Isleworth is a small town of Saxon origin sited within the London Borough of Hounslow in west London, England. It lies immediately east of the town of Hounslow and west of the River Thames and its tributary the River Crane. Isleworth's original area of settlement, alongside the Thames, is known as 'Old Isleworth'. The north-west corner of the town, bordering on Osterley to the north and Lampton to the west, is known as 'Spring Grove'.
Isleworth's former Thames frontage of approximately one mile, excluding that of the Syon estate, was reduced to little over half a mile in 1994 when a borough boundary realignment was effected in order to unite the district of St Margarets wholly within London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. As a result, most of Isleworth's Thames-side is that part overlooking the 3.5-hectare (8.6-acre) islet of Isleworth Ait: the short-length River Crane flows into the Thames south of the Ait, and its artificial distributary the Duke of Northumberland's River west of the Ait, one of two Colne distributaries constructed for aesthetic reasons in the 1600–1750 period.
The pronunciation of the first syllable of the place has no relation to any 'isle', see the person's name below from which it derives, and is an instance of a counterintuitive place name within Greater London, alongside Greenwich, Southwark, Marylebone, Plaistow, and often Holborn; however in this instance it can be argued that the similar word is counterintuitively pronounced, & the place name is literal.
Roman and Anglo Saxon
Excavations around the eastern end of the Syon Park estate have unearthed evidence of a Romano-British settlement. 'Gislheresuuyrth', meaning in Old English Enclosure belonging to [a man called] Gīslhere, is first referred to as a permanent settlement in an Anglo-Saxon charter in the year 695. The Domesday Book says that during the reign (1042–1066) of Edward the Confessor the manor belonged to Earl Algar (Anglo-Saxon spelling probably Ælfgār), and a modern road off South St today carries his name.
Granted to St Valeri Barons
Isleworth was a well-cultivated farming and trading settlement, more valuable than many of its neighbours, stretching from the Middlesex bank of the River Thames west to the centre of Hounslow (including the land of later Hounslow Priory) and as far as the borders of Southall (in Hayes parish at the time) at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Domesday Book(1086) as Gistelesworde records its 55 ploughlands, 118 households and amount rendered, £72 per year, to its feudal system overlords. After the Conquest, successive Norman barons of the St Valeri family held the manor of Isleworth but there is no evidence that they ever lived there – it being held as a source of revenue and power. One of the later barons gave several manorial rents and privileges to London's Hospital of St Giles. He also gave the church and advowson to the Abbey of St Valeri, which stood at the mouth of the Somme in Picardy.
Transfer to Duchy of Cornwall
In 1227, when he took control of England from his childhood regents, Henry III seized Isleworth and other property of the St Valeri family and gave the manor to his brother, Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall. He built a new moated manor house, which is described in the Black Book of the Exchequer – having a tiled roof, chimney, two bedchambers, and an inner courtyard. Beyond the moat was an outer courtyard with a number of buildings for servants and supplies, and a short distance away was a watermill. The exact location of this house is not recorded, but a report of an area long ago known as 'Moated Place' puts the likely place between the Northumberland Arms and Twickenham Road, with the watermill being near Railshead, on the River Crane (not where the traditional Isleworth mill 'Kidd's Mill', because the stream there is artificial and did not exist at that time). The seemingly classic medieval manor house was burned down during the Second Barons' War in 1264.
Advowson, right to appoint the vicar
The Abbey of St Valeri in Picardy held the livings (benefices) and revenues of several English parish church lands and, responding to growing disquiet over these foreign holdings, in 1391 it transferred those of Isleworth (for a fee) to William of Wykeham, who endowed them to Winchester College, which he founded. The Wardens and Scholars of Winchester College therefore became proprietors of productive rectory (which had glebelands). This lasted for 150 years, then in 1543 King Henry VIIIexchanged with Winchester certain manors elsewhere for five churches in Middlesex, including All Saints. Four years later he gave the Isleworth rectory and advowson to the Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, but got them back again when the Duke was executed in 1552. Soon after, they were given to the Dean and Canons of St George's Chapel, Windsor, with whom they remain today. The castle-like stone church tower by the river remains from this period, see below.
