Day 17 – Teddington Lock to Kew Bridge (North Bank)

Days 17, 18 and 19 cover the north bank route of the Thames Path, between Teddington Lock where the path splits, and onto Trinity Buoy Wharf (website here) in East India Docks where it meets the River Lee at Bow Creek and where the Thames Path comes to an inevitable end. This route is not always included in guide books, perhaps because, as Joel Newton says in his Thames Path guide, the north route “is significantly longer and involves considerable amount of road walking” (p. 203). That isn’t strictly true, but certainly is the case early on. Day 17 between Teddington Lock and Kew Bridge passes through Teddington, Isleworth, Syon Park, criss-crosses the locks of the Grand Union Canal, and skirts Brentford, where for a while the path gets a little … uncared for! However the north route is worth it because it does go on to give a rounded view of the Thames as well as passing through Westminster and the Victoria Embankment and gives view across the river of places recently passed on the south bank.

Here is a 10 minute video of all photographs of this section of the path.

At the end of Day 16 I walked on to Slade Green Railway Station and took a train to Teddington through Waterloo – which took almost 2 hours. A short walk from the Station through Teddington town centre took me to The Lensbury, a beautiful hotel and sports club a short distance from Teddington Lock. After eating in a lovely Indian Restaurant on the High Street, I had a walk to two nearby pubs, Tide End Cottage and The Anglers, the second sitting right on the riverbank by the footbridge with tables on a small floating pontoon. The sunset made for some attractive photographs.

Breakfast in the Lensbury dinning room next mornIng was fantastic.

Day 17 starts by the river at the footbridge over the lock, about 15 minutes from the railway station (and three from the Lensbury). Walking away from the river up Ferry Street to Manor Road, ahead are two churches, the small Grade II listed St Mary with St Alban (website here) on the right, and much larger the old Grade II* listed St Albans, built in 1889 and consecrated in 1896, now deconsecrated as the Landmark Arts Centre. Going right, along Manor Road, takes me along an urban street which becomes first Twickenham Road, then Strawberry Vale. At a small roundabout, turning left takes you to Strawberry Hill House (website here), former home, from 1749 onward, of the politician and writer, Horace Walpole, youngest son of the PM Robert Walpole. Opposite the roundabout is the entrance to the riverside Radnor Gardens, created in 1903 from several other 18th century properties. It contains a bowling green (1920), a playground (2006), a Grade II listed polygonal summer house from the 18th century, and a war memorial (1921). The Thames Path enters the park and follows the north bank until the park ends and returns to the main road.

Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) was a poet and satirist who lived on Twickenham Road. At Radnor House (independent) School there is a plaque marking it as the spot where Pope lived. The bus stop outside the school is named “Pope’s Grotto“.

He is best known for satirical and discursive poetry, including The Rape of the LockThe Dunciad, and An Essay on Criticism, and for his translation of Homer. After Shakespeare, he is the second-most quoted author in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, some of his verses having entered common parlance (e.g. “damning with faint praise” or “to err is human; to forgive, divine”) The money made from his translation of Homer allowed Pope to move in 1719 to a villa at Twickenham, where he created his now famous grotto and gardens. The serendipitous discovery of a spring during the excavation of the subterranean retreat enabled it to be filled with the relaxing sound of trickling water, which would quietly echo around the chambers. Although the house and gardens have long since been demolished, much of the grotto survives beneath Radnor House Independent Co-educational School.The grotto has been restored and will open to the public for 30 weekends a year from 2023 under the auspices of Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust.

Wikipedia

Keeping along this road (A310) until a junction with King Street (A305) which is Twickenham Town Centre, which you don’t see much of because you turn right at Johnson Shoes, and almost immediately turn right down Wharf Lane leading to a car park by the Thames. This leads on to a riverside promenade called The Embankment and very soon I see a green bridge over to Eel Pie Island.

