on Harwood Road.
FREE (£3 for non-members that includes refreshmenst)
TUESDAY, 17TH SEPTEMBER, 7.30PM – HURLINGHAM: THE STORY OF THE HOUSE AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CLUB6 September, 2019
A reminder of next week’s event. Many members and friends attended a guided tour of the
club grounds and main building, this talk will give us more
detail. Jane Kimber the former LBHF Archivist supported
by Carrie Starren, the Club Archivist, will expand on the
history of the club and the buildings and estates it acquired
including Broom House and Mulgrave House.
Venue: St Matthews church, on Wandsworth Bridge Road,
corner of Rosebury Road SW6 2TX
By Bus: 295 & 28 both pass the door, stop TK Oakbury
Road is the nearest.
By tube to Fulham Broadway and catch one of the buses above on Harwood Road.
FREE (£3 for non-members that includes refreshments).
From Sandford Manor Estate, to Imperial Gas Company, to
modern housing development in less than 200 years. Keith our
Chairman will guide us around this area giving an insight into
its busy past and the changes that have ensued. A cypher for
what has happened to our borough in this period. The gasholder
pictured is reputed to be the oldest in the world dating from the
Meet outside Tescos near the Imperial Wharf Overground
Station on Townmead Road for this FREE tour.
Buses: C3 and 391 stop nearby. By Car: There is parking nearby although not free.
Overground: is convenient for West Brompton, Olympia and Shepherd’s Bush or Clapham Junction.
We all travel around London heading to our destination and probably not noticing the history on the pavements of our streets. Much of course is modern and ever changing. The Victorian pavements clearly had stone paving as can be seen where there are still coal-hole covers set into the stone. Elsewhere the concrete slabs have taken over. These coal-hole covers themselves vary from the generic mass produced versions to those bearing names of local purveyors. These are all from Fulham streets in a very small area.
Coal Hole London
There are also markings on kerb stones: these in Munster Road are believed to mark the pitches of the now defunct street market. They consist of a series of arrow head inscriptions about 15 feet apart with a number inbetween.
or this in Clareville Street Kensington
– possibly long gone utilities?
More modern are the utility manhole covers; for example you can see the morphing of GPO to Post Office Telephones, British Telecom, BT and Open Reach. The water companies show a similar pattern of change from local utilities to a modern day giant company.
This boundary stone doesn’t seem to relate to known land owners so there is a story to discover here.
Of course there are the obvious such as this post box in Warwick Gardens Kensington
or this original gate on Bloom Park Road although sadly not many of these are left. The original lock plate is still in place containing the mark of its Glasgow makers. Britain was a very connected society even then.
So our London streets can reveal their history even on a walk to work or the shops.