By R A H Ward
Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 1 (1980)
At the time of the Domesday Book the Manor of Fulham, held by the Bishop of London, covered the area of Acton and Ealing as well as Fulham itself. By the late middle ages a sub-manor or estate – apparently without full manorial rights – was established in the area we now know as Ravenscourt Park; it was called Paddingswick or Palyngewyk, a name first recorded in 1270.
A manor house was built there, surrounded by a moat. Legend has it that Dame Alice Ferrers, a favourite of Edward III, was arrested there in 1378. The house that was bombed in 1940 was by appearance an 18th century building though there were some 17th century features. It may well have been rebuilt in the mid-l8th century by Thomas Corbett, who also enlarged the estate. It was at this time that the name changed to Ravenscourt Park, for reasons that are not clear.
From 1760 the estate was owned by John Dorville who expanded it further and built the row of houses, now shops, facing King Street and known as Dorville Row. The greatest expansion of the estate came after 1812 when it was bought by a local brick-maker, George Scott. Marriage to the daughter of the market gardener Harry Stoe brought Scott a large area of land between King Street and the river.
Scott and the Bishop of London promoted a private Act of Parliament to enable the extension of copyhold leases beyond 21 years; this allowed the area to be developed for speculative building. Scott gave the land on which was built St Peter’s Church in 1829 and promoted the building of St Peter’s Square and the nearby roads – Black Lion Lane, St Peter’s Grove and St Peter’s Road. He imposed stringent controls on his development, building to a very high standard; in some cases the houses were built as carcases with the tenants left to arrange the insides.
He went on to build around the outside of the estate north of King Street leaving the area around the house as open land – this is now Ravenscourt Park. Scott died in 1859; the family sold the house to the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1887. It was used as Hammersmith’s first public library until it was destroyed by bombing. The stable block survived and was used until recently as Tea Rooms. Hammersmith Libraries (Archives) have some of the family papers including a sketchbook made by one of Scott’s daughters and a copy of a journal kept by a daughter of his second wife, Hannah Gibson.