HAMMERSMITH to TURNHAM GREEN
2 1/4 hours
This section of the Piccadilly line opened in 1932. Trains run non-stop over this section using the inside tracks of the District line viaduct while the District line uses the outside tracks and stops at intermediary stations. Not all Piccadilly line trains stop at Turnham Green, some are non-stop to Acton Town.
Routing note: This walk connects in Hammersmith with Piccadilly line walk 6, with District line walk 1 and with Hammersmith & City line walk 2. It connects in Turnham Green with Piccadilly line walk 8 and with District line walks 2 and 3.
My time estimate allows for a visit of Chiswick Park. Visiting the house as well may take you an additional 1/2 hour.
The station was opened by the District Line in 1874 while Piccadilly Line services used it as the terminus starting in 1906. Piccadilly line trains continue beyond Hammersmith since 1932. There is an other, completely separate Hammersmith station used as the terminus of the Hammersmith & City line. Interchange between the two stations is possible but involves walking across a major road.
The original District Line building was demolished in the 1990s as part of a grand real estate scheme involving office buildings, a shopping centre and a large bus station, all located above the platforms. Access is now through a standard steel-and-glass shopping arcade.
There is an interesting work of art just outside the station entrance. It shows three young men and is called “etcetera”. Originally, these were three separate statues cast for a shopping centre in Edinburgh. They were later stored and quite forgotten until the developer in Hammersmith happened to see them and had them set together on a single plinth in what a newspaper called a “provocative cluster”.
As the nudes have names (Echo, Tango and Charlie), I have been wondering whether they might refer to the signal alphabet used in aviation and seafaring since World War II as this involves specific gestures if flags are not convenient. The title “Etcetera” is obviously linked to the three initials E, T and C. The sculptor Crispin Guest (born 1947) is less known in Britain as he moved to France as a student and stayed there ever since for family reasons. The biography on his website is very amusing if you understand French well (http://artslies.pagesperso-orange.fr/cgcv.html).
Exit the station through the south exit of the shopping arcade on Talgarth Road
Cross the two roads using the traffic lights in front of you
Walk towards the church but keep under the motorway flyover
St Paul’s Hammersmith is a parish church built in 1883 in a typical Victorian neo-gothic style. I was unable to get inside and the main attraction seems to be a bust of King Charles I on a memorial. The churchyard was converted into a plain open space in the 1950s when the ground was given over to the borough. On the flipside, the borough won awards in the 2000s for converting a vacant parking space into an extension of the open space.
The flyover carries the A4, one of the main access roads to Heathrow Airport. The elevated section bypassing Hammersmith Broadway dates back to 1961 and was very innovative for that time. It even had a heating system under the road in order to prevent ice building linked to wet winter fog coming from the nearby Thames river. The system was complex to maintain and stopped working after about 20 years. In addition, it used very expensive quantities of fuel. The main country that continues to heat roads frequently nowadays is Iceland, where this is cheaper because it is done using hot water from volcanically heated aquifers.
L Queen Caroline Street
The road ends with a short footpath joining the Thames Path
R on the Thames Path all the way to Chiswick Wharf and Church
You very soon pass underneath Hammersmith bridge, one of the most imposing bridges over the Thames. It was opened in 1887 in order to replace an older toll bridge and is a suspension bridge. This was a popular design in the 19th century for the Thames section between Westminster and Richmond because it enabled barges aimed for the Midlands to follow the river with a limited risk of accidents.
The bridge was designed by the Joseph Bazalgette, the engineer who headed the Metropolitan Board of Works and is better known for building the first full sewer system in London. The unusual family name comes from French protestant ancestors who had to flee France when king Louis XIV forced them to convert or leave. Mr Bazalgette must have led a happy family life as he had no less than 11 children.
The bridge cannot carry heavy modern traffic and had to be repaired several times, but it will not be fully replaced as it is a listed monument. The strong colour scheme is in line with the 1887 design while the coats of arms on the pillars have lost their colours in an attempt to distract drivers less. The bridge has the dubious distinction of being the only one targeted three times by the IRA (1939, 1996 and 2000).
