Category Archives: Capital Ring

Isleworth

Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” Walk …

Isleworth takes its name from the Old English personal name Gislhere’ and worth, meaning enclosed settlement.  It was first referred to, in a Saxon Charter of 677, as Gislheresuuyrth (although it had evidently been occupied as long ago as the Neolithic).  By the time of the Norman Domesday Survey of 1086, there was a  manor house here, together with two mills and a fishing weir, making the most  of the  riverside position.The manor house was rebuilt in the thirteenth century by the then owner, the Earl of Cornwall, although it no longer exists (the site now being occupied by the Duke of Northumberland public house).   The church of all Saints was founded in the fourteenth century (see below).  The nearby nunnery of St Saviour and St Bridget of Syon, also known as Syon Abbey, in the fifteenth; Syon House,   on the site of the by then dissolved nunnery, in the sixteenth (although it was subsequently substantially  rebuilt in the eighteenth).  A number of other riverside estates and stately homes sprang up in the vicinity in the  eighteenth century.  Isleworth was  finally overtaken by the spread of the suburbs in the late nineteenth century.

Church of All Saints

General view

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The church of All Saints was originally built  in 1398, probably on the site of an  older church referred to in a Saxon charter of 695.  It was rebuilt in 1705, to a modified version of a design submitted by Christopher Wren two years earlier (the original plan having been rejected on the grounds of  expense).  It was then substantially destroyed in 1943, not by wartime bombing, as one might have surmised, but by an act of arson (those responsible  also burning down the church of Holy Trinity in Hounslow).  It was subsequently rebuilt in 1967-70, with the surviving old stone tower incorporated into the new brick structure.

Yew tree marking site of plague pit

Plaque at foot of yew tree marking site of plague pit

The churchyard was the site of the burial of  a total of 149 parishioners who died in the “Great   Plague”  in  1665.  A yew tree and plaque mark the site of the so-called “plague pit”.

 

 

Ham

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “Capital Ring” walk  …

Ham was first recorded in c. 1150 as Hama, from the Old English hamm, meaning an area of land substantially enclosed by a bend in a river (in this case the Thames).

The church of St Peter was originally built here in the thirteenth century; Ham House in the Jacobean period of the early seventeenth.

Church of St Peter

The church of St Peter was originally built here in the thirteenth century, and subsequently substantially rebuilt in the seventeenth.  The west  tower was  rebuilt again, with an attractive octagonal lantern, in 1790, and the south transept was enlarged in 1840.

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In the interior of the church are memorials to, among others, George Cole (d. 1624); Sir Thomas Jenner, Recorder of London (d. 1683); and Captain George Vancouver, explorer (d. 1798).

Ham House

Ham House was built by Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshal to James I, in 1610.  In 1637, it was acquired by William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart, whose family continued to live here for the next three hundred years.  It passed to Sir Lyonel Tollemache, the second cousin of the 9th Earl of Dysart, in 1935, and was given by him to the National Trust in 1948.

John Evelyn visited the house in 1678, and wrote in his diary:

“After dinner I walked to Ham to see the House and Garden of the Duke of Lauderdale, which is indeed inferior to few of the best villas in Italy itself; the House furnished like a great Prince’s; the Parterres, Flower Gardens, Orangeries, Groves, Avenues, Courts, Statues, Perspectives, Fountains, Aviaries, at the banks of the Sweetest River in the World, must needs be surprising”.

 

Wimbledon

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Wimbledon was first recorded in c. 950  as Wunemannedune, from the  Old English personal mane Wynnmann and  “dun”, “hill” (note also, though, that there is an Iron Age earthwork nearby, at “Caesar’s Camp”).  The original church of St Mary  was built here in the Saxo-Norman period.  A manor house, known as the Parsonage House and later the Old Rectory,  was built here in c. 1500; and a second one, known as Wimbledon House or Palace in c. 1588.

The village of Wimbledon grew up around the church and manor houses.

 

Eagle House, on the High Street, was built for Robert Bell, Master of the Worshipful Company of Girdlers and Co-Founder and  Director of the British East India Company, in either 1613 or 1617 (sources differ).

