The History of Chiswick
For centuries fishermen and watermen have used the waterfront of old Chiswick to land goods destined for riverside businesses and the surrounding area. Chiswick was once a sleepy fishing village that had grown up around St. Nicholas church on Church Street. The name Chiswick would later describe the area that was formed from the four villages of Chiswick, Strand-on-the-Green, Little Sutton and Turnham Green . By 1815 the Chiswick parish had expanded and filled all the area bounded by the loop of the Thames , the High Road west of Turnham Green, the north side of Chiswick Common and Bath Road to Goldhawk Road. An advertisement of 1896 mentions "Bedford Park, Chiswick" which at that time was partly in the Acton Urban District. The fishing industry went into decline at Chiswick in the nineteenth century. The Thames became very polluted from industry and sewage and the fish simply died out. Locks built upstream stopped the movements of migratory fish such as salmon and shad.
By the 18th century the High Road began to develop and by the end of the century it was a bustling thoroughfare complete with many inns and substantial residences.The High Road is still a busy shopping street full of cafes, restaurants and several remaining 19th century public houses . Chiswick has been the site of a brewery for hundreds of years, originally the brewery was in the gardens of Bedford House in Chiswick Mall. This later expanded to the present site nearby, now run the
Fuller, Smith & Turner PLC who brew real ales and own public houses.
John Isaac Thornycroft, founder of the John I. Thornycroft & Company, established a shipbuilding yard sited at Church Wharf in 1864. Steam yachts were produced there using the cutting edge technologies of the time and this was later followed by torpedo boats. Torpedo boat destroyers, 225 feet long and reaching speeds of up to 30 knots were made there later. Soon the ships built at the Thornycroft yard were having difficulties passing under the bridges further down the Thames. The ships had outgrown the Thames and the shipbuilding was moved to Woolston near Southampton in 1904, after which the Chiswick yard was gradually run down. John Thornycroft chose a site close to Church Wharf at the Homefield Motor Works in Hogarth Lane to establish the Thornycroft Steam Wagon Company late in the 1890s. Buses and trucks were the main vehicles produced but the works closed less than 20 years later , in 1908. The road is now the very busy A4 trunk road that heads West out of London .
Many private houses in Chiswick have mature pear trees in their gardens. These are the remnants of the first Royal Horticultural Societies’ gardens and its first school of horticulture. Established in 1822 when the society leased 33 acres of land in the area between what is now Sutton Court Road and Duke’s Avenue. The site was also used for the societies’ first flower shows. As the urban sprawl in London gathered pace the gardens were reduced to 10 acres in the 1870s. The lease was finally terminated when the Society opened its new garden at Wisley in Surrey in 1904.
Dukes Meadows is on the site of land formerly owned by the Duke of Devonshire who sold it to the local council in the 1920s. The council developed it as a recreational centre, established a promenade and constructed a bandstand. The meadows are still used for sport with football pitches, hockey club, a rugby club , several rowing clubs and a golf club .
Chiswick suffered a series of World War II bombing raids in late 1940 and early 1941, and another five in 1944. The first ever V-2 Rocket to hit London fell on Chiswick in September 1944 , killing three people. A memorial where the rocket exploded still stands on Staveley Road.