Monthly Archives: June 2018

Chiswick House And Gardens

I had not been intending to write about Chiswick House and Gardens for today’s post. I had been planning to write about one my father’s photos, one showing a street with the open space remaining from the clearance of bombed buildings. I tracked down the street and found gardens occupying the space where I thought the bombed buildings had been, however when I started writing the post, I checked the photos in more detail, aligned with some old maps, including the LCC Bomb Damage Maps, and found I had taken photos of the wrong end of the street.

I usually get the location right before I visit, however this time I missed some obvious architectural features which I should have seen whilst walking the street.

I will need to go back and photo the correct part of the street, so for today I have fallen back on a recent trip out to Chiswick, to visit Chiswick House and Gardens.

Chiswick House and Gardens are found just to the west of the Hogarth roundabout, between two busy roads, the A4 which runs out to the M4 motorway and the A316 which runs to the south west and crosses the River Thames over Chiswick Bridge. It is a busy and densely built area of west London.

The original Chiswick House was constructed in the 1620s, at a time when country houses were being built in the area, to take advantage of the benefits of being relatively close to London with the river providing access to the City.

The house was inherited by Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1715. At the same time he also inherited Burlington House in Piccadilly, which became his London house.

Rather than use the house in Chiswick as a family residence, he planned to build a new house where he could use the architectural inspiration from his Grand Tours of Europe, and would also house the collections he had gathered touring Europe and where he could entertain.

The new house was built between 1726 and 1729, just to the north west of the original house.

Work on the gardens continued until the 1740s and the inspiration for many of the buildings that were distributed around the gardens would also come from his experiences during the Grand Tours. The Grand Tour was part of the education of an 18th century aristocrat, with months travelling through France, Germany and Italy to provide experience of the major European cultures. The majority of these tours would have Italy as their main destination. The tours were also used to build collections and many aristocratic residences of the time would be full of purchases made during the Grand Tour.

Chiswick House and Gardens passed through generations of the Dukes of Devonshire after Richard Boyle’s death in 1753. The 5th Duke demolished the original 17th century Chiswick House. The 6th Duke of Devonshire made significant changes to the gardens in 1811 with the purchase of additional land and the construction of formal gardens and the large conservatory.

Use of the house changed during the later years of the 19th century. The house was let to a number of different tenants and for a period was used as a lunatic asylum.

In 1929, Chiswick House and Gardens were sold by the 9th Duke of Devonshire to Middlesex County Council who opened the gardens as a public park.

After the war, the house was in need of serious restoration and whilst the gardens remained with the council, the house passed to the Ministry of Works in 1948.

Today, the house and gardens are managed by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, set-up by the London Borough of Hounslow and English Heritage.

The gardens are free to enter, and despite some of the land being sold over the years as Chiswick land was needed for building, there are still 65 acres of gardens to explore with many of the original features from the time of Richard Boyle, the 3rd Earl of Burlington.

English Heritage manage the house and charge a fee for entry. Unfortunately there are also signs banning photography inside the house. Walking the house, it is clear it was not designed as a home, but does provide a series of rooms designed for the display or art and sculpture, and there are still a significant number of works on display today.

If you enter from the entrance along the A316, Burlington Lane, this is the view of the house:

Chiswick House

The same view of the house in 1796.

Chiswick House

The following photo shows the rear of the house:

Chiswick House

Slightly to the side of the above photo is a long walkway leading up to the rear of the house:

Chiswick House

The following view from around 1770 shows the rear of the house with the lawns lined with large urns atop pedestals – much as can be seen in the gardens today.

Chiswick House

In the photo of the rear of the house shown above, steps can be seen leading up to a gallery from which the following view was drawn in around 1770.

Chiswick House

In the above view, a set of statues can be seen set in the hedge that forms the end of the large open area at the rear of the house.

I do not know if they are the same statues, however in the same place today, statues can be found in alcoves cut into the hedge at the far end of the lawns at the rear of the house.

Chiswick House

The Ionic Temple seen from across the lake. The design of the gardens incorporates long walks with a building, obelisk, or some other feature which can be seen the full length of the walk.

Chiswick House

Artists easels with 18th century views from the same spot can be found across the gardens. A very imaginative feature, and it is easy to picture an 18th century artist sitting at the same place, drawing the same view.

Chiswick House

The view looking down one of the walks with an obelisk in frount of the gate at the Burlington Lane entrance.

Chiswick House

A large artificial river runs across the full length of the gardens from the north west to the south east. Towards the north western end of the lake is this classically designed bridge.

