Survey of London: Volume 6, Hammersmith. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1915.
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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 Survey.
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 County Council.
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.