Transfer of Manor to Monastery
In 1415 Henry V granted nuns from the Swedish Bridgettine order land on the bank of the Thames, in Twickenham parish opposite his new Sheen Palace, where they built their first house Syon Monastery. In 1422 Henry V transferred ownership of Isleworth Manor from the Duchy of Cornwall to Syon Monastery, which in 1431 selected a new location within their manor to rebuild their monastery. This is the site of the present Syon House
Granted to Duke of Somerset
Henry VIII demolished most of Syon Monastery after 1539 and the site and manor was granted to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset. It was Seymour who built Syon House in 1548.
Aquired by Earl of Northumberland
Forty-six years later, in 1594 Queen Elizabeth I granted a lease of the manor of Syon to Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland on his marriage to Dorothy Devereux the younger daughter of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, who later received a grant of the freehold from King James I in 1604. It has remained in the possession of the Percy family, now the Dukedom of Northumberland, for over four hundred years. The Royalist army occupied the house during the Battle of Brentford in November 1642. Syon Park was rebuilt and landscaped by the Adam brothers and "Capability" Brown between 1766 and 1773. It became the new home of the Dukes of Northumberland when Northumberland House in the Strand was demolished in 1874.
Much of Isleworth became orchards in the 18th century, and then market gardens in the 19th century, supplying the London markets. Lower Square and Church Street still have buildings dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries. A striking element of this period was the establishment in Isleworth of many mansions and large houses, principally for aristocrats and high achievers. This phenomenon arose owing mainly to the collection of royal and noble residences and ecclesiastical establishments that already existed nearby. The subject is examined in depth further down this article
The first half of the 20th century for Isleworth generally was characterised by a very substantial amount of artisan and white-collar residential development throughout the town, at the expense of numerous market gardens. Isleworth's former western area was ceded to the new town and parish of Hounslow, which was invested as a civil parish in 1927. This period accompanied by the building of several new factories and offices, mostly towards the north-east, up to the town's eastern boundary with New Brentford. This rapid spread of building transformed the nature of Isleworth's layout in the space of just fifty years, from an agrarian pattern to an urban one. When the postwar recovery period had passed, development resumed in the 1950s and within fifteen years the town of Isleworth.
Isleworth's former Thames frontage of approximately one mile, excluding that of the Syon estate which is shared with Brentford, was reduced to 0.5 miles (0.80 km) in 1994 when a borough boundary realignment was ordered by the UK's Local Government Minister to add land to the district of St Margarets, Twickenham.
Elevations range from 27m in the north west to 4.9m by the Thames at the opposite extreme OD. The boundaries are longstanding, subject to 20th western and southern circonscriptions: Isleworth is east of the town of Hounslow which has more retail and offices, in the borough of that name; west of the River Thames; north of its tributary and the northern confluence of the Crane (before 1998 its southern channel); and south of the crest by the M4 motorway separating the Brent and Crane catchments. Half of the River Crane flows into the Thames south of the Ait, and its distributary the Duke of Northumberland's River flows toward its midpoint from the west.
Isleworth is home to a crown court whose original remit has been expanded to include judicial work formerly conducted at the Middlesex Guildhall, involving the addition of six courtrooms and twenty two cells.
The town's municipal facilities include a public library, a public leisure centre with swimming pool, a gymnasium, four recreation grounds, and a town hall.
There used to be a film studio in Worton Road, Isleworth. Known variously as Worton Hall Studios and Isleworth Studios, its most notable film was The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. After the Studio closed, the premises became a Mining Research Establishment for the National Coal Board. It is now an industrial estate.
The Boat Cathja is moored in Old Isleworth. This is a unique 38 metre barge which has been the home of a mental health charity since 1996. It helps mentally disabled people a chance to hone into their artistic skills. Situated on the boat is the Sculpture "The Heron" by Martin Cotts
A period of intense mansion-building occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries. There was a triple attraction to the area in those times. Its rural, waterside beauty had become well recognised over two hundred years or so, and a few palaces, monasteries and mansions already existed. Then the royal court began to appear at Kew, so the adjacent districts on both sides of the Thames became very fashionable places for the rich and famous to build their grand homes. Some of the cachet dropped away when the court eventually left Kew; most high-quality here survived well The Blitz and social turmoil to enable many to reach grade II* (the mid category) of architectural listed building.