Chiswick House

The view looking along the length of the river towards the south eastern end of the gardens from the bridge.

Chiswick House

And the view from the opposite side of the bridge.

Chiswick House

Standing on the bridge and looking at the views along the lake it is hard to believe that this is west London, however there is a constant reminder of where we are in the sky overhead. Chiswick House is a short distance from Heathrow Airport and under one of the flight paths and on the day I was there, a continuous procession of aircraft flew overhead coming into land.

Chiswick House

But the wildlife on the lake seems blissfully unaware of the planes flying overhead.

Chiswick House

The amphitheater, another obelisk and the Ionic temple.

Chiswick House

A statue of Venus rising above the trees atop a doric column.

Chiswick House

The gardens are also home to a rather large conservatory. Built by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1813, the building is 302 feet in length.

Chiswick House

During the later years of the 20th century, the conservatory was almost derelict and the collection of rare camellia trees housed in the conservatory was in serious danger. Considerable restoration work was carried out, completed in 2010 and the conservatory today looks magnificent.

The view from the conservatory to the formal gardens.

Chiswick House

The camellia collection that runs the length of the conservatory is considered of international importance. The collection includes some trees surviving from the Duke of Devonshire’s original collection. The camellia trees were all dense green leaves during my visit, but must look magnificent when in flower.

Chiswick House

Inside the conservatory are two Coade stone vases. These were originally outside the conservatory, alongside steps leading down to the gardens. They were manufactured at the Coade stone factory in Lambeth, on the southbank of the river by Westminster Bridge.

Chiswick House

The Inigo Jones Gateway, on the pathway between the conservatory and the house.

Chiswick House

A walk around Chickwick House and Gardens provides a wonderful break from the busy city streets and if it were not for the planes flying into Heathrow, you could be walking through a country park set in the countryside rather than west London.

Chiswick House and Gardens are a short distance from Hogarth’s House, and a visit to both provides a snapshot of 18th century Chiswick.

Now to find the time to go back and photograph the correct end of a London street.

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Faulkner’s Alley, Cowcross Street

Cowcross Street runs from just north of Smithfield Market, past Farringdon Station where the street becomes Turnmill Street and then continues up to Clerkenwell Road. All these streets have a fascinating history, however for today’s post I want to focus on a single alley, Faulkner’s Alley which can be found in Cowcross Street just before reaching Farringdon Station.

My father took the following three photos of Faulkner’s Alley in 1947:

Faulkner's Alley

As I work through my father’s photos I am more and more convinced that I should switch back to black and white film. The combination of getting the lighting right, and black and white is perfect for this type photography.

Faulkner's Alley

In the above photo there is a sign reading “M&V Coenca – First Floor”. I assume this refers to a business, but I have been unable to find any details of their trade.

I am fascinated by the placing of the chair, what I assume to be a pram and the street lamp.

Faulkner's Alley

Faulkner’s Alley runs between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street, although originally it was much longer. To find the Cowcross Street entrance, walk past the entrance to Farringdon Station towards Smithfield Market and a short distance after the Castle pub is the gated entrance to Faulkner’s Alley.

Faulkner's Alley

The entrance looks as if it is a pedestrian entrance to the same area as the much larger entrance on the right, however there is a wall running back between the two entrances so they are completely separate entrances.

Unfortunately the gate was locked during my visit, so all I could get was a view through the gate showing a similar alley to that in my father’s photos.

Faulkner's Alley

The following extract from the 1895 Ordnance Survey map shows Faulkner’s Alley in the centre of the map, between Cowcross Street and Benjamin Street. If you follow across Benjamin Street, there is a continuation of an alley indicating that Faulkner’s Alley probably once extended much further.

Faulkner's Alley

As the entrance in Cowcross Street was locked I walked round to Benjamin Street to see if the entrance there was open, as in the past it has always been possible to walk through the alley.

Faulkner's Alley

However I was rather shocked by what I found. The southern side of Benjamin Street is now a building site.

Faulkner's Alley

Which extends a considerable distance along the street. Just here on the right is where the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley was once located.

Faulkner's Alley

It was a similar gated entrance to the one in Cowcross Street, with the same style of ironwork and name above the gate.

I had a look at the planning applications on the Islington Council web site and found the application relating to the building work in Benjamin Street.

The application covers the demolition of the existing buildings and the build of a 6 storey building on Turnmill Street and 5 storey building on Benjamin Street, with both buildings being linked by a 4 storey building. The new building will comprise retail, office and 4 residential units.

