The Riverside Studios

The Riverside Studios in Crisp Road are due to reopen in August this year following the closure of the old studios in 2014. The former Studios and the neighbouring Queen’s Wharf have been replaced by a new state of the art theatrical and media building across both sites with apartments above it.  


01 New Riverside Studio

The new Riverside Studios


 This modern building is a far cry from the two engineering works that were originally there, built on the site of the former residence known as The Chancellors. In 1867 the brothers, John and Henry Gwynne, both civil engineers, had founded the Hammersmith Works on the southern part of the site and in 1874 Rosser & Russell, also an engineering company, took a lease on the Queen’s Wharf to the north, later purchasing the freehold. 

10 Rosser & Russell, (to right) Gwynnes c 1902

The engineering companies from Hammersmith bridge

In 1933 Triumph Films bought the Gwynnes site and for the next twenty-one years, the studios passed through a succession of moderately successful film producers. Some famous titles were made there including The Seventh Veil (1945) starring James Mason, The Happiest Days of Your Life (1950) starring Margaret Rutherford and Father Brown (1954) starring Alec Guinness. 

In 1954 the studios were bought by the BBC and it made considerable alterations to the buildings in order to convert it into the country’s first purpose-built television facility. The row of cottages along Crisp Road were demolished and a box-shaped construction was erected. In the photograph below, the three parts of the building can clearly be seen: in the foreground the ugly concrete and brick BBC addition, behind that the original Victorian warehouse and beyond that the end of one of the old storage sheds, modified during the Triumph Films days to become the stages and dubbing theatre.  

03 View from Crisp Rd 1950s

View from Crisp Road, 1950s 

The studios were acquired as a “temporary” solution to the BBC’s recording needs whilst BBC Television Centre was being built but they continued to be used after the 1960 opening of the Television Centre, probably because it was regarded as a superior recording space. It was particularly important to the development of colour broadcasting. 

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother officially opened the BBC Riverside Television Studios in 1957.

04 Queen Mother 1957

The Queen Mother 1957

The facility was in continuous use until the early 1970s. Some of the most famous programmes made there include Hancock’s Half Hour (1957-60), Quatermass and the Pit (1958-59) and Z Cars. 

05 Z Cars filming

Filming Z cars in the 1960s 

Dixon of Dock Green was unmissable viewing in its day. It went out at 6.30 on a Saturday evening, attracting audiences of around 14 million in 1961 and ran from 1955 – 1976, most of the early series being made at Riverside and transmitted live. 

It always began with a filmed sequence of PC George Dixon, played by Jack Warner, in a street at night, walking up to the camera, gently saluting and saying the immortal words “Evenin‘ all.” He’d then have a chat with the audience about the latest case he’d been working on. The programme then cut to the live studio for the rest of the episode. 

06 Dixon of Dock Grn

Dixon of Dock Green 

07 Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes 

Several episodes of the first five series of Dr Who, starring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton (1964-8), came from the Riverside. Indeed it is said that Dr Who shared his police box Tardis with Dixon of Dock Green.  

More than 500 editions of Play School were shot at the Riverside Studios before it moved to the Television Centre in 1968 and towards the end of the 1960s Blue Peter was also made there. Blue Peter was probably the last live programme to be made at the studios by the BBC – around March 1970.  

8 Children's programmes

Play School

By the mid-1970s, Riverside was no longer required by the BBC, as Television Centre was fully operational. But after the studios themselves had closed, the site did remain in use for some time for the annual Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race: its terrace provided an excellent location for a camera with fine views up and down the Thames. 

In 1975, after the BBC moved out, a charitable trust was formed by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to take control of the building. It became a local arts centre. Two large multi-purpose spaces were created from the two main sound stages, to be used for a mixed programme of live theatre, music, dance and film. In 1976, Peter Gill was appointed Riverside’s first Artistic Director and soon established the Studios as a leading London arts venue. 

09 Peter Gill

Peter Gill at the newly established Arts Centre 

Riverside Studios developed a reputation for staging highly regarded innovative theatrical and dance productions. On two occasions during the early 1980s, Samuel Beckett rehearsed productions at Riverside, later describing the venue as ‘a haven’. An influential gallery also flourished under the direction of Greg Hilty, hosting exhibitions by such luminaries as David Hockney, Antony Gormley and Yoko Ono. 

