Saturday, February 4th 2017
For today’s outing we took a bus to Hammersmith Station and strolled from there. Here is a map showing the location of Hammersmith which resides on a picturesque loop of the Thames.
Hammersmith is these days part of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. As usual, I pondered these names and tried to find out their derivation. On the face of it, Fulham is the easier of the two because there is general agreement as to its origins. According to this theory, we owe it to an Anglo-Saxon farmer called Fulla who here carved out for himself a hamm, that is, ‘an enclosure or property at the bend of a river’. Case closed, would you say? Well, no, actually. There is another explanation which I prefer, if for no other reason than for the poetry of the language in which it is expressed:
The name of this place was anciently written Fullenham, or Fullonham, which, says Norden, “as Master Camden taketh it, signifieth volucrum domus, the habitacle of birdes, or the place of fowles. Fullon and Fuglas, in the Saxon toong, doe signifie fowles, and ham, or hame, as much as home in our toong. So that Fullonham, or Fuglas-hame, is as much to saie, as the home, house, or habitacle of fowle. It may be also taken for volucrum amnis, or the river of fowle; for ham also, in many places, signifieth amnis, a river. But it is most probable it should be of lande fowle, which usually haunt groves and clusters of trees, whereof in this place, it seemeth, hath beene plenty.”1
There also seems to be general agreement as to the derivation of the name Hammersmith. According to this, there was a smithy hereabouts that either used or made hammers and that the two words became conflated as ‘hammersmith’. That is just too pat for my liking but, happily, I have found an alternative. There was once a substantial watercourse, known as Hammersmith Creek (now, alas, covered up), which ran along what is now King Street and debouched into the Thames where Furnival Gardens are today. This suggest a possible settlement at the Creek’s mouth – mýðe (pronounced ‘müthe’) in Anglo-Saxon – and a Anglo-Saxon property owner called Hamer, making a putative Hamersmýðe, which is virtually identical with the modern name.2
Now for some pictures of the objects, scenes and buildings that caught my attention.
Crispin Guest, 1991
In the entrance hall of Hammersmith tube station we spotted this work of sculpture. Helpfully, a small plaque has been placed beside it on the floor stating the name of the artist(s). This is worded as follows:
PIECES BY CRISPIN GUEST 1991
PLINTH AND ARRANGEMENT
BY MICHAEL JOHNSON 2003
This seems to suggest that the work is made of separate ‘pieces’ that were not conceived to form a whole but have been serendipitously conjoined by someone other than the sculptor. Make of it what you will.
The Lyric Hammersmith
We walked along King Street (following the course of the buried Creek) and I did a double take on spying the above building. This because I am used to the Lyric Theatre being in Shaftesbury Avenue and was surprised to find it here. This one, of course is the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith. It was originally built by theatre architect Frank Matcham in 1895 but in 1966 its history took a curious turn. Under threat of demolition, the theatre was saved as a result of a local campaign but was then moved, brick by brick, a short distance from its original site to where it is now. Would Frank Matcham notice the difference, I wonder. Yes, probably.
I photographed it because I liked it
Further along King Street, I saw this building and, as the caption says, ‘I photographed it because I liked it’. I know nothing about it, such as it date of construction or original purpose, but the shape and proportions pleased me.
The Salutation Inn
Next to the the building I photographed because I liked it is the Salutation Inn. This was handy as we were feeling it was time for a tea break. Despite the parked vehicles, you might be able to see that the inn sports some rather nice blue and mauve tiling and, generally, a very handsome appearance. It was built for local brewers Fuller, Smith & Turner in 1910 by architect A.P. Killick. It is now deservedly a Grade II listed building. (For a less obstructed view, see the admirable Victorian Web.)
Stairway to nowhere
Continuing after our tea, we reached the Town Hall. Nowadays, this consists of the main building dating from the 1930s and a modern annexe. Here we found a pair of escalators, once no doubt intended for public access, but now blocked off. It gives one a strange feeling to see stairs leading nowhere.
Face of Father Thames
As we walked along the side of the Town Hall, we saw a face staring at us. It was one of a pair decorating the stone staircase of an entrance. The figure represents Father Thames and was sculpted by George Alexander (1881-1940). Originally from Glasgow, Alexander moved to London and received a number of commissions for architectural sculpture though he was best known for his wood carvings. Alexander was also responsible for Sheffield’s City memorial for the First World War.
