Chiswick was once just a small fishing village, and gets its name from the chesil, an old word for gravel-like shingle, that lay on the riverbank. The original settlement was near St. Nicholas Church, which is on the river near Fuller's Griffin brewery on the A4, and included a row of timber-framed tumbledown cottages known as Sluts Hole. Demolished in the 1930s, these cottages have since been replaced by the more prestigiously named Chiswick Wharf townhouses.
The medieval hamlets of Turnham Green, Strand on the Green and Little Sutton have expanded over the centuries to become areas of what we now know and love as Chiswick. Little Sutton, now the residential area of Grove Park, was once laid to market gardens and orchards, whilst Turnham Green changed drastically when the railway network was extended into the area.
Nowadays Chiswick is unusual in the West London area for its housing stock because it is largely Victorian and Edwardian with only small pockets of mid-late 20th century architecture. In the last twenty years a number of new developments have been created on brownfield sites which reflects the decline in light industry in the area. On the other hand, office space in Chiswick has increased immensely, in part because multinational organisations have recognised the convenience of being located between Heathrow airport and central London.
Chiswick's residential development began en masse in the 1870s, with the building of workers cottages in the Glebe Estate which borders Chiswick High Road and Devonshire Road, and the luxury Arts and Crafts-influenced red-brick family homes in Bedford Park which enjoy large gardens and ornate interior decoration. Bedford Park became popular with a bohemian, creative set, with actors, painters, playwrights, poets and architects settling in the area. Further housing areas were built later in the Victorian era and into the Edwardian period in Acton Green and the Riverview area in Strand-on-the-Green.
Not all of Chiswick's Victorian housing projects survive to this day. One such area was ambitiously called Chiswick New Town when it was built in the 1830s to provide 260 homes for the poor families of those working in the nearby market gardens and breweries. Home ownership in this area was very low as the estate was largely owned by a few wealthy landlords. Houses were built cheaply and roads were unmade, and properties on street corners housed small shops such as greengrocers, a laundry, a removals company and a fishmonger. Residents of the area loved to flout the rule of no gambling in the streets, which required a regular police presence to patrol the area. However young boys were employed by the gamblers as look-outs to make sure that pavements could be cleared of coins when the police officers arrived. The houses survived into the 20th century, but their condition left much to be desired when compared to properties built nearby with running water and sewerage; during the war some of these houses collapsed from the blast of nearby bombs, such was their fragile construction. Following the end of WWII the estate was at last demolished and replaced by council-built around Wood Street, Bennett Street and Devonshire Street, as well as the William Hogarth School.
Many people's daily experience of Chiswick is driving along the busy six-lane A4 which bisects the area. If you look closely you can see how some houses in Airedale Avenue and Netheravon Road were demolished in the late 1950s when that section of the A4 was built, leaving some semi-detached houses without their former partners! One of the junctions on the A4, at Hogarth roundabout, is named after the painter William Hogarth who lived in a house built in the 1700s which survives adjacent to the new Chiswick Gate development. The single-lane flyover across Hogarth roundabout was built in 1971 as a temporary solution to ease traffic congestion at the junction, however 45 years later the flyover is very much a permanent structure and, having been recently reconstructed, it now carries 10,500 cars and vans every day.
21st century Chiswick is renowned for being an affluent suburb of London with excellent road and Underground links and an impressive selection of premium restaurants, cafes and boutiques. These amenities, coupled with the nearby open spaces of Chiswick House and Gardens and Dukes Meadows, make Chiswick an ideal location for city workers with families to settle.