In 1830 cartographer John Salter conducted a survey and produced a plan of Hammersmith, in which he referred to ‘The Buckingham Road running through Shepherds Bush to Acton’ (this was also called the Acton Road, the North Highway and later became The Uxbridge Road). To the north of this road he indicated that there were five old brickfield lakes.
By 1853 two large water filled pits in Shepherds Bush were already recognized fisheries. One was the Willow Vale Fishery, also known as the Victoria Fishery, which was at the northern end of Willow Vale. The other, which was south of the Uxbridge Road was the Star Fishery, probably the clay pit close to where Starfield Road now stands.
The fisheries were apparently were well stocked with Barbel, Perch, Roach, Tench, Carp and Dace, and it is said that there was good refreshments available for the anglers. It was not unknown for them to take away thirty pounds in weight of fish.
By 1856 the Star Fishery had been filled in and the Willow Vale Fishery had been enclosed within the land known as Thorpebanks.
There is a very sad tale to tell about fishing in Shepherd’s Bush.
On 14th June 1831 Mr. John Hill Jnr of Lower Frederick Street, Connaught Square travelled to Shepherd’s Bush to go fishing. There was a young boy begging and Mr. Hill gave him 1d.
After fishing for some time Mr. Hill decided to have a swim. He undressed and rolled up his canvas rod case and jammed it in his trouser pocket where he had 1s 6d. He left his clothes by the side of the water. Whilst swimming he saw the boy come down to the water’s edge, but he ran away when he realized he had been seen. Mr. Hill got out of the water and found the rod case had been taken out of his trouser pocket and his money had gone.
He saw the boy with two others in a lane nearby. He challenged the boy, who claimed he had not taken the money, but promptly ran off. Mr. Hill gave the information to Police Constable John Gannon who went to the boy’s home. The boy’s sister said he had run down Wood Lane, but on searching the Constable found the boy in the back of the house. The boy continued to plead innocence but 1s was found by the side of his waistcoat, and 9d in copper coins was found on him.
The case was heard at The Old Bailey New Court on Friday 13th July 1831. The boy Samuel Ayres who was 12, claimed he had found the money by the side of the clothes. He was found guilty and sentenced to be transported for seven years. Sadly Samuel died in hospital on 10th January 1832.
By Peter Trott
Fulham Palace staff member and avid user of the Hammersmith and Fulham Archives