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Looking Back with Eddie Menday: Take a stroll through our past

Eddie looks back at the origins of the Heritage Walks which highlight parts of Hounslow borough

All Saints Church Isleworth by Jim Linwood

Some 20 years ago, small parties of interested-looking residents could be seen touring the streets of Brentford or Old Chiswick, or perhaps Isleworth. They stopped now and then to admire buildings and absorb the local history that was being explained to them.

This was the start of the Heritage Walks that have become such a popular feature of the summer season for Hounslow borough.

Similar walks had been arranged in nearby Richmond for some time and, like all good ideas, it just had to be borrowed.

The tourist officer for the borough, Simon Dobson, with the senior librarian for local studies, Andrea Cameron, and a well-known member of the Hounslow and District History Society thought that such a scheme should be organised for the Hounslow area.

A call went out for volunteers to act as guides and a study course was set up for the candidates, under the watchful eye of co-ordinator Christine Jervis.

I had not long started writing the Looking Back series of articles, so took the opportunity to experience the walks. The first I undertook was the Brentford walk mainly because, having worked on the Great West Road, my brother and myself used to explore the old town during our lunch break.

The walk made clearer the history of the buildings that we so admired, and we had the added experience of seeing works such as those of Bands the tanning processors – together with its awful smell – which have long since swept away.

There are now two tours of Brentford on offer, one on road and rail, the other on Old Brentford and its 18th century houses.

Chiswick now also has two walks – the Village and the Mall – but the one I experienced took in a bit of both.

Starting from outside Chiswick House, the party admired London’s smallest square and William Hogarth’s little villa, that once stood in a country lane but now has the noisy main road to the west rushing past its door.

There was also a quick visit to St Nicholas Church and its graveyard with its resting place for many historic figures of the past.

The Isleworth walk turned out to be my favourite, as I much admire the riverside village with its six almshouses that have been occupied for 350 years.

The one-time home of JMW Turner, the landscape artist, and one of the oldest inns in the area, The London Apprentice, are also on the route.

The big attraction for this walk was a cream tea at All Saints Church at its conclusion, served by the very friendly ladies of the church for a modest sum.

The Heritage Walks now offer some 26 tours going through to the end of October. There are a also few ‘one-offs’ including a walk across Hanworth Park to Tudor Court and the site of the old Manor House with its royal connections.

Feltham has not been forgotten, as I arranged two walks for the town. One takes in Feltham village and the other the centre and Hanworth Airpark. Leaflets for this are now out of print, but I hope to get a repeat run of them down in the not-too-distant future.

However, the walks are signposted by finger posts showing the Feltham Pea.

Leaflets on the walks can be had from local libraries or at www.hounslow-heritage.org.uk, where details of special walks and lectures can also be found.

n Editor’s note: Due to a production problem last week we regret we were unable to print the Looking Back column. We apologise for this omission.

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