The dubbing theatre had been converted into a good cinema in 1976. After refurbishment in 1987 it began to operate as a successful repertory cinema and quickly became highly regarded by film buffs. It enjoyed this reputation right up to the end and the new building will include a cinema with a similar remit. The cinema had both 35mm and digital projectors in its final years – these will be re-installed in the new cinema so it will be one of the few cinemas in the country still capable of projecting actual film. 

Funding was a problem. It lost its funding from Hammersmith & Fulham Council in the mid 1990s. Actors and supporters lobbied for it to remain open but it could no longer survive financially as a venue for live performance. 

10 Lobby by Town Hall

Lobby outside the Town Hall  

William Burdett-Coutts took over as artistic director in 1993 and the following year closed the centre for six months for a major refurbishment. The show that put Riverside back on the television map was Chris Evans’ Channel 4 show TFI Friday which ran from 1995 to December 2000. In more recent years, The Apprentice: You’re Fired! and Never Mind the Buzzcocks were filmed there.  

Funding problems increased with the loss of its Arts Council grant in 2012. However, during 2009 and 2010 the trustees of Riverside Studios had been negotiating with the owners of the derelict office block next door (Queen’s Wharf) on a plan to redevelop both sites. The negotiations continued and eventually at the end of August 2013 a scheme was announced to redevelop the two sites and build a new arts centre along with TV studios, cafes, flats etc. Planning permission was granted just before Christmas 2013. 

The original buildings seen from across the river in 2006. The cream office building is Queen’s Wharf and the white ‘warehouse’ to its right is the old Riverside Studios: 

11 Riverside Studios 2006 – Version 2

The previous buildings 2006 

The studios closed at the end of September 2014 and building demolished. The Fulham Society visited as the building was taking shape: 

12 Fulham Soc visit

Fulham Society visit 

The Riverside Studios are due to reopen in August 2019. The former Studios and the neighbouring Queen’s Wharf have been replaced by a new building across both sites. Riverside Studios will boast three flexible studio spaces for television, theatre, dance, opera, music and comedy as well as a cinema, screening room, archive, community & rehearsal space and a local events and entertainment space. The new Riverside will also offer a variety of places to eat and drink.  

Version 2

Riverside Studios from across the river 2019

As you can imagine Riverside Studios have amassed an enormous amount of material over its 40 years including photographs, programmes, audio and video tapes, posters and production notes. They had not been well looked after but the development has provided an opportunity to ensure the material is properly conserved and made accessible to researchers and the public. They have plans, with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund, for a purpose built archive storage and a public reading room. 

I would like to thank the Design Architects, Assael Architecture Ltd, for the two views from across the river; Guy Hornsby at the Riverside Studios for his help and the use of the photographs from the Riverside archives; the old photograph of the engineering companies came from the LBHF Local Studies & Archives; and the remaining two are my own.  

Fiona Fowler 
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer 



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Shopping in the 1950s

I recently watched an old Steptoe and Son Christmas special in which Albert says he would go down to Shepherds Bush Market on Christmas Eve and pick up a cheap turkey at the auction. 

I remember my parents telling me that they would also go to the market on Christmas Eve when the butchers auctioned off the poultry. The butchers wanted to clear all their stock and few families had fridges so they waited until the last minute to buy their turkey or chicken.  

Even in the mid 1950s many homes still did not have a fridge. Shepherds Bush didn’t have a supermarket and there was no such thing as freezer centres. But virtually every road had a corner shop, or one very close by. Along the Uxbridge Road there was almost every shop you needed ranging from butchers and greengrocers to bakers and newsagents. 


S C Wyatt butchers

This archives photo shows the local butchers S C Wyatt (with the canopy)  I worked there occasionally on Saturdays in the mid 1960s 

Trading laws were very strict and all shops were closed on Sundays. The only exception being newsagents who were allowed to open until midday, but with restrictions on what they could sell. In most areas shops also closed for a half day mid-week, which in Shepherds Bush was Thursdays. 

Meat for the Sunday roast would normally be bought on Saturday. During the week people would buy on the day they intended to cook, or the day before. The butcher would cut meat to order, but things like chops, sausages and bacon were sold loose so you only bought what you needed.  

Most local bakers baked their own bread and people tended to buy fresh loaves daily. For those on a budget stale bread could be bought cheaply the following day. It was only in the mid1950s that the ‘new’ factory produced pre-wrapped sliced bread became more popular. It stayed fresher longer and was much better for making sandwiches. 


Bakers on the corner of Adelaide Grove

Although this is a very early postcard I remember buying bread  from the bakers shop on the corner of Adelaide Grove 

Greengrocers tended to stock a combination of home grown and imported fruit and vegetables. But certain crops such as peas, strawberries and cherries were usually only available when they were in season. When certain produce was unavailable the only option was to buy tinned vegetables such as peas and fruit such as pineapples and peaches. 

As well as the local shops there were many traders who came round the streets. My brother remembers the horse drawn milk cart but my own memory is of the milk floats. In our road there was competition between the Co-op and United Dairies. Besides milk they also delivered orange juice, and later some milk companies started to deliver eggs, potatoes and even bread. Every Sunday the shellfish man came to the road in a van and fortnightly a lorry made deliveries of Corona fizzy drinks. By the late 1960s the last horse and cart tradesman in the area was a greengrocer. I think his name was Mr Little and he stabled his horse ‘Silver’ in the Askew Crescent area. Rag and bone men similar to Steptoe and Son were still seen in Shepherds Bush in the 1970s. 


Rag and Bone cart outside the Princess Victoria pub

As I have been writing this I have realised just how ‘green’ we were in the days before plastic bottles, bags and containers. You usually walked to the local shops carrying your own bag; I think almost every home owned a least one ‘strong shopping bag’ sold by the old lady in Shepherds Bush Market.  

Vegetables were weighed and poured straight into your bag. Fruit was sold loose and put into brown paper bags. Fish, meat, loaves of bread, etc. were wrapped in white paper. Even the sliced bread came in waxed paper rather than the plastic bags we have now. Tea was sold in paper packs as there were no tea bags. Milk, orange juice and fizzy drinks came in returnable glass bottles. Very little food was wasted as you only bought what you needed and leftovers were often used in other meals. Even the dripping was saved for the next roast or spread on toast for Sunday tea. Newspapers, scrap paper and wood was used to start the fire.  

And finally old rags, furniture or junk was often taken away by the rag and bone men. 

By Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies and Archives volunteer 

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Health fair at Askew Road Library

Fun was had by all at the health and well-being fair at Askew Road Library on Saturday 16 March.

Stall holders from a range of community organisations came along to speak with library customers. Organisations such as The Stoke Association, Addison Community Champions, Carers Network, Hammersmith & Fulham Adult Learning and Skills Service, Citizens Advice Hammersmith & Fulham, Open Age, Wendell Park Gardening Friends, Healthwatch Central West London and Age UK.

There was also a storytime with author Heather Maisner sharing her Dinosaur Douglas books and a health talk by Bianca from Pod Fitness. Overall 70 people came along to the stalls and activities.

The smoothie bike went down really well….


We gathered feedback on the day and are planning another similar event which we will run in November to mark Men’s Health Awareness Month –  aka Movember! The feedback from customers was positive, but they suggested having more children’s activities. So, we have spoken with the Family Learning Team at the Macbeth Centre and we plan to work with them for the next fair to ensure more engagement with families.

We also asked the stall holders what they thought:

 ‘We had a good day networking with colleagues and interacting with residents.’

‘I had an enjoyable time at the fair and met some very interesting new people and bumped into others I hadn’t see for a while.’

‘Thanks for the fair – it was a very useful day. I think a regular presence in local libraries will be very useful for us.’

Many thanks to everyone who came and watch this space for our next event.

Fiona, Hammersmith & Fulham Libraries

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Before the Riverside Studios: The Chancellors, Gwynnes Engineering and Queens Wharf

This was going to be a blog about the Riverside Studios in Crisp Road which are due to reopen this year. However, I found more material in the Archives than I expected on the earlier owners of the site and so have split the blog into two parts.

The history of the site nicely illustrates what has happened to many sections of the river as it flows through Fulham: the Thameside villas of the 18th century become engineering works in the 19th century, then once again desirable housing and modern amenities in our own time.

The Chancellors

Feret in Fulham Old and New (vol III p38) says that the Chancellors of St Paul’s cathedral owned a small manor which was situated “partly in in this remote corner of Fulham and partly in Hammersmith”, so he thought it unsurprising that that the ditch forming the boundary between the two was sometimes referred to as Chancellor’s Ditch. In 1460, Henry Sever was:

presented because he had not scoured eight perches at Stangate called Chauncellors dyche.

Another reference is found in The environs of London: being an historical account of the towns, villages, and hamlets, within twelve miles of that capital by Daniel and Samuel Lysons:

William Le Yungeman, by his deed (without date) confirmed a grant of Ralph de Ivinghoe to the chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, a houfe, garden and three acres of land in Fulham. A survey of this houfe and premifes was given to the commiffioners for the fale of dean and chapter lands, July 25, 1649 …..on behalf of Sir Nicholas Crifp, Kt, the leffee.

Not surprisingly the estate had become known as The Chancellors and at some point Sir Nicholas Crisp had acquired the lease, hence the sale described above: as a prominent Royalist, he would have had his estates removed after the execution of Charles I.

This map clearly marks The Chancellors.  Adjoining its land to the south but separated by the creek was the site of the late Brandenburgh House.

01 Map 1

Map – 1853

The house is described by Faulkner in his History of Hammersmith as a ‘Capital Mansion’ enriched with a fine collection of works of art. The photograph below of an 1846 engraving of ‘The Great Race’ between Robert Coombes and Charles Campbell is interesting as it shows Chancellors House in the background.

02 Trees

The Chancellors

In 1827 when the Hammersmith suspension bridge was built, a new road from Fulham Lane to Queen Street had cut off a large part of the estate to the north, which was then let to a market gardener. The house was leased to various families but by the time Faulkner was writing his history in 1837, it was owned by John Bowyer Nichols of Parliament Street, the proprietor of the Gentleman’s Magazine. He had inherited the house from his father, John Nicholls, a printer of proceedings of the British Parliament. John Bowyer Nicholls continued to edit and print the Gentleman’s Magazine until 1856 and died in 1863.

The increase in traffic and the frequent use of the river by industry gradually led to the area becoming less peaceful and to the disappearance of the riverside mansions, giving way in most cases to industry. The Chancellors was sold at the London Auction Mart in 1853/4 and was subsequently demolished. The map below shows how, a few years later, the area had been largely built over.

03 Map 2

Map – 1893

Gwynnes Engineering

In 1867 the brothers John and Henry Gwynne, both civil engineers, bought part of the land and founded the Hammersmith Iron Works. Their father, James Gwynne (1804–1850), had started an engineering business in 1849 to capitalise on the centrifugal pump he had invented. In 1856 John was awarded a patent for its manufacture and he and his brother, Henry, established the iron works in Crisp Road under the name of J & H Gwynne to specialise in the manufacture of these centrifugal pumps and pumping engines. By 1882 they were iron founders, hydraulic machine makers, marine engineers, boiler makers and “makers of the largest pumping machinery in the world”.

04 Catalogue

Gwynnes Catalogue 1876


05 Factory outside

Gwynnes engineering works from the river

Their brother, James, ran a separate company, Gwynne & Co and in 1903 both companies were united under the direction of Mr. John Gwynne, the new company being called Gwynnes Limited. The business expanded substantially and carried out a large number of important pumping, dredging and other installations in various parts of the world. In WWI, under government instructions, it manufactured and were sole licensees for Clerget aero-engines as well as producing pumps for the Admiralty and the War Office.

06 factory inside

Inside the works


07 Big wheel

The pump that made Gwynnes famous

There is a rather nice report in the West London Observer of 30 March 1872 of a dinner arranged by the men for the bosses. Apparently “the enjoyment of singing was continued until an early hour”.

08 Iron works

WLO 3 March 1872


09 Men with Motor

Some of the Gwynnes workers

The business also had works at Church Wharf, Chiswick, and it was here that they made cars following their 1919 agreement to purchase the Albert car business,  & Co Ltd. A new holding company was formed in 1920 named Gwynnes Engineering Co. However, their share issue did not attract the expected support from investors and the car venture failed, hampered by lack of capital. At the same time, insufficient provision had been made for tax due on profits of the pump-making company and the company went into liquidation in 1926. The Hammersmith iron works continued in operation for a few years as a working arrangement was made with William Foster & Co of Lincoln and a new company, Gwynnes Pumps, was formed to acquire the business and assets of Gwynnes Engineering Co. Despite this the pump production was moved to Lincoln in 1930 and the works closed.

