Image above: Eric Ravilious’ painting Two Women in a Garden

Explore Chiswick’s cultural history, online and on foot

14 January, 2021 / by Matt Smith and Bridget Osborne

Some of Chiswick’s cultural organisations have got together to launch the Explore Chiswick initiative. They are encouraging people to learn about the area’s heritage by following local arts and history trails highlighting the rich artistic and literary history of the area.

Chiswick has inspired and been home to artists and writers for 400 years, from William Hogarth, Alexander Pope & William Makepeace Thackeray to the Nobel Prize winners WB Yeats and Harold Pinter. Contemporary residents include the artist Sir Peter Blake and the current Sunday Times bestselling author Richard Osman.

The trails include one of artists who have lived in Chiswick, one of writers, one about the history of Chiswick House and Gardens and a Georgian history trail. They are available to download on mobiles and computers, if you’d rather stay at home, or if you are taking your daily exercise, then you can follow them on foot.

‘Inspiring and informative’

Torin Douglas, director of the Chiswick Book Festival, says:

“There are several inspiring and informative arts trails in Chiswick. We hope they will cheer Chiswick up and help improve people’s mental and physical well-being, whether shielding or taking daily exercise within Government guidelines.”

UPDATE 15 JANUARY: Police joined local Councils LB Hounslow and LB Hammersmith & Fulham on Friday 15 January in asking people to avoid the riverfront, particularly over the weekends, to avoid overcrowding.

READ ALSO: Avoid the riverfront say police and councils

Perhaps skip some of the locations on the maps that are by the riverside and come back to them at a later date!

Image above: Camille Pissarro, The Train, Bedford Park

Art and Artists

In January 2017 Karen Liebreich and Sarah Cruz of Abundance London unveiled the Chiswick Timeline, a mural on the railway bridge beside Turnham Green tube station showing maps from different periods of Chiswick’s history and art works by some of its famous artists.

At the same time they launched a map of 19 sites of artistic interest, including Johan Zoffany’s house at Strand on the Green, Eric Ravilious’ house at Chiswick Mall and Camille Pissarro’s house on Bath Rd. Their homes are private houses, so you can’t go inside, but it’s still interesting to see where they lived.

Download the map for the Chiswick Timeline Art Trail here.

Books and Writers

Inspired by the Chiswick Timeline initiative, Torin Douglas, Director of the Chiswick Book Festival, took up the cause and started researching Chiswick’s literary history. Chiswick can lay claim to two winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature (and one nominee) plus one Booker Prize winner, three Oscar winners (and two nominees), a Poet Laureate and several writers who merit blue plaques. All of which prompted the Observer to comment: Chiswick may be the UK’s most literary location.

The Writers trail takes in Nancy Mitford’s house at Strand on the Green, the flat where Harold Pinter wrote The Caretaker and the home of EM Forster, author of A Passage to India, A Room with a View and Howard’s End. There are 21 locations on the trail, all over Chiswick.

Download the map for the Writers Trail here.

Image above: Chiswick House & Gardens; photograph Anna Kunst

Chiswick House & Gardens

Chiswick House & Gardens Trust has produced an interactive map and visitor guide to the eighteenth century Palladian villa and its grounds.

Its creator the 3rd Earl of Burlington was a great patron of the arts in the 18th century.

‘His salon at Chiswick included not only William Kent, the father of the English landscape garden but such luminaries as Alexander Pope, Isaac Ware, John Gay and the musician Handel.

‘Leader of fashion and political activist for the Whig party, Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire referred to her home at Chiswick House as ‘my earthly paradise’. Her parties and political breakfasts at Chiswick were renowned’.

Image above: John Donowell’s view, published in the 1750s, showing Lord Burlington’s new villa. 

Xanthe Arvanitakis, director of Chiswick House & Gardens Trust, said:

“At Chiswick House we are committed to keeping the Gardens open, as they’re essential to everyone’s mental and physical wellbeing. We were thrilled to be awarded £308,000 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, which will help us support the needs of local schools and communities – and we hope people will enjoy finding out more about our cultural heritage.”

Download Chiswick House & Gardens visitor guide here.

Image above: Detail from John Rocque’s Map of London and Environs, surveyed 1741-45

In Georgian Footsteps

Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society and William Hogarth Trust have co-created In Georgian Footsteps, a guided trail of 18th Century Chiswick.

Val Bott, chairman of the William Hogarth Trust, said:

“Our Georgian trail helps you step back into 18th century Chiswick and links Hogarth’s House and Chiswick House. It was a pleasing joint project between our Trust, Chiswick House & Gardens Trust and the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society, funded by the John & Ruth Howard Trust and Hounslow Council. Try it out – and see a place you thought you knew through fresh eyes!”

Download the guide to Georgian Chiswick here.

Image above: Hogarth’s House

A series of talks on Chiswick’s cultural history

The campaign leads into a series of online talks on Thames Luminaries, starting on 27 January with Val Bott’s presentation: ‘Within the garden walls at Hogarth’s House’. On 29 January , Dr Marion Harney will speak about ‘Alexander Pope: the poet and poetic landscape’; and on 3 February the topic is ‘Chiswick House, William Kent, and the birth of the English Landscape Movement‘ with John Watkins. The ten talks are in aid of the Pope’s Grotto Preservation Trust and can be booked here:

‘Faith and the arts go together’

The Explore Chiswick initiavite has been brought together by St Michael & All Angels Church, which runs the Chiswick Book Festival, the Bedford Park Festival and other community arts activities.

Fr Kevin Morris, vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Bedford Park, said:

“At St Michael’s we believe faith and the arts go together, to inspire people, lift their spirits and engender conversations with people across a wide range of backgrounds and beliefs. Bedford Park, the first garden suburb, was inspired by the Aesthetic Movement of the 1870s and has long been a centre for artists, architects and writers.”

www.chiswickbookfestival.net/exploring-chiswick

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See also: All you might want to know about Covid in our area – Kelly O’Neill

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