`The sweet air and situation of Chiswickâ€™ was now attracting wealthy Londoners and large mansions began to be built â€“ Grove House, which stood where Kinnaird Avenue is today, and was not demolished until 1928, is recorded as early as 1412, although it was rebuilt. It was home to the Barker family for 200 years from 1540. Corney House, on the marshy riverside now Corney Reach, was built sometime before 1542 when it became the home of John Russell, later 1st Earl of Bedford. The Russellâ€™s entertained Queen Elizabeth I here in 1602. The house (rebuilt) was demolished by the Duke of Devonshire in 1837. The large Jacobean Chiswick House, the property of the 4th Duke of Devonshire from 1753, was built around 1611. In 1570 the Prebendal manor house on Chiswick Mall was conveyed to the Dean of Westminster who decided to use it as a refuge for pupils of Westminster School `in times of sickness and plagueâ€™. A new stone building was erected next to the manor house; this became known as College House. When the English Civil War broke out in 1642, an important skirmish took place on Turnham Green which was then much larger than it is today. The royalist army, victorious the previous day at the Battle of Brentford, was marching on London in an attempt to wrest it from parliamentarian control. But they were halted at Turnham Green by a large parliamentarian force and fighting broke out. Outnumbered, the royalists retreated and Charles I never came so close to taking the capital again. The two armies at Turnham Green numbered around 36,000 men, making it one of the largest engagements in British history. It is possible that the headless body of Oliver Cromwell is buried in a vault in St Nicholas Church. Cromwell was just an army captain at the battle of Turnham Green, not becoming Englandâ€™s Protector until 1653. When Charles II regained the throne, Cromwellâ€™s body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and hung on the gallows at Tyburn. The head was hacked off and the body supposedly buried in a deep pit below the gallows. However, there were persistent rumours that it was spirited away by his family. No one knows where it was taken but, when the vaults were opened in St Nicholas Church during its rebuilding, the vicarâ€™s son claims that the vault containing the bodies of Cromwellâ€™s two daughters also contained a third, unidentified, coffin. The vaults have now been covered in concrete so we may never learn whether Cromwell lies in Chiswick. Cromwellâ€™s daughter Mary had married the Earl of Fauconberg and they moved to Sutton Court in 1676. The newly-restored king purchased the Jacobean Chiswick House in 1664 for his son the Duke of Monmouth, and the kingâ€™s one time mistress Barbara Villiers ended her days in Walpole House on Chiswick Mall in 1709. Sir Stephen Fox, statesman and one time financial manager to the king purchased the house next door to Chiswick House and in 1682 built himself a splendid mansion, later called Moreton Hall. This was purchased by the Duke of Devonshire in 1812, the mansion demolished and the Chiswick House conservatory and Italian Garden laid out on its site. Another king, William III, nearly came to a sticky end in Chiswick in 1698. There was a plot to assassinate him in Turnham Green Lane (now Wellesley Road) as he returned from a hunting expedition in Richmond Park. Luckily, someone alerted the authorities and the plot foiled.
Â©Gillian Clegg, 2007