Strand on the Green
One of the most picturesque areas in London, Strand on the Green is a lovely place to while away an afternoon, with pubs and cafes to eat and drink and watersports to master. One of the oldest parts of Chiswick, the area on the north bank of the Thames from Kew Bridge to the end of the tow path at Grove Park is enjoyed by visitors and locals, mudlarkers, walkers and photographers. Delve into the rich heritage and cosy pubs in this iconic part of London.
Fishing Village to Conservation Area
Strand on the Green is one of Chiswick’s four former villages, the others being Little Sutton, Turnham Green and the area around St Nicholas Church (old Chiswick). Human presence in the area has been dated back some way – in the 19th century a number of skulls were found in the river identified as belonging to around 600BC, and Roman pottery has been found there.
The name itself is likely taken from ‘Stronde’ meaning ‘shore’ as it was a fishing village until industrialisation unified Chiswick’s villages and made it a suburb. It has been known variously as Strand Green and Strand under Green. The first houses and wharves formed no more than a line along the foreshore and over time other river businesses set up alongside the fishermen.
Image above: Strand on The Green in the 19th Century, image courtesy of Panorama of the Thames
“Oh how I’d love to live here”
Various members of the nobility and gentry settled in the area from Tudor times and in the 1700s the Strand attracted both city merchants and hangers-on of the Hanoverian Georges, who spent much time at Kew. All these elements intertwined to create a prosperous community.
The opening of Kew Bridge in 1759, and the presence of the royal family at Kew Palace caused a further increase of popularity, and further encouraged wealthy people to build locally.
However, while Strand has enjoyed prosperity for much of its existence, it has not been without hardship. When the Grand Junction Canal diverted freight traffic to Brentford, and the Royal Family moved to Windsor Castle in the 1800s, the area fell out of fashion and fell into a period of decline.
During World War Two a parachute mine destroyed 41 houses on the Thames Road, causing major emotional and financial hardship for the community.
Nonetheless, Strand on the Green’s significance was set in stone as a result of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act which listed just under 40 buildings as having special architectural or historical interest and the area has seen a resurgence since that point.
For the rest of the 20th century, the area gained some exposure on the big screen. Hawk-eyed Beatles’ fans may have noticed that the embankment and City Barge both feature in the 1965 film Help! as the fab four escape an eastern cult. The 1969 version of Goodbye Mr Chips also used 59 Strand on the Green as a filming location for Katherine’s home and Julie Christie was filmed walking on the Strand for the 1965 film Darling, declaring “Oh, how I’d love to live here.”
Famous residents have included the 16th century poet Lady Mary Sidney, 18th century painter Johann Zoffany, whose house has a blue plaque, the 20th century novelist Nancy Mitford and actor Donald Pleasance. Former Ultravox singer Midge Ure lived for a while at Zachary House.
Image above: The Bell and Crown
Food and Drink
Aside from its picturesque views of the Thames, Strand on the Green is well known for its multiple pubs, cafes and restaurants.
Close to Kew Bridge is the Bell and Crown, a roomy 18th-century pub and restaurant. It has the aesthetic of a country pub with a great selection of beers, which are allowed to be taken outside for those wishing to sit on the embankment overlooking the river. The Bell & Crown is a member of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card, offering a discount to Club Card holders.
A stone’s throw from here is the Steam Packet, the youngest pub to have set up in the area (though named for an earlier inn on the site of the same name). A sister pub to The Roebuck on Chiswick High Road, The Steam Packet has two floors and offers an excellent selection of drinks from craft beer, real ales to Japanese whisky and a varied wine list. The Steam Packet is also a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card shemme, offering a discount to card holders.
Images above: Annie’s Restaurant
Further down the river are two more great pubs; the City Barge and the Bulls Head. The City Barge is a 14th Century pub serving a wide range of drinks, including seven rotating hand pull ales and an extensive wine list. You can choose to enjoy any of these in the panelled dining room, traditional bar or simply sat outside, by the river.
Closest to Grove Park, The Bulls Head is a Grade II listed 18th century inn. There has been an inn on the site for over 400 years, and legend has it that Oliver Cromwell, after whom Oliver’s Island opposite is named, used the inn as a base, although the evidence for this is disputed.
Annie’s restaurant on Thames Road has been a local favourite for many years, serving Mediterranean and British cuisine in stylish surroundings. Owner Lorraine Angliss learned the restaurant trade from her Spanish mother and ran the Rolling Stones’ restaurant Sticky Fingers in Kensington before setting up Annie’s at Strand on the Green, the first of several restaurants she now owns. Annie’s restaurant is also a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card shemme, offering a discount to card holders.
Image above: one of the many places to relax along the embankment; photograph Jennifer Griffiths
A must-do activity for visitors to the area is paddleboarding by Kew Bridge. Active 360 takes beginners out to teach them how to do it and gradually allows people more freedom once they have gauged the person’s level of skill. Trips and lessons head towards Hammersmith or Richmond, depending on the direction of the tide; either way you will get fantastic views of West London from the Thames.
Owner Paul Hyman is well respected for his environmental work in the area. Paul is at the centre of the campaign to clean up the River Thames, urging pubs to stop using plastic straws and single use plastic beakers because every day he sees the ‘River of Trash’ which results. 65% rubbish taken out of the Thames is food and drink packaging.
Paul organizes paddleboarding clean-up sessions on the Thames and in London’s canals, which he tells me have become popular with City types ticking the Corporate Social Responsibility box. You can read more about Paul’s work here. Active 260 is a member of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme, offering a discount on paddleboarding sessions to Club Card holders.
In September each year the Thames Tidefest is held at Strand on the Green to highlight and celebrate the recreational importance of the Thames Tideway to Londoners. Part of the wider Totally Thames festival, punters can expect to take part in anything from mudlarking to kayaking to watching live music.
Those willing to venture out can check The Chiswick Calendar’s Tide Timetable, which is also very useful for pubgoers not wanting to get their feet wet (as I have many times).
Video above: The Chiswick Calendar’s visit to Active 360 in February 2019
See our What’s On guide to all the events happening in and around Chiswick here:
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