Considerable prominence has lately been given to Chiswick in the public Press by reason of its efforts to create another "lung" for Greater London and preserve it to posterity.
This urban district is well known as one in which the present King George and the late King Edward resided for many years of their lives, the late King having taken Chiswick House primarily as a residence for the two Princes during their boyhood. It was also famous for the garden parties held by Queen Victoria.
It is the council's ultimate desire to acquire Chiswick House and its grounds for a public park when it is eventually in the market or alternatively to get the same acquired by the nation in view of its associations with the Royal House.
For some time past efforts have been made by certain companies to acquire the Duke's Meadows for the purpose of huge factories or gas works, as from a financial and economical standpoint they would be particularly useful.
There have been quite a number of schemes for developing the land as a huge building estate, but for many years past the engineer to the council, Mr E. Willis, A.M.I.C.E., F.S.I., consistently opposed the provision of dwelling houses on this area in view of a large area being several feet below a normal high tide, and the provision of factories has equally been apposed in view of the large increase in small class property that would result, the prompt and rapid increase which would follow in the educational rate for the district, and the depreciation of residential property, as well as the pleasant and somewhat rural aspect of this well known nearest western suburb of London.
The council, being a public-spirited one, has therefore taken a very bold line, and, as has been stated previously in our columns, has purchased at a very heavy cost the whole of the open land hitherto known as the Duke's Meadows, from the Polytechnic Boathouse on the south-west, to Thornycrofts (now Gywynns) on the east, nearly opposite the Chiswick Eyot, with one small exception known as "Fuller's Malthouse."
Probably the acquirement by purchase of more than 230 acres of such land is the largest acquisition of property in the country in the case of a comparatively small district, the total area of which is only 1,338 acres, including upwards of 90 aces coved by water. The council in its wisdom, has admitted it is nearly impossible to treat the whole of this area as a public open space, since the cost of supervision alone, together with interest and sinking fund on capital, would mean a very serious increase in the rates, and its attitude has always been to closely watch the interests of the ratepayers. It was also, to some extent, prejudiced in regard to a portion of the land where promises had already been given to a local firm to allow the erection of a small model factory. As the late council agreed to the erection of this building, a model factory has been included in the Town Planning Scheme No 1, prepared by the council for most of this area.
This scheme of town planning is probably the first in the country to be nearly exclusively concerned with open spaces, and which includes all the undeveloped land on the southern side of the Great Chertsey arterial road, and north of the River Thames.
The council has recently been negotiating for the sale of minerals (sand and ballast) on a part of the site, and hopes to be able by this means to pay off a portion of the purchase money with the capital monies received in respect of such minerals.
Its latest move has been to obtain competitive designs for the layout of an embankment 200 feet wide and adjoining the River Thames. The accepted design has followed very much the lines of that prepared by the Engineer, but it was thought in the interests of the district, and also for the protection of the officers, that an open competition should be established in order that if better schemes could be submitted the council might have the advantage of them.
The Scheme, which received the first prize and was submitted by MR A. V. Elliot, of Chiswick, is reproduced on this page. It shows a series of terraces with a plateau of turf, showing seats and rustic shrubberies at intervals, and with a central feature of a bandstand and stone balustrading including a flight of steps and a causeway admitting to the river at all states of the tide. There is also a carriage road of twenty feet in width for the whole length of the embankment, enclosed by trees, which in years to come should form a noble avenue. Beyond this elevated embankment, grass slopes are formed and tennis lawns, etc., laid down at approximately the original level of the land, which is below Trinity high tide mark.
Rustic shrubberies are shown at intervals, and at the end of the promenade adjoining the railway bridge is a reservation for four boathouses giving facilities for river boating and racing. At the eastern end of this embankment is a further elevated plateau originally formed by house refuse in consequence of the War Office taking all of the destructor stokers for the War, and this plateau is shown in the design to be converted into a putting green. The promenade is approached by a roadway built on top of the original Duke's Ditch, which received water from the north-east and west as far as Acton, Ealing and Brentford, and which has been culverted in by means of a 7-ft. ferro-concrete culvert of special design. This roadway also is embanked in view of the risk of back flooding to gullies if kept at the natural level.
The council has also decided to lay out a public recreation ground of from 15 to 20 acres, which will mainly consist of a bowling green, croquet lawns, cricket pitches and football grounds.
The remainder of the ground included within the Town Planning Scheme No 1 is intended to be let out or used by private clubs for private recreation ground purposes and the Chiswick Council is prepared to grant limited leases in respect of it and allow the erection of pavilions thereon.
Separated by the arterial road from this huge area is further land that this enterprising council has acquired in order to prevent improper development and a large section is being used for future burial ground purposes, although it is hoped to utilise it for the present in allotments which are gradually being lost in consequence of the development of other parts of the district.
The negotiations for the foregoing have been entirely carried out by the late clerk to the council's architect, engineer and surveyor, Mr E. F. Collins and the present council's architect, engineer and surveyor, Mr Edward Wills, M. Inst.C.E., F.S.I., F.R.San.I., and the new clerk, Mr F. Fernihough, will probably carry on the traditions of his predecessor.
Mention has not been made of the financial aspect of the scheme as it is understood there may be slight modifications, but it is clear the schemes in hand in Chiswick will shortly reach an expenditure approaching £250,000, and it is fortunate that the council has officers who are capable of dealing with probably the largest financial transactions effecting open spaces in a district of this size in the country at the present time.