Day 18 – Kew to Vauxhall (North)

Today’s walk from Kew to Vauxhall along the north bank was a longish 121/4 miles. It starts by crossing Kew Bridge opposite the ammusingly named One Over The Ait restaurant, waking down toward the river by the north east side of Kew Bridge, past some small restaurants and following the sign toward Strand on the Green. There is a small park along the riverbank, passing the Steam Pack pub, before the road gets narrower and becomes more of a pedestrianised footpath.

Strand on the Green is a conservation area with many listed buildings and blue plaques. One of the first is a plaque to the painter Johan Zoffany, who lived at the house here bewtween 1790 and 1810. One of Zoffany’s patrons was David Garrick, whose house we encountered in Hampton.

As you get to the 14th century City Barge pub, the grade II Kew Railway Bridge which opened in 1869, appears and shorly after the Bell and Crown (established in 1787) and the The Bull’s Head pub, reputedly frequented by Oliver Cromwell. Beyond is the Hopkins Morris Homes. From the ‘Panorama of the Thames‘:

“A row of small almshouses erected in the 18th century by public subscription, rebuilt in the 1950s and renovated in the 1970s. These were originally thatched alms houses first built in the mid-C17th and rebuilt in the early C18th … They were again extended and repaired in 1934 with funds from the estate of Middlesex County Councillor B. Hopkin Morris. They were bought by Hounslow Council in 1973, when at risk of demolition, and restored…”

Panarama of the Thames

These were almshouses built in 1658 and demolished in 1721, for the poor of Chiswick. They were bought by Hounslow Council in 1973, when at risk of demolition, and restored. A plaque gives a brief history:

Homes of Rest 1933, Trustees of Chiswick Parochial Charities – repaired 1816 – two cottages were first built there in 1724 for the poor of Chiswick for ever

Further on, at number 11, a blue plaque to Donald Pleasance.

The parthway comes to an end at the red marble Ellen Reardon Memorial Drinking Fountain, erected in 1904, and renovated in 2009. The inscription reads: “Miss Ellen Reardon’s bequest in memory of her father, mother and sister Daniel, Elizabeth and Margaret Reardon 1880

Here the path diverts slightly away from the river along Grove Park Road and Hartington Road, passing some art deco houses and villas. Coming to Chiswick Quay, a small estate of 68 town houses surrounding a marina, turn right to reach the river and cross the lock gates to the quay.

Ahead is Chiswick Bridge and across the river we can see again The Ship Inn and the brewery which we passed on day 14 .

The river now makes a 90o left turn as it passes Dukes Meadow, purchased in 1923 from the Duke of Devonshire and now run by the Dukes Meadow Trust. There is a slight detour inland to pass under the single arch of Barnes Railway Bridge at Dukes Hollow Nature Reserve, a 0.27 hectare Local Nature Reserve and Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation owned and managed by Hounslow Council.

The path then comes to a paved promenade, in front of some modern flats.

At the end of the paved promenade, the path arrives at the Grade II listed St Nicholas Church, Chiswick, (website here). In the churchyard is the tomb of the artist and satirist William Hogarth (10 November 1697 – 26 October 1764) who lived nearby.

We are now walking along Chiswick Mall, a very elegant area.

Chiswick Mall is a waterfront street on the north bank of the river Thames in the oldest part of Chiswick in West London, with a row of large houses from the Georgian and Victorian eras overlooking the street on the north side, and their gardens on the other side of the street beside the river and Chiswick Eyot. While the area was once populated by fishermen, boatbuilders and other tradespeople associated with the river, since Early Modern times it has increasingly been a place where the wealthy built imposing houses in the riverside setting.

Wikipedia

The path pases the large Bedford House, built originally in 1665 it “was the house of the Russell family, then the earls of Bedford, but with an 18th century front, is now divided into Eynham House and the Grade II* Bedford House. The latter has a Grade II gazebo in its garden. The actor Michael Redgrave lived in Bedford House from 1945 to 1954” (Wikipedia)

In 2009 the actor Liam Neeson wrote to the owner of Bedford House which had been at the heart of his late wife Natasha Richardson’s family, if he could buy it back, asking if she would agree to sell the Grade II*-listed house, which belonged to the Redgrave dynasty in the 1950s. The mansion was owned by Sir Michael Redgrave, Natasha’s grandfather, from 1945 to 1954, and Neeson had expressed his interest in returning it to the famous family. Howevee, Natasha , who spent much of her childhood in Chiswick, died after a blow to the head during a skiing accident on March 18. Richardson’s mother, actress Vanessa Redgrave, who still lives in Chiswick, was at her 45-year-old daughter’s bedside when she died last week, along with Neeson.