Hammersmith Town Hall
Finally, from the car park, I managed to find an angle from which to photograph the Town Hall as a whole. This Grade II listed building was designed by Ernest Berry Webber (1896-1963) in a mixture of Scandinavian styles referred to by a contemporary as ‘Swedish Georgian’. The foundation stone bears a date of 1938 and the building was finished in 1939. Though conceived as the town hall for the then Borough of Hammersmith it continues today as the headquarters of the combined London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham.
Friends’ Meeting House
Our path took us past this Friends’ (Quakers’) meeting house. The Quakers have a long history in Hammersmith and this is their third meeting house, built, I believe, in the 1950s. They will soon move (or maybe have already moved) to a spanking new centre (see here).
Church of St Peter Hammersmith
We now found ourselves on the Great West Road and walked west along it. This is not the pleasantest environment to ramble in, what with the dirt and noise of the constant streams of vehicles in both directions. The above is a fairly distant shot of the Church of St Peter Hammersmith. It’s a Grade II* listed building but we didn’t manage to visit it this time. It was completed in 1827 and the architect was Edward Lapidge.
Two views of the Thames
We turned off the main road and made for the river where I took the above overlapping panoramic views. (I hardly need say that they need to be clicked on to see them in larger format.) The Thames here is quite different from what it is only a few miles downstream. The banks are not cluttered with tall, closely-packed buildings and there is a feeling of openness. Here, too, the water is accessible for rowing and yachting.
Pigeons taking their ease
Birds of many species are attracted to the river, even non-aquatic ones. These pigeons obviously feel at home here and seemed to be enjoying sitting together. To take the photo, I went as close as I could without disturbing them. Unfortunately, soon after I clicked the shutter, along came a family with two young children who proceeded to chase the pigeons off the rails and from wherever else they settled. The parents took no notice, apparently accepting this behaviour. This is something that angers me. These parents are perpetuating in their children the attitude of casual bullying and lack of respect for animals that is such a blot on the human character. A gentle word telling the children to leave the birds in peace and to enjoy watching them instead of persecuting them would make a huge difference. It is scenes like this that make me despair of the race of homo sapiens (homo ignorans might be a better appellation for the species).
The Old Ship Inn
We turned in the downstream direction and soon encountered the Old Ship Inn. A glance at the menu posted outside showed that there were vegetarian dishes available so we went it for lunch.
As far as I can tell, there has been an inn here from at least the 18th century. Originally, however, the pub was sited between the walkway and the river and had access to the river. Part of that ancient inn survives but the building as it exists today dates from 1850.
Continuing in the same direction after lunch, we passed in front of Linden House. There were originally two houses here named Linden House and Grafton House but Grafton House was finally destroyed by enemy action during World War II. The Grade II listed survivor, Linden House, probably dates from the 18th century, perhaps as a merchant’s house, but may be even earlier as there is a possibility that it was built by a Dutch merchant called Isaac Le Gooch in 1685. It now belongs to a charity, The London Corinthian Trust, and, as well as acting as a ‘venue’ for events, is the home of the London Corinthian Sailing Club and the Sons of the Thames Rowing Club.
Race Starting Box
That explains the presence on the riverbank nearby of this unusual structure. It provides a view in both directions of the Thames and serves as a conspicuous place from which to start and supervise waterborne races. Access is via a trapdoor in the base. The box is not listed but, together with a housing development behind Linden House called Mylne Close it received a Civic Trust Award in 1964. (You can see the triangular Civic Trust plate on the side of the Box in the photo.)
We continued walking along the river in the downstream direction until we reached Hammersmith Bridge. This is a suspension bridge made largely of wrought iron. It is the second bridge on the site. The first, dating from the 1820s, had proved by 1870 to be too weak for the amount of traffic crossing it and a replacement was deemed urgently necessary. The replacement was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette to rest on the foundations provided for the previous bridge. It opened in June 1887 and is a Grade II* listed building.
Coats of Arms, Hammersmith Bridge
From the bridge we made our way to the main road where we caught a bus to begin our journey home. First, however, I photographed one of the bridge’s anchorages whose ornamentation includes seven coats of arms. The centre of the display is occupied by the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom while on the outer ring, starting from the left (where the 9 would be on a clock) and going clockwise, we have the coats of arms of the City of London, Kent, Guildford, the City of Westminster, Colchester and Middlesex. Originally, these coats of arms were all painted in their correct heraldic colours but are now reduced to green and gold.
1The Environs of London: Volume 2, County of Middlesex, published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1795.
2Preface to Survey of London: Volume 6, Hammersmith, published by London County Council, London, 1915
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