This is a very well-known and popular part of the Thames Path so that some readers may already have enjoyed this section. The long-distance path is perfectly marked with signs in all appropriate places. The view towards the river shows mostly trees and a small uninhabited islet (Chiswick Eyot). The yonder side of the river in Castelnau has few riverside buildings except for a school hidden behind trees.
The riverside is fully built on the left bank where you are walking, but it bears no comparison with the big luxury estates of Wandsworth or Wapping as it is mostly villas and pubs. Shortly after Hammersmith Bridge, you pass the main park in the area, Furnivall Gardens. The large building at the back is the town hall for Hammersmith, an austere Art Déco building from 1938. Compared to other town halls from the same period in London (such as Dagenham or Brent), it is rather small. The architect provided a good accent with a very large window and balcony overlooking the park. On the town side away from the river, the one interesting detail is a sculpture of a river god on the grand staircase.
Furnivall Gardens (the park) was landcaped after World War II on industrial land destroyed by bombs. The park is named after a Mr Furnivall who has founded a popular sports club in the area (scullery).
The park is not spectacular but it does have a few flower beds and an enclosed garden closer to the river.
After a short passage away from the park, you are back directly along the river on Upper Mall. There are many elegant villas with lovely river views here and some are interesting to look at.
Number 26 is called Kelmscott House and is a Georgian house with the typical boring shapes and dark bricks. It was the last house of major designer and businessman William Morris who died here in 1896. Most of the house is now a private residence but there is a small exhibition space where the William Morris Society holds appropriate shows. Please check the website before as opening times are very restricted (www.williammorrisociety.org).
The house next door is less important but has interesting ironwork that remind a little of the Wiener Werkstätte style of the 1910s.
The tall building at number 36 is also Georgian and is now used by a school. It is part of very exclusive Latymer Upper School, founded in 1624, a seriously expensive school with a corresponding record in sending alumni to the most sought after universities. Expect to pay more than 20,000 £ a year for your dearest.
Number 60 at the end of Upper Mall is an elegant Georgian house called Linden House. It is the seat of a yachting club. The building was clearly meant as a stand-alone property in its own grounds as it is symmetrical with a grand entrance portico as opposed to the less conspicuous house you saw before at number 26.
The next section of the Thames Path is not a road, just a paved passage, and leads past a popular eatery with a really nice river view. There is an other pub at the yonder end of a small riverside park. The first eatery caters more to the yachting crowd, the pub is set back from the river and feels more like a traditional gastropub.
After the pub, you are again on a quiet riverside road, Hammersmith Terrace and later Chiswick Mall. Most of the houses along this stretch of the Thames are expanded Georgian cottages. One of the them has the intriguing and obscure name “Said House”. Most houses own small gardens located between the road and the river wall. I am not sure such an arrangement is very convenient and your garden is not exactly sheltered from onlookers, but I did take pictures of two nicely arranged and very different examples.
You are now opposite a small Thames river island, Chiswick Eyot. It is a tidal island, meaning that you can reach it without getting wet if the tide goes low enough. Such islands are not very frequent. Some experts think that such islands were considered special as early as in Iron Age times and would often be preferred as locations for religious rites or official meetings. Such islands were also very attractive to early monks in Saxon times as they combined some degree of security with practical access. As a result, tidal islands were often called “holy islands” such as Lindisfarne in Northumberland and Mont Saint Michel in Normandy.
Walk away from the river past the church on Church Street
The parish church of St Nicholas Chiswick was rebuilt in 1884 in the usual neo-gothic style. The cost was paid by one of the owners of a very large local business, Fuller’s Brewery. If you are lucky enough to get access, there are several nice monuments from the 17th century inside such as the rather theatrical one on my picture. You wonder whether the two fashionably attired gentlemen pulling the curtains to show the deceased persons are allegories or possibly the two sons.
Opposite the church, there is a lovely really old cottage; the sign above the door says 15th century, which applies probably only to part of the wooden beams. The building (and also its neighbour) were pubs until the 1920s. They lived off travellers who crossed the river Thames on the local ferry and off brewery workers.
