Saturday, March 18th 2017
We caught a bus to Waterloo Station and there looked for breakfast. We had coffee, croissants and one of those delicious Portuguese custard tarts at a cafe on the upper level. Then we went down again and looked at the departures boards. At this point, I did not know where we were going. This is a habit or game of ours: Tigger (much more imaginative than I) decides our destination and we start out, waiting to see how far we get before I guess where we are going. We boarded a train going to Reading but ‘We are not going to Reading,’ said Tigger.
I didn’t guess our goal until the train stopped at Twickenham and Tigger said ‘We get out here.’ The name ‘Twickenham’ is an odd one and I wish I could give you a precise derivation but this, it seems, is not possible. The earliest reference to it is in a document known as the 704 Charter after its date. Possibly a copy of an original, the charter refers to the settlement as Tuican hom and Tuiccanham. I can do no better, I think, than quote the following paragraph from the Twickenham Museum’s Website:
Later deeds offer a variety of spellings of the name, and there can be no certainty about its origin. ‘Ham’ was a Saxon name ending and there is also a Saxon word ‘wic’ which was derived from a Roman word ‘vicus’ for a small settlement. Another word ‘hamm’, is possibly of English origin, meaning variously ‘land in a river bend or promontory, dry ground in a marsh, river meadow’, which is a likely description of the settlement: Twickenham lies between two rivers, the Thames, and the Crane which used to run through marshy land. It has also been suggested that a personal name ‘Twicca’ led to the name of the settlement but there is no documentary evidence to support this.
The area has been divided in various ways between various local councils but today, since the 1965 reorganization, Twickenham belongs within the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
As it passes Twickenham, the Thames divides to form Eel Pie Island. The island, connected to the mainland by footbridge is privately owned but can be visited. Pete Townsend’s Eel Pie Publishing, producing pop and rock recordings, was once sited here and today it is the home of the Twickenham Rowing Club. We did not visit the island but perhaps we will on another occasion.
In the station forecourt stands this sculpture. It is entitled Restless Kingdom and the inscription on the plinth ascribes it to Guy Rushworth Hardern.
This pub is called the William Webb Ellis. If, like me, you find watching soccer and rugby about as interesting as watching paint dry, then the name won’t mean much to you. Otherwise, you might recall that Twickenham is often called ‘the home of rugby’ because here is sited Twickenham Stadium, owned by the governing body of rugby union, where many important matches are played. The game of rugby is often said to have been invented in 1823 when a pupil at Rugby School, William Webb Ellis, during a game of football, picked up the ball and ran with it. He is commemorated in the name of a pub here in the ‘home of rugby’. I don’t know when the pub was built but I note that the royal cipher of Edward VII appears over both doorways which may indicate that it is Edwardian (i.e. built between 1901 and 1910). From its design, Tigger suggests that it might be an old post office and that would certainly explain the presence of the ciphers, unusual in a pub building.
I know equally little about this structure in York Street. I have captioned it ‘Old Store’ because it looks as though it might have been built as a department store. If so, then its glory days have obviously passed and all that remains is a gable bearing the date 1903, making it Edwardian as well. The ground floor has been converted into a row of single retail units while upstairs there are other commercial premises. It’s a handsome building and I would like to have seen it in its heyday.
Coming across a fine old public library such as this is a bitter-sweet experience at a time when the library service is increasingly under threat and libraries are being closed. Twickenham’s first public library opened in 1882 and was well established by the time it was felt necessary to acquire a larger premises. The new library was created in 1906-7 with philanthropist Andrew Carnegie supplying some of the funds. The architect was Howard Goadby and the building is now Grade II listed.
As needs changed, the interior was altered and renovated but some of the original features remain such as beautiful stained glass in windows and door panels. The three scimitars are an allusion to the crest of the county of Middlesex to which Twickenham was at the time attached.
The Bear was another pub that I liked the look of aesthetically though I do not know anything about it. It looks as if it too might date from Edwardian times but I could be wrong.
This Art Deco creation caught our eye immediately. It stands on the corner of York Street and Arragon Road. These days it serves as part of the Civic Centre but the symbols in the decoration leave no doubt as to its original function: it was the local showroom and offices of the Electricity Board. Who designed it and the exact date of construction seem not to be known other than that it was built some time in the 1930s.
This beautiful Grade II listed house is one of the more beautiful and historically interesting of Twickenham’s buildings. What was originally a property belonging to one John York in the 1400s was later known as York Manor and came into the ownership of the crown under Henry VIII. The main part of the present house dates from the 17th century. From this time until the 19th century, it was leased to a succession of tenants too numerous to mention here, though a history of the house can be found in its Historic England list entry. A plaque beside the front door tells us that Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (1608-1674) lived here though, as far as I can tell, he was only the third occupant of the house in its 17th-century incarnation. York House is now the town hall of the Borough of Richmond and attached to it are York House Gardens which are open to the public.
Venturing down to the Riverside, in a thoroughfare called the Embankment, we came upon a pub with the engaging name of the Barmy Arms. An explanation of the name is given on the pub’s Website which also notes that it was previously known as the Queen’s Head. There has been a pub here since the 17th century but I assume the current building is younger than that though I have no information about it. There was, I am glad to say, nothing barmy about the cuisine or the service and we enjoyed our lunch here.
Nearby is the Church of St Mary the Virgin. The Riverside is the old heart of Twickenham and St Mary’s is its parish church. A church existed here from medieval times and the 15th-century tower, built of ragstone still remains. Other parts of the church may have been even older than this. The body of the church, however, having fallen into serious disrepair, collapsed in 1714. Funds were raised and a replacement church body in red brick was erected, giving the interesting contrast in colour and style that we see today. Despite its chequered history, St Mary’s has received a Grade II* listing. For more details of its history, see Twickenham Museum’s page on it here.
We strolled west along Heath Road where I photographed this 18th-century pub called the Three Kings. Then we caught a bus to begin our journey home.
The bus took us into Richmond. Here, as we walked along beside Richmond Green, we felt that we were being watched. A giant pair of eyes gazed out at us from the foliage of a front garden! Happily, it was only an advertisement for an option whose premises are in the house.
We did not tarry in Richmond, having visited it before (see A stroll around Richmond), though there is a lot to see here and we may well return another time. Today we made for the station where we caught a train to Waterloo.
While beside the river in Twickenham, we saw a pair of handsome black swans and I photographed one of them: