Restoration work starts on ‘historic’ Dukes Meadows gates

Images above: Arthur from the Blacksmiths Shop welding the Dukes Meadows gates, trustees and project staff from Dukes Meadows Trust and Heritage of London Trust.

Restoration works have began on the ‘historic’ main gates leading into Dukes Meadows.

Dukes Meadows Trust said they were “delighted” that work has started to restore the art deco 1920s gates that had been in a state of disrepair. As a result, the main entrance into the park had been closed to the public.

Blacksmiths and stonemasons will be working on restoring the gates in the coming weeks. The total cost of the project is £60,000.

Paul Davis, Chair of the Duke’s Meadows Trust, said:

“We are delighted that after three years hard work by the Trust, the restoration is going ahead. We are grateful to the London Borough of Hounslow, Heritage of London Trust and the Ironmongers Company, who have generously given funds towards the restoration. Heritage of London Trust also offered valuable advice and the council, as owner of the gates, has acted as commissioner of the work. The Trust will be contributing £26,000 towards the cost from its own reserves, raised from the Sunday Food Market and artists’ studios.”

Image above: Allotments at Dukes Meadows; photograph Roz Wallis

A grand entrance to a terraced promenade for the workers of the 1920s

By the 1920s Chiswick had a growing working population who had moved to work in industries developing in the area. Three flourish today: Fullers’ Brewery, still in Chiswick and Cherry Blossom Boot Polish and Sanderson’s Wallpaper, no longer in Chiswick, but still trading.

Living in crowded conditions people needed open space and fresh air. In 1923 Chiswick District Council bought 200 acres of riverside land from the Duke of Devonshire as part of its plan to open up the southern tip of the parish. By 1925 a 2,000-ft long embankment and terraced promenade lined the loop of the river and sports grounds were under construction. To give the entrance a sense of grandeur and encourage civic pride, a set of iron gates were designed for Promenade Approach.

In the 1980s, the park went into decline. Many areas have already been regenerated by the Duke’s Meadows Trust, but the park’s historic gates and piers were at risk of being lost.

Heritage of London Trust advised on the conservation works as well as giving a grant of £10,000. Local schoolchildren will visit the conservation teams at work, as part of Heritage of London Trust’s Proud Places programme.

Images above: Sanderson employees staging a performance for the Bleak House Opera Society, Sanderson archive; Cherry Blossom boot polish advertisement

Instilling a pride in Dukes Meadows

The project will include works to the pintle and hinge bearing points, manufacturing new drop bolts and new jockey wheels, engineering new lock boxes, removing corrosion and repainting. The heavy gloss varnish applied in previous years to the brick piers will be removed and the bricks and stone capitals repaired. The Art Deco lettering will be restored.

The Duke’s Meadows Trust also hopes to also improve the surface of the Approach Road itself to create a much-needed safe pedestrian and cycle route into the park and to restore the area at the far end of the Approach Road, onto the Thames Path, which is still derelict. The gates are right beside Cavendish Primary School and used on a daily basis by people from the houses and flats adjoining Promenade Approach.

Dr Nicola Stacey, Director, Heritage of London Trust, said:

“The poor state of the gates has a depressing effect on the area and does not create a welcoming entrance. Our involvement is part of a huge effort to instill a sense of pride in Duke’s Meadows. The restoration will highlight the park’s 1920s origins and we’re looking forward to bringing local school pupils to visit the blacksmiths at work.”

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