The place we know today as Chiswick was formed from five separate areas. Old Chiswick, which nestled around St Nicholas Church and along Chiswick Mall; Strand-on-the-Green, a fishing village on the waterâ€™s edge; Turnham Green, which grew up along the main road to the west of England; Little Sutton, a small hamlet clustered around Sutton Manor, and Stamford Brook which straddled the border with Hammersmith near the ford over the brook (the word `Stamfordâ€™ means `stone fordâ€™). Sutton Manor was one of two manors in Chiswick, the other being the Prebendal Manor with its manor house on Chiswick Mall. Both belonged to the Dean and Chapter of St Paulâ€™s Cathedral. During the 14th and 15th centuries, though, Sutton Manor was held by the Crown and King Richard II built a house at Sutton in 1396, using timbers from the temporary parliament building in Westminster. It was pulled down in 1415 but another house must have been erected shortly after as King Henry VI issued state papers from Chiswick in 1441 and 1444. St Nicholas Church is thought to have been on its site by at least 1181. The present tower was added between 1416 and 1435 but the church itself has been rebuilt many times. The church would have been the centre of community life â€“ a place of worship, a theatre for mystery plays, a school and a social club. The main occupations of Chiswick residents were fishing, transporting people and goods by water, boat building and farming. The barley grown in Chiswick was said to have been `exceptionally fineâ€™, which meant that malting and brewing were important activities. Osiers (willows) were cultivated along the riverside and used for making baskets. The Thames was a major highway before there were adequate roads and there would have been a continual stream of traffic – wherries, fishing boats and grander craft. Royalty, in sumptuous velvets and brocades, gliding down the river in magnificent barges to their palaces at Richmond, Sheen and Hampton Court were no doubt a familiar sight to Chiswick people. The ferry beside St Nicholas Church probably did a brisk business with traders and pilgrims.
Â©Gillian Clegg, 2007