Chiswick: Social and cultural activities

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.

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Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot, M A Hicks, 'Chiswick: Social and cultural activities', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, ed. T F T Baker, C R Elrington( London, 1982), British History Online [accessed 23 July 2024].

Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot, M A Hicks, 'Chiswick: Social and cultural activities', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Edited by T F T Baker, C R Elrington( London, 1982), British History Online, accessed July 23, 2024,

Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot, M A Hicks. "Chiswick: Social and cultural activities". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden. Ed. T F T Baker, C R Elrington(London, 1982), , British History Online. Web. 23 July 2024.


Houses called the Catherine Wheel and the Counter House in 1558 (fn. 1) may have been taverns, as was the Bohemia in 1632. (fn. 2) The King's Head at Chiswick was among taverns known to the 'water poet' John Taylor in 1636 (fn. 3) and there was the Cock and Half Moon at Turnham Green in 1680. (fn. 4) Fifteen alehouse keepers were named in 1716; (fn. 5) 17 inns were listed in 1722 (fn. 6) and 27, a number probably not exceeded for over a century, in 1759. At least 5 inns in 1759 were at Turnham Green, including the Pack Horse, (fn. 7) so called by 1698, (fn. 8) whose licensee's widow in 1791 had been 'much respected by the nobility and gentry travelling the great western road'. (fn. 9) Only one inn, the Noah's Ark, was said in 1759 to be at Strandon-the-Green. (fn. 10) There were 11 inns at Turnham Green, 7 at Chiswick, and 5 at Strand-on-theGreen in 1839-40 (fn. 11) and each district had one more by 1862. (fn. 12)

An assembly room had been built at the Pack Horse by 1747. (fn. 13) Presumably it was in regular use until the 19th century, since in 1800 Edward Jenkins was licensee and in 1808, when there had been assemblies for at least 20 years, a winter ball was held at Jenkins's rooms. There were six stewards in 1807, one of whom insulted a wellconnected visitor by having his subscription returned. (fn. 14)

An armed association was formed in 1798, (fn. 15) when Sir Charles Rouse-Boughton launched a successful appeal for contributions for defence. (fn. 16) Presumably the association was superseded by a volunteer corps, which was to be enrolled in 1803 and supported by subscriptions in 1804. (fn. 17) The 3rd West Middlesex militia had a stores at Turnham Green in 1862. (fn. 18) Chiswick (C) Company of the 2nd (South) Middlesex Rifle Volunteers drilled weekly during the winter in 1900 at the Hogarth schools. (fn. 19)

A clothing fund for the poor, administered by a committee presided over by the vicar, was established in 1841. (fn. 20) Perhaps it was superseded by Chiswick Philanthropic Society, formed in the 1890s, (fn. 21) which continued to raise money for charities in the old parish under new rules adopted in 1956. (fn. 22) Chiswick Memorial Club for ex-servicemen opened in 1919 in Afton House, Bourne Place, given by Daniel Mason, (fn. 23) where it remained in 1979. Chiswick Women's Aid, providing refuges for battered wives, originated in meetings at no. 2 Belmont Terrace in 1971, (fn. 24) and achieved national renown.

A bowling alley lay near the south-east end of the later Devonshire Road, on part of the demesne of the Prebend manor, by 1746. (fn. 25) There were inns called the Bowling Green in 1751 and the Cricketer in 1759 and 1770. (fn. 26) Turnham Green Devonshire cricket club, so called because the duke of Devonshire accepted the presidency in 1853, played on Turnham Green common by 1856 and became Chiswick and Turnham Green cricket club by amalgamation in 1867. It was called Turnham Green cricket club from 1884, (fn. 27) after some members had founded the Chiswick Park Cricket and Lawn Tennis Co., (fn. 28) which by 1900 had divided into separate cricket and lawn tennis clubs. New clubs by 1900 included Bedford Park for lawn tennis, Sutton Court for football, and Fairlawn Park for tennis and bowls; Grove Park had its football club in 1900 (fn. 29) and a cricket and lawn tennis club by 1911. Chiswick and West London bowling and tennis club had its own grounds in Airedale Avenue in 1911. (fn. 30) They were still used in the 1960s, when cricket was played on Turnham Green common, Homefields recreation ground, and in the park of Chiswick House, while there were public tennis courts at Chiswick common, Chiswick House, and Duke's Meadows. (fn. 31)

