By the middle of the 19th century the dukes of Devonshire owned more than half the land in Chiswick parish. The dukes had been steadily acquiring neighbouring estates – Sutton Court, Corney House, Grove House, Moreton Hall â€“ for the last hundred years. In 1822 the Horticultural Society (it didnâ€™t get the Royal charter until 1861) leased 33 acres from the Duke for its experimental gardens (the gardens relocated to Wisley in 1904). Fetes (the forerunners of the Chelsea Flower Show) held in these gardens between 1827 and 1857 were one of the main events of the London season. The coming of the railways (1849 in Chiswick) and increased opportunities for employment meant that Chiswickâ€™s population grew dramatically during the century. It doubled between 1801 and 1861 from around 3,250 thousand to 6,500. By 1891 there were 21,963 people living in Chiswick. More houses were needed, more schools and more churches. The first sizeable housing development designed to provide homes for the burgeoning working population was Chiswick New Town (between what is now the A4 and Fraser Street), started in 1821. Other developments followed, notably the Grove Park estate and the Glebe estate both begun in 1871, and Bedford Park, the prototype garden suburb, in 1875. More schools were set up and in 1843 Christ Church on Turnham Green was consecrated, followed by other churches, while St Nicholas, previously the only place of worship, was rebuilt 1882-4. Chiswick was becoming more organised too. The High Road was lit by gas from 1841 and bodies such as the Chiswick Improvement Commissioners, then the Chiswick Local Board, replaced by the Chiswick Urban District Council in 1894 took over responsibilities from the parish council. There was a police station from 1865, a public library in 1890, a purpose-built fire station (1891), sewage works (1879) and a local paper from 1895. Chiswick was also attracting industry: Frederick Walton invented the floor covering linoleum in British Grove in 1861; Thornycroft and Co began building torpedo boats and other large craft by the river in 1864, Arthur Sanderson & Son established a wallpaper factory in Barley Mow Passage in 1879 in what had been since 1854 a militia barracks for the 3rd Middlesex & Westminster Light Infantry. Leisure activities werenâ€™t forgotten either. There were boathouses and clubs for cricket, tennis, cycling and a short-lived golf course. The Vestry Hall (now Chiswick Town Hall), built in 1876, was the centre of social life with balls, concerts, lectures and political meetings; Chiswick Hall (where Old Cinema Antiques is today) was also licensed for music and dancing in 1888. The pubs did good business too â€“ there were 39 in Chiswick by 1888.
Â©Gillian Clegg, 2007