- Syon House Duke of Somerset Duke of Northumberland. (standing, listed Grade 1) Although this grand house has had a close connection with Isleworth for 450 years, it has very grand architecture as the only non-royal ducal main home ('seat') in Middlesex. It is chronicled in an exhaustive history.
- Silver Hall No. 1 (South of North Street, with four acres) [1.6 hectares] Sir John Smith Bt, Privy to William & Mary Lady Harcourt, widow of Sir W Harcourt, Chancellor (Demolished 1801)
- Silver Hall No. 2 (North of North Street) Joseph Dixon. (Demolished 1950)
- Kendal House. (Twickenham Road, near Mill Plat) Duchess of Kendal (mistress to George I).
- Somerset House
- Gunnersbury House. (At the junction of Bridge Road and London Road) (Demolished c. 1972).
- Isleworth House Sir William Cooper, chaplain to George III. Renamed Nazareth House in 1892 when it was established as the present residential nursing home and convent. (standing)
- Countess of Charleville's Villa Harriet Charlotte Beaujolais (Campbell), Countess of Charleville.
- Wyke House
- Little Syon (formerly Cromwell House) Sir Richard Wynn Bt. (Demolished 1818).
- Gumley House John Gumley (Commissary-General to the Army) The Earl of Bath (Gumley's son-in-law) General Lord Lake.
- Shrewsbury House George Talbot, 14th Earl of Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury House lay to the east of Upper Square, in the area known as Lion Wharf, once Beck's Wharf, also Shrewsbury Wharf. The 14th Earl inherited the lease in 1719 and later by Act of Parliament gained full rights to the property (in exchange for certain fee-farm rents) from an almshouse charity established by a former landlord, Sir Thomas Ingram, from whom the 1st Duke of Shrewsbury had originally leased the site. Around 1778 the 14th Earl started the process by which the house converted to a school for boys of Roman Catholic parents.
- Gordon House, by the River Thames at Railshead Rd. (standing, listed Grade II*). General Humphrey Bland Lord James Hay Lord John Kennedy-Erskine. Lord and Lady Frederick Gordon Earl of Kilmorey Judge T C Haliburton MP. In Lord Hay's time this was named 'Seaton House', after his ancestral home in Aberdeenshire. It was next bought by King William IV at 8,000 guineas for his (illegitimate) daughter Lady Augusta, who married Lord John Kennedy-Erskine of Dun, the son of the First Marquis of Ailsa who lived next door in St Margaret's House. Gordon House is being renovated.
- Spring Grove House Sir Joseph Banks Andrew Pears. (standing, Grade II)
- In 1862 Francis Pears decided to expand his soap making business and bought land alongside the London Road for a factory. Another, larger, factory was opened along the opposite side of the road in the 1880s and soap was made on the site until 1962. His son Andrew bought the Spring Grove House estate in 1886 and greatly extended the house in 1894. Pictures are shown under 'Notable residents'.
- Keppel House First Lord of the Admiralty Augustus Keppel.
- Lacy House A 17th-century house rebuilt in 1750 for James Lacy, of Drury Lane Theatre.
Lacy's son inherited the property but his extravagance compelled him to sell the house, to the Hon. Sir Edward Walpole K.B. He bequeathed it to his daughter, widow of Bishop of Exeter, and after that it was acquired by the Earl of Warwick. After him came the famous playwright Richard Sheridan, who by then had already produced his two masterpieces School for Scandaland The Rivals. Lacy House was demolished in the 1830s
- St Margaret's House (Lacy House rebuilt and renamed) First Marquis of Ailsa.
- Kilmorey House (replaced St Margarets House in 1853). Built for 2nd Earl of Kilmorey but never lived in. Became the Royal Naval School for Girls (1856–1940). (Demolished 1950).
All of the above places are serviced by Ridesmiths for Minicabs and Executive Taxis
Isleworth is also covered by the local newspaper Get West London
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