I passed Eel Pie Island on Day 13 on the south bank from where there is no access. It is a small island with an interesting past. The island was the site of the Eel Pie Island Hotel, which in the 60s hosted bands such as The Who, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Davis Bowie, Pink Floyd. In 1969, the club briefly reopened as Colonel Barefoot’s Rock Garden, with bands such as Black Sabbath, The Edgar Broughton Band, Stray, Genesis, and Hawkwind performing there. In 1971 it mysteriously burned down after falling into disrepair. It also features in Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby. There are some 300 residents including the inventor of the wind up radio, Trevor Baylis, until his death in 2018. In the town on the main Twickenham Road is the Eel Pie Island Museum which brings this history and river-related heritage to life. Adjacent to the bridge is the unusually named Barmy Arms pub

Just past a causeway – Champions Wharf – is a high redbrick wall which partly hides St Mary’s Church (website here) where Alexander Pope is buried. Originally built in late 15th century it was renovated after a collapse in 1713. It is now an eclectic mix of styles. By the river here is a park with a permanent play beach.

At the causeway there is a riverside path that leads to a promenade and York House Gardens which date back to the 17th Century. (This is a dead end though and you will have to retrace your path back to the Riverside path between brick walls, but it is a worthwhile diversion.) The gardens have an interesting history. In the gardens I found the Grade II listed York House Statues also called “the naked ladies” for obvious reasons.

As a result of local government reorganisation in the 1960s Twickenham became part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, but the town hall remains at York House and the gardens continue to be open to the public. The statues have gone through at least one major restoration to remove graffiti and the wartime grey cement, and reverse the effects of vandalism by replacing lost fingers, pearls and even a hoof. The statues are now protected with a Grade II listing by Historic England

Wikipedia

They represent the Oceanides, or sea nymphs of Greek mythology, and although we cannot be sure of the name of the sculptor it seems that they came from the Roman studio of Orazio Andreoni at the turn of the nineteenth century. These sculptures were brought to England to adorn the Surrey property of the financier Whittaker Wright, but were dispersed when in 1904 he was found guilty of fraud and unexpectedly died. Similar pieces from his collection can be seen in the Beale Wildlife Park near Pangbourne. The York House Garden Statues came to Twickenham in 1909 still in their packing cases, bought for £600 by the last person to own York House and arranged in their present display by the firm of J. Cheal & Sons, specialists in handling garden statuary. Their new owner was Sir Ratan Tata, the Indian merchant prince and philanthropist knighted by King George V. He and his wife were popular in Twickenham and used to hold parties in the gardens for local people. Sir Ratan died in 1918, and when his wife returned to India she sold York House to Twickenham Urban District Council for use as Municipal Offices. The statues were not part of the sale, but remained. In the late 1980s a spirited local citizen Elizabeth Bell-Wright encouraged the York House Society and the Twickenham Society to save the statues, then on the brink of destruction by neglect and vandalism. Further restoration has been carried out in 2007.

York House Society

At the end of the gardens is a beautiful footbridge with stone balustrades across which you go to reach York House, a large redbrick building. The gardens are part of the York House estate – The Grade II* listed York House now belongs to Richmond Borough Council. It was built in 1633, and derives its name from the Yorke family, owners of farming land in the area. It’s final private owner was Sir Rattan Tata, youngest son of Jamesti Tata, who founded Tata Group, which now owns Corus (ex-British Steel) as well as Jaguar and Land Rover.

Continuing on the Thames Path requires going back to Champions Wharf and following the path – The Riverside – under the footbridge.

Continuing along Riverside eventually brings me to the White Swan pub with its riverside beer garden which at high tide sometimes gets cut off from the pub. The pub dates back to the 17th century though is modernised inside.

Passing by some pretty unusual and large houses, the path veers right to a barrier which pedestrians can walk around and passes the 18th century redbrick Grade I listed Orleans House. it now houses the Orleans Art Gallery.

Orleans House was villa built by the architect John James in 1710 for the politician and diplomat James Johnston. It was subsequently named after the Duc d’Orléans who stayed there in the early 19th century. By the early 20th century it was derelict and in 1926 it was mostly demolished. However, parts of the property, including a baroque octagonal room designed by architect James Gibbs, were preserved.

Wikipedia

Just beyond Orleans House is the Hammerton Ferry, which I saw on Day 13, and which carries people between Marble Hill and Ham House.

