Chiswick is considered to be one of London’s “villages” and has a long history going back many hundreds of years, with this history comes tales of ghostly goings on, hauntings and other spooky activity. The walk starts at Turnham Green Underground Station.
I turn right out of the underground station and follow the road around past the shops, I see my first haunted building, The Tabard Inn. Built in 1880 and designed by the architect Norman Shaw it forms the southerly edge of Bedford Park. Apparently the Tabard is haunted by an old lady, dressed all in black, who sits at tables saying nothing. She whistles to herself but no sound is ever heard. If that hasn’t scared you maybe stop for a drink, if it’s not too early.
I leave the pub, crossing the Bath Road, looking left I can see Acton Green Common where a semi transparent entity was observed walking parallel to the railway line, wearing a knee length cape. The dark grey figure vanished when the witness momentarily looked away.
After crossing the Bath Road at the crossing I carry on straight up The Avenue until I take the first left into Bedford Road. This pretty area is part of London’s first garden suburb. Bedford Park was created as a middle class commuting village in the 1880’s but is best known for being a community of writers, artists and other bohemian types.
I reach Esmond Road and turn left into it. Not far along on the right hand side is a row of post war council houses which look rather out of place next to the other grander residences. In July of 1956 the residents of one of these houses became the target of a poltergeist who would throw pennies at them. The police were called when razor blades began to fly around and a spanner thrown from nowhere smashed a window. The police were suspicious of the claims until one of the officers was also hit by a flying penny while out in the garden. The young boy of the house, David, seemed to be the focus of the poltergeist so he was sent to stay with relatives. once he left the activity stopped and the family was never bothered again.
I keep walking down Esmond Road and turn right at the end onto South Parade, I continue walking straight ahead, pass the mini roundabout and go under the two railway bridges into Fisher’s Lane. Following the road down I eventually come to Chiswick High Road where I turn left and walk along until I see the Police Station on my right.
This modern building stands on the site of Linden House, an 18th century manor, where in 1792, a woman called Mrs Abercrombie was hacked to death. Her son-in-law Thomas Wainwright was the murderer. In the 1950’s the site was occupied by Chiswick Fire Station, and firemen would frequently hear the sounds of a woman’s footsteps walking briskly around the basement during the early hours of the morning. As soon as anyone opened the basement door and turned the lights on the noise would stop. Since the building became Chiswick Police Station no more activity has been reported in the basement, however a spectral lady has been seen on the third floor of the new building.
I go back over Linden Gardens and walk along the narrow Linden Passage, this then becomes Bourne Passage and after crossing Duke’s Avenue becomes Barley Mow Passage. I keep going onto Heathfield Terrace passing the Post Office, on my left I see my next building.
The large warehouse style building with round roof windows was built in the 1870’s on the site of a former barracks. This building is now luxury apartments but twenty or so years ago it was a warehouse. There were stories from staff that the second floor had an intense feeling of icy coldness, sightings of a mysterious sinister looking man seen lurking in the shadows, and of strange shapes that twisted and writhed across the ceiling. A porter saw a little old man appear from nowhere, walk briskly past him, and disappear through a solid locked door. There were complaints of invisible fingers poking people hard in the back as they carried out their work. Since the buildings conversion to apartments there have been no more sightings or strange goings on.
Leaving that building behind I continue along Heathfield Terrace turning left at the Town Hall onto Sutton Court Road. It’s a fairly long walk down here and I continue using the underpass to cross the busy A4, I stay walking down Sutton Court Road until I reach Staveley Road, the second turning on the left. As I walk along Staveley Road I reach the third turning on the left, Burlington Lane. I walk up here until I see the white entrance to the grounds of Chiswick House.
I enter through the gates and past the obelisk heading towards the white domed building in the distance. When I get to the lake I follow the path to the left and walk along until I reach the bridge, cross it and make my way to the house.
Chiswick House was designed by the Earl of Burlington in 1725 and was inspired by the 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio’s Villa Capra in Vicenza, Italy. The house was a monument to the Earl’s appreciation of art and later became a home and entertainment venue for various Dukes of Devonshire. In the 19th century it became a lunatic asylum and was later abandoned and fell into disrepair. Middlesex County Council then bought it and transferred ownership to the Ministry of Works in 1958.
An extensive restoration project began to restore the house to its former glory. It was during this refurbishment that the inexplicable smell of bacon and eggs would drift around the building. It was laughed off by workmen as the ghost of one of the mad cooks. However, since then staff and visitors have constantly been mystified by the distinctive smell of fried bacon that permeates the back gallery and can hang in the air for up to three months, then not be noticed for a few years.
It has also been claimed by some visitors that a female presence has been felt in the bedchamber, and one lady looking in the mirror there, the only original mirror in the house, was shocked to see the distinctive form of Lady Burlington reflected behind her, but when she turned around the room was empty.
I leave Chiswick House by the main entrance, turn left and cross the road at the pedestrian crossing, a little further along on the left is the entrance