Other sports were served by a short lived Chiswick golf club and by at least three cycling clubs, one of them for ladies, in 1900, (fn. 32) and by Chiswick rifle club, with a miniature range at no. 475 Chiswick High Road in 1911. (fn. 33) Some large firms organized their own sports clubs (fn. 34) and acquired grounds near the river, (fn. 35) as did the London Polytechnic, the Civil Service Sports Council, St. Thomas's hospital, and the Prudential Assurance Co. The Polytechnic in 1890 used a boathouse at the end of Hartington Road, (fn. 36) on land which had been acquired for it in 1888 by Quintin Hogg (1845-1903). The nearby Quintin Hogg memorial ground was opened in 1906, a stadium and an additional field for rugby were opened in 1938, the old pavilion was afterwards extended for women, and in 1979 the grounds covered over 40 a. (fn. 37) The Civil Service Sports Council in 1925 was preparing 30 a. south of Riverside Drive, where a pavilion was opened by George V in 1926 (fn. 38) and a much larger one in 1969. (fn. 39) St. Thomas's hospital used its land only after the First World War (fn. 40) and relinquished it for council housing, followed by a new school, in 1946. (fn. 41) Among several boating clubs by 1911 was the Ibis rowing club, with a boathouse in Hartington Road by 1890. (fn. 42) In 1979 the club was one of four main centres of the Prudential Assurance Co.'s Ibis society, which also had a 30-a. sports ground at Chiswick. (fn. 43)

A Conservative club existed by 1888 in the high road, (fn. 44) presumably at Camden House which it occupied in 1890, when there was a Radical club in Station Road. (fn. 45) In 1896, however, Camden House accommodated the Liberal and Radical club. (fn. 46) Chiswick Constitutional Club used the Chestnuts, Turnham Green, in 1900 and the Chiswick Parliament debated at Kensington House, Turnham Green Terrace, in 1911. Monthly meetings were held by the Independent Labour party in 1900. (fn. 47)

Turnham Green Literary and Scientific Society met in 1890 in Heathfield Terrace and in 1908 at the town hall, where Chiswick Scientific and Literary Society, presumably its successor, still met in 1926. (fn. 48) By 1900 Chiswick had a total abstinence council and societies, some of them run by churches, for many different pastimes, including angling, photography, and gardening. (fn. 49)

Both Grove Park and Bedford Park to some extent owed their appeal to a well publicized social life, the first being noted for activities connected with the river and the second for its artistic circles. In addition to its sporting clubs, Grove Park had its own society in the late 1870s and a literary and debating society in 1905. (fn. 50) Bedford Park, in particular, was designed to provide amusements near home. (fn. 51) Dances, concerts, and lectures were held from 1879 at the club, tennis was allowed on Sundays, and the many societies included one for amateur dramatics, formally inaugurated in 1881, whose scenery and costumes were supplied by local artists. (fn. 52) Six societies served Bedford Park in 1900, including groups for chess and natural history. (fn. 53) The club itself, supported by members' subscriptions, closed in 1939 and was a private club in 1979. (fn. 54)

The Strand-on-the-Green Association was founded in 1958, as one of the earliest amenity societies, soon followed by the Old Chiswick Protection Society (fn. 55) for Chiswick Mall, in 1963 by the Bedford Park Society, with Sir John Betjeman as patron, (fn. 56) and in 1970 by the Grove Park Group. (fn. 57) Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society, meeting at Chiswick library, was founded in 1958. (fn. 58)

Chiswick hall, in the high road, was licensed for music and dancing in 1888. (fn. 59) The Chiswick Empire theatre, originally to be called the Hippodrome, (fn. 60) was opened by Oswald (later Sir Oswald) Stoll in 1912. Larger than the Shepherd's Bush Empire, on which it was partly modelled, it stood in Chiswick High Road opposite Turnham Green common and seated 4,000. (fn. 61) Although films were to be shown at the theatre in 1932, (fn. 62) ballet and opera, besides drama and variety shows, continued to be performed there until 1959, when it was bought by Town & City Properties. Offices in the eleven-storeyed Empire House, which had been built on its site, were first occupied in 1961. (fn. 63)

Motion pictures were shown at the town hall in 1903. Chiswick's first purpose-built cinema was the Palais, (fn. 64) with elaborate plasterwork on its facade, which was open at no. 356 Chiswick High Road on part of the later Woolworths' site from 1910 until 1914. (fn. 65) The Electric theatre, on the east corner of Duke Road and Chiswick High Road, opened c. 1911, became the Coliseum in 1929 and, as the Tatler, closed in 1933, (fn. 66) whereupon it was converted into shops. (fn. 67) The slightly larger Cinema Royal, seating 450 and converted from the former Chiswick hall, opened in 1912 at no. 160 Chiswick High Road. Known from its decor as the Cave, it closed soon after renovation in 1933 and had been used as a second-hand furniture store for many years in 1979. (fn. 68) A cinema at no. 256 Chiswick High Road had its licence renewed in 1913. (fn. 69) From the mid 1930s the nearest cinemas were in Brentford or Hammersmith. (fn. 70)

Attempts to foster community spirit in Bedford Park led to the monthly publication of the Bedford Park Gazette in 1883-4. (fn. 71) The Chiswick Times was founded in 1895 by F. W. Dimbleby, who had recently acquired the Richmond and Twickenham Times, and was renamed the Brentford and Chiswick Times in 1927. It was still published weekly by the Dimbleby Newspaper Group in 1979. (fn. 72) The Chiswick Gazette appeared weekly, as a local edition of the former Acton and Chiswick Gazette, owned by the Middlesex County Times Co., from c. 1903 to 1919 and the weekly Chiswick Express from c. 1903 (fn. 73) to c. 1905. (fn. 74) Local news in 1979 was published in the weekly Chiswick and Brentford Gazette, distributed free as an advertisement. (fn. 75)