Hammertons Ferry was originally opened in 1908 by Walter Hammerton. In 1913 William Champion, and Lord Dysart, operators of the nearby Twickenham Ferry, took legal action against Hammerton to remove his right to operate the ferry. Although Hammerton won the initial case, the judgement was reversed on appeal. Following considerable public interest in the case, a public subscription raised the funds for Hammerton to take the case to the House of Lords, who ruled in his favour on 23 July 1915. In 1947 Hammerton retired after 38 years of operating the ferry, leaving the ferry and boathouse to Sandy Scott. Sandy Scott then sold on Hammertons Ferry to Stan Rust. Stan Rust owned the ferry for 14 years before selling to current owners Mr & Mrs Francis Spencer in July, 2003.

Hamertons Ferry

Sadly Captain Francis Spencer half of the father-son team behind Hammerton’s Ferry passed away on 29th November 2020, aged 74, after battling cancer.

Past the ferry is the Grade I listed Marble Hill House which we passed on Day 13 on the south bank, It was built between 1724 and 1729 as the home of Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk and mistress of George II. In the late 18th century the house was rented by the Prince Regent (the future king, George IV) for his mistress, Maria Fitzherbert, so the two could continue to meet in private. The house is now owned by English Heritage, which acquired it in 1986.

As the river turns left there is a memorial to “The Belgian Village on the Thames” at Warren Gardens on Denton Road. There is a standing stone made of Belgian Bluestone, dedicated to the Belgian refugees who stayed in Richmond and Twickenham during the Great War. Many of these were employed at M. Pelabon’s munitions factory by the Thames.

Now we are about to see four bridges in quick succession: Richmond, Richmond Railway, Twickenham and Richmond Lock.

Richmond Bridge, built in 1774 is the oldest surviving bridge across the Thames in London. This side is a quieter experience than the bustling south bank; no cafes, no shops, just a rather dilapidated causeway necessitating a left then right dog-leg turn and up some metal steps onto Richmond Road and across into Willoughby Road. The first house on the left is the Grade II listed cream coloured Willoughby House. This was but in 1835, is a two-storey Italianate villa with campanile. This was up for sale in 2021 for £5 million. This was originally called Caen House, then changed in 1886 to Willoughby House. It look likely to be used as offices.

At the end of Willoughby Road, the path goes through some metal barriers and enters a narrow lane onto Duck Walk. There are houses on the left and some causeways to the river. At 1 Duck Walk by a narrow causeway is a plaque to Charles Lightoller.

Commander Lightoller was the senior surviving officer of the Titanic in 1912. Going down with the ship he took charge of an upturned lifeboat and was the last survivor to be rescued. In the first world war, he served with the Royal Navy, commanding three MTB/Destroyers and rose to the rank of commander RNR. He won the DSC in 1916 and was awarded a bar to it in 1918 after sinking a u-boat. In 1940 Commander Lightoller took his motor yacht Sundowner to Dunkirk and rescued 127 men from the beaches. Sundowner is preserved at the Maritime Museum in Ramsgate.  In 1947 in partnership with an old friend and his surviving son, he took over the small boat building business of Richmond Slipways. He lived there on the boatyard at 1 Ducks Walk with his wife Sylvia until passing away peacefully on 8th December 1952.

London Remembers

At the end of Duck Walk we come to the 1908 yellow Grade II listed Richmond Railway Bridge, passing under a large arch and very shortly afterwards the 1933 Grade II* listed Twickenham Bridge. In just a short distance further on is the Grade II* listed Richmond Footbridge going over the lock. It is the furthest lock downstream of the forty-five Thames locks and the only one owned and operated by the Port of London Authority. Unlike the south bank this is a fairly quiet residential stretch.

Just after the lock, the path diverts left away from the river along Railshead Road and right into Richmond Road where a sign welcomes you to Isleworth. Continuing along Richmond Road following the brick wall to a mini roundabout, turn right into Lion Wharf Road and at the end rejoin the river turning left along a promenade. This leads along to the Town Wharf Pub and the path goes through the pub terrace.

The Town Wharf is situated right on the river and the Thames Path actually passes right through the pub. A two-storey Sam Smith’s pub built to resemble a Swiss chalet. It’s unbranded and also un-signposted from the main road, hidden away at the end of a quiet side street in an area of new build offices and apartments. The outside decking affords a view of Isleworth Ait (a teardrop shaped island) in the middle of the River Thames. As part of the Samuel Smiths chain, the pub only sells its own brand of beer which is suprisingly cheap. No real ale, handpumps removed. Sam Smiths Old Brewery Bitter available but no longer on hand pull. NB. The pub is a ‘mobile free zone’, phones, iPads etc are NOT permitted!

