School Memories (from the 1960s)

Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School
Away from the classroom

When I was at Ellerslie Road School in the 1950s school trips were almost unheard of, apart from the odd visit to the indoor swimming pool at Lime Grove.

When I joined Christopher Wren School it was a new experience to go on school trips. However, at that time there was no such thing as teaching assistants and full responsibility fell on one solitary form teacher. So visits were normally kept fairly local to Shepherds Bush which meant walking or possibly one short journey on public transport. One such trip was to the newly opened Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street. In comparison to some of the London museums it was a very modern and vibrant building.

Commonwealth Insitute

Commonwealth Institute mid 1960s (now the Design Museum)

On a visit to Hammersmith Police Station we were shown the cells along with various offices where one or two pupils had their fingerprints taken. The highlight for most of us was visiting the horses in the stables, which at that time had its own police blacksmith. He described how horseshoes were made and demonstrated by putting a metal bar into the furnace and then hammering the red hot iron. When he got it to the correct horseshoe shape he dropped it on the cobblestone floor. Our teacher picked it with the intention of showing us, but quickly dropped it as it was still extremely hot. You can imagine our laughter.

Hammersmith Police Station

Hammersmith Police Station
(the wooden gates on the right led to the stables)

Using the tube, one very memorable visit was to see the new musical Oliver starring Ron Moody as Fagin. That was my first experience of seeing a show in a west end theatre. Up until that time my only other theatre visit had been to a Christmas Panto with my parents at the Chiswick Empire.

We went by coach to see the tea clipper Cutty Sark in dry dock at Greenwich. At that time it had only been open to the public as a museum for about ten years. Another trip was to Heathrow Airport, long before it had a tube connection. In those days security was not a big issue but it’s hard to believe that we were actually taken on board an aircraft.

One much longer journey was to the London Brick Company in Bedfordshire. I think most of us found the visit pretty boring apart from the lunch that they provided. Before leaving we were each presented with a souvenir miniature brick. In the days before personal computers mine sat by my old mechanical typewriter at home as it was an ideal for holding paperclips. Fifty five years later I still have it tucked away in a bureau.

                                               The top and base of the bricks

Christopher Wren School had recently joined the European Link programme for exchange visits with overseas school pupils. The programme was designed for very small mixed classes of 6th year pupils studying languages. I was in a lower year and although my French was quite good I had no intention of taking part in the programme. However, when a host family were unable to accommodate their designated pupil my parents were asked if they could take him in. Part of the groups stay included a series of visits around London and I was allowed to go on all the trips. Although I enjoyed the visits it was very difficult as I didn’t know any of the other pupils and I was the youngest in the group.

Around the same time the school started organising day trips to France. We had to pay for the trip ourselves and I remember paying in 6d or a shilling every week for a whole term. At that time passports were not required for day trips and we only needed an identity card, which the school organised for us. We were picked up at the school by coach and driven down to Kent and crossed the channel by ferry. For the majority of us it was the first time we had ever been on a ship, and those 3 or 4 hours spent in Boulogne was our first ever visit to a foreign country. Over ten years later, when my father passed away, I found the battered and rusty Boulogne souvenir penknife in an old tool box and I have kept it ever since.

penknife

Penknife from Boulogne

Some pupils went to organised summer camps and quite a few attended after school sports activities, but neither appealed to me. But one teacher was a real film buff and started a Film Society for senior pupils, which included girls from Hammersmith County School. It took place weekly in the Christopher Wren theatre. The teacher’s favourite director was Alfred Hitchcock so we got a chance to see some real classics such as The Birds and North by Northwest. The 16mm films were on huge spools and the sound of the projector running added to the atmosphere. Although we were underage he showed us some ‘X’ rated films, including the banned Marlon Brando film The Wild One.