Sutton and Croydon Guardian

The road here is liable to flooding at high tide, but comes to Fuller’s Griffin Brewery built in 1845, on a site where beer has been brewed for over 350 years, then the impressive Walpole House redeveloped in 17th and 18th centuries,

Barbara Villiers Duchess of Cleveland and mistress of Charles II bought it in 1700. The Walpole in question was not Horace, but his cousin Thomas who lived there between 1798 and 1803. The houise later became a school – amongst whose pupils was William Makepeace Thackeray who used it as the model for Miss Pinkerton’s Academy in Vanity Fair.

Thames Path, Phoebe Clapham, p. 52

The path moves away from the river as it goes along Chiswick Mall passing a plaque to Alan (AP) Herbert, a playwright who became independant MP for Oxford University between 1935–1950. Shortly after IS a plaque to the Uraguayan-born but English Edward Johnston – “Master Caligrapher” – though probably few have heard of him. He is most famous for designing the sans-serif Johnston typeface that was used throughout the London Underground system until it was redesigned in the 1980s.

There follows two Thames side pubs in quick sucession – The Black Lion and The Old Ship, and between the two, a view of Hammersmith bridge appears ahead.

Passing The Ship the path comes to Linden House, now the headquarters of the Corinthian Sailing Club and now a venue for meetings, wedding ceremonies and receptions.

Passing Linden House the path reaches a brick wall that obscures the view of the river as it passes the Grade II listed Kelmscott House, (26 Upper Mall).

The building is a private house, though the basement and coach house entrance serve as headquarters of the William Morris Society, whose premises are open to the public on Thursday and Saturday afternoons. The William Morris Society temporarily re-formed the local branch of the Socialist League (UK, 1885) to participate in the 2011 London anti-cuts protest.

Wikipedia

William Morris lived here between 1878 to his death in 1896. The house is named after Kelmscott Manor which we passed quite some time ago in Gloucestershire. The path then goes down an alleyway past The Dove pub before passing The Rutland Arms and the Blue Anchor pubs and reaching Hammersmith Bridge.

Soon passing Hammersmith Bridge and the Old City Arms pub which opened in 1847, brings you to Riverside Studios.

Today’s Riverside Studios stands on the former site of a Victorian iron works, which was converted into a film studio in 1933. Many classic films were made there, such as The Seventh Veil (1945) with James Mason, The Happiest Days of Your Life with Margaret Rutherford (1950) and Father Brown (1954) with Alec Guinness.  In 1954, the studio was taken over by BBC Television and became home to many of their most iconic programmes, including Hancock’s Half Hour (1957-60), Quatermass and the Pit (1958-59) and Doctor Who (1964-68).Following the BBC’s departure in 1974, the building became an arts centre in 1976, launching with a vibrant community festival. Under the artistic directorship of playwright and director Peter Gill, Riverside Studios quickly acquired a reputation for excellence and innovation with landmark productions of The Cherry Orchard with Judy Parfitt and The Changeling with Brian Cox (both 1978). A mixed programme of international theatre, dance, visual art, television, comedy and music was established early on and has succeeded in bringing the world to west London. The variety of our collaborators over the years – including Amy Winehouse, Benjamin Zephaniah, Yoko Ono, Samuel Beckett, Michael Clark, David Hockney, Lenny Henry, Graeae, David Bowie and Black Theatre Cooperative – reflects Riverside’s purpose as an intersection for the arts. The original Riverside Studios closed for redevelopment in 2014 and our new building opened on the same site in 2019.

Riverside Studios

Passing the studios there is a statue to Lancelot Capabiity Brown, who lived nearby from 1716 to 1783. when he died of a sudden collapse on 6 February, on the doorstep of his daughter Bridget Holland’s house.

We are now at Fulham Reach. From here the dominant views are of the bridge and, across the river, the Harrods Repository which we passed a few days earlier. Facing the river here is a golden statue by Rick Kirby titled Figurehead. “Symbolising the figurehead of a ship, a large female figure leans forward, and two smaller supine figures are at her feet standing on a shell-like base. The work is on a square Portland stone plinth” (ArtUK). Rick was born, as I was, in 1952, and lived, as I did, in Gillingham, Kent. He became, as I did, a teacher. From 1973 to 1974 he studied towards an Art Teacher’s Diploma at the University of Birmingham, and spent the next sixteen years teaching art before giving it up to to focus on his sculpture.

The riverside promenade is being developed with new expensive apartments with jutting balconies overlooking the river.

However as we pass the new riverside apartments we now move onto Thames Wharf where the environment becomes much more urban with smaller flats and small redbrick terraced houses which lead to Rowberry Mead children’s play area which contains urban sculpture of old machinery .

The path then encounters the new stadium of “Craven Cottage“, the home of Fulham Football Club, and has to turn left inland and comes out by the stadium. I passed by on a Saturday and Fulham were playing a friendly match at home against Charlton.

Craven Cottage has been the home to Fulham Football Club since 1896. The original Cottage was built in 1780, by William Craven, the sixth Baron Craven and was located close to where the Johnny Haynes Stand is now. At the time, the surrounding areas were woods which made up part of Anne Boleyn’s hunting grounds. The football ground was designed by Archibald Leitch in 1905, but the new stadium was being built in 2021.