What Pub

In the distance is Town Wharf and All Saints Church. The trees on the right are not the south bank, but Isleworth Ait.

Isleworth Ait is covered by densely packed trees, and provides a sanctuary for a variety of wildlife. It floods regularly, but is home to more than 57 species of bird life, including the tree-creeper, kingfisher and heron. Two rare species of air-breathing land gastropods also live on the island, the two-lipped door snail and the German hairy snail  as well as several rare species of beetles. This variety of unusual wildlife makes the island one of the London Wildlife Trust’s most remarkable reserves.

Wikipedia

The path continues along the walkway with houses immediately left and passes a large crane, where you have to divert left at the Duke of Northumberland’s River and cross Mill Bridge. The river is not natural but man-made to carry water to the Isleworth flour mill. This burned down in 1795, was rebuilt but closed in 1934, being demolished in 1941.

back into the quaint Church Street and down to Town Wharf itself where you find the Grade II* listed London Apprentice pub which has a beautiful view of the Thames. I saw the view of Town Wharf from the south bank on Day 13.

The pub dates back to fifteenth century, but was later rebuilt during the first half of the eighteenth century. It is uncertain whether the London Apprentice owes its name to the ‘apprentice lads’ of the various livery companies of London who would row out to Isleworth in gaily decked barges during their free time, or to the famous ballad ‘The honour of an Apprentice of London’. The pub is said to have been patronised by such eminent personalities as Henry VIII, Charles I, Charles II (with Nell Gwynne), Lady Jane Grey and Oliver Cromwell, all of whom had close links with nearby Syon House. The Inn was also a popular haunt of highwaymen from Hounslow Heath, most notably the infamous and unsavoury, Dick Turpin

Greene King

It also has an important connection to the succession.

The present building dates to the early 18th century, recorded as a licensed inn by 1731. The pub overlooks Isleworth Stairs, established in the reign of Henry VIII for the ferry connecting Richmond Palace with the north bank of the Thames. It was from Isleworth Stairs that the Nine Day Queen, Lady Jane Grey, boarded the Royal Barge on 9 July 1553 to accept the throne as Queen of England, only to be imprisoned in the Tower 9 days later

Wikipedia

Facing the pub is the Grade II* listed All Saints’, (website here). All Saints’ Church is the oldest parish church in Isleworth and has a 14th century tower contrasting quite starkly with the much later redbrick section.

Past the church, Church Street veers left and takes you through a longish stretch away from the river beginning at the entrance to Sion Park (website here) and the imposing Grade I listed Syon House, topped with a lion (which we saw from the south bank on Day 13 . Syon House is (still) the residence of the Duke of Northumberland and was designed by Robert Adam in 1760 and named after Mount Zion

Catharine Howard was confined in the house before her execution in 1542. Lady Jane Grey was living in the house in July 1553 with her husband when she received news that she was to become Queen. The 1st Duke engaged Capability Brown and Robert Adam to work on exterior and interior to make it one of the finest villas in Europe.

The house is adjacent to a large Garden Centre where you get a view of the Great Conservatory roof. Reaching the gate turn right onto High Street Brentford.

There is now quite a winding path to follow that goes across and through various locks of the Grand Union Canal, diverts back up to the main High Road for a short while to get back to the canal on the right. This is quite a difficult section requiring careful map reading to avoid getting lost. It is tempting to just stay on the main road between Syon Park and Kew Bridge, but that misses the point where the canal meets the Thames – and is the meeting point of London’s two main waterways. and a short view of the Thames thereafter. It is difficulty today to imagine the level of activity there would have been along this stretch of this now quiet backwater of a canal.

One reason this part of the route is confusing toward the end is the large building project taking place changing some roads. The Brentford Project, described on its website:

The Brentford Project will improve and enhance the lives of both residents and visitors alike by establishing a new residential quarter, a vibrant dining, entertainment and retail scene and an exciting new facet of this proud West London community. Across a series of lanes and yards, this transformational development will re-connect the high street with the waterfront, creating a place for Londoners to eat, drink, play and work, and experience independent makers, growers, art, music and waterside activities

The Brentford Project

On reaching the junction of the Grand Union Canal and The Thames the path meets a giant silver wave like piece of sculpture – Liquidity by Simon Packard.