The plans show Faulkner’s Alley will still run from Cowcross Street to Benjamin Street and there will be a gate onto Benjamin Street as part of the new build. Along the alley will be a courtyard and residential reception. I wonder with the new development whether Faulkner’s Alley will continue to accessible to the public or with the new residential and office build, it will only be accessible to those living or working in the buildings.

The site is owned by the Girdlers’ Company (one of the City’s livery companies) so hopefully Faulkner’s Alley will have a restoration that recognises its history and as a public alley, although I do worry when I read on the architects’ web site that the alley will be “enhanced” as part of the project.

Along the wooden hoarding, there is a small display of excavation findings which include some Tudor brick, medieval tiles and clay pipes:

Faulkner's Alley

We can get an impression of Faulkner’s Alley in previous centuries from newspaper reports. Some examples:

From the London City Press on the 9th April 1864 in an article on overcrowding in the city:

“I may mention that I found one family with but two moderate sized rooms, in Faulkner’s Alley, had taken in six railway navvies as lodgers. Even if they spend little more time in-doors than what they require for sleep, that is time enough to breed a fever, as was the case in this instance, for one of the lodgers had been prostrated by typhus fever, and sent by the Union authorities to the Fever Hospital.”

From the Islington Gazette on the 9th July 1877:

“A SINGULAR CASE – Dr. Hardwicke held an inquest at the St. Andrew’s Board Room, Great James-street, Holborn, on Friday, concerning the death of a newly-born male child, which was found on a doorstep in Faulkner’s-alley, Clerkenwell, and for which a woman of the name of Mohan is under remand, charged on suspicion with having deposited the child. The facts in connection with this case were reported in the proceedings at the Clerkenwell Police-court, and it will be remembered that on Tuesday night, about 10 o’clock, a constable stated that he saw the woman in question go into Faulkner’s-alley and stoop down, but whether she placed anything on a doorstep he could not say. Upon going up the alley a short time afterwards, however, a brown-paper parcel containing the body of a child much decomposed was found. The woman Mohan denied that she knew anything about the child, and the jury returned a verdict that the child was found dead in a state of decomposition, and that the evidence was insufficient to show the cause of death. They also added that they were of the opinion that the police were in error in charging Sarah Mohan.”

The London City Press on the 5th September 1863 included an article titled “Old Smithfield and its Precincts – A Sanitary and Antiquarian Ramble” where the author took a walk around the area and described what he saw, including this description of Faulkner’s Alley:

“Passing up Cowcross-street to Smithfield-bars, there are some quaint houses and shops. Part of the frounts in Faulkner’s-alley are of wood, and are worth notice.  And here, as well as in some other confined places where the people are very poor, there are, considering the situations, wonderful displays of window plants and flowers. We would, however, just hint that in some instances the windows are so crowded with drooping and other greenery, that it interferes to a great extent with the proper admission of light and with ventilation.”

A report in the Pall Mall Gazette on the 4th September 1878 on the Princess Alice disaster, when the steamboat the Princess Alice was rammed by the collier Bywell Castle near Woolwich, included a list of the survivors, one of which was Mary Brent of Faulkner’s Alley. There was no accurate record of the number on board the steamer, or the number that died, however the Pall Mall Gazette reported that between 700 and 800 people were on board, and the number dead or missing was in the order of 700 – so Mary Brent was one of the few, very lucky, survivors.

The book “London – Alleys, Byways and Courts” by Alan Stapleton, published in 1924, also includes a brief description of Faulkner’s Alley:

“A few yards past here on the left, by No. 31, is the alley with the wooden frontage, with its name, Faulkner’s Alley, at the top. This old wooden front dates from about 1660 when the alley was formed, and built in.”

The book also includes the following drawing of the entrance to Faulkner’s Alley from Cow Cross Street:

Faulkner's Alley

We can trace the development of the alley over the centuries. In 1746 Faulkner’s Alley was shown in John Rocque’s map:

Faulkner's Alley

In Rocque’s map, the alley extended across Benjamin Street into what is now the edge of St. John’s Gardens. The map also provides a clue to the origin of the name.

In 1746 Rocque labelled the alley Faulconers Alley which may possibly have some reference to the Falcon bird, as Faulcon was an early spelling for the bird, a name with French origins, and the word Faulconer was given to the person who would look after the birds. I have not been able to find any written reference as to why this name should have been used for the alley.