Chrisotpher Wren theatre

The photo above is from the Phoenix Academy website and shows how the theatre looks today. On the right you can see angled white panels (when I was there the panels were plain wood). Normally the other side was used as a dinner room but the panels were sometimes raised to increase the seating capacity of the theatre. The following old photo shows the dining area with some of the panels raised. It was in this area that we had our end of school disco.

dining area

In the 1960s charity walks became a very popular way to raise money for charity and I was amongst the first to participate in a Christopher Wren charity walk for Shelter. One Saturday morning a large group of us met outside the Hammersmith Odeon and walked all the way to Guildford Town centre. The distance was supposed to match the length as the marathon but unfortunately a small group of us took a wrong turning which added several extra miles to the distance.

Shortly after that charity walk I walked out of the gates of Christopher Wren School for the last time.

Post Script

In 1982, approximately fifteen years after I left, Christopher Wren School merged with Hammersmith County School and was renamed Hammersmith School. To maintain the historical names the school was made up of Wren Wing and County Wing.

In the early 1990s the school was judged by OFSTED to be ‘Failing’. Then in 1992 there was a major fire in the County Wing which had been started by pupils. Two years later the school was put in ‘Special Measures’.

William Atkinson was appointed Head in 1995 and relaunched the school as Phoenix High School. Not only did he turn the school around he contributed to Channel 4’s ‘The Unteachables’ and also inspired Lenny Henry’s character in the 1999 BBC TV series ‘Hope and Glory’. He was knighted in 2008 and remained head until 2010.

In May 2016 the school again went into ‘Special Measures’ and Michael Taylor took over. A few months later the school was relaunched as Phoenix Academy.

Peter Trott
LBHF Local Studies and Archives Volunteer

Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies and Archive Catalogue

 

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School Memories (from the 1960s)

Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School
Years 4 to 6

Having left behind the Victorian built Ellerslie Road School my early years at Christopher Wren School were spent in the modern 1950s building. However, we did have a few lessons in the old 1930s building that fronted Bryony Road. From memory the class interiors and most of the furniture appeared to be as old as the building itself.
One regular lesson in the old building was Geography, but our teacher was invariably absent or turned up very late. Left to their own devices a couple of boys discovered that the antiquated wooden stock cupboard lock could be opened using a metal comb (metal combs were the fashion item of the day). So needless to say we all stocked up on much needed notebooks, paper, biros, pencils, etc.

The ‘old school’ on Bryony Road
Originally the North Hammersmith Secondary School
(now the Cambridge School)

From the fourth year lessons became more focussed towards our GCE O Level exams. The GCE O Level or General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level was much harder to pass than the GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) which was introduced in the late 1980s. In the mid 1960s five or more O Level passes were recognised as being very good.
Lessons and Health and Safety were very different in the 1960s. Although we often used Bunsen burners and handled dangerous chemicals we were not issued with any form protective clothing, glasses or gloves. One potentially dangerous but funny incident sticks in my mind. A teacher was showing us an experiment when he accidentally created a large cloud of acrid smoke. He left us sitting at our desks as he ran to the door holding a handkerchief over his nose and mouth shouting ‘don’t breathe it in’.
I also witnessed a really horrific event during another chemistry lesson. One boy had somehow managed to get hold of some blank bullets. During the lesson he rammed one into the tube of a Bunsen burner and lit the gas in the air control vent. The bullet shot across the room with an enormous bang and hit the blackboard only a few inches from the teacher’s head.
By the 5th year some boys who had opted for ‘trade’ based syllabuses or those not intending to take GCEs were leaving. The rest of us were sitting mock exams. The school was an all boy’s school and up until that point all the teachers had been men. But one day two women teachers arrived at the school. One was a science teacher and the other an english teacher; who was particularly attractive and proved to be a big distraction to boys of our age.
In spite of studying for exams in some ways school actually became much more fun. For example for ‘sport’ we were given a free choice of activities. Only six of us chose ice skating, which took place at the Queensway Ice Rink. However, there were not enough teachers to supervise all the sports so we were allowed to travel on our own by tube from Shepherds Bush to Queensway. It goes without saying that our rink sessions always went way over time and occupied all of the morning.
A few boys from our year were selected to become prefects to bolster the 6th form prefects but luckily I was not chosen. As I lived close to the school I preferred to go home for lunch and had no desire to do prefect duties.