We are now walking down Stevenage Road and immediately after the stadium are the gates of the Grade II listed Bishops Park, through which we return to the river. The park was for centuries the home of the Bishop of London and is home to Fulham Palace. The park was opened by the London County Council in 1893, on land given by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

The park contains a memorial to members of the International Brigade who volunteered to fight in the Spanish Civil War and which has been located in the park since 1997. At the end of the park by Putney Bridge is the Grade II* listed All Saints Church. Putney Bridge is unique in that it is the only bridge in Britain to have a church at both ends: St. Mary’s Church is located in Putney, on the south bank, and All Saints’ Church, Fulham, is on the north bank.

Parts of the 1976 film The Omen were filmed in the park and the church flagpole appears in the scene where it falls in a storm and impales Father Brenen, played by Patrick Troughton (later of Dr Who fame).

The Thames Path turns left and goes under the arches of Putney Bridge and for a while deviates from the river along Ranelagh Gardens, shortly passing under the arch of Fulham Railway Bridge. The torquoise bridge carries the London Underground District Line between Putney Bridge station and East Putney station, though it can also be crosed on foot. Along Ranelagh Gardens is the rather elaborate Hurlington Court, built in 1895, and consists of 4 blocks containing 40 flats. Rivermead Court, a prestigious group of some 200 mansion flats, built in the 1930s by the Prudential Assurance Company with 30s art deco influences. Just brfore the vend of Ranelagh Gardens turn left along Napier Avenue along a street of 30s semi-detachjed houses at the end of which turn right into Hurlingham Road. at No 76 (SW6 3RQ) is the deep yellow Grade II listed Vineyard:

It was built in the early 17th century, and has 18th century alterations, and probably the largest private garden in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. In 1918, The Vineyard was purchased by the press baron Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, and he lived there from 1921 to 1947. Winston Churchill was a frequent visitor. The house remained in the ownership of the Beaverbrook family until the 1990s.

Wikipedia

Beyond the Vineyard, the path goes diagonally across Hurlingham Park to the gate onto Broomhouse Lane. Further down the road, after some rather uninspiring blocks of flats is a suprising red brick gothic revival house, Grade II listed. This was originally the Elizabethan Schools:

In 1855 Laurence Sulivan, head of a leading philanthropic family residing in Broom House, established a Ragged School for the children of his estate workers.  He had erected a large Gothic Revival building on part of his large estate in Broomhouse Lane.  He named this the Elizabethan Schools, after his late wife Elizabeth Palmerston Sulivan (the younger sister of the Prime Minister Lord Palmerston), who had died in 1837. Designed by the architect Horace Francis, the Schools accommodated up to 120 children.  As well as apartments for a schoolmaster and schoolmistress, the premises included two almshouses. Following the 1870 Education Act, board schools took over the bulk of the need for elementary education, supplanting most of the Ragged Schools (the Ragged School movement had reached its peak in the 1860s).  However, the Elizabethan Schools continued in operation past the turn of the century – and the Great War – with 70 pupils still on the rolls at the time of closure. In 1920 the LCC purchased the Schools to provide for the education of delicate, particularly tuberculous, children.

Lost Hospitals of London

Following closure of the School, the premises were used for a lengthy period as a youth club, originally known as the Eight Feathers Club, latterly as the Castle Club.  The south wing and pavilion of the original buildings were separated and renamed Sulivan House. The youth club closed in 2007 and the premises deemed surplus to the needs of the Hammersmith & Fulham Council.  They were put up for sale for £4m. Planning permission has been granted to convert the building into a single dwelling, with the likelihood of substantial extensions being added.

At the end of Broomhouse Lane the path returns to the river, and acruss there is the bridge over the River Wandle (see here) which gave Wandsworth its name and which we crossed a couple of days ago. The path makes a slight inland detour around the foot of Wandsworth Bridge, still being renovated since 2020. There is now a satrange concrete pier originally biult for some industriual usae, but now converted into marketting suite for Fulham Riverside, where a 1 bed flat will cost you nearly £2000 a month. It also houses a small wildlife area.

The view ahead is of Battersea Railway Bridge which opened in 1863 and beyond, off in the distance, our first view of the Grade II listed BT Tower. When  it opened to the public on 19 May 1966, by Postmaster General Tony Benn, it overtook the Millbank Tower to become the tallest structure in London until 1980, when it was overtaken by the NatWest Tower. It orifginally had a rotating restaurant on the 34th floor called The Top of the Tower, and operated by Butlins. It made one revolution every 23 minutes. The restaurant was closed to the public for security reasons a matter of months after the bombing by the Angry Brigade in 1971. Because of the forthcomming bend in the river, it appears to be on the south bank; it is not however.

The area bewyong the Railway Bridge is now a major developnent, first of Imperial Wharf, including its very own sensory garden and railway (over and underground) station.