“Difficulties be damned” is the translation of the latin motto “Nec Aspera Terrent” used by the Duke of Lancaster Regiment. So why is this relevant to W7 I hear you say.
Well bizarrely (at least I find it bizarre) Nec Aspera Terrent was also the motto of the short lived Hanwell Urban District Council which was swallowed up by the municipal borough of Ealing in 1926. What a grand motto for a such a little place. So it seemed kind of right to call this post “Difficulties be Damned” – especially when on Friday I found all the textual changes I had just made to the draft of this blog had somehow mysteriously disappeared into the ether, and I had to redo them.
We start our walk at Hanwell Post Office, 139 Uxbridge Road.
Turn left out of the Post Office and cross the road when convenient. The first stop is a bit of a walk past the mini-roundabout with two churches on either side of you. Just a little further beyond the mini-roundabout you will see the gates to a cemetery on the right. Go in there.
Stop 1: Hanwell (City of Westminster) Cemetery
This was one of the cemeteries which Westminster City Council (led at the time by Shirley Porter) controversially sold to land developers for 15p in the late 1980s. I knew about this but I was interested to see that the sign and map at the entrance still said “City of Westminster”. It turns out that the City Council reacquired the cemeteries in 1990 and so today they remain administered by Westminster. There are a couple of people to see here.
Now take the roadway on the far left as you go in. Initially it hugs the perimeter wall and then it curves off to the left. Ahead at the junction with other paths you will see a World War One monument and just to the left is a small monument with a little dog statue.
Stop1a: Freddie Frinton
Freddie Frinton was a comedian who is largely forgotten today in Britain. If he is remembered at all, it is for the 1960s sitcom “Meet the Wife” – the wife by the way was played by Thora Hird. This sitcom was referenced in the Beatles song “Good Morning Good Morning” with the line “It’s time for tea and Meet the Wife”.
But he is a household name in Germany and Scandinavia because of his performance in a sketch called Dinner for One. He had been performing this sketch on stage for years and for reasons which are unclear to me at least it was recorded in 1963 by a German Television Station – Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR). It has since become a German New Year’s Eve tradition and this cult also caught on in Scandinavia.
The sketch has Frinton as a butler serving dinner to a little old lady and four non existent guests. As he serves each course, he asks her “same procedures as last year” and she replies “same procedure as last year”. He then pours out a drink for each guest and then goes round, makes a toast at each place and drinks the drink. Of course gets more and more drunk. There is also a running gag involving tripping (or not tripping) on a tiger skin rug.
Here is a link to the sketch on YouTube.
This is the full version with an opening explanation in German, but the main sketch is in English and apparently was never dubbed. I won’t spoil the punchline (such as it is) in case you want to watch it.
By the way, isn’t the gravestone odd. Freddie’s son-in-law seems to have muscled in. Maybe the remaining space is (was?) intended for Freddie’s daughter.
Walk ahead with the Frinton grave on your right and soon take the path to the right. There is a tree in the middle and beyond that a long low stone monument with a cross on the right hand end. This is the City of Westminster monument to people who were killed in the Blitz and who are buried in a mass grave here. The name to look out for is A A Bowlly.
Stop 1b: Al Bowlly
Albert Allick Bowlly was born in Mozambique in 1899 but grew up in South Africa. He became a very popular dance band singer (or crooner) in the 1930s initially here in Britain and later in the United States. He recorded more than one thousand tracks and was one of the first big band singers to be credited in his own right.
Some of the songs he was known for are: “Goodnight, Sweetheart”, “The Very Thought of You” and “Love Is the Sweetest Thing”. He is one of the singers used by Denis Potter in his 1978 series “Pennies from Heaven” and also in the 1986 series “The Singing Detective”.
Here is one of the few bits of film with Al Bowlly actually shown singing – This one was recorded in Pathe Studios in 1934 and is “The Very Thought of You”.
On the morning of 17 April 1941 – a night of very heavy bombing in London’s West End – Bowlly was one of three residents of Dukes Court (in St James’s) killed by the blast of a landmine which fell in nearby Jermyn Street. It blew in the block’s windows. He was found lying next to his bed, having refused to use the building’s shelter.
Last November, English Heritage put up a blue plaque to him – tactfully not at the location of the flat where he died, but rather at one he occupied in the early 1930s. This is at Charing Cross Mansions in Charing Cross Road, just down from Wyndhams theatre.
Now retrace your steps back to the gates and turn left, heading back into Hanwell.
As we go, have a look out for numbers 76 (cemetery side of road) and number 93 (Post Office side of road). You will find out why when we get to stop 3, but first we have stop 2!
Stop 2: Lidl store (site of Hanwell tram/trolleybus/bus depot)
For just over 90 years this site was used to house various forms of transport. Originally in 1901 it was a tram depot for London United, then it became a trolleybus depot from 1936 and finally a diesel bus garage from 1960. The bus garage closed in 1993 and this Lidl store and car park is now on the site.