Half R along the churchyard in narrow Powell’s Walk, the path merges into Burlington Lane
L along Burlington Lane
Cross this main road into Chiswick Park
Chiswick Park and House are among the leading attractions in London suburbs and are definitely a highlight of this walk. The house is managed by English Heritage, which implies that entry is free if you are a member and expensive if you are not. The park belongs to the local borough and is managed together with the house through a special-purpose trust.
As I have many nice pictures, I will give you a rather detailed tour using the route suggested on the official brochure that you can download: http://chiswickhouseandgardens.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Visitor-Guide-2018.pdf
The gate I use in my route to enter the grounds is marked on the map as Corney Road Gate. Follow the Burlington Lane perimeter wall inside the park until you reach the main access, Great Chertsey Road Gate. Turn R to reach Chiswick House.
The house was built in 1729 by the Earl of Burlington in a nod to ancient roman architecture. It was the first house built in this style in England and many architects were inspired by neo-classical decoration elements as a consequence. Inside, the house was decorated by William Kent in his typical style with heavy gilt cornices. The house had a less distinguished period around 1900, being a mental hospital and from 1939 onwards a fire station. These activities took place mostly in additional wings that were demolished in 1956.
The house layout is inspired by Palladian summer villas of the Venice area and clearly not that of a normal residence. There was a bedroom but the house is meant much more for garden parties and displaying the refined taste of the owner. From the outside, it is worth noting the very cool, understated appearance and the perfect symmetry, typical of Palladian villas.
The main floor at the top of the stairs was primarily an art gallery as the owner had brought back no less than 870 boxes full of works of art from Italy. Each room is themed, as was usual since about 1650, and is held in a specific colour (coordinating rooms within part of a house did not appeal before the 1750s). There was very little furniture as it was not a house to live in and the main focus is on the paintings. I was not overly impressed as most of them are 17th century Italian works I am personally not too fond of.
Actually, the architecture is more interesting than the contents. Some innovations were daring and were actually not copied often, such as the room divider in form of a mini-colonnade. Others became popular in garden houses like alcoves. The central dome plays with perspective; it revolutionised taste and probably inspired very well-known domes like those of Greenwich Hospital and St Paul’s Cathedral.
The gound floor feels a little like a cellar because it has only small windows and was partly used by domestic staff. The effects caused by the many differents shapes of walls and colonnades in the ground floor are quite fascinating and children will love to play hide and seek here. There are a few copies of antique statues and an amusing octogonal wine cellar around a central pillar a little like a cathedral crypt.
When you leave the House, I suggest you walk back a little bit to the sphinges at the end of the forecourt and then turn R towards the cascade. The garden was intended by the Earl of Burlington to be a reliable example of what a Roman garden would have looked like in antiquity but there were many changes over the years and several different landscape architects. As a result, the garden is rather a typical 18th century formal park with many “fabriques” (fanciful buildings).
The cascade fell originally into a pool within the grotto, imitating a design see in a park in Rome. When it was built, it was a major attraction as artificial waterfalls in the flat landscape of the Thames valley were considered a major technical achievement. The waterfall was only reinstated around 2009 as it was quite expensive.
Passing the waterfall, turn R along the lake. This was not part of the original design as there was only a brook crossing the park, but lakes had become fashionable by 1727 following the lavish naval parties on the lake in Versailles park.
Walking along the lake, you will soon see a second “fabrique“, the so-called Ionic Temple. You will have an even better view of it later on. The name sounds Greek because references to ancient Greece proved good education and refined taste, but the building is actually much more similar to some Roman temples seen in Rome.
Some way after the temple, you reach a bridge over the lake called ambitiously the “Classic Bridge”. It was built much later in 1774 at a time when a new owner decided that some of the old park features needed revamping. He had a few fabriques pulled down while adding some geometrical features in line with contemporary taste.
At the very end of the lake, the path crosses the feeding brook in a dark dell. This particular section does not really feel like an antique Roman garden and shows how a landscape garden like Chiswick could have evolved quite naturally into a romantic park. Continue the path as it turns into a straight avenue leading slowly away from the lake.