The ‘Liquidity’ sculpture was created by Simon Packard and erected on Ferry Point, Brentford in 2002. It is made of stainless steel, six metres high and nine metres long. It is designed as three waves, on their side, of shining steel with engraved shoals of fish weaving across the flow. The cuts go right through the metal, so that light shines through from within like a lantern. The sculpture was commissioned by the developers (Rialto and Fairview) of the new Ferry Quay housing development.

Geograph

It is not until you get up close that you see the entire surface is etched with fish pasterns.

Behind Liquidity is Ferry Wharf – a large wharf surrounded by apartments.

The next part of the pathway to Kew bridge feels a bit uncared for. Following steps back round to the river, passes through a somewhat overgrown pathways between some redbrick building and a wall to the right. This leads down to a small narrow park, Watermans Park site of a dispute between houseboat owners who moored here and the local council who wanted to develop the area. The protracted legal battle is reputed to have cost Hounslow £750,000. The houseboat owners lost their appeal against eviction in 2018, which clarified a legal issue:

What the Brentford example highlights is that unlike land-dwellers, a community which has been established for decades can be evicted with no legal redress if they don’t own the land on which their boats are moored

The Chiswick Calendar

Adjacent to the park is Travelodge London Kew Bridge, (which no doubt sounds better than Travelodge Brentford High Street) and St George’s – a Church built in 1887 and closed in 1959. In 1963 Frank Holland was given the building for two years to store his collection of self-playing musical instruments under one roof. His museum was still there 40 years later. He moved into new premises (see below) in 2008, and by 2013 the church was derelict. However it was renovated in 2016, and has now been converted into apartments. Ahead in stunning blue is new site of Frank’s instruments, The Musical Museum. This is an unusual museum, containing many self-playing instruments, some of which have to be seen to be believed.

Further ahead is the tall Italianate brick tower of the former Kew Waterworks pumping station, built in 1867 now housing the London Museum of Water and Steam (website here). However the path diverts back to the river before we reach it. Immediately opposite the museum is Victoria Steps Quay and steps back down to the river signposted to The Hollows, now a location for houseboat moorings alongside new apartments.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, [The Hollows] was still largely a rural area, part of the manor of Ealing. Slowly, industry began to build up and develop around The Hollows in Brentford, first with lime kilns in the eighteenth century, which led to breweries and malt houses and eventually gasworks, waterworks and factories. These riverside industries would have had their own docks or wharves from about the eighteenth century . The river would be used to transport goods to and from the workshops and businesses lining the river at Brentford. The trade along this part of the Thames increased over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, reaching its peak after the establishment of the Brentford Gas Company in the 1820s. The first residential boat arrived in Brentford at The Hollows footpath in the 1950s, at a time when it was still very much an industrial and working area

Thames Festival Trust

Following the path along The Hollows takes you straight to Grade II listed Kew Bridge and Kew Green. When this current bridge was opened in 1903 it was called Edward VII Bridge and the plinth in the centre says so. However, the original name, first used in 1759, seems to have stuck. I arrived at low tide.

I made my way across the bridge back to Kew Green where i was again staying at the Coach and Horses which I stayed at on Day 13. This is a fabulous pub with 31 rooms situated in the diagonal corner of Kew Green. In my room – the same one as before – the staff has left me a wonderful welcome back card…

I had a little more time to wander around Kew Green this visit. Kew Green is owned by the Crown Estate and leased to Richmond. Most of the houses surrounding the green are Grade II listed as are the lamp standards, the war memorial and the post box. In the north corner is Elizabeth Gate – a main entrance to Kew Gardens with fabulous gates.

37 Kew Green is Cambridge Cottage, with an impressive portico, is the former royal residence of the Duke of Cambridge now part of Kew Gardens, and available for hire. Opposite is the red brick St Anne’s Church where Thomas Gainsborough is (allegedly) buried.

After dinner, I took a walk back over Kew Bridge to Brentford, passing the amusingly named pub and restaurant One Over the Ait and explored the area; the bridge was shimmering in the night. From the bridge looking down stream after the sun had set you can see the lights of Strand on the Green. That was for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, off to north bank of the city.