Hammersmith Creek

Above: A view in 1920 looking north along Hammersmith Creek.

The Lower and Upper Mall were once separated from one another by Hammersmith Creek, a picturesque inlet of the Thames which contributed to the early riverside life of Hammersmith. The Creek was spanned by a wooden bridge called the High Bridge (the subject of another blog) where four old footpaths or bridle paths once converged. The two on the east side were Lower Mall and Aspen Place. The two on the west side were Upper Mall and Bridge Street. Only Upper Mall remains in its original form although parts of Lower Mall also remain today.

Before the Second World War, the Creek extended northwards from the Thames to the south side of King Street. The Creek was navigable even for Thames sailing barges and the surrounding area was known as Little Wapping. The eastern bank was occupied by wharves and the western bank had malt-houses which formed part of the Town Brewery founded by Joseph Cromwell about the year 1780.

The Creek was the scene of much industry – including lead mills, malt houses and boat builders along the banks of the Creek. Barges used to sail up the Creek to unload at Cromwell Brewery where the Town Hall now stands. Few pictures of the creek remain but the buildings just mentioned formed a picturesque setting beside the water when the Thames reached high tide is high.

The Creek was once the mouth of a stream called Stamford Brook. It is shown clearly on Rocque’s Small Scale Map of 1746. The stream rose some distance north-east of Gunnersbury House and flowed immediately east of the then Duke of Kingston’s well-known mansion – Berrymead Priory, in Acton. Both Gunnersbury and Acton are west of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. After a somewhat devious course, the Brook passed north of the house in Ravenscourt Park, probably having once fed the moat which surrounded Ravenscourt House (originally the manor house of Palingswick). The Brook continued east and joined Hammersmith Creek via a brick culvert.

After the decline of the fishing industry in the Creek in the early 19th century, it was filled in and the water was channelled through an underground culvert in 1936. Many of the buildings in the Creek area were destroyed by bombing during the Second World War and, in 1948, the council created an open space in the area, to be used during the Festival of Britain (held during 1951).

Above: Looking east along the river wall at Hammersmith, with Furnivall Gardens (on the left) and part of Hammersmith Bridge (in the distance on the right). The culvert in the wall is where water from Stamford Brook now discharges into the Thames.

The open space, called Furnivall Gardens, is named after Dr Fredrerick James Furnivall (1825-1910), a distinguished scholar of English literature and an important figure in the development of the sport of rowing. In 1896 he founded the ‘Hammersmith Sculling Club for Girls and Men’, now called the Furnivall Sculling Club, whose premises are in Lower Mall. A walled garden was also constructed on the bombed site of what had, since 1765, been the Friends’ Meeting House and burial ground. Furnival Gardens and the nearby Hammersmith Pier were opened on 5 May 1951. The extensive Furnivall Gardens cover the area which was formerly the mouth of Hammersmith Creek and show the visitor how large the area of the creek must have been.

-ENDS-

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