Prefect’s Badge

I have photographed my own prefect’s badge against a red background which represents the colour of my school house which was Clarendon. The badge depicts St Paul’s Cathedral which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren.

The 5th year culminated in exams. All the general subjects were sat in one of the three gyms but specific exams such as chemistry, technical drawing and building practice were taken in the appropriate parts of the school. Some exams were a farce due to no fault of our own. As an example, for technical drawing we had spent the whole year studying the construction of a house roof using tiles. When we sat down for the exam the teacher informed us that the exam was based on a slate roof. He said ‘the only thing I can tell you is that a slate is twice as long as it is wide’ and left us to it. I think the majority of us failed that particular exam.
Unless it was near hurricane conditions we were all expected to be outside before assembly and during breaks. As we were older and wiser we were not enjoying having to be outside, particularly when it was foggy, cold or wet. With our newly acquired knowledge from metalwork classes a friend and I cut our own master keys which gave us access to every room in the school.
Those taking or retaking GCEs stayed on for the 6th year. It was at that time that the school started having some mixed lessons, bringing a small number of girls over from the adjoining Hammersmith County School. Although none of the classes covered my subjects I quickly gave up ice skating in favour of the mixed hockey games on a Friday afternoons.

So far I had avoided becoming a prefect but by default all 6th Formers became prefects. This did mean having certain jobs; in my case playground supervision during the morning break. However, it also gave me more freedom and meant that certain parts of school life became even easier.
Although the school’s main examining board was the University of Cambridge they did not cover all subjects and some were covered by the Associated Examining Board. This proved to be quite difficult as it meant some exams clashed. On one particular day two of us had three exams and two were scheduled for exactly the same time. Under close supervision we had to sit one exam in the gym in the morning. Then we were put in a small office to sit another exam followed by a break and then back to the gym for the third exam.

GCE O Level certificate

The vast majority of boys only sat GCE O Levels. Once you passed an O Level exam you could go on to sit the A Level (Advanced). In fact there very few boys who actually took any A Levels. And I don’t think anyone from my class actually went on to university.
In reality the more O Levels you passed the more chance you had of getting a good job. In the final months at school quite a few boys had already found jobs or were actively seeking work. In fact I had secured a job even before I sat my remaining GCE O Levels, so I must admit I didn’t bother swotting too much.

To be continued …..

Peter Trott
LBHF Local Studies and Archives Volunteer

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School Memories from the 1960s

Christopher Wren Secondary Modern School.

Years 1 to 3

The plans for two new interconnected schools in Shepherds Bush were revealed in 1952 with a projected cost of £633,000. The old North Hammersmith Secondary School on Bryony Road would be incorporated into the design. The schools would be named Hammersmith County (for girls) and Christopher Wren (for boys).
My brother left Christopher Wren School in 1959 and two years later I joined the school. At that time the form rooms for the senior boys were based in the old North Hammersmith School building with the entrance on Bryony Road. The 1st to 4th year boys were based in the new building, which is now the Phoenix Academy. The entrance was on Bloemfontein Road, which is now the entrance to the Phoenix Fitness Centre and the Janet Adegoke Swimming Pool. The Hammersmith County School entrance was on The Curve.

 

When I was at Ellerslie Road Junior School there was no uniform and most boys wore shorts throughout the year; and yes even in winter. The move to Christopher Wren meant we all had to wear a school uniform including long trousers, a black or navy blue blazer with a school badge, white shirt and, horror of horrors, a tie. The designated school outfitters was Speake Brothers which had a large shop at Savoy Circus, East Acton.

For the purposes of inter school competitions the school was split into four houses named after famous people contemporary with Christopher Wren; Clarendon (red), Dryden (green), Gibbons (blue) and Newton (yellow). On joining the school each pupil was allotted to a house and remained in that house throughout their time at the school. I was in Clarendon House, again following in my brother’s footsteps.

