The Parish of Hammersmith was formed in comparatively recent
years (i.e. in 1834), when it was separated from Fulham. Since
then the boundaries have undergone some alteration. In the
present volume, following the uniform practice of the Committee, we have
described the parish within the limits shown on the Ordnance Survey of
1894, the year of the beginning of the London Survey Committee's work.
It would perhaps have been more fitting if we had begun with the
parent parish of Fulham before recording that of Hammersmith, but the
work in this neighbourhood was advanced enough to render prior publication
advisable. The Court Rolls of the Manor of Fulham have been searched—
as far as the limited means at our disposal would allow—for information
regarding property in Hammersmith, but no systematic attempt has been
made to pursue the interesting subject of the original parcels of land in
this area, a work which we may hope will be undertaken in the future by
some local historian.
Most of the property in Hammersmith seems to have been copyhold
under the Bishops of London, who (save for a brief space in the time of the
Commonwealth) have from the time of Erkenwald been lords of the manor
of Fulham. Copyhold tenure in some ways assists research, in that the
records of the Court Rolls are voluminous and contain much information
of local value. On the other hand, the very nature of the records tends to
make the entries mere copies of preceding ones, and in this way they often
fail to reveal important changes. Moreover, the Court Rolls themselves
are incomplete in the 17th and earlier centuries, a fact which will explain
the fragmentary character of some of the historical notes.
The name of Hammersmith will always be associated—and rightly—
with the northern shore of the Thames between Fulham and Chiswick, but
in truth only a small part of the parish adjoins the river-side, the bulk stretching northwards as far as the Harrow Road. The fact that until 1630 it had
not even a church (and then only a chapel of ease) suggests that the various
parts of the district were hardly joined together in a single community,
and it is indeed doubtful within what limits the name would be properly
applied in early days.
The derivation of the name Hammersmith is obscure, and so far no
serious attempt has been made to collect all the forms which it has taken
in the past. We will mention two or three suggestions which have already
been made, and the present writer will venture to add a tentative one of
his own. In the Encyclopœdia Britannica we are told that the name appears
in the early form of Hermodeswode. This, however, which occurs in
Domesday, represents the modern Harmondsworth. Later in the same article
it is added that Hammersmith probably means Hamer's hythe or haven,
in which case it might have become Hamersy or Hamerithe, but certainly
would not have assumed its present form. Thomas Faulkner is even
more at sea with his attempted derivation from Ham-hythe. The Rev.
J. B. Johnston (Place-Names of England and Wales, 1915) holds that it was
probably derived from Hamers-Smite, the latter being an obscure word,
perhaps meaning morass. He adds that it can hardly be Hamers Mythe
(O.E. for mouth of a river), "for there is none here." However, as we
point out in another section of this work, reference to Rocque's map of
1745 shows that, even then, what is now called the Creek, dividing the
Upper and Lower Mall, was the mouth of a not inconsiderable watercourse, which would be an ideal place for an early settlement. Thus there
is perhaps good reason to believe that Johnston's rejected derivation is the
true one. Hamers is doubtless the genitive singular of a personal name,
spelt Haimer in Domesday Book, which occurs with slight variations in
several northern languages. At present the form Hamersmyth has been
traced back no further than the reign of Edward II.
Faulkner in his History of Hammersmith refers to the discovery in 1834,
ten feet below the surface, of portions of a Roman Causeway in what is now
called Goldhawk Road. The site of the excavation is more or less in the
line of a Roman road marked on a map in the Victoria County History of
London and also in Montagu Sharpe's Antiquities of Middlesex as running
from Essex to Brentford and onwards. The authorities, therefore, have
reason for calling this thoroughfare a Roman road on the Ordnance
In mediæval times the district seems to have lacked religious or semireligious foundations, save a Lazar House or Hospital which is shown on
Norden's map of Middlesex (1593) on the main road between Palingswick
and the Creek. It is mentioned in the will of Dame Joan Frowyk, who died
in 1500, (fn. 1) and it was in existence as late as 1677, for Faulkner mentions (fn. 2) an
entry of that date in the Churchwardens' Book, referring to the expenditure
on "burying the woman at the Spittle-house." Bowack, however, less than
thirty years after, states (fn. 3) that "not a stone, not so much as the Remembrance
of it, is now left." From certain references to the building in the Fulham
Court Rolls for 18th April, 1616, it would appear to have been on the
north side of the road. In the early part of the 17th century the Hospital
was in the hands of Isabella, Lady Rich, as daughter and heiress of Sir Walter
Cope, and the Fulham Court Rolls contain an interesting record of how,
in 1618, it was forfeited to the Lord of the Manor (being held by copy of
court roll) by reason of a demise having been effected of the premises without
the licence of the latter having been obtained. On the appeal of Sir Henry
and Lady Rich the premises were restored.
