Isleworth

Isleworth is a small town of Saxon origin sited within the Borough of Hounslow in west London, England. It lies immediately east of the town of Hounslow and west of the River Thames and its tributary the River Crane.

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Isleworth's original area of settlement, alongside the Thames, is known as 'Old Isleworth'. The north-west corner of the town, bordering on Osterley to the north and Lampton to the west, is known as 'Spring Grove'.

Isleworth's former Thames frontage of approximately one mile, excluding that of the Syon estate, was reduced to little over half a mile in 1994 when a borough boundary realignment was effected in order to unite the district of St Margarets wholly within the Borough of Richmond. As a result, Isleworth's boundary with the Thames is now almost entirely overshadowed by the nine-acre islet of Isleworth Ait. The River Crane flows into the Thames south of the Ait, and its distributary the Duke of Northumberland's River west of the Ait.

As the years and decades go by, bringing with them borough amalgamations, boundary changes, new churches and parishes and arbitrary postal codes, the actual town boundaries in some areas can be unclear unless researched. The rivers Thames, Crane and Brent represent clear and unequivocal boundaries, but notwithstanding this in certain areas the town's demarcations with Hounslow and Brentford have become somewhat vague.

Isleworth is home to a crown court whose original remit has been expanded to include judicial work formerly conducted at the Middlesex Guildhall, involving the addition of five courtrooms. The town's municipal facilities include a public library, a public leisure centre with swimming pool, a gymnasium, four recreation grounds, and a town hall.

 
History

Roman & Anglo Saxon

Excavations around the eastern end of the Syon Park estate have unearthed evidence of a Romano-British settlement.

'Gislheresuuyrth', meaning in Old English Enclosure of a man called Gīslhere, is first referred to as a permanent settlement in an Anglo-Saxon charter in the year 695.

During the reign (1042-1066) of Edward the Confessor the manor belonged to Earl Algar, and a modern road off South St today carries his name.

Mediæval

Isleworth was a well established riverside settlement on the Middlesex bank of the River Thames at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as Gistelesworde.

After the Conquest, successive Norman barons of the St Valeri family held the manor of Isleworth but there is no evidence that they ever lived there - it being held only as a source of revenue and power. One of the later barons gave several manorial rents and privileges to the Hospital of St Giles. He also gave the church and advowson to the Abbey of St Valeri, which stood at the mouth of the Somme in Picardy.

 
In the momentous year of 1227, when he took control of England from his regents, Henry III seized Isleworth and other property of the St Valeri family and gave the manor to his brother, Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall. He built a fine new new moated manor house, which is described in the Black Book of the Exchequer - having a tiled roof, chimney, two bedchambers, and an inner courtyard. Beyond the moat was an outer courtyard with a number of buildings for servants and supplies, and a short distance away was a watermill. The exact location of this house is not recorded, but a report of an area long ago known as 'Moated Place' puts the likely place between the Northumberland Arms and Twickenham Road, with the watermill being near Railshead, on the River Crane (not where the traditional Isleworth mill 'Kidd's Mill' was sited, because the stream there is artificial and did not exist at that time).

The seemingly classic mediæval manor house was burned down during the Second Barons' War in 1264.

The Abbey of St Valeri in Picardy held the livings and revenues of several English parishes and, responding to growing disquiet over these foreign holdings, in 1391 it transferred those of Isleworth (for a fee) to William of Wykeham, who endowed them to Winchester College, which he founded. The Wardens and Scholars of Winchester College therefore became proprietors of Isleworth Church. This lasted for 150 years, then in 1543 King Henry VIII exchanged with Winchester certain manors elsewhere for five churches in Middlesex, including All Saints. Four years later he gave the Isleworth rectory and advowson to the Duke of Somerset, but got them back again when the Duke was executed in 1552. Soon after, they were given to the Dean and Canons of St George's Chapel, Windsor, with whom they remain today.

In 1431 a monastery was built within the present Syon estate, and Henry V granted the nuns from the Bridgettine order land on the banks of the Thames, where they built their first house in 1415.

York / Tudor / Stuart

Henry VIII demolished most of the monastery in 1539 and the site was granted to Edward Seymour, the Duke of Somerset. It was Seymour who built Syon House in 1548. Forty-six years later, in 1594, the Syon estate was acquired, through marriage, by the Duke of Northumberland. It has remained in the possession of that dukedom for over four hundred years.

The Royalist army occupied the house during the Battle of Brentford in November 1642. Syon Park was rebuilt and landscaped by the Adam brothers and "Capability" Brown between 1766 and 1773. It became the new London home of the Dukes of Northumberland when Northumberland House in Strand was demolished in 1874.


