by Winifred M Heard
Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 2 (1981)
Note: Throughout this article words which have been used in local street names are in a bold font.
The largest single group of street names in Chiswick is related to Chiswick House, its owners and the people who lived there. The house was built by Richard Boyle, 4th Earl of Cork and 3rd Earl of Burlington in the 1750s and passed through his daughter to William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire. When a duke is also a marquis the second title is given by courtesy to his eldest son, therefore the Duke of Devonshire’ s heir is the Marquis of Hartington.
The Cavendish family held a good deal of property in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, giving us Chatsworth and Bolton Abbey near Harrogate, Chesterfield, Staveley (a town near Chesterfield) and Edensor (a village moved outside the park around Chatsworth). Eastbourne, the seaside resort, was largely developed by the Dukes of Devonshire. Hardwicke Road, another of the Duke’s estates, was re-named before 1914 because of possible confusion with Hardwick Road in Acton, also in the W4 postal district. Its name was changed to Lawford Road after the Rev Lawford W T Dale, Vicar of St Nicholas in the 19th century. The 6th Duke’s gardener was Sir Joseph Paxton, the designer of the Crystal Palace. Harriet, Duchess of Sutherland, was the 6th Duke’s sister and lived in Chiswick House in the 19th century.
Over the name Spencer there is some ambiguity. In 1774 the 5th Duke married Lady Georgiana Spencer, about whom so much has been written. Alternatively the name could be derived from Sir Spencer Compton, 4th Earl of Wilmington, who bought Sir Stephen Fox’s house in Chiswick; the Wilmington estates came later into the Devonshire’s hands by marriage. The other Compton in Chiswick was W J Compton who bought Sutton Court in 1887; Compton Crescent is on the site of the demolished house. In 1676 Sutton Court had been bought by Thomas Belasyse, Viscount Fauconberg, who married one of Oliver Cromwell’s daughters in 1657. The last connection with the Devonshire estate lies in Lady Elizabeth Foster, the 5th Duke’s mistress who became his wife after the death of Georgiana.
Other street or area names in Chiswick are derived from houses which formerly stood on the site. Grove Park from Grove House, Bohemia Avenue from Bohemia House (in the 17th century this was a public house, the King of Bohemia. In 1907 34 residents of this street petitioned to have the name changed and it became Ennismore Avenue), Merton Avenue from Merton Lodge, Belmont Road from Belmont House, once a private school. Similarly Arlington House gave its name to the roads on its site, as did Annandale House, Linden House, Bolton House, the Grange and Corney House. The Hammersmith and Turnham Green British School created the name British Grove. The Kinnaird Park Estate Company took its name from its development of Lord Kinnaird’s estate in Bromley; it was this company which later demolished Grove House and built on the site.
The names of prominent residents also remain in our street names. Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland, lived in Walpole House and was buried in St Nicholas Church. Grantham Road could come either from the Earl of Grantham who once occupied Grove House or from Sir Thomas Robinson, 2nd Lord Grantham, who is also buried at St Nicholas Church. Dr Thornton was the Prebendary of Chiswick when his avenue was built. The Prebendal Manor also gave its name to roads and mansion flats in the east of the parish.
The first Vicar of St Paul’s, Grove Park, was the Rev Nevison Lorraine, who had three children: Geraldine, Ernest and Herbert. Cllr Cressy, who died in 1932, gave his name to Cressy Avenue, now Meade Close. Thomas Hearne was the developer of his road and the surrounding area. Alwyn was the son of the builder’s solicitor, though that Avenue was going to be called Hillesden Road, and Thomas Hadley built many of the houses in his road. In the area which was Chiswick New Town, near the Hogarth Roundabout, there are blocks of flats named Garrick and Kent (people connected with Hogarth and his times), Oldfield, after a vicar of St Mary Magdalene’s Church nearby, and Thorneycroft, from the boat-building firm at the Mall. Whittingham Court also comes from a Chiswick craft, in this case printing. Dolman was a Chiswick Improvement Commissioner. Quick, Binns and Reckitt, were civil engineers connected with Fraser and the development of the Glebe estate (on glebe land owned by the parish church). The St.Thomas’s Estate was built on land used as sports ground by St Thomas’s Hospital, which also explains the associated Florence Gardens and Nightingale Close. One of the blocks there is named after Viscount Montgomery who lived in Chiswick when he was a boy.
Yet other names in Chiswick are associated with events, often contemporary with the building of the road. For example, Sir Garnet Wolseley led a British expedition to Egypt in 1882, and failed to rescue General Gordon at Khartoum in 1884. In the same campaign, Colonel Burnaby was killed in the Battle of Abu Klea. In 1882 the youngest son of Queen Victoria, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, married Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont. Oxford Road and Cambridge Road were named after the University Boat Race teams; their builder Tomlinson started out as a waterman and boat builder. Another university team which raced on the Thames in the 1870s is commemorated in Harvard Road. Brandenburgh Road was renamed in the 1914-18 War as Burlington Road because it sounded too German. A recommended name for this road was Wellington Road, perhaps because it adjoined Wellesley Road (the Duke of Wellington’s family name) which had been known in the 18th century as Turnham Green Lane. Lord Heathfield, who had a house at the corner of Turnham Green, also had a house at Mayfield in Sussex, which may explain that road name. Similarly it is thought that Joseph Paxton was responsible for the development of parts of Upham near Slough. Perhaps the least imaginative approach to naming in Chiswick is the alphabetical estate of Groves: Ashbourne, Balfern, Cornwall, Dorchester and Eastbury.
Today the Post Office and the Fire Brigade are consulted about new street names to avoid any confusion. What are the future names in Chiswick going to be? Although the public can always volunteer suggestions, the pattern will probably remain the same with developers and builders commemorating their birthplaces and members of their families or important people being remembered in this way. Local history will continue to provide a source of ideas for new names because the Council usually consults the library staff for advice.
Miss Heard was for many years the reference librarian at Chiswick and was a founder member of the B&CLHS