 

School badges

 

The Secondary Modern curriculums were very wide and varied covering all traditional subjects as well as various trades. For boys this included technical drawing, woodwork, metalwork and bricklaying. There were purpose built art rooms and several workshops, three large playgrounds, a small sports green as well as three fully equipped gyms.
Morning assembly took place in a large hall mid-way between the boys and girls schools. There was also a theatre where smaller assemblies took place. This was in a separate wing which also included the dining rooms for teachers and pupils. Morning assembly was followed by four 40 minute lessons and after lunch there were three further 40 minute lessons. If your next class happened to be at the opposite end of the building or three or floors apart then 10 minutes could easily be wasted changing classrooms.
Class sizes tended to range between 28 and 32 pupils. Being an inner city school meant that there was an enormous difference of backgrounds. Each class had at least one Polish, Italian or Jewish boy whose family were in Britain in part as a consequence of the Second World War. Also the children of the Windrush generation were starting to join the school adding to the mix of cultures and races. Every class had a swot, a joker, an entrepreneur, and at least one budding criminal. There was a lot of petty thieving particularly from the corridor lockers, which ironically had been made without locks. Of course no one used them and we all carried our heavy bags from one lesson to another.

 

Section of my first school report
(note the class size of 31)

 

Twice a week we had PE on site and once a week we were taken by coaches to a sports ground near Sudbury for football or rugby. However, most times we had to go cross country running over Horsenden Hill. There was always some reason such as the pitches weren’t ready, or they were waterlogged, frozen or too dry. Looking back now I believe it was a chance for the teachers to have a nice rest in the clubhouse while we went running. Very occasionally if the weather was good we were taken swimming at Bloemfontein Road open air pool.
On the whole most of the teachers were very good but there were a few exceptions; one eccentric science teacher brought in what he claimed was a satellite that he had found on Wormwood Scrubs. Although he sounded very convincing it was of course a complete fantasy. Incidentally, he was the same teacher who took my brother’s class to Wormwood Scrubs to count pigeons for a complete lesson. One day a particularly accident prone chemistry teacher created a huge cloud of choking smoke. As he dashed to the door with a handkerchief over his mouth he shouted over his shoulder ‘don’t breathe it in’.
Oddly, one woodwork teacher was building a canoe in the workshop but there was no way he could ever have got it out without dismantling a complete window frame. Not surprisingly it was still there when I left the school several years later.

From the 3rd year classes were graded towards your final years at the school. I was in a ‘G’ class meaning that I would be studying towards my GCE O Levels (General Certificate of Education – Ordinary Level). But real swotting would begin in the 4th year.

To be continued …….

Blog post written by Peter Trott, LBHF Local Studies & Archives volunteer.

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A Walk along the Towpath: Hammersmith Bridge to Putney Bridge

Last year I wrote about the section of the towpath that passes through Hammersmith. Today we walk from Hammersmith Bridge to Putney Bridge. In the early days, the Fulham riverside was farm land, mainly orchards and market gardens, owned by the Bishops of London who were the Lords of the Manor. In the 18th century it would have been interspersed with large country houses although a century or so later many of these houses had been sold or fallen into disrepair to be replaced by industrial undertakings and commercial wharves. By the end of the 20th century these in turn had been largely replaced by or converted to apartment blocks and cafes.

Riverside Studios

We ended the last blog just past Hammersmith Bridge, at the Riverside Studios. The studios were built on the site of two engineering companies, Gwynnes and Rosser & Russell.

 

Photo 1: Queens Wharf and engineering companies seen from Hammersmith Bridge c1900

 

You may notice the inlet known as Parrs Ditch just before Queens Wharf. This marks the historic boundary between Hammersmith and Fulham and would have been a main route from the river to the village of Hammersmith. The watercourse is now culverted underground and one of “London’s Lost Rivers”. At low tide, there is a high and dry sandbank along this stretch of the Thames and there may well have been a ford across the river in earlier times.