Going back further, Ogilby’s map of 1676 shows the alley as a much longer alley. Unfortunately Ogilby does not provide the name of the alley as it would be interesting to see if the name was the same as in 1746.

Faulkner's Alley

Faulkner’s Alley was a good example of the type of alley that was once so common across the city. My father’s photos from 1947 show the alley much as it must have been during the 19th century and possibly earlier – a narrow alley with tall, brick-built buildings lining the alley occupied by people and businesses.

I hope that when the building on Benjamin Street is complete, Faulkner’s Alley is open again and that whatever “enhancement” has been made during building work, Faulkner’s Alley retains much of its original character.

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St. Chad’s Place And A Lost Well

There are places in London where the subterranean history of the city touches the surface and it is easy to imagine finding long lost geological features beneath the city streets.

This post is about one such place that I found whilst hunting for the location of this photo that my father took in 1986:

St. Chad's Place

My 2018 photo of the same location:

St. Chad's Place

I am in King’s Cross Road, a street that runs from Pentonville Road to Farringdon Road. The building was the location of Dodds the Printers in 1986 who occupied numbers 193 and 195.

I am not sure when the business closed in King’s Cross Road, however I believe it was relatively recently. The shop front has changed and the lovely signage above the shop has disappeared, however the terrace of 19th century buildings are much the same.

On the right side of both photos is an alley disappearing through the buildings. This is St. Chad’s Place. The following extract from OpenStreetMap shows the location. St. Chad’s Place can be seen running left to right in the middle of the map – suitable for vehicles to just after crossing the rail lines where it turns into a pedestrian alley, with a sharp bend and a narrow stretch running up to King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad's Place

This is the type of view I love – a small alley to explore:

St. Chad's Place

Walking into St. Chad’s Place from King’s Cross Road, you first pass through the terrace lining King’s Cross Road before continuing down a narrow stretch between high brick walls.

Looking back towards King’s Cross Road:

St. Chad's Place

At the end of the narrow stretch, the alley does a 90 degree bend and opens out slightly:

St. Chad's Place

This is the view back down the alley with the buildings lining King’s Cross Road in the distance:

St. Chad's Place

The alley passes a number of old brick, industrial buildings, gently rising in height. Half way along the alley there are high metal walls. This is where St. Chad’s Place passes over a railway.

St. Chad's Place

It is just possible to peer over the top of the metal walls and look at the railway beneath. This is the original Metropolitan Railway, built between 1859 and 1862, which ran from Paddington to Farringdon.

The railway was built below street level, using a mix of cut and cover, as well as leaving the railway in an open cutting, as in the stretch that passes underneath St. Chad’s Place.

The route today is used by Thameslink trains and the London Underground Circle, Metropolitan and Hammersmith and City lines. In the following photo, looking south towards Farringdon is a Thameslink train, with the red of an underground train just visible to the upper right.

St. Chad's Place

The railway cuts a wide path between King’s Cross and Farringdon, but for the most part is not that visible. Walking along King’s Cross Road or Gray’s Inn Road, you would not know there is a railway running close by, it is only when you walk through the streets between these major roads that you pass over, and get a view of the cutting through this part of the city.

This is the view looking north from St. Chad’s Place where the railway runs into King’s Cross, St. Pancras underground station:

St. Chad's Place

The building of the railway must have been very disruptive to the area. Streets were cut off and before construction of the railway could start, demolition of hundreds of houses, factories, warehouses and workshops was required.

The following print shows the building of the railway near King’s Cross:

St. Chad's Place

Walking up towards Gray’s Inn Road, this is the view back down St. Chad’s Place. A narrow, cobbled roadway in the centre, sloping down to where the blue metal wall of the railway can be seen on the right.

St. Chad's Place

The black sign on the left is for Meat Liquor bar and restaurant, probably the main reason for anyone to walk down St. Chad’s Place. Apart from the person sitting outside the restaurant, I did not see anyone else walk through for the whole time I was in St. Chad’s Place.

At the top is the junction with Gray’s Inn Road.

St. Chad's Place

A walk through St. Chad’s Place is a glimpse of the many old alleys that once ran between major streets (I will be writing about one that is in the process of disappearing in a future post), and the view of the railway provides an insight into what is just below London’s surface, however, as usual, there is always more to discover.

Starting with the name, St. Chad’s Place, this is an indication of what was once here.

The route of the River Fleet was once alongside where King’s Cross Road now runs, and the geology of the area gave rise to a number of springs at Bagnigge Wells, Clerks’ Well (Clerkenwell), and a St. Chad’s Well. All running close to the River Fleet.

