Cambridge Road North

wcgs_logoCambridge Road North began life as Cambridge Road. Built in the 1860s/70s around the time the LSWR opened a station at Brentford Road, which was quickly renamed Gunnersbury. The parallel street to the east is named Oxford Road North formerly Oxford Road, and both are believed to have been named after the University Boat Race teams.

The road appears unusually spacious with a significant distance between opposite frontages, partly because of the width of the carriageway but also because the houses are set well back from the pavement. Until the early 1950s the 91 bus from Hounslow West to Wandsworth Bridge ran down our road, but the construction of the Cromwell Road extension severed the road link with Wellesley Road and it was rerouted along Oxford Road North instead. The name of the road changed too, gaining the ‘North’ suffix. Today Cambridge Road North is a quiet cul de sac with a pedestrian path to Wellesley Road at its southern end running alongside the A4. Cut off from our cousins in Cambridge Road South the red brick wall of the A4 Cromwell Road extension now terminates the view at the southern end of the road, fortunately we were spared the concrete abutments that characterise the later Chiswick Flyover and its extension through to Brentford.

The view at the north end of the road was originally terminated by the Victorian St James’ Church in Kentish Ragstone on the north side of Chiswick High Road. I remember going there with my parents as a small child on polling days when it was used as polling station and my sadness when it was demolished in the late 1980s. The church with its tall stained glass windows facing Chiswick High Road was replaced with a well designed post modern office building in brick and stone now known as 630 Chiswick High Road. The design, which reminds me of a Japanese temple and the use of high quality materials has meant it has remained timeless unlike some post modern buildings.

A rare survivor in terms of street furniture is a cast iron Victorian stench pipe on the west side of Cambridge Road North just south of the junction with Chiswick High Road.

The houses are believed to have been built by Adam Askew, a landowner who also had some acres around Askew Road on the Hammersmith/Shepherds Bush borders. Many of our two storey over semi basement semi detached houses in yellow London stock brick and stucco bear a striking resemblance to those on the southern side of Goldhawk Road which have similar steep steps to the recessed front door, stucco porches, stucco mouldings around window openings and hipped slate roofs.

No. 2 is something of an oddity, a two storey detached Victorian house with ground floor bay windows and a pitched roof. Nos. 3-17 are pairs of two storey over semi-basement houses with masks over the entrance porches. Nos. 19-33, Nos. 4-14, Nos. 20-24 are similar in style but lack masks, have an eaves cornice which extends a short distance along the flank wall instead of quoins and are taller due to greater floor to ceiling heights.

I remember Mrs Mold at No. 3 Cambridge Road North who had come to live in the road during the Second World War. Her husband, a builder had bought Nos. 3 and 5 from an estate agent in Chiswick High Road. Apparently the properties were advertised as having been condemned by the Council but Mr Mold, having bought at a good price, set to work refurbishing them.

A pair of Victorian semis at Nos. 16-18 Cambridge Road North was destroyed by a land mine during the Second World War and a British Restaurant was established on the site, perhaps convenient for factory workers in Power Road. The site was not redeveloped until the 1980s when the three storey Afroze Court flat block was built.

Several properties at the southern end of Cambridge Road (North) were demolished to make way for the A4 Cromwell Road extension. For many years No. 24 was left in the odd position as being a detached property, its party wall exposed to view as its neighbour in the pair had been demolished. Three garages occupied the site of No. 26 until they were demolished and an attempt was made to reinstate the pair in the 1990s.However although the architectural detail of the original house has been faithfully recreated, the new No. 26 has been stretched by an extra bay, thereby not reinstating the symmetry between the two properties.

In the 1970s the biggest single loss to the road’s heritage occurred, the demolition of No. 1 Cambridge Road North and its replacement with Gillian Court, a three storey flat block. No. 1 was the ‘big house’ of the road, detached and with a sizeable frontage it was said to have included stabling at the rear. Many former residents remembered it fondly and a small section of boundary wall remains.

The war damage or the construction of the A4 Cromwell Road extension perhaps explains how many properties on the western side of the street came to be owned by the Council. By the early 1980s many of these houses, particularly at the southern end closest to the A4 were empty and derelict and those that were tenanted were in poor condition. As a child I can remember the Anderson shelter and the chicken coup left behind by previous residents in our long back garden, which was so overgrown that it had merged with the neighbouring back gardens to form a dense jungle. A refurbishment scheme for seven houses on the western side of the road started in 1988, but many original features including timber sliding sash windows with shutter boxes, chimney stacks, timber four panelled front doors with stained glass were lost and front gardens with hedges were destroyed to create hard standings. Fortunately the leaning mature Sycamore tree at No. 10 has continued to thrive and still forms a feature in the streetscene. No. 33 was also derelict during most of the 1980s and covered in ivy, it too was eventually refurbished as the area gentrified.

From the rear of our house I remember as a child being fascinated by the views of the traffic on Chiswick Roundabout and Chiswick Flyover with the lofty tower of the Kew Bridge Pumping Station on the skyline beyond. On a few occasions in the 1980s there were dramatic scenes after lorries had overturned during the night, perhaps due to the curvature of the Roundabout at that time. Once a wool lorry shed its load and on another occasion a Guinness lorry overturned and covered the carriageway in stout. An RAC kiosk on the grass verge between the Roundabout and Surrey Crescent was also destroyed. Following modifications to the road layout such incidents became fortunately rare.

Contributed by: Adam O’Neill, March 2014

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