There was also a cinema hereabouts for a brief period – the Coronation Hall Picture Palace which operated from about 1912 to 1918.
Now cross the main road and stand by the little green and look up at the end of the building.
Stop 3: Marshall’s Amplifiers
Here you will see a plaque to commemorate Jim Marshall, creator of that staple of rock bands – the Marshall Amplifier. Jim Marshall actually ran a music store at 76 Uxbridge Road, selling drums and then guitars. The story goes that his many guitar playing customers (who included Pete Townshend of the Who) wanted amplifiers which were “bigger and louder”.
In 1962, Marshall together with a young electronics apprentice, Dudley Craven (who had previously worked for EMI) began producing prototype amplifiers. This led to the foundation of Marshall Amplification. The shop later moved over the road to number 93, and eventually the manufacture of amplifiers went off to Milton Keynes, where it is today.
Quite why the plaque is on this building who knows. It is at neither of the locations of Marshall’s shops in Hanwell. This plaque was unveiled at a tribute music festival in April 2013, so maybe it was a convenient location for that, as there is a bit of open space here.
We cannot leave the subject of Marshall’s amps without mentioning the spoof documentary “This Is Spinal Tap”. In this, band member Nigel Tuffnel claimed his Marshall’s volume knob went “one louder” due to a unique setting of 11 on the dial. Apparently in response, Marshall set about producing models with dials that went up to 20 rather than the usual 10.
Now go down the side street here. Across this road is a row of shops and at the end a new block of flats.
Stop 4: Number 8, The Broadway – Site of Grand Electric/Curzon/Tudor Cinema.
This was the location of an independent cinema for around 40 years. First opened in 1911 as the Grand Electric Cinema, it was rebuilt in 1933. It changed hands after the end of Second World War and it was renamed Curzon Cinema in 1946. At the end of 1951 there was another change of owner who renamed it the Tudor Cinema. The cinema finally was closed on 16 July 1955. The building was converted into a warehouse and then it became a car repair garage. It was demolished in the early 2000s and this block of modern flats has been built on the site.
Go back to the main road and ahead you will see our next stop.
Stop 5: Hanwell Clock Tower
This concrete clock tower dates from 1937 and was part of Ealing’s celebration of the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. It must have looking super modern when it was unveiled.
In the early 70s, a local estate agent wanted to raise £5,000 to demolish it and replace it with “something more pleasing”. Luckily the prejudice against 1930s concrete did not prevail and the clock stands today. It may not be the prettiest but it is unusual and does give Hanwell something distinctive and different.
Take the side street across from the clock tower (Boston Road) and follow this quite a way to just past Elthorne Park. Our next stop is on the right.
Stop 6: St Thomas the Apostle Church
St Thomas’s is the work of architect Edward Maufe. He had won the competition for Guildford Cathedral in 1932 but work on that did not begin until 1936. In the meantime Maufe designed St Thomas’s – completed in 1934 – and it is kind of a dry run for the form of construction and materials proposed for Guildford. Many of the interior details are also similar to Guildford Cathedral, such as the tall lancets and narrow aisle passages with very pointed arches.
And he also employed Eric Gill to create a sculpture on the east end wall of the church. This was carved ‘in situ’ from a single stone block.
Lots more info via the Church’s website: http://thomashanwell.org.uk/building/
Now head back towards Hanwell, but at the fork in the road take the left road (Lower Boston Road) rather than the one you came down. Soon on the left is our next stop, by St Dunstan’s Road.
Stop 7: William Hobbayne Centre
This was once clearly a Salvation Army building as their name can be seen in the glass but I was intrigued to know who William Hobbayne was and how this building came to bear his name.
Well it turns out that the name of William Hobbayne has been part of Hanwell’s history for centuries. In fact since 1484 (yes the 15th century!) when he gave a house and some 22 acres of land to be used for the poor and needy of the parish. His legacy created the charity of William Hobbayne which has been doing charitable works ever since. They purchased this former Salvation Army Citadel in 2002 to create a community centre.
keep walking along Lower Boston Road and our next stop is at the corner of St Mark’s Road.
Stop 8: King George’s Field
There are some plaques on the brick pillars which explain a bit about this little open space piece of land. It was originally part of Hanwell Heath which was set aside for the benefit of the poor and so called Poor’s Piece.
Ealing Council bought this site in 1940 and with help from the King George Fields Foundation, it was laid out as playing field, opening to the public in May 1951.
Continue along Lower Boston Road and when you reach Uxbridge Road turn left.
Stop 9: The Wharncliffe Viaduct
As you cross the bridge over the river Brent look over the meadows to the right and you will see our next stop, the majestic Wharncliffe Viaduct. The river is the boundary of W7, so much of the viaduct is outside W7 but I have included it as the eastern end is definitely in W7!