Today the engineering companies have been replaced by the Riverside Studios due to open this summer as an arts centre, studios and restaurants.

 

Photo 2: Riverside Studios today

 

Fulham Reach

Travelling along the river in the seventeenth century you would have come to the Great House, built early in the reign of Charles I by Sir Nicholas Crispe (ca. 1600-1666). The house was unusual at the time as it was built of brick. Sir Nicholas was the first person to successfully import to England the Dutch art of brickmaking and was a great benefactor to the borough of Hammersmith, supporting the building of Hammersmith’s first church (later it became St Paul’s), by supplying both money and bricks. His estate would have stretched south as far as Crabtree Farm. As a prominent Royalist, his estates were removed after the execution of Charles I but he managed to retrieve them with the Restoration.

The house was later bought by Prince Rupert for his mistress and in 1749 by George Dodington, the future Lord Melcombe. He named it La Trappe after the monastery in France, spent a fortune on it, repairing and modernising it throughout and building a magnificent gallery.

In 1792, the house was bought by the Margrave of Brandenburgh and it became known as Brandenburgh House. He and his wife also made extensive improvements and erected a small pseudo-gothic theatre close to the water. The Margravine was an amateur actress and wrote plays for her friends that were performed in the theatre. After the Margrave’s death, she retired to Naples in 1819 and lent the house to Queen Caroline of Brunswick, separated wife of George IV, who kept her small rival court here.

 

Photo 3: Brandenburgh House showing the house and the theatre

 

Caroline fell ill and died on the 7 of August, 1821. Within a year of her death, the contents of Brandenburgh House were sold by auction, and the King had the mansion pulled down.

On the site were built the first and largest of the industrial development schemes that were soon to stretch right along the Fulham riverside. The Haig Distillery (first known as the Hammersmith Distillery) was erected in 1857 on part of the grounds, and in 1872 Alexander Manbré built his sugar refinery (known as the Manbré Saccharine Works) on the remainder.

Photo 4: View of the river circa 1900

 

Photo 5: The Manbré and Garton Sugar Refinery

 

By the 1980s, both factories had closed down and the sites were vacated to be replaced by a vast development offering apartments, shops, bars, restaurants and water sports facilities including a community rowing club.

 

Photo 6: Fulham Reach

 

Thames, Dorset and Palace Wharves

The 1890s onwards saw a sustained period of wharf construction stretching along the river.

Thames Wharf, now best known for the famous River Café, was originally an industrial site containing the Duckham’s oil facility. Duckham was founded by Alexander Duckham in 1899 and established a good reputation in the field of lubrication for industrial machinery and motor vehicles. The company moved to Fulham in 1921, and major expansions occurred in 1940 and 1948 but the works at Thames Wharf were closed in 1979.

It was acquired by the Richard Rogers Partnership in 1983. The site was cluttered with oil tanks and other temporary structures, and completely inaccessible to the public. It was converted into offices, workshops, housing and, on the ground floor, the River Café, opened by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. A garden courtyard forms the centrepiece of the scheme and links to a riverside walkway. The architectural practice was housed in a modernized 1950s building although it moved out in 2016 and the building now houses studios (much of it let to Re:Centre) and a café.

 

Photo 7 Thames Wharf today

 

Dorset Villa, built about 1747 and forming part of the estate of Sir Nichols Crispe, was demolished in 1890 and the grounds converted to a wharf and warehouse for the corn merchants, Hood and Moore. As part of this scheme, the Anglo-American Oil Company established Dorset Wharf on the river.

The photograph below shows the Maltings built about 1790 by Mr Joseph Attersoll and the Crab Tree pub.