Georgian / Victorian

 Much of Isleworth became orchards in the 18th century, and then market gardens in the 19th century, supplying the London markets. Lower Square and Church Street still have buildings dating from the 18th and early-19th centuries.

The most striking element of this period was the establishment in Isleworth of so many mansions and large houses, principally for aristocrats and high achievers. This phase of intense mansion-building was sufficiently remarkable for this article to attempt a list of these impressive properties, to ensure that their existence is not easily forgotten. There was a triple attraction to the area at this time. Its rural, waterside beauty had become well recognised over two hundred years or so, and a few palaces, monasteries and mansions already existed. Then the royal court began to appear at Kew, so the adjacent districts on both sides of the Thames became very fashionable places for the rich and famous to build their grand homes. Some of the cachet dropped away when the court eventually left Kew, but the inherent residential desirability of the area remained for many more years.


The first half of the twentieth century for Isleworth generally was characterised by a very substantial amount of artisan and white-collar residential development throughout the town, at the expense of numerous market gardens. This was accompanied by the building of several new factories and offices, mostly towards the north-east, up to the town boundary of the River Brent. This rapid spread of building transformed the nature of Isleworth's layout in the space of just fifty years, from an agrarian pattern to an urban one. When the postwar recovery period had passed, development resumed in the 1950s and within fifteen years the town of Isleworth and the county of Middlesex gave way to the inexorable expansion of London.

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Routes

The principal road in Isleworth is the London Road (A 315), which broadly follows the route of one of the early roads the Romans constructed in Britannia, namely Tamesis Street, built across the wide heathlands en route to Silchester, from where other roads led to Bath, Winchester and Salisbury.

As this road from the centre of London passes through Westminster it is called 'Piccadilly' and then 'Knightsbridge'.  In Kensington it is 'High Street', in Hammersmith 'King Street', in Chiswick it's the 'High Road', in Brentford it's the 'High Street', and as Isleworth's 'London Road' passes into Hounslow it again becomes 'High Street'.  In former times it was part of the 'King's Highway' to Windsor.

A bigger road was completed in 1925, named the Great West Road (A 4), moving in much the same direction and forming the notional northern boundary of Isleworth. A six-lane dual carriageway for most of its length, with attendant cycle paths, it fulfilled the purpose of bypassing the bottlenecks of Brentford and Hounslow high streets to relieve the old road from London of traffic heading to and from Windsor and beyond. A later branch extension off this new road, named the Great South West Road, carried traffic south-westwards and this had the additional effect of relieving the London Road of traffic heading to and from Staines and beyond. In terms of volume and speed of traffic the newer road is of course a much more important throughway for Isleworth, but in human terms it does not identify with or serve the local community so closely.

The other throughway in this category is the Twickenham Road (A 310), which branches off London Road west of the Syon estate and takes traffic to Twickenam, Teddington and beyond. This was the King's Highway to Hampton Court, so in years past those houses fronting on Twickenham Road, such as Somerset House, Kendal House and the two Silver Halls would have been favoured with a royal gaze from time to time.

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Hospitals

Brentford Workhouse Infirmary and West Middlesex Hospital

The Brentford Poor Law Union had a workhouse built in 1838, on land to the east of Twickenham Road in Isleworth. At the turn of the twentieth century this was totally rebuilt as an infirmary, with a much larger workhouse newly erected nearby.This infirmary functioned until 1920, when it became 'West Middlesex Hospital'. In 1931 it was upgraded to a county hospital, but in 1948 (under the NHS) 'County' was dropped from its title. It later became a teaching hospital, and added 'University; to its title in 1980.


West Middlesex University Hospital

This is a major acute hospital on the Twickenham Road, Isleworth, with 394 beds, providing the full range of services expected of a general hospital. It serves residents of the London Borough of Hounslow and that of Richmond upon Thames. As a university hospital it is affiliated with Imperial College London. A programme of building, renovation and modernisation in recent years has resulted in the hospital offering superb, modern facilities.


Percy House Military Hospital

Within the old union workhouse complex stood a school, facing Twickenham Road, called Percy House - Percy being the surname of the Duke of Northumberland. Owing to its gradual disuse as a school it was adapted to function as a military hospital during the Great War of 1914-18. From 1915 onwards it treated some 5,000 war-wounded soldiers, and then ceased operation some time after the war's end. The building was demolished in 1978.


Mogden Isolation Hospital

For nearly a hundred years an isolation hospital existed on the south side of Mogden Lane, which runs west from Twickenham Road. Opened in 1897, Mogden Isolation Hospital served its own borough and that of Richmond, retaining its name until 1938. It was then renamed 'South Middlesex Fever Hospital' but continued under local authority control. When the National Health Service was formed it became, in 1948, simply 'South Middlesex Hospital' - still dealing with acute and infectious diseases under the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. Then from 1974 until its closure in 1991 it was administered by the North West Thames Regional Health Authority.