Rose and Crown

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The Rose and Crown, also on the High Street, was built in the  middle part of the seventeenth  century.

The area only began to become densely built up after the arrival of the railway in 1838.   It is now part of the London Borough of Merton.

Church of St Mary

 

As noted above, the  original church of St Mary was built during the Saxo-Norman period, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.  It was rebuilt in the later Medieval period, at the end of the thirteenth century, and again in the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries.    The oldest surviving part is the chancel.

 

The Cecil Chapel contains a stained-glass window dating back to the fifteenth century, and a number of memorials from the seventeenth century, including that  of Edward Cecil, 1st Viscount Wimbledon  (d. 1638), son of Thomas,  and grandson of William.  Elsewhere in the  interior are  memorials to Philip Lewston, who died in 1462, and William Walter, who died in 1587.    And commemorative plaques to the abolitionist William Wilberforce, who lived locally and died in 1833, and who is buried in Westminster Abbey, and to the “Sewer King” Joseph Bazalgette, who also lived locally, and died in  1891, and who is buried in the family vault in the churchyard.

Old Rectory

Old Rectory

What is now known as the Old Rectory was built in c. 1500 for the church, the manor at that time being owned by the Archbishops of Canterbury.  After the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the King, Henry VIII, gave it   to Thomas Cromwell, in 1536, and then – after Cromwell’s fall from grace and execution –  to the Queen, Catherine Parr, in 1543.  Henry visited the house in 1546, after being taken ill on a tour of his Surrey palaces, and indeed was so ill he could not make it up the stairs, such that  a bed had to be made up for him in front of the fireplace in the entrance hall.  In 1550, it  became a grace-and-favour home for William Cecil, who went on to become 1st Baron Burghley – and Elizabeth I’s chief adviser. The house still stands to this day, its appearance altered from that in Tudor times essentially only by the demolition of some parts and the restoration of others in the early eighteenth century.  However, it is now carefully screened from public view.

Wimbledon House or Palace

Wimbledon House

Wimbledon House or Palace was built in c. 1588 for William’s son Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter.   It was subsequently rebuilt – by Inigo Jones and Nicholas Stone – in 1639,  for King Charles I’s  Queen, Henrietta Maria, taken away from her during the Civil War in 1642, and only given back after the Restoration in 1660, and sold – in a sorry state of repair – in 1661.  It was eventually demolished in 1717.

Streatham

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

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Streatham was first founded in the Saxon period, possibly on the site of an earlier, Roman settlement.  It was first recorded in 675 as (Totinge cum) Stretham, and later recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Estreham, from the Old English straet, in this context probably the Roman road that ran from London to Portslade (near Brighton), and ham, meaning homestead or village.  In  the Saxon period it, together with nearby Tooting, was owned by the Abbey of Chertsey.  In the Norman period, both estates were  given by William I to his cousin Richard of Tonbridge, who when he died bequeathed them  to the Abbey of Saint Mary  of Bec in Normandy (whence Tooting Bec).  In the later Medieval to post-Medieval/early modern period, the area came to be owned in turn by Eton College, Edward VI, the Howland family,  the Russell family (the Dukes of Bedford), and the Du Cane family, and  remained sparsely populated.  Many wealthy City families evidently established country retreats here after the Great Fire of London in 1666.  The area remained at least semi-rural, and fashionable among the bourgeois elite, into Georgian and Regency times.  It began to become much more built-up and densely populated from  the latter half of the nineteenth century onwards, after the arrival of the railway.  The number of inhabitants increased over ten-fold during the period of Victoria’s reign, to around 100000.  A significant amount of new or replacement housing had to be built in the area after the  bombing of the Second World War.

Church of St Leonard

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The church of St Leonard was probably originally built in the Saxon period; rebuilt in the fourteenth century, in c. 1350; rebuilt again in the nineteenth century, in 1830-1; and restored in the twentieth, after sustaining serious damage in a fire, in 1975.  The  tower survives from the Medieval church.  A number of seventeenth- to eighteenth- century memorials also survive, in the interior, including one to John Howland (d. 1686), and one to  the sometime brewery business proprietor, Alderman and Sheriff of the City of London, and Member of Parliament Henry Thrale of Streatham Place (d. 1781), featuring an epitaph by his close friend Dr Samuel Johnson.