 

Photo 8 The Maltings and the Crab Tree 1890

 

Palace Wharf replaced the Maltings in 1907 and an extension facing Rainville Road was added in 1933. For many years the wharf was the home of the ‘Rathbone Works’ of fibrous plaster firm, George Jackson & Sons. This had been founded in Rathbone Place off Oxford Street in the early 19th century and when they moved, prior to the Second World War, to Fulham, they kept the Rathbone name. Jacksons’ made the new plasterwork for Hammersmith’s rebuilt Lyric Theatre. Now it is town houses and luxury apartments.

 

Photo 9 Looking back at Thames and Palace Wharves 1972

 

Photo 10 Thames and Palace Wharves today with Charing Cross Hospital in the distance

 

The Crabtree

Crabtree was described in earlier times as “an insignificant village consisting of half a dozen houses inhabited by gardeners, brick makers etc together with a small inn.” In the 1760s the pub had been known as ‘The Pot House’ after a pottery operating in the area. It served the market gardens and was on the edge of the land of the last local farmers, the Matyear family. It changed its name to ‘The Three Jolly Gardeners’ and only later took the name of the area, being known ever since as The Crabtree.

 

Crabtree Inn postcard c1890

 

The Crabtree was rebuilt in 1898. It was on the same site and shared the same relationship with the river, being next to a beach and overhung by a willow tree but it was far larger than its predecessor.

 

Photo 12 The Crabtree today

 

Around this area there were a number of riverside villas – Belle Vue (1816), Rosebank (1809), Sussex House (1818) and Craven Cottage (1780) – and by 1900 many of them had been replaced by wharves. Tea Rose Wharf was built soon after, followed by Blakes Wharf, at the end of Stevenage Road, just after the turn of the century and Eternit Wharf in 1910.

 

Photo 13 The Crabtree and its neighbours, the Crabtree and Wheatsheaf Wharves 1972

 

Fulham Football Club

At Fulham Football Club’s Craven Cottage stadium you do, for the first time, have to go inland. The original Craven Cottage, built in 1780 by Lord Craven, was a pretty thatched roof house with an elevated terrace along the river side. It was destroyed by fire in 1888.

 

Photo 14 Craven Cottage 1880

 

When representatives of Fulham Football Club first came across the land, in 1894, it was so overgrown that it took two years to make it suitable for football. The first football match with gate receipts was Fulham against Minerva on 10 October 1896. The ground’s first stand was built shortly afterwards. Described as looking like an “orange box”, it consisted of four wooden structures each holding some 250 seats, and later was affectionately nicknamed the “rabbit hutch”. Over the years more stands have been added and now plans have been agreed that will extend the seating capacity to 30,000. Work has begun this summer and the plans also include a river walk that will be open to the public at all times save when there is a match.

 

Photo 15 Fulham Football Club today

 

Photo 16 The proposed riverside stand and river walk

 

Bishop’s Park

Immediately past the stadium, is Bishop’s Park, the public park surrounding Fulham Palace that was originally part of the grounds of the Palace. It is a strange shape with a long area beside the river and a spur reaching up to Fulham Palace Road and a very thin, little used, area bordering the Fulham Palace Road. In the middle are Fulham Palace and the allotments. Each section was added to the park at different times over a period of about 20 years and was deliberately designed for different activities: promenading along the river, refreshment and education, sport and children.

The first section you reach walking from Hammersmith is Fielders Meadow. In 1899 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were persuaded to give the area, then occupied by a Mr Fielder to the park. The western part was turfed for a cricket pitch. The eastern end was designed around an ornamental lake with a rustic wooden bridge over the narrow part and terracotta balustrades. There would be separate activities: exercise for small children on the beach (known as Margate Sands as the sand was originally brought from Margate) and the paddling area, a quiet croquet lawn or bowling green “for those unable to indulge in more violent exercise”. The area opened in 1903 and was immensely popular.

 

Photo 17: The beach at Bishop’s Park 1928

 

You come next to a central area where once there was a bandstand and now a playground and open area for events and a farmers’ market. It is at this point that you could branch off from the towpath and visit Fulham Palace. It used to be impossible to see the Palace from the park due to the mature trees and the dense understorey of shrubs, but these have recently been thinned so now you can see glimpses.