The two most important houses in the district, the property of each
of which has apparently been regarded as a kind of sub-manor to Fulham,
were Butterwick's (near the church) and Palingswick (Ravenscourt Park).
The records of these houses have been investigated with great care by
Mr. W. W. Braines, of the staff of the London County Council, and we are
indebted to him for the admirable accounts included in this volume.
In the 17th century Hammersmith, particularly the area close to
the river, became an important residential quarter, (fn. 4) and with the surviving
buildings of this and the succeeding century our survey has most to do.
The first result of this access of residents was the building of Hammersmith
Chapel (now the parish church) in 1630, largely through the generosity of
Sir Nicholas Crisp. The absence of the parish rate-books (except for a brief
period of five years) has greatly handicapped us in tracing the residents of
the buildings included in our survey.
It would be a serious omission in any account of the parish to pass
over the most striking feature of its latest development, i.e. the attraction
to the neighbourhood of a large number of important public institutions.
The transference of St. Paul's School to Hammersmith Road in 1880 has
been followed by the arrival of several other establishments of varying
character. The large buildings of the Post Office Savings Bank in Blythe
Road and St. Paul's School for Girls are two of the most striking recent
additions. The Roman Catholics have always held an important position
in Hammersmith, and two convents and other lesser foundations are still
here. The northern area from Shepherd's Bush to Wormwood Scrubs—a
district of ancient forest and waste land—contains the great convict prison,
an adjoining workhouse and infirmary, and the extensive grounds of the
exhibition known as the Great White City. Olympia is also within the
south-eastern limits of the parish. These latter, which did not displace
any buildings of historical interest, can be better tolerated than the intrusion
of certain unwelcome manufactories which are gradually destroying the
beauty of the river-bank. Since the establishment of the Waterworks in
1806 and the building of the new bridge in 1825, the beautiful houses of
the Upper and Lower Malls have been gradually disappearing, and now
that the huge modern suburb threatens even these survivors, the last relics
of a peaceful and picturesque hamlet are seriously imperilled. We can feel
some little satisfaction, however, in presenting these records before the
flowing tide has quite overwhelmed them.
The compilation of this volume has been the work of several members
of the Survey Committee, aided by many good friends in and near Hammersmith. The initial survey was made by Mr. A. O. Collard, and was later
carried on by Mr. Percy Lovell, who went through the Court Rolls of the
manor, with the very kind consent of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The
Committee is indebted to Mr. De Bock Porter, the Steward of the manors,
for his courtesy and help in this connection. Further research, as already
mentioned, was undertaken by Mr. W. W. Braines, of the London County
Council, at the Record Office and elsewhere, and his help has proved
invaluable. The assistance should also be acknowledged of Mrs. Lewis
Chase, who searched documents and also placed at our disposal several
photographs. The residents of Hammersmith have been very helpful,
special assistance being rendered by Mr. Warwick H. Draper, Mr. Emery
Walker, Mr. Cobden Sanderson, and by Mr. Joseph Martin, who placed
before the Committee much of his important Hammersmith collections
and contributed valuable information. The Committee are anxious to
acknowledge the help of all the owners of property who have very kindly
allowed our members to record their houses, and have furnished historical
particulars from their title-deeds.
The thanks of the Committee are due to Major Sir Edward Coates,
Bt., for permission to reproduce several drawings from the Coates Collection, and also to Mr. J. Charles and Mr. Saunders for the loan of photographs.
A number of the photographic records have been supplied by the London
In the midst of the preparation of this volume Mr. Percy Lovell
elected to serve with His Majesty's forces in the present European war.
He has accepted a commission in the Northumberland Fusiliers, and the
work of completing the book for the press has been carried out with much
skill by Mr. Walter H. Godfrey, to whom also we should offer our thanks.