During the present restrictions I’m taking walks for exercise but also hoping to discover more, as I walk, about local history.
Today I’m starting out from home in Brackenbury Village, walking briskly through side streets and making sure to keep my distance from other people according to the rules.
I’m going up Iffley Road and noticing that work is commencing again on No. 41 which is being refurbished and renovated for up-to-date studio space. When I first moved to the area I was stunned by the wonderful
which is in a 15th century Venetian Gothic style. Quite unexpected in an ordinary residential road. I’ve learned that the original Mission Hall was built in 1883-4 by the architect H.R. Gough before the rest of the street and is Grade 2 listed. There is a blue plaque to the scenic artist John Campbell who worked here. Sadly most of the façade is at present hidden behind scaffolding but you can see the very top from the road. I can’t wait for the work to be finished!
I’m now heading down Sycamore Gardens towards Goldhawk Road. I really like the almshouses with their pleasant outside space. What I’ve learnt is that Sycamore House was built in 1950 and renovated in 2012. It is supported by what was originally Dr Edwards’s and Bishop King’s Fulham Charity and is now Hammersmith United Charities. John King was Bishop of London from 1611 to 1621. In his will he left £20 to be bestowed upon the poor of the parish at the discretion of his wife. The first distribution of “a twopenny loafe of breed and a pice of befe to eleven poor people of Fulham and fourteen poor people of Hammersmith” was made on Easter Eve 1623.
On I go across Goldhawk Road and then left along Lime Grove. The very impressive façade on the left was originally that of
Hammersmith Public Baths. The full name is still proudly displayed on the façade. Apparently it opened in 1906. The website “Finding Lidos: Dive into lost Lidos” tells me that “the walls were lined with glazed tiles and the bath was converted into a public hall on some occasions often staging boxing matches.” During the first World War it served as a public food kitchen. It is now apparently converted into residential flats.
On the right are Gaumont Terrace and Gainsborough Court. I’m pleased that the original names remain from the film studios that were here from 1915. Alfred Hitchcock made “The 39 Steps” here in 1935 and David Lean and Michael Powell worked here. When I lived in Shepherds Bush I remember the impressive Gaumont Towers which dominated the surrounding streets. They were demolished in 1993. I’m surprised that I don’t remember that happening as it must have been a very noisy and dramatic affair!
Now across Uxbridge Road and left down Frithville Gardens. There are tall trees in the distance at the end of the road which look quite promising. Yes…it is a park… Hammersmith Park (although it is in Shepherds Bush!). There is a small rock garden with a bridge and a pool. An unexpectedly calm space with beautiful trees and plants. The notice board tells me that it
was the site of the 1908 Olympic Games and the Japan British Exhibition in 1910. The rock garden is on the site of a traditional Japanese garden and it still has a Japanese feel to it. The avenue of traditional stone lanterns is unfamiliar to me: apparently it was added in 2018 together with an authentic Japanese gateway by the Japan Society, the Embassy of Japan and various local businesses and Japanese companies. The original gateway from 1910 is now in Kew Gardens as part of a Garden of Harmony. That gateway was restored in 1996 before creation of the Japanese landscape around it at Kew.
Just around the corner is the QPR football stadium. Maybe I’ll go back home another way past the stadium and down Bloemfontein Road. The South African street names are interesting: most people think that they relate to the British Commonwealth and Franco British exhibitions of 1908.
I’ve enjoyed my walk. As well as appreciating being out of doors I have learnt quite a bit about the local area. I’m sure that there is much that I have missed and so I will be walking that way again soon!
II – POSTSCRIPT
Quick as a flash these old photos came to hand, hope they add some flavour if not colour.