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Later stained-glass windows commemorate Sir John Ward, a knight who fought alongside the Black Prince at the Battle of Crecy in 1346, and who commissioned the rebuilding of the church in c. 1350; Edmund Tilney or Tylney, the Master of the Revels under Elizabeth I and James I, who lived locally  and died in 1610; and the aforementioned  Henry Thrale and his wife Hester (shown with Johnson and Boswell).

 

Beckenham

Another in the occasional series on historical sites on the “Capital Ring” walk  …

Beckenham  was first recorded in an Anglo-Saxon charter of 862 as Biohhahema mearcae, from the Old English personal name Beohhaham, meaning homestead or village, and mearc, meaning mark or boundary.  It remained essentially rural for much of its later history, only really beginning to become  (sub)urbanised in the nineteenth century, after the arrival of the railway in 1857.  Historically part of the county of Kent, it is now part of the London Borough of Bromley, created in 1965.

Part of the thirteenth-century manor house has been incorporated into the Old Council Hall.  The seventeenth-century George Inn also still stands, on the High Street.

Church of St George

The church of St George was originally built in the twelfth century, and subsequently substantially rebuilt at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth.  It was damaged by V-1 flying bombs in 1944.

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The lych-gate dates to the thirteenth century, and is said to be the oldest in England.

Eltham

Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk  …

Eltham Palace

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Eltham Palace began life as a moated manor house built by the Bishop of Durham in the late thirteenth century, sometime around 1295.

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Shortly afterwards, in 1305, it was acquired by the then future King Edward II, and thereafter became a royal palace, lived in or at least visited by a succession of Plantagenet, Tudor and early Stuart monarchs, and much extended by various of them, notably by Edward IV, who added a Great Hall in 1470.  It  began to decline after Greenwich and Hampton Court Palaces were completed in the sixteenth century, by the beginning of the seventeenth being “farre in decay”, and by the end of the  Civil War, as John Evelyn put it, “in miserable ruins, …  destroyed by [Parliamentarian Colonel Nathaniel] Rich the Rebel”.  What was left of it was then put to use as a farm in the eighteenth century, eventually falling into such a state of disrepair by the early twentieth that most of it had to be demolished.

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In 1933 the site was bought up by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, who had made a fortune out of the manufacture of artificial or art silk (or rayon), and who commissioned the architects Seely and Paget to build adjoining the surviving Great Hall  a luxuriously appointed  Art Deco home for them, and for their pet ring-tailed lemur Mah-Jongg – who it appears had the unfortunate  habit of biting their well-heeled guests!     The Courtaulds moved out, to a 24000-acre estate in Argyllshire, in 1944, whereupon the Royal Army Educational Corps moved in.  English Heritage acquired the property in 1995, and completed a major programme of repairs and restorations on the 1930s house and gardens in 1999.  The house and gardens are now open to the public, although unfortunately no photography is allowed inside the house.

Eltham Lodge

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A little further afield, although still within  the former grounds,  lies  Eltham Lodge, originally built for one of Charles II’s supporters, Sir John Shaw, in 1664, and  currently the clubhouse of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club.

Tudor Barn

front-view

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And a mile or so to the north, on the opposite side of Eltham High Street, and in the picturesque recreated “Well Hall Pleasaunce”, lies a Tudor Barn of 1568, now a restaurant.

Shooters Hill

Another in the occasional series on historic sites on the “Capital Ring” walk …

Shooters Hill is one of the highest points in, and  at the outermost  edge of, London, and commands fine  views of the city to the west …

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… and of the open countryside of Kent to the east.

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It is traversed by the old Roman road to Kent now known as Watling Street, or, more prosaically, the A2.    In Medieval times, the road formed the pilgrimage route from London to the shrine of the archbishop and saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral.

Shrewsbury Tumulus

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On the brow of the hill, just under half a mile north of the water tower, and accessed by way of Shrewsbury Lane and Plum Lane,  is a Bronze Age burial mound known as the Shrewsbury Tumulus.  It is the only  one of a number of such tumuli discovered in the 1930s to survive.