The view below from Hammersmith Bridge shows how busy and commercial the riverside had become and how many factories and wharfs had been built. You can see Gwynnes on the right and Rosser & Russell in the centre.

10 BW Dockyard

View of the riverside

In 1933 Triumph Films bought the Gwynnes site and it eventually became the Riverside Studios.

Queen’s Wharf

The site of the new Riverside Studios that is about to open is far larger than that of the original Riverside Studios as it also includes the Queen’s Wharf.

Queen’s Wharf was built to the north, on the other section of The Chancellors estate.  Rosser & Russell, also an engineering company, took a lease on it in 1874, later purchasing the freehold. Charles Sylvester had started the company in Derby in the early 19th century before moving it to London with his son, John. It was inherited by Samuel Rosser and Joseph Russell who set up in partnership in 1866 and took the lease on the wharf. The site was probably about half an acre and employed about 50 people. In 1879 the adjoining Round House was purchased and in the early 1900s, the houses on River Terrace were bought. The design staff and directors stayed in the West End head office, but the Wharf dealt with accounts, storage of pipes and fittings, and the mechanical side for clients such as Messrs Lyons of Cadby Hall, Messrs Manbre & Garton sugar refiners, Messrs Carlo Gatti and Messrs GEC Osram.

An early drawing of the works from one of the company’s year books held in the Archives:

11 Drawing Docks

Rosser & Russell

The company became very successful designing, engineering and installing heating, air conditioning and ventilation; it was described by one of its workers as the “Rolls-Royce of the heating and ventilation trade.” Two early and important jobs were Bush House in 1923 and the Bank of England in 1926. Below is an advertisement from the Year Book of the Heating and Ventilating Industry 1948:

12 Ventilating


It also designed heating systems for the home and had a special catalogue extolling the advantages of a warm house:

13 Home Comfort

Heating catalogue

Eddie Gilbert worked for the company for 53 years, retiring in 1971, and has left a fascinating memoir in the Archives of his time there, a place that he first visited when he was 5 years old with his father, then the works manager. In those days Queen Caroline Street was “a fairly tough area, and father always carried a heavy walking stick”. He describes the works as a “2 storey building fairly ramshackle. With an open yard that was roofed at a later date. In the background were stables, transport being horse and cart.” He reports the great excitement when electric light was laid in the offices (not the wharf) in 1892 and the works were connected by telephone in 1894.

He also writes about the people working there and, rather like Gwynnes, the company was proud of its relations with its workers.

14 Three Generations

Rosser & Russell workers

In 1938, the company decided to redevelop Queens Wharf to accommodate the whole of the London office and works but war put a stop to the plans. It was not until 1953 that the offices, the drawing office and the workshops were all amalgamated on the Queens Wharf site. In 1968 the company was restructured with Rosser & Russell Ltd becoming a holding company based in the newly developed modern offices and works at Queens Wharf with various subsidiaries for their different activities.

Cover of the pamphlet Rosser & Russell Limited: The First Two Hundred Years by Ian Murray Leslie (1974) shows this new building from under Hammersmith Bridge.

15 Rosser E Russell

The new Queens Wharf

I am not clear when Rosser and Russell moved out of the building but in 1983 the company was sold to Vinci, the French services company, and in 2007 acquired by the Emcor Group (UK).  By then Queens Wharf had become a nondescript office building and by 2009 was virtually derelict.

I would like to thank Keith Whitehouse for his help with material on the The Chancellors.

Fiona Fowler, volunteer, Archives and Local History room
Photographs courtesy of the LBHF Local Studies & Archives Service

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The Fulham Women’s Prison

Did you know there was a Women’s Prison in Fulham?  It flourished from 1856 to 1888, on a six-acre corner site bounded by Burlington Road (originally Back Lane then Burlington Lane) and the New Kings Road.