  • 1. W.A.M. 16620.
  • 2. Mdx. County Rec. iii. 49.
  • 3. Mdx. & Herts. N. & Q. iv. 78.
  • 4. Phillimore and Whitear, Chiswick, 60.
  • 5. M.R.O., MR/LV3/4.
  • 6. Ibid. LV3/95.
  • 7. Ibid. LV7/39.
  • 8. Lond. Gaz. 25-28 Apr. 1698.
  • 9. Gent. Mag. lxi (2), 1235.
  • 10. M.R.O., MR/LV7/39.
  • 11. Pigot, Dir. Mdx. (1839-40).
  • 12. P.O. Dir. Mdx. (1862).
  • 13. British Mag. 16 July 1747.
  • 14. Chiswick Assembly (pamphlet 1807), in Chiswick libr.
  • 15. Chiswick libr., NC/II/xxvii; watercolour in Gunnersbury Pk. mus.
  • 16. Pamphlet, 1798, in Chiswick libr.
  • 17. Vestry min. bk. (1777-1817), ff. 260-1, 281-2.
  • 18. P.O. Dir. Mdx. (1867).
  • 19. Chiswick Times, 21 Dec. 1900.
  • 20. Chiswick libr., NC/I/lxxv.
  • 21. Chiswick Times, 9 Nov. 1906 (15th annual dinner).
  • 22. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 4 Aug. 1977; Char. Com. files.
  • 23. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 28 Aug. 1969.
  • 24. Erin Pizzey, Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear (1974), 9-10.
  • 25. Rocque, Map of Lond. (1746), sheet 11; Guildhall Libr., map case 260.
  • 26. M.R.O., MR/LV7/4, 39; 8/65.
  • 27. Turnham Green Cricket Club, 1971 (programme in Chiswick libr.).
  • 28. Kelly's Dir. Chiswick (1928).
  • 29. Chiswick Times, 21 Dec. 1900. Lists of sports and other clubs were published regularly in the newspaper.
  • 30. Official Guide to Chiswick [1911].
  • 31. Brentford and Chiswick, Official Guide [1963].
  • 32. Chiswick Times, 21 Dec. 1900.
  • 33. Official Guide to Chiswick [1911].
  • 34. e.g. the Chiswick Polish Co., whose social activities were recorded in its mag. (copies in Chiswick libr.).
  • 35. Below, industry.
  • 36. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890, 1926).
  • 37. Inf. from Mr. A. E. H. Winter.
  • 38. Civil Svce. Sports Jnl. Aug. 1925; Opening of Chiswick Ground, 1926.
  • 39. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 5 June 1969.
  • 40. E. M. McInnes, St. Thomas's Hosp. (1963), 160.
  • 41. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 13, 20 Sept. 1946.
  • 42. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890); Official Guide to Chiswick [1911].
  • 43. Inf. from the sec.
  • 44. Kelly's Dir. Chiswick (1887-8).
  • 45. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890).
  • 46. Chiswick Times, 17 July 1896.
  • 47. Ibid. 21 Dec. 1900; Official Guide to Chiswick [1911].
  • 48. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1890, 1908, 1926).
  • 49. Chiswick Times, 21 Dec. 1900.
  • 50. Wisdom and Bott, Grove Pk. Estate, 4.
  • 51. Bolsterli, Bedford Pk. 76.
  • 52. Greeves, Bedford Pk.
  • 53. Chiswick Times, 21 Dec. 1900.
  • 54. Bolsterli, Bedford Pk. 76.
  • 55. Inf. from Mrs. Judges.
  • 56. Inf. from Mr. T. A. Greeves.
  • 57. Char. Com. files.
  • 58. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was.
  • 59. 'Cinemas in Brentford and Chiswick' (TS. in Chiswick libr.).
  • 60. Official Guide to Chiswick [1911].
  • 61. Chiswick Times, 6 Sept. 1912.
  • 62. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 24 June 1932.
  • 63. Ibid. 13, 20 Mar., 26 June 1959; 5 May 1961; Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 64.
  • 64. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 27 Oct. 1977.
  • 65. Brentford and Chiswick As It Was, illus. 67.
  • 66. Ibid. illus. 55; Brentford and Chiswick Times, 27 Oct. 1977.
  • 67. Mdx. Local Hist. Council Bull. xviii. 12.
  • 68. Brentford and Chiswick Times, 27 Oct. 1977; Mdx. Local Hist. Council Bull. xviii. 12.
  • 69. 'Cinemas in Brentford and Chiswick' (TS. in Chiswick libr.).
  • 70. Brentford and Chiswick, Official Guide [c. 1952].
  • 71. Bolsterli, Bedford Pk. 31.
  • 72. Brentford and Chiswick Guide, 6 June 1974; Willing's Press Guide (1979).
  • 73. Kelly's Dir. Chiswick (1902-3, 1919).
  • 74. Advert. in Chiswick Illus. Almanac (trades dir. 1905).
  • 75. Copies from 1972 in Chiswick libr.