The next section of the park, the first to be acquired, runs between the Palace moat and the river and was offered to the Vestry, then the equivalent of the local authority, by the Bishop of London following a public meeting in 1883.

The offer was not quite as generous as first appeared as the area was described as a “malodorous line of foreshore backing a forlorn stretch of marsh land, unkempt and unsavoury … a sort of no man’s land, a nuisance to the palace and an eyesore to the public”. It was a marshy, dangerous, rubbish tip bordered by a very polluted river. Furthermore, before any landscaping could take place, the meadow had to be protected from flooding by creating an embankment and building a river wall. The park was formally opened in 1893, changed its name to Fulham Park in 1902 and then back to Bishop’s Park four years later.

 

Photo 18: The River Walk

 

It was along this section that the bishops had their landing stage as their normal transport from the City would have been along the river. The park had been badly neglected by the beginning of the present century but after a successful lottery funding bid in February 2011, a major restoration project updated and modernised almost the entire site and the ‘beach’ area was reintroduced.

At the edge of the park, at the entrance from Putney Bridge, was Vine Cottage. Its gardens and outbuildings were acquired by the Vestry in 1894, demolished in 1897, and the present Pryor’s Bank pavilion constructed and opened in 1900. The Victorian house was once a successful teahouse associated with the adjacent formal gardens designed to impress. It is now looking rather sad.

 

Photo 19: Pryor’s Bank

 

This is a good place to stop. If you are walking the towpath, I would again recommend the short attractive booklet, The Thames Path from Hammersmith to Chelsea produced by children from primary schools in Hammersmith and Fulham, as a guide. Copies are available in the Local Studies & Archives library.

 

Photo 20 leaflet

 

The old photographs all came from the Hammersmith & Fulham Local Studies & Archives (https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/libraries/local-studies-and-archives); the modern ones are my own.

Fiona Fowler
Hammersmith & Fulham, Local Studies and Archives volunteer

 

 

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Space Chase – Taking the Challenge in the Library!

LBHF Libraries are venturing into space this summer on the anniversary of the moon landing. At Hammersmith Library they are rocketing amongst the planets whilst ‘Ronnie’ the Space Chase robot meets and greets those taking the Reading Agency’s Space Chase Summer Reading Challenge!

 

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All the libraries have exciting events taking place this summer. The experience at Shepherds Bush library is truly out of this world with the rocket circling the planets.

 

Rocket flight at Shepherds Bush Library

 

Come and meet John Kirk the storyteller as he blasts through a trio of out of this world stories. In Jonathan Emmett’s ‘Bringing Down the Moon’, Mole tries to reach the beautiful moon but soon learns that its not as near as it looks. In Simon James’ ‘The Boy from Mars’, a Martian comes to stay at Stanley’s house whilst his Mum is away and gets Stanley into trouble and Dom Conlon reveals the story behind the nursery rhyme in ‘Why the Cow Jumped Over the Moon’. These storytelling sessions are suitable for children aged 3 and over and are happening on Wednesday 24 July. Free and no need to book, just turn up.

Then if you would like to play the part of animal ranger come along to meet Zoolab’s team of animals and rangers. The rangers will tell you about the animals and you may even get the chance to hold one of them. Advanced booking is essential.

For more stories, if you are 5 to 7 years, come along to a Cat & Hutch Space Stories workshop. For these just book through Eventbrite.

 

 

If stories and animals are not enough and you are 8 to 11 years of age come and meet the Education Team from QPR Community Trust for fun and interactive activities linking physical activity with reading and poetry.

If you would like to meet up and chat about the books you have enjoyed over the summer Hammersmith Library are running two special Reading Agency Chatterbooks sessions for children 6 to 12 years.

All details of the events taking place in the libraries can be found on the website https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/libraries/library-events/special-events-children-and-young-adults#summer

Come and join us in the libraries this summer!

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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. 

SCWyattButcher

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. 

Baker

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. 

RagandBone

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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