From 1716 to 1853 site was occupied by a school ‘for young gentlemen’, variously called the Fulham Academy or Burlington House School. The main school buildings were in Burlington House, a jumble of buildings regularised by a plain brick façade fronting Burlington Road. Gates on one side of a large playground to the rear led into a two-acre field used as a cricket pitch. The school also leased from the Manor of Fulham what became known as Jasmine House and Vine Cottage, two late 18th century houses on the New Kings Road.

1 School Playground

The school playground

2 School Cricket Pitch

The school cricket pitch

The school closed in 1853, the same year as two new Acts of Parliament were passed, the Penal Servitude Act known as ‘An Act to Substitute, in Certain Cases, Other Punishment In lieu of Transportation’ and the Convict Prison’s Act, known as ‘An Act for Providing Places of Confinement in England or Wales for Female Offenders under Sentence or Order of Transportation’.  Fewer convicts were to be transported and new prison buildings were required to house those female prisoners no longer shipped abroad. A new system was also required to both punish and rehabilitate them.

Colonel Joshua Jebb (1793 – 1863) had been appointed Surveyor-General of Prisons in 1837 and in 1850 he was made chairman of the Board of the Directors of Convict Prisons, charged with establishing a new progressive system of punishment and rehabilitation.


Sir Joshua Jebb

Accordingly, on 29 February 1856 the school buildings and the surrounding acres in Fulham were sold ‘on advantageous terms’ to this new body and architect J Dawson, under the direction of Colonel Jebb, an experienced builder of prisons himself, set to work designing suitable buildings to accommodate the new inmates, who were to come from Brixton Prison. On 5 May 1856 Colonel Jebb reported:

‘…The original [school] buildings are undergoing alterations, and will shortly be ready for the reception of 40 to 50 of the most exemplary of the prisoners from Brixton. A chapel and accommodation for about 150 additional females will be completed in the course of the summer, and during the present year the establishment will, I trust, be in working order…the first prisoners will be removed to the Refuge at Fulham tomorrow…’

The new buildings were put up with commendable speed and in 1858 the Illustrated London News printed a view of the new buildings showing the chapel and the south range.

A gatehouse with imposing wooden gates was built fronting onto Burlington Road and, opposite the gatehouse, an attractive gothic chapel was built astride the old fence which had demarcated the headmaster’s pleasure garden from the school cricket pitch. The chapel was built with arcaded wings which joined to a classical, also arcaded, southern range with a central pediment surmounted by a clock tower, and to a more utilitarian northern range, all built over the old school cricket pitch. The main building on the southern side was used for workrooms, school rooms, offices and a dining room with dormitories above.  The building opposite housed the laundry and more sleeping quarters. The buildings formed three sides of a square with space in the middle for a drying area for the laundry and a grassy area for exercise and recreation.

Ful Prison gate 1895 Feret p127

The original Gatehouse

The resulting arrangement of buildings had, from the outside, none of the institutional grimness of other prison buildings, like Brixton Prison, but instead had a distinctly collegiate feel. A further building for the prison chaplain was built beyond the southern range on the southern boundary next to Jasmine House and another entrance to the prison grounds was fashioned between the two houses. This house, much enlarged, still exists and is now known as Burlington House. The former driveway to the prison was built over when Burlington House doubled in size in the 1970s.

As part of the reordering of the existing estate the two houses on the southern edge of the grounds, Jasmine House and Vine Cottage, were turned over to various employees of the prison – the Steward and Foreman of the Works respectively.

The map (1865) below helps explain the layout:

5 Ful Prison 1865

Fulham Refuge map

  1. The reused Burlington House (offices and staff accommodation);
  2. The Gatehouse;
  3. The building now known as Burlington House;
  4. Jasmine House (used by the steward of the prison and his family);
  5. Vine Cottage (used by the Foreman of the Works);
  6. A row of mid-18thc houses and shops which formed part of the Bishop of London’s demesne.

