Accidental archaeology in Grove Park, Chiswick

by Val Bott, Journal 11, 2002

During 2001 I twice spotted fragments of brickwork during the digging of trenches for construction work on the former Grove Park Estate. I kept samples of the bricks and reported the details to the English Heritage officer responsible for London so that they can be added to the Sites and Monuments Record for future reference.

The Grove Park finds plotted on the 1894 OS map. 1) 29 Kinnaird Ave and 2) the verge opposite Ibis Lane

The first example was found in the summer in a narrow trench excavated just outside the boundary fence of the sports ground on the south-east side of Hartington Road. Small fragments of brick were visible at one point in the soil thrown out by the excavation, directly across the road from the southern gatepost at the entrance to Ibis Lane. The Chiswick Tithe Map of 1847 shows a boundary here, marking the edge of Warren Wall Field. We believe that this place name records a warren, where rabbits were farmed for food, and the wall may have been designed to contain them.

The bricks found in the bottom of the trench were of a dark ‘tomato-soup’ orange-red, and their flat sides have no ‘frogs’ or indentations. They were very similar to those in the boundary wall of the 1660s estate still visible near the Bath-house at Gunnersbury Park. The line of bricks lay at right angles to the road. The lower bricks were arranged as a rough footing, with more carefully laid courses above, all bonded with lime mortar. Too little of the course of the wall was visible to identify the pattern of the bond, and the digging of the trench, presumably by a machine, had shattered the bricks so that no complete example could be taken from the trench. Nevertheless, it is possible to suggest a 17th century date for this boundary wall.

In the autumn, foundation trenches were being dug for an extension to 29 Kinnaird Avenue, a little further north. Grove House and its outbuildings stood on the north side of Kinnaird Avenue, close to its junction with Hartington Road. This site, however, lies on the south side of the avenue and careful comparison of maps suggests that the footings revealed were part of an outbuilding. Tipped off by a neighbour, I rescued samples from the skip outside. The fragments of brick from this location are identical to those from the wall reported above. So little of the structure survived, however, and there were no useful fragments of pottery or other items in the skip to help date it, so we cannot tell if these related to a 17th century structure or a later structure which re-used old bricks.

These scraps of evidence indicate how important it is for any householder to keep an eye on building work. Though archaeology today has to be funded by developers, it is extremely unlikely that work would be stopped as a result of the discovery of archaeological remains in a domestic garden. However, recording what is there adds another piece to the jigsaw puzzle of local history and helps us understand a little more about the local landscape of the past.

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