College

  • West Thames College

Schools

  • Gumley House Convent RC Secondary School for Girls.
  • Isleworth & Syon Secondary School for Boys
  • The Green Secondary School for Girls
  • Worple Primary School
  • St Mary's RC Primary School
  • Isleworth Town Primary School
  • The Blue School CE Primary
  • Ivybridge Primary School
  • Smallberry Green Primary School
  • Marlborough Primary School

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Churches

  • All Saints Church, which faces the River Thames at the eastern end of Church Street, is the parish church of Isleworth. It dates from the 14th century and its tower has endured fire and the passage of time to survive to the present day. By the end of the 17th century it was in need of repair and Christopher Wren, who, as well as rebuilding St Paul’s Cathedral, had repaired many London churches, was approached to submit a plan for the building. His project was deemed too expensive until 1705, when Sir Orlando Gee died and left £500 towards the work. This sum, combined with funds raised through subscriptions, meant that the work, with a few modifications, could commence and was finished in 1706. In 1943 a fire started by two school boys, who a few days later set fire to Holy Trinity Church in Hounslow, destroyed much of the building. The present church was built in 1970 to replace an earlier church building incorporating the original 14th century stone tower.
  • St Francis of Assisi parish church, Great West Road.
  • St Francis of Assisi Church
  • St Bridget RC Church
  • St John the Baptist Church, St John's Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 6NY.
  • St Mary's Church, Osterley Road, Isleworth, TW7 4PW.
  • St Mary the Virgin Church, Worton Road, Isleworth.
  • Isleworth Congregational Church, Twickenham Road, Isleworth, TW7 7EU.


Notable residents

In 1779 Sir Joseph Banks, England's greatest botanist, took a lease on, and eventually bought, a house with thirty-four acres along the northern side of what is now London Road. It became known as 'Spring Grove House'. Although he also had a home in central London he spent much time and effort on his Isleworth property. He steadily created a renowned botanical masterpiece on the estate, achieved primarily with many of the great variety of foreign plants he had collected on his great travels around the world, particularly with Captain Cook to Australia and the South Seas. Banks died in 1820, and over the next thirty years the house was considerably modified and enlarged by a new owner, Henry Pownall, who then sold the estate in 1850 for partial redevelopment.

 
In 1804, Joseph Turner lived for a short time in Sion Ferry House in Isleworth, where he drew inspiration from the picturesque banks of the River Thames. His paintings thereafter include the Houses of Parliament and Hampton Court from the Thames.

In 1953 a neo-Georgian 'Ferry House' was built on the same site, for Ian Gilmour who became 3rd Baronet of Craigmillar. He was Secretary of State for Defence and Lord Privy Seal during the 1970s. He lived in the house for fifty-three years.

Vincent Van Gogh, world renowned post-impressionist artist, → moved to Isleworth in 1876 to become a teacher and assistant preacher at a local school. A blue plaque exists on the house he lived in, at the junction of Twickenham Road and Worton Road.
 
In 1886 Andrew Pears, then head of the Pears Soap business, acquired Spring Grove House. He rebuilt it in 1892/94 on a much grander scale, but retained the earlier structure and faced the building with new brickwork. New design features and large rear extensions made his home a sizeable mansion, which still stands today.

Walter Booth (1882-1938) creator of the first British animated cartoon film, The Hand of the Artist, constructed his own outdoor studio in the back garden of Neville Lodge, Woodlands Road, Isleworth in 1906 with Harold Bastick as his cameraman. At least fifteen films a year were made up to 1915, after which he entered the publicity film market, making advertising shorts for Cadbury.

Eileen Sheridan, a supreme champion English cyclist of the 1940s & 1950s, lived in Church Street, Old Isleworth for many years.

Actor William Hartnell lived opposite the London Apprentice pub during the 1960s, next door to the art collector Hugh Blaker.

Ronald Chetwynd-Hayes, noted ghost story writer was born in Isleworth on 30 May 1919; died Teddington, Middlesex 20 March 2001.He was awarded the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement for 1988, and the British Fantasy Society Special Award in 1989.

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Adjacent towns or districts

Hounslow 
Osterley 
Brentford
Richmond
St Margarets 
Twickenham 

Nearest London Underground stations

  • Osterley Piccadilly Line
  • Hounslow East Piccadilly Line
  • Richmond District Line

Nearest National Rail stations

  • Isleworth
  • Syon Lane
  • St Margarets

 

  • Published: 12/01/2009 11:27:15 A
  • Category: Ealing