The avenue passes towards the end a delightful vista combining a pond, an obelisk and the front side of the Ionic Temple. The pond is perfectly circular as is the grass bank around it. The diameters follow a mathematical relationship (3 to 4 to 5) that is also used in some of the rooms in the house. There is no clear documentation about this but it is likely that this is a Masonic symbol. The Earl of Burlington was a leading Freemason but was very discreet about it because the king’s government saw in freemasonry at the time a suspiciously pro-French movement that may even harbour strictly forbidden sympathies for the Jacobites. It is interesting to reflect on a brother of the king being openly a Masonic temple president in the 1900s.
The avenue you have followed ends at a half-round marked with statues on plinths, definitely a Roman idea. There are three avenues and their merging is therefore called a patte d’oie, the French word for a goose foot. The theatre of hedges with plinths is called the exedra and is the centre of the garden as it is the part best seen from the villa balcony. Originally, some of the plinths held actual antique statues with most of the others holding identical modern urns.
The statues changed several times over the many years since. A favourite game of erudite visitors was to guess who the Roman gentlemen were. Depending on political trends, it might be Cicero, Caesar and Pompey, but the original set was actually composed of Virgil, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, Lycurgus and Lucius Verus, the two latter being a transparent allusion to the Earl advocating an end to a government he felt was behaving in a tyrannical manner.
Walk back towards the villa and turn L at the foot of the building. You soon reach an isolated, elegant gateway that gives access to the café. The gateway was about 100 years old when the Earl bought it from a property in Chelsea. It is actually a testimony to the garden architecture of Inigo Jones, the leading architect in the 1620s, who is actually better known for royal palaces and churches.
Turn L at the gateway and walk towards a tall isolated column. You pass a former deer house (built using a design directly from a book by Palladio) and reach the Doric Column, an other reference to Greece although Greek columns definitely were lower and much bulkier. The statue at the top of the column is a Venus, both the protector of gardening and a popular goddess at a time when gentlemen thought little of seeking amusement in the arms of whatever young woman was available.
Walk back a little bit past the deer house and turn L towards the Conservatory. It is certainly not the most impressive in London but it has a claim to historical fame and it actually houses a very renowned collection of camellia bushes, one of the first to be assembled in Britain in the 1820s at a time when this plant from the Himalayas was a stunning novelty. The Conservatory itself was the longest glass building in Britain when it was built in the middle of a major war with France in 1813.
There is a distinguished Italian Garden at the foot of the conservatory. You could argue about Italy in this context but it is indeed a scheme alien to typical English flower beds. Single tall plants are meant to stand out among ground covering flora and this is actually a reference to gardening in the 1600s, when you would make sure that your exotic plants such as expensive tulips from Turkey were seen at their best advantage.
On the other side of the Conservatory, there is a kitchen garden and an orchard. They may be closed when you visit; in this case, come back to the Doric column and take the avenue that leads along the former walled garden away from the house. The avenue ends at a fabrique, the Rustic House. It is just a decoration item and there were also fabriques at the end of the two other avenues, one was a “Pagan Temple” replaced later by an “Eyecatcher” with a statue and the other one was a bathhouse on the lake.
For some reason, the avenue leading to the Rustic House is called Napoleon’s Walk. Exit Chiswick Park at the northern end through the carpark on Hogarth Lane
If you are really keen, you can detour about 200 yards along the main road to see Hogarth’s House. The building is a reconstruction of the house where the famous painter lived, the original house having been converted and then partly destroyed by a bomb. I did not visit the house because it does not show much more than explanation panels and copies of the prints. You can see original works by Hogarth in other locations in London.
Cross Hogarth Road using the pedestrian subway
Half R into Devonshire Passage (a narrow footpath starting at the subway exit)
L Duke Road
Soon R Fraser Street
L Devonshire Road
R Chiswick High Road
soon L Turnham Green Terrace
The station opened in 1869 on a suburban train line that was to have many different destinations over the years. The line has now been taken over by the Underground District line. Piccadilly line platforms opened in 1932 but trains only stop for connection purposes at rush hour. There are discussions about all trains stopping after some upgrading work is done.
There is no interesting station building, just a small concourse looking like a nondescript cottage abutting the viaduct.