The High Bridge and Creek

Pages 53-54

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

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The Lower and Upper Mall are separated from one another by the Creek, a picturesque inlet of the Thames which, there is little doubt, formed the cradle of the early riverside life of Hammersmith. The Creek is spanned by a wooden bridge called the High Bridge, and, appropriately enough, we find here clustered about its banks a little village of cottages, some of which take us back as far as the 17th century. At the High Bridge there converge four old footways or bridle paths, two on the east—the Lower Mall and Aspen Place, (fn. 1) and two on the west: the Upper Mall and Bridge Street, the latter having once been the commencement of a path which led at first north-west and then proceeded parallel with the Mall towards Chiswick. This way is now closed, and Bridge Street communicates with Hampshire Hog Lane, which was a northern tributary of the old bridle path, or, as it is called in the Manor Rolls, the Warple Way. (fn. 2)

The Creek extends northwards as far as King Street, and for this distance is navigable by barges. The eastern bank is occupied by wharves, and the western by malt-houses which formed part of the Town Brewery founded by Joseph Cromwell about the year 1780. (fn. 3) These form a very picturesque setting for the water when the tide is high, the effect being heightened by barges moored to the steep walls and banks.

The Creek was once the mouth of a stream which, as the Stamford Brook, is very distinctly marked on Rocque's map of 1741–45 (Plate 1). It rose some distance north-east of Gunnersbury House, and flowed immediately east of the then Duke of Kingston's well-known mansion, Berrymead Priory, Acton. After a somewhat devious course it passed north of the house in Ravenscourt Park, having fed no doubt in earlier days the moat which surrounded the manor house of Palingswick on this site. Then, having received a tributary stream rising in the neighbourhood of Harlesden Green, it turned south towards the Creek, entering it through a brick culvert which made an oblique easterly turn beneath King Street. A drawing of part of this culvert under the premises of Messrs. Seldon and Son, 180 King Street, was made by Mr. A. O. Collard in 1910. The name of the stream is perpetuated by Stamford Brook Green, and by the district just beyond the parish boundary called Stamford Brook. It appears to be a mere coincidence that the word Stamford has been applied not only to this watercourse but (with slight variation) to the creek south of Counter's Bridge (q.v.), and to the bridge carrying the Fulham road across this creek and now spanning the railway on the same site. The two watercourses were a considerable distance apart, and evidently quite independent.

How long a bridge has existed at this spot it is difficult to say. There was certainly one as early as 1541, for the Fulham Court Rolls mention a surrender, dated Whit Tuesday in that year, by Richard Arnold and Margaret his wife, of lands including an acre at "Highbridge, Hamersmyth." (fn. 4) Faulkner says (fn. 5) that the bridge was rebuilt by Bishop Compton in 1712, and Thorne perhaps refers (fn. 6) to another re-edifying when he credits Bishop Sherlock with building it in 1751. Both statements, however, are unsupported by evidence. The bridge was repaired by Bishop Howley in 1820, (fn. 7) and again in a very substantial fashion by Bishop Blomfield in 1837. (fn. 8)

Old prints, drawings, etc.

(fn. 9) Rocque's map of London.

(fn. 9) Salter's map of Hammersmith.

Drawing of the culvert under 180 King Street (1910) by A. O. Collard.

In the Council's ms. collection is:

(fn. 9) View of the creek (photograph).


  • 1. This lane seems to have been known by a variety of names at different periods, as: Ship Lane, Pingsworth Lane, the road leading from Pearcroft, the way from Pinsor Gate and Cutthroat Lane.
  • 2. See p. 97.
  • 3. Faulkner's History and Antiquities of . . . Hammersmith, p. 52.
  • 4. Other early references to the bridge are contained in the Court Rolls for (i) 30th April, 1550: Thomas Essex presented in respect of a wharf leading from "le Strond in Hamersmyth" to the bridge there called "le Highebridge"; (ii) 12th March, 1648–49: leave given to Robert Oustler to let to farm his cottages "prope le High Bridge in Hamersmyth"; (iii) 17th October, 1650: premises surrendered by James Reeve, bounded by the Thames on the south and the footway leading from the bridge called Highbridge on the north.
  • 5. History and Antiquities of . . . Hammersmith, p. 321.
  • 6. Handbook to the Environs of London, p. 273.
  • 7. Report of the Committee of Magistrates appointed to make inquiry respecting the public bridges n . . Middlesex (1826), p. 189.
  • 8. Faulkner, op. cit., p. 321.
  • 9. Reproduced here.