On a very hot day it’s a great opportunity to go on a guided walk, but not too far, not too taxing. So this afternoon we went on one of the last walks of the summer run by Hounslow Heritage, in this case a stroll around historic Isleworth. At just £2, pretty good value. The above picture, taken at very low tide, shows a view looking downstream towards All Saints Church. Isleworth Ait is on the right, the larger section of the river runs on the other side. All that remains of the original church is its fine 14C tower. The nave was completely rebuilt in the early 18C following designs by Wren. Unfortunately it was completely destroyed in 1943 – not by the Luftwaffe – but by schoolboy arsonists who also destroyed one other church in the area and damaged three others in a week’s spree. They were apprehended and sentenced but I am told by local historians who know who they are, that to this day they show no remorse for their actions. The modern brick replacement you can see to the right was built in the 1960s.
On the bank immediately in front of the barges is the spot which was once Isleworth Stairs. This is where both Catherine Howard and a few years later Lady Jane Grey – both teenage girls at the time – embarked on their final journeys to the Tower and execution. Both of them had been staying at Syon House on the massive Northumberland estate which starts just beyond the tree line.
Just right of centre is the London Apprentice, so-called because apprentice boys from the City would come up-river to go on the lash at this pub on their days off .
The neo-Gothic white town house immediately to the left of the church, a mini-Strawberry Hill House from the outside, was decorated thus in the 1960s!
The tower has ten bells which are still rung on alternate Sundays. The clock, from 1774, was made by Messrs Thwaites of Clerkenwell.
Not literally Richard Reynolds’s house, but where his home apparently once stood in the 16C. After the seizure of Syon Abbey by Henry VIII, Reynolds refused to recognise the king as the head of the Church and was hanged, drawn and quartered for his troubles along with John Haile, vicar of Isleworth: the Isleworth martyrs. Isleworth has a strong underground Catholic tradition.
This final section of a lengthy tributary of the Thames, known as the Duke of Northumberland’s River, was actually dug by monks from Syon Abbey long before the Percys ever set eyes on the area. It powered a mill which operated from medieval times right up to the early 20th Century. The bridge is Georgian period and is listed.
There were many alms houses in the Isleworth area, but these from 1664 are the oldest that survive, endowed by Sir Thomas Ingram, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Privy Councillor to Charles II.
This is a flavour of our walk today: we saw lots of other interesting stuff too and I took dozens of photos. This just goes to emphasise that you don’t have to travel to town to enjoy a rich and deeply absorbing historical experience. Just walk out your front door and go for a stroll.