St. Chad’s Well was to be found at the junction of St. Chad’s Place and Gray’s Inn Road.

The well was very popular in the middle of the 18th century, with around 1,000 visitors a week travelling along Gray’s Inn Road to take the waters.

The following advert from the 29th May 1807 edition of the Morning Advertiser gives an impression of how St. Chad’s Well was sold to Londoners:

“St. Chad’s Wells – Health restored and preserved, by drinking the Battle-Bridge Waters, commonly called St. Chad’s Wells, formerly dedicated to St. Chad, first Bishop of Lichfield. These Waters are recommended by the most eminent Physicians as the best Purging Waters in England, they are found highly efficacious in removing all Complaints which affect the Urinary Passages such as Stone, Gravel, etc, They likewise cure the Scurvy, Bile, Worms, Piles, Indigestion, Nervous Complaints, Seminal Weaknesses, and various other Disorders too numerous for an advertisement. Several attestations of their wonderful Effects may be seen in the Pump room.

N.B. These Waters may be drank every morning, at 4d each Person, or delivered at the Pump-Room at 8d per gallon. The Gate leading to the Wells opens at the end of Gray’s Inn-lane Road, near the Turnpike.”

The name Battle-Bridge Waters refers to the Battle Bridge, a brick arched bridge over the River Fleet just north of St. Chad’s Place. The name Battle Bridge is often taken to refer to a battle fought here between Boadicea and the Roman army, however this is very unlikely as the name in medieval manorial court rolls was Bradeford Bridge.

Chad refers to a 7th century Mercian churchman who founded the first monastery in Lichfield. St. Chad allegedly preached at Stowe, just outside the centre of Lichfield , and a medieval St. Chad’s Church was built at Stowe along with a holy well with St. Chad’s name. This association with a well could be why the well in Gray’s Inn Road took St. Chad’s name – a more virtuous, health promoting name than Battle Bridge.

The following print from 1850 show the St. Chad’s Well pump house, built close to Gray’s Inn Road. At the rear of the house, gardens stretched back towards King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad's Place

By the time of the above print, the well was declining in popularity. I cannot find exactly when St. Chad’s Well closed, however St. Chad’s Place was built over part of the garden in 1830 and the majority of the gardens were lost in 1860 when the Metropolitan Line was built. I suspect it was the building of the railway which finally swept away the well.

Now this is where this post starts to get very speculative.

I am sure though of the route of the River Fleet. I have checked a number of sources, including the book “The Lost Rivers of London” by Nicholas Barton and Stephen Myers (a well researched and illustrated history of London’s lost rivers and their routes through the city) as well as “The History of the River Fleet” by the UCL River Fleet Restoration Team, and they all show the River Fleet running along the western edge of King’s Cross Road, under where St. Chad’s Place meets King’s Cross Road.

The River Fleet is also shown on the OpenStreetMap extract, running parallel to King’s Cross Road.

St. Chad’s Place descends very gradually as you head from Gray’s Inn Road towards King’s Cross Road, which could be expected for a spring rising near Gray’s Inn Road running through the gardens of the pump-room and down to the River Fleet.

As I walked along St. Chad’s Place, the sunlight glinting off running water below a small grating in the middle of the cobbled street caught my eye.

It was hard to judge the depth, but it must have been around 10 to 15 feet below the road surface. It looked to be a fast flow of clean water, and yes I did take a sniff and it did not smell like a sewer.

St. Chad's Place

I have no evidence to support this, apart from the view through the grating, however it is interesting to imagine that perhaps the waters of the St. Chad’s Well still rise here, and run along St. Chad’s Place, heading towards the River Fleet.

They would now be cut off by the cutting made for the Metropolitan Railway, however perhaps there is a pipe that carries them across, or a separate sewer that runs along the western edge of the railway.

Walking back towards King’s Cross Road, and where St. Chad’s Place passes through the building facing King’s Cross Street, there is a run of old paving slabs, and an old manhole cover.

St. Chad's Place

This is exactly where the River Fleet is shown to run parallel to Kings Cross Road.

If you walk past 193 and 195 King’s Cross Road, take a detour into St. Chad’s Place. Walk up to Gray’s Inn Road and you will cross the River Fleet, the original Metropolitan Railway and the site of St. Chad’s Well – not bad for a couple of minutes walk.

And with some imagination, perhaps you will also see the waters of St. Chad’s Well still running beneath a small, four hole grating.

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