The Illustrated London News described the women’s routine in 1858:

Ful Prison Illus News – Version 3

The women’s daily routine

An engraving of what the women could have looked like on the way to chapel:


Prison courtyard – engraving

Sir Joshua Jebb, as he became, took a keen interest in the institution and its reforming ideas.  Indeed the inmates became known locally as “Jebb’s pets”. With his death in 1863 his ‘softening and civilising’ ethos was abandoned.  The character of the refuge became more rigid and severe and a serious disturbance in 1864 caused a shift of official policy.  The regime became that of a prison, for example inmates were to eat separately in their cells, numbers expanded and its title was changed formally to Fulham Prison

A brief obituary in the Fulham Chronicle provides interesting reading:

jebb orbituary

Fulham Chronicle – 17 February 1905

With falling numbers, the prison closed in 1888. This picture of the back of the south building taken in 1894 shows the neglect:

9 Ful Prison 1894 (unpublished Feret)

Deserted south building

Various options were considered for the site including in 1889 ‘a barrack for a Battery of horse artillery to replace the one at St John’s Wood which is only held on lease’. By May 1892 there was a change of heart and it was proposed the grounds should be ‘sold or let in building plots suitable to the locality’. Devon-born builder James ‘Jimmy’ Nichols, who had from 1888 developed part of the twenty-acre Peterborough Estate opposite Parson’s Green, bought ‘the block as it stands’ and the site is now covered with the roads and terraced houses which survive – apart from those few demolished by wartime bombs – today.

One or two sections of the prison buildings still exist. Where the wooden gates were, fronting onto Burlington Road, is now converted into multiple dwellings, the old gateway itself filled in and made into a house:

10 gatehouse today

The Gatehouse today


11 GAtehouse today

Burlington Road houses

The old laundry can be seen on the corner of Rigault Road and Buer Road and is now apartments.

12 laundry building

The laundry building today

Jasmine House, the former Steward’s house, is still there on the New Kings Road although its neighbour, Vine Cottage, no longer exists.

I would like to thank fellow volunteer, Michael Dover, for writing most of this history, and him, Keith Whitehouse and Maya Donelan for the use of those photographs not in the Archives.

Fiona Fowler, volunteer, Archives and Local History room

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Enjoying English!

The ESOL Conversation Class

Wednesday is always a good day!

It’s 10.15am and a circle of 20 green chairs stands ready in the middle of Shepherd’s Bush library. The first keen participants begin to arrive. A smiling woman from Syria, a delightful senior from Bangladesh, an elegant woman from Japan… We all know each other well and chat  together like old friends. Some newcomers shyly introduce themselves; an au pair from France who has been in England just a few days, an Italian man hoping to find work in London, a Libyan lady who has brought her neighbour with her…

Now it’s 10.30am, and there are a dozen of us as the class begins.

01 esol shepherds bush

We go round the circle saying our names and where we are from, and something we have done this past week. By the time the last person introduces themselves almost all the 20 chairs are taken. By 11am we have grown to 25 people or more – one crazy Wednesday in September we even reached 40! There are so many people wanting to learn English in Shepherds Bush.

Most of the students are women, with just a handful of men. I love to hear the list of our different countries; Japan, Mongolia, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Somalia, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Panama… It feels like a meeting of the United Nations, with the shared aim of speaking English, and, through our conversations, to become friends. Some have come to London for just a few months specifically to improve their English. Others are hoping to make Britain their home, and so crucially need English to work, to talk to their children’s teachers, to speak to the doctor, and, for some, as part of their application for UK Citizenship. It is not an easy task, especially for women already very busy looking after their families – and I am always struck by everyone’s eagerness to learn and the attention they bring to the class and to each other.

03 esol shepherds bush

I discovered the pleasures of teaching English 5 years ago, when I was living in Barcelona. Taking the Cambridge CELTA qualification deepened my understanding and interest. It is very satisfying to help someone to learn a new language, especially one of such international significance as English, knowing that it can open such important and enjoyable doors in their lives. Teaching through conversation brings the extra pleasure and privilege of getting to know someone from a totally different country and culture.

When a new teacher was needed for the ESOL group at my local library, I was delighted to volunteer, and to have the chance to use my skills and experience for the benefit of my local community. Here I am, 18 months later, still looking forward to my Wednesday mornings!

The hour and a half of our class follows a particular theme, and introduces an area of grammar or vocabulary. I try to include information about British culture, as well as topics of particular interest or use to them: from Bonfire Night to the Royal Wedding, from visiting the doctor, to cooking and their favourite food.

