Oxford Gardens is a gently curving street off Brooks Road.
Why is it in this shape, and whence its name? What sort of houses are here and who lives (and has lived) here? The answers lie in the history of the surrounding fields, streets and railways.
In the 18th century the area consisted of rural market gardens and orchards near the riverside settlement of Strand under Green. Brooks Lane ran from near Olivers Island up to Turnham Green Lane; beyond was Brentford Road.
A century later (1847 map) little had changed. The orchard that was to include Oxford Gardens lay to the east of Brooks Lane (title 1176). It was owned by William Churton (retired hosier), who lived with his family and servants at Little Sutton House, a little way to the East, and was farmed by Abraham Pitt. There was an osier bed along the northern boundary, indicating low lying and damp ground; later there would be a watercourse here. However a railway from Waterloo was planned, its line cutting through the orchard.
This railway, the London and South Western Railway opened in 1849, dividing Brooks Lane, and marked the start of urbanisation, initially along Brentford Road. Soon more railways were built. In 1869 Brentford Road Station opened on the Kensington and Richmond Line, with a link to Willesden and beyond via the North & South Western Junction Railway. It joined the Waterloo line via the Chiswick Curve, again cutting through the orchard (1871 map). To the west of our orchard was Sydney House, with its decorative gardens and lake; a waterway to Sutton House ran along the northern boundary. The Chiswick Curve to the south, the waterway to the north and Brooks Lane now defined Oxford Gardens to be.
By the 1890s (1893 map) most of the area was developed as housing, but our orchard gardens remained.
The owner, William Driscoll, eventually laid out Oxford Gardens following the line of the Chiswick Curve (above), together with a few houses on Brooks Lane (1912 map). Its name echoed Oxford Road, like Cambridge Road said to be named for the university boat race team. The terraced houses, completed in 1903, were originally built as tenements for rent. That is, they were built for two families, sharing common areas and a distinctive front door [Door.jpg], of which a few remain.
They were well designed and equipped for the time, with two indoor WCs (one per family), attractive tiled fires with built in gas pokers, gas lighting throughout, and two staircases, the rear one giving access to the shared garden. They were popular with manual workers and clerks and soon filled up. The 1911 census shows a wide variety of occupations, from Barge Builders to Warehouse Manager, and including two policemen and a puzzling Fictional Superintendent … Families were tightly packed, with an average of 7 people per house. Many came from elsewhere. For example, Alfred Short, a carpenter and joiner from Kingston, lived at number 20, with his wife Elizabeth from Norfolk, and their two sons Ernest (born in Kent) and Arthur. In the same house lived Charles Stroud, a butcher from Paddington, with his wife Ethel from Enfield and their daughter Ethel (born in Enfield) and son Alfred.
The surrounding area has changed and developed. A large waterworks (1871 map) was built west of Kew Bridge station, of which the pumping station remains, and part of London’s ring main water supply runs from it, passing just to the north of the street. The National School at Strand on the Green school moved to its present site on Brooks Lane in 1874, and was extended in 1912 and 1939. The railways were electrified in 1912, making then quieter, cleaner and faster. Pinkham Mansions on Brooks Road was built in 1926 by Middlesex County Council to house people displaced by the building of the North Circular Road. Chiswick Curve remained in use until 1932, enclosing a secluded and pleasant orchard (1912 map), remembered fondly by local resident Harold Mann in 1952. The curiously named Chiswick Village was built there in 1937 (1937 map).
On 26 September 1940 a bomb struck the Waterloo railway line near the Brooks Road footbridge. The nearby house on Brooks Road was demolished soon after, and local residents recall an air raid shelter near the footbridge. The A4 Cromwell Road Extension sliced Chiswick in half in 1955-56, and Chiswick Flyover was built in 1959 (1959 map).
Oxford Gardens itself has physically changed little. Some cherry and pear trees remain from the orchard. The railings went in the war, as elsewhere. Houses have been converted to family houses (most) or flats (some); many have been extended, up and out; and house decoration and street trees have lightened the streetscape.
The main change is in tenure and people. Most houses are owner occupied, and occupants are predominantly middle class. The road is popular with young families, attracted by the lack of through traffic, the good local primary school, and the river and other recreational space. A community spirit is growing, notably expressed as street parties, for which the street is well suited.
(Thanks to Chiswick Library for research help).
Contributed by: Peter Gilmour August 2014