This brick viaduct was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It was his first major structural design and is the first major structure on the Great Western Railway on the way out of Paddington. It goes over the Brent valley at an elevation of 65 feet. An unusual feature for such a structure is the crest in the middle of the south side. This is the Wharncliffe coat of arms. Lord Wharncliffe was chairman of the Great Western Railway and helped steer the necessary legislation through the House of Lords. Hence the name of the viaduct.
The viaduct was originally built for two tracks, but they were of broad gauge (7′ 0¼”). By the time it was widened to take four tracks in 1877 , the Great Western Railway had converted to standard gauge (4′ 8½”), so the structure did not need to be quite doubled in size. You can see this if you walk up along the path by the river and stand under the structure. The northern side (left hand side on picture) is where the extension is.
The supporting piers are hollow and are home to a colony of bats who can access their roost via metal grilles at the bottom of some piers.
Now return back to the Uxbridge Road. Turn left, go back over the river and head up the hill into Hanwell. Just before the clock tower, turn left into Station Road.
Stop 10: Conolly’s Dell
The land hereabouts was the location of “Lawn House”. This was for a time a private asylum run by John Conolly. He had been superintendent at the Hanwell Asylum between 1839 and 1844. I believe this was along Uxbridge Road where Ealing Hospital now stands (which is outside W7).
Conolly then opened his own private asylum at Lawn House. The pioneering psychiatrist, Henry Maudsley ran this private asylum from 1866 to 1874. The house has gone but Lawn and Conolly appear as street names off of Station Road.
Part of the grounds remained undeveloped. This is now known as Conolly’s Dell and is a little park has a stream running through it with some ponds.
There is the plinth of a monument to John Conolly on the south side but the actual moument is lost. There is an inscription which reads:
“A memorial to John Conolly MD of the grounds of whose house this dell was formerly part MDCCCCX1. Hanwell Urban District Council bought the land from Mr Freestone a local resident and pillar of the community for £1,115. HUDC spent £600 on the landscaping and opened it on 3/4/12 without ceremony.”
Return to the road, you came up. Now here’s a curious thing, we are in Station Road and just before the bridge on the right is Station Approach. But neither road actually goes to Hanwell Station. In fact if you want to take a short detour down Station Approach, you can see where the Hanwell station building ought to be. If you could go through that bricked up door, it would lead you to the subway linking the platforms.
And why is the station not here? Well the answer is that when the railway was widened from two to four tracks, the slow lines were on the north side as we saw with the viaduct. That meant the operational platforms for Hanwell had to be on the north side, rather than the south side where Station Approach is. At some point it was decided to concentrate the station entrance on the north side of the embankment. Maybe convenient for the railway but a bit odd as the town is on the south side. Then again Station Approach is a rather strange lonely road with no buildings along its whole length.
Anyhow back to our route. Go under the railway, take the first right and then the next right, which is Campbell Road.
Stop 11: 8 Campbell Road (home of William Frederick Yeames)
We want to stop at Number 8, the former home of artist William Frederick Yeames RA (1835 – 1918).
His speciality was the so called “problem picture”. These are pictures with a narrative which is down to the observer to decipher. His best known work is “And When Did You Last See Your Father?’ which shows the son of a Royalist being questioned by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War.This painting is owned by the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, who acquired it in 1878, just a year after the gallery opened in 1877.
Now keep walking along Campbell Road and soon you will be at the station.
Stop 12: Hanwell railway station
The first station here opened in December 1838 just a few month after the railway line itself opened. But the station we see today dates from the late 1870s when the line was widened. It has two operational platforms (numbered 2 and 3) on the slow lines plus a platform face on the London bound fast line which I guess is only used in emergency. There is no platform on the westbound fast line.
It is quite a pretty station which feels like it should be in the country. Well I suppose it was still quite countrified when it was built. It has a couple of original looking name plate signs which declare the station’s name as “Hanwell and Elthorne”.
Usually when a station uses a place name then it puts the place on the map. Well this does not seem to have happened with Elthorne which has all but disappeared as a discrete place. But maybe it was never much more than a hamlet, presumably on the Boston Road near St Thomas’s church and what is now Elthorne Park.
There is also a sign requesting that passengers cross the line by the subway. Seems a bit unnecessary given how the trains speed through here.
This is a rather frustrating station, in that whilst there are constantly trains hurtling through at great speed, it is only served by the twice-hourly Heathrow Connect (Paddington – Heathrow) stopping service and there is not even a Sunday service. Yet when you get on that train you are whisked to Paddington in just 12 minutes. This is one of the stations which will be on the new Crossrail route so hopefully it will get a much improved service. If it does, then I am sure there will be a bonanza in house prices.
Well that ends our W7 walk. There was much more here that I expected when I started, what with the rock star connection, two almost forgotten entertainers, a nice 1930s clock and a couple of lovely bits of railway architecture.
We are at Hanwell station for onward travel – if you time it right you will not have to wait too long for a train!