02 esol shepherds bush

Part of the time we talk in pairs or small groups to make sure even shy members get to speak. Sometimes we play language games. We have had end of term parties with fantastic food from around the world. Our conversation is always lively and interesting – and we have fun together. For me, learning English must be enjoyable, and our ESOL group is not just about improving language skills, it is also about creating a sense of community that celebrates our diversity, and where people can feel welcome and make new friends.

It’s great that our libraries offer a range of special interest groups. Why not join one this New Year? And if you have a particular interest or skill to share, or would just like to get involved, why not become a volunteer? I can certainly recommend the experience.

The Shepherd’s Bush Library ESOL Conversation Class is 10.30am to 12pm, every Wednesday during term times.

No need to register, just turn up for a warm welcome.

John, ESOL Conversation Group Volunteer

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Playing out (in the 1950s)

In those days everybody seemed to know each other and watched out for their neighbours. In hot weather many front doors were left open with a plastic strip or deckchair type material curtains to keep the heat and flies out. Most homes did not have a TV and in the evenings groups of neighbours would stand outside chatting together. There were very few parked cars and hardly any through traffic in the side roads of Shepherds Bush so ‘playing out’ was quite safe for children.


On light summer evenings and during school holidays we would ‘play out’ until called home for a meal or bed time. We played football or cricket if someone brought out a ball or bat. Sometimes we even made do with a bat that someone’s dad had carved from a piece of old floorboard. We usually played with tennis balls found amongst the bushes near the tennis courts in Wormholt Park. I remember one day two men gave us a set of six old tennis balls when they opened a new pack. We felt so rich that day.

Whilst the boys played football or cricket the girls more often than not played skipping with a length of old washing line. The main game for boys and girls was hopscotch. A piece of chalk was used to mark the numbered squares, but in the absence of chalk a large stone would suffice and the same stone would be used for the game.

In the autumn we played ‘conkers’ collected from an enormous tree that once stood in Wormholt Park. More often than not we were too impatient to wait for them to fall from the tree and threw sticks up to knock them down. But we always made sure the ‘parkie’ (park keeper) was safely in his little hut in the swings area otherwise he chased us away. Once collected, then all we needed was a metal meat skewer to bore the hole and an old shoe lace to thread through.


Most of us had a collection of 20 or more glass marbles which we usually kept in drawstring bags made by our mums. Although I remember one or two friends used their dad’s old socks. The majority of our glass marbles were the traditional size but if you were lucky you owned one or two large ones, which we called ‘doublers’. If you were really lucky you might have a shiny metal ball bearing in your collection. I remember we once scrounged some from a car workshop that once stood on the corner of Percy Road and Batson Street. We would only use the most chipped marbles to play with as you did not want to lose your good ones in a game. But it also meant that if you won you became the owner of your friend’s worst marble.

If we were not playing marbles then the alternative was cigarette cards. Nearly every cigarette manufacturer put cards in their packets. Adults collected sets and put them in specially printed albums but doubles or unwanted ones were usually given to children to play with. Tea companies followed suit by putting cards in packs of tea. Similar to marbles you would only play with the most worn or damaged cards for fear of losing your best ones.

Cigarette Cards

Toys, usually received as birthday or Christmas presents, were very rarely taken outside. However, we made toys from throwaway items. One was a ‘gun’ made from a matchbox, lolly stick and elastic bands, which actually fired spent matchsticks. Another was a ‘tank’ made from a wooden cotton reel, an elastic band, a lolly stick and a small piece of wax candle. Once wound up it would roll along the ground.

At that time every child’s dream was to make their own go-kart. We searched for abandoned prams or push chairs for wheels. Discarded pieces of wood were used for the cart, and a hefty nut and bolt, a piece of batten and some rope was used for steering. Racing up and down the tarmacked roads was great fun. However, this stopped when the council changed the tarmacked surface to a tar and fine shingle surface which was very unpopular, and terrible for go-carting. There were not many hills in Shepherds Bush but we did discover a sloping path that led from Wormholt Park to Bryony Road, opposite Wormholt Park School. You could get up quite a bit of speed but as soon as you got through the gates you had to steer sharp right or left to avoid hurtling into the road. Of course on many occasions the cart would tip over and you tumbled off.

As a reminder of those days I still have faint scars on my knees from go-cart accidents, slipping on the newly shingled roads, and falling from the swings in Wormholt Park.

Peter Trott
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer

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