CHISWICK HISTORY


Compiled by Gillian Clegg, author of Chiswick Past (1995) The Chiswick Book (2004), Brentford and Chiswick Pubs (2005), and the newly published Chiswick House and Gardens: A History(2011) available from local bookshops and www.armadillocentral.com © Gillian Clegg


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Advertisement for Cherry Blossom boot polish, launched in 1906

Title page of Tom Jones, a book produced by the Chiswick Press

The draw dock on Chiswick Mall where boats were loaded and unloaded

Employees leaving the works of the London General Omnibus Company in 1937

An early advertisement for A Sanderson & Son

Thornycroft's shipbuilding works at Church Wharf

Letterhead illustrating the Devonshire Boat House of Frank Maynard

Chiswick Park, the business park begun in 2000

BUSINESS (arranged alphabetically)

ARMY AND NAVY FURNITURE DEPOSITORY

The large block of flats known as 9 Devonhurst Place facing Turnham Green Common was formerly the furniture depository for the Army and Navy stores. The Army and Navy Auxiliary Co-operative Supply was leasing these premises from Sanderson & Co by 1886 but had bought them outright by 1888 and around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries built the large depository building. This was hit by a bomb in September 1940 which caused a major fire. The Army and Navy moved out in 1985 and the building was converted into flats, first occupied in 1988.

BARLEY MOW WORKSPACE

This was the first commercially developed workspace in the UK. It opened in 1976 in the former Sanderson wallpaper factory in Barley Mow Passage. The idea of different small businesses under one roof sharing facilities such as secretarial services, switchboard, cleaning and other administrative functions, with costs apportioned pro rata, was evolved by architects, David Rock and John Townsend who set up a prototype in a Covent Garden warehouse in 1972. In 1996 Barley Mow Workspace was acquired by Workspace plc who carried out major refurbishments in 2003/4.

BRITISH STANDARDS INSTITUTION

BSI moved into the 18-storey town block above Gunnersbury Station in 1994. The building was put up between 1964 and 1966 and is the tallest office block in Chiswick – so far. It was the headquarters of IBM between 1966 and 1992 and went through extensive alterations before being taken over by BSI.

CHERRY BLOSSOM

Perhaps the best-known product to be produced in Chiswick was Cherry Blossom Boot Polish. It was invented by a chemist working for Dan and Charles Mason, two brothers who were running the Chiswick Soap Company by 1878. It was launched in 1906, at 1d per tin and was an immediate success. The company expanded into a triangular-shaped site between Hogarth Lane and Burlington Lane (where the Hogarth Business Park is today) and began manufacturing a whole range of shoe and household polishes, including Mansion House. Imported waxes were brought by barge to Church Wharf where, in 1952, the company built a large warehouse. The company also acquired Boston House in 1922 for the use of its female staff. The Chiswick Soap Company changed its name in 1913 to the Chiswick Polish Company and went public in 1916. The name changed again in 1930 when Chiswick Polish amalgamated with the Nugget Polish Company to become Chiswick Products Ltd. In 1954 the business was acquired by Reckitt and Colman.

CHISWICK (BUSINESS) PARK

Work started in 2000 on this large business park opposite Gunnersbury Station. It is on the site of the London General Omnibus Company's large overhaul works. Designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership and developed by Stanhope plc it is set in 34 acres of what is intended to be landscaped space. Chiswick Park won the Civic Trust Award in 2002.

CHISWICK NURSERY

This was established in about 1740 by James Scott and occupied eight acres of land where Thornton Avenue is today. Its speciality was pineapples and Scott supplied, from Chiswick, the first pineapple plants to be fruited in Scotland. By the 1770s the nursery had passed into other hands but by 1786 it was taken over by Richard Williams who remained there for 40 years. Williams specialised in heathers and introduced many new plants from Australia and the Cape of Good Hope. He also propagated the `Williams' pear which he obtained from a Berkshire schoolmaster.

CHISWICK PRESS

This private printing press was a forerunner of the private presses started by William Morris and others later in the 19th century. It was founded by Charles Whittingham (1767-1840) who had acquired a patent for extracting tar from old ropes. The hemp was pulped to produce a paper with a strong and silky finish while the tar was used to produce printing ink. In 1810 Whittingham took out a lease on High House (demolished 1880) in Chiswick Mall which he equipped as a printing works with a paper mill next door. The riverside location was probably selected because of its proximity to the draw dock where barge loads of old ships' ropes from London and other dockyards could be unloaded. In 1818 Chiswick Press moved to larger premises at College House, Chiswick Mall. After Whittingham's death his nephew, Charles Whittingham (1797-1876) took over the business and continued printing at Chiswick until 1852 when he moved the Chiswick Press to its other office in Tooks Court, Chancery Lane.

Chiswick Press specialised in the production of small dainty volumes, noted for their woodcut engravings. The books were printed by hand on iron presses (one of the presses belonging to the Chiswick Press is now in Gunnersbury Park Museum). The Whittinghams not only pioneered a movement towards finely produced books at reasonable prices but also to smaller-sized books which were easy to fit in a pocket. They thus posed a threat to other publishers of the time which favoured big books at big prices.

CUBITTS YACHT BASIN

This was the former name of the marina at Chiswick Quay which was originally an ornamental lake in the grounds of Grove House. In 1914 it was turned into a basin and a lock was constructed. Here, Cubitts Concrete Construction Company (later Cubitts Shipbuilding and Engineering Dry Dock Co) built concrete barges which were used during World War I to transport ammunition to France. In 1923 the site was bought by Chiswick Urban District Council and by 1926 was occupied by a motor yacht club. By 1932 it had become a floating village of about 50 houseboats. In 1936 the basin was acquired for development but this was prevented by the onset of World War II. A development proposal in 1965 was rejected after a public enquiry but in 1969 the houseboats were forced to leave and in 1972 the basin was strengthened and reduced in size and development plans for Chiswick Quay were approved.

DRAW DOCK

Produce for and from Chiswick industries was unloaded and loaded from barges at the draw dock on Chiswick Mall, opposite Chiswick Lane South. A draw dock is a gently sloping bank in a tidal river where boats can be run up. The draw dock was very busy in the 19th century bringing in hops and malt for the breweries, old ships' ropes for the Chiswick Press and coal and timber. The osiers cultivated on Chiswick Eyot were loaded to be transported to basket-making firms and market garden produce sent to the metropolis.

ERAGNY PRESS

This private printing press was founded by Lucien Pissarro in 1894 and operated from his homes, first 62 Bath Road and, after 1902, The Brook, Stamford Brook Road. Thirty two books were printed on Japanese handmade paper with Lucien's own beautiful woodcuts decorating the text. Pissarro also designed his own typeface which he called The Brook Type. The press was forced to close in 1914 when war broke out since it was impossible to obtain the right paper and continental subscribers were lost.

FROMOW’S NURSERY

A plaque above the Victorian building at the roundabout where Heathfield Terrace joins Wellesley Road reads: ` Fromow & Sons, estd 1829'. This commemorates the Fromow family who ran a nursery garden in Chiswick for over 140 years. In 1829 William Fromow bought an existing nursery on the west side of Sutton Lane near the junction with Wellesley Road and in 1888 the offices of Fromow moved to the building that bears its name. In the 1890s the Fromow's own cottage in Sutton Lane was replaced by a magnificent conservatory and palm house.

Heavy death duties in the 1930s led to the sale of the Sutton Lane premises for development (the blocks of flats called Beverley, Belgrave and Beaumont Courts occupy the site) and the Fromow's moved to premises they also owned in Acton Lane. Here the firm maintained 24 greenhouses and carried on an extensive trade with Covent Garden and Spitalfields markets until it closed in 1970.

FULLER SMITH & TURNER

Chiswick's award-winning Griffin Brewery stands between the A4 and Chiswick Mall. Its origins are said to be a brewhouse belonging to Bedford House, Chiswick Mall, although the same claim is made for the Lamb Brewery. Thomas Mawson , the founder of what became Fullers purchased or leased this brewhouse from a family called Plukenett in 1701 and bought brewing equipment from a local brewer called Urlin. In 1782 Mawson's brewery was sold to a Chiswick man, John Thompson, and in 1816 the brewery acquired its name Griffin Brewery (the name was unofficially purloined when another Griffin brewery collapsed and led to a legal dispute which wasn't settled until 1892).

When, in 1829, the Thompsons ran into financial problems they raised money from John Fuller and in 1845 control passed to his son John Bird Fuller. He brought in Henry Smith (from Romford brewers Ind Smith), Smith’s son, Henry, and son-in-law, John Turner. The descendants of these men have been running the company ever since. Fullers has recently taken over Gale’s Brewery and now has over 360 outlets.

The wisteria which clads the wall of the brewery is said to be the oldest wisteria plant in England. When the first wisteria was brought to Kew Gardens from China in 1816 a cutting was given to the brewery. The Kew Plant perished while the brewery plant flourished.

GWYNNES

Gwynne's Engineering Co took over Thornycroft's shipbuilding premises on Church Wharf in 1917. At the time the firm was engaged in making aircraft engines under contract to the Admiralty, a noisy operation which caused much disturbance to the residents of St Mary's Convent and Nursing Home. Gwynne's had been established in Hammersmith at the beginning of the 20th century and needed more space in which to manufacture its Albert and Gwynne-Albert motor cars. In 1923 the Receiver was called in and Gwynne's was split into two companies Gwynne Cars and Gwynne Pumps. The company gave up the Church Wharf premises in 1930.

HOGARTH BUSINESS PARK

The complex of offices and warehouses at Hogarth Roundabout known as Hogarth Business Park replaced the factory where Cherry Blossom boot polish was produced and which was later taken over by Reckitt and Colman. It was put up in the 1980s. Fleming House, the large building on Hogarth Roundabout, built 1985, was known as the Axis Centre before becoming McCormack House in 2001.

KEENES

In the early 20th century car dealers and repairers, Keene’s Automobile Works, took over the building in Bath Road, next to the Tabard Inn, which had formerly been the premises of the Bedford Park Stores. The firm's works behind the building had room for 250 cars in 1903. Keene's developed a 14 horse-power steam car called the `Keenelet', but this was never marketed and the company failed in 1904.

LAMB BREWERY

The brick tower off Church Street which can be seen from the Hogarth Roundabout is the former Lamb Brewery, which rivalled Fullers in importance during the 19th century. Its origins are a trifle obscure, since both Fullers and the Lamb claim to have begun in the brewhouse of Bedford House on Chiswick Mall. However, by 1795 the Lamb Brewery belonged to the Sich family who had purchased it from the Thrales, brewers in Southwark. The Tower building, put up in 1901, was built as such since tower breweries were then thought to be the most efficient way to brew, deploying gravity.

In 1920 the Sich family sold the Brewery to the Isleworth Brewery which was taken over two years later by Watney Coombe Reid (later Watney, Mann, Truman becoming part of Grand Metropolitan, now Diageo). Brewing ceased on the site and in 1922 the building was bought by Fullers for warehousing. Shortly afterwards, Fullers sold it to the The Standard Yeast Company. This firm occupied the building until 1952 after which it was converted into offices.

LINOLEUM

This ubiquitous floor covering was created in Chiswick. Its inventor was Frederick Walton who had been born at Sowerby Bridge near Halifax in 1834. In late 1860 or early 1861 Walton took a factory and house on the west side of British Grove. Walton had been experimenting with oxidised vegetable oils to produce a waterproofing material similar to india rubber. Walton took out several patents for his invention, the main patent in April 1863 for a product he called `linoleum' from the Latin linum for flax and oleum for oil. Although there were various applications for his product, its potential as a floor covering was quickly recognised and it soon became apparent that the British Grove Works were too small for the enterprise. In 1864 the firm moved to a factory in Staines.

LONDON GENERAL OMNIBUS COMPANY

This company, later called London Regional Transport, opened its large maintenance and engineering works on the site opposite Gunnersbury Station in 1921. It employed 3,500 people and maintained 6,000 vehicles. In 1956 London Transport transferred vehicle maintenance to its Aldenham works (near Elstree) and the Chiswick works concentrated on engineering until it closed in 1988. Chiswick (business) Park now occupies the site.

MARKETS

In 1919 Chiswick Urban District Council's Food Control Committee made two sites available for stall holders on Saturdays at a cost of 1s a week. One site was in Essex Place where there is still a street market today, the other on the pavement outside nos 171-175 Chiswick High Road. In 1925 a purpose-built indoor market was opened where Chiswick Police Station is now. It originally contained 47 stalls but by 1935 this had dwindled to 16. The Council closed the indoor market the following year.

MARKS AND SPENCER

Marks and Spencer bought No 236 Chiswick High Road in 1920. A `penny bazaar' had been trading from these premises since about 1910. Marks and Spencer continued this and enlarged it with the addition of No 238.The firm acquired other premises and in 1931 redeveloped the whole site into a modern store selling clothes, household goods, toys and haberdashery with nothing costing more than five shillings. In 1934 Marks and Spencer expanded eastwards again. In the 1970s clothes were gradually phased out and replaced by food.

MAYNARD’S BOATHOUSE

Frank Maynard built his Devonshire boat house in 1871 on the riverfront at the east end of Strand-on-the-Green. Maynard was one of several boat builders and repairers at Strand. He also stored and maintained boats for their owners, supervised moorings and hired out craft for trips and holidays. Frank Maynard retired in 1938 but after World War II boatbuilding was carried out on these premises by Bason & Arnold and then Automarine Services. Part of the premises became a social club, called variously, the Wheelhouse Club, Chiswick Yacht and Boat Club and Papa Gees but these buildings were demolished in 2004.

MILLER’S BAKERY

Miller's Court, the development of Georgian-style townhouses at the eastern end of Chiswick Mall is on the site of an old bakery. This was Chibnall's bakery, established in the 1880s and taken over by Miller's in the 1940s. It closed in 1966.

HJ MULLINER & CO

This firm took over the premises of Bedford Park Stores, next door to the Tabard in Bath Road in 1908. They succeeded Keene's Automobile Works. Mulliners carried out coachwork for various motor car manufacturers, including Rolls Royce and Daimler. During World War II they built gliders and later diversified into other products such as control desks for the BBC. In 1959 the firm was acquired by Rolls Royce and in 1961 Mulliner was merged with Park Ward Ltd to become Mulliner Park Ward. The firm left Chiswick in 1968.

PIER HOUSE LAUNDRY

The large red-brick building at the western end of Strand-on-the-Green, now offices, was built as the Pier House Laundry in 1905 (extended 1914). The laundry was founded by Frenchman, Camille Simon in 1860 in what had previously been a hotel on the river's edge. The laundry prospered until 1973 when it was forced to close, not because it lacked customers but due to the difficulties of finding staff.

RECKITT AND COLMAN

In 1954 this Hull-based company, now Reckitt Benckiser plc, bought Chiswick Products Ltd, the company that produced Cherry Blossom Boot Polish, and built new premises on the Hogarth Roundabout in 1967. The company also had a large warehouse on Church Wharf, known locally as `Lenin's tomb' (demolished1980). Reckitt and Colman were employing some 1,500 people in Chiswick shortly before all production was moved to Hull in 1972. The company retained its corporate headquarters at Hogarth Roundabout until 1998 when they moved to Windsor.

SAINSBURY

The large supermarket in Essex Place opened in 1986, causing the demise of Chiswick's former supermarket, Waitrose, the following year. The site was previously Whitbread's Bottling Plant which was there from 1914 until the early 1980s. The car park covers the nursery gardens of Fromow, established there in the 1930s and surviving until the 1970s.

SANDERSON

Wallpaper manufacturer, Arthur Sanderson & Sons of Berners Street WI opened a wallpaper printing works in Chiswick in 1879. The firm's factory was built on the site of an old militia barracks. Many wallpapers produced at Chiswick were printed by hand, by wooden block, in the time honoured method, but Sandersons also led the way in producing good quality machine-printed wallpapers. The business grew and, in the early 1880s, the original factory was sold to the Army and Navy Stores and a second factory built on adjoining land in Barley Mow Passage. Another building was put up in 1892-3 and in 1902-3 an additional building on the other side of Barley Mow Passage, connected to the main works by a footbridge. This distinctive white-tiled building was designed by CFA Voysey and was his only industrial building. Now offices, called Voysey House, it is a listed building.

On 11 October 1928 a terrible fire broke out in Sanderson's older building. It took 17 fire engines and around 100 firemen to bring it under control and reduced to ashes machinery, stock and much of the premises. For a week a mountain of smouldering paper `glowed like a volcano'. The local fire brigade described it as the `worst fire we have ever had to deal with'. Although the firm was up and running again within three months the fire had caused damage to the business as well as its premises. It prompted Sandersons to look for a larger and more modern factory and in 1930 the firm moved to Perivale. The old factory is now the Barley Mow Workspace.

THORNYCROFT

The name, Chiswick, doesn't have the ring of Tyneside or the Clyde when we think of shipbuilding. Indeed, Chiswick seems an unlikely venue for such an industry, but, at the end of the 19th century, large vessels were regularly launched from the works of Thornycroft & Co on Church Wharf.

When John Isaac Thornycroft (1843-1928) was 17 years-old he built a 36ft steam launch called Nautilus in his sculptor father's studio. It caused a sensation on Boat Race day since it was the first steam launch able to keep up with the Oxford and Cambridge eights. In 1864 Thornycroft's father bought some land belonging to a boat builder at Church Wharf to enable his son to set up in business. John was joined in 1873 by a partner John Donaldson. The firm first specialised in high-speed launches, progressing to torpedo boats, of which 222 were built for the British and foreign navies between 1874 and 1891, followed by the first torpedo boat destroyers. Thornycrofts also made steam-powered vehicles and experimented with the new internal combustion engine.

As the boats increased in size the difficulties of negotiating the bridges downstream led to Thornycrofts purchasing a yard near Southampton in 1904 and winding down the Chiswick operation. This closed completely in 1909, although Thornycrofts retained the Church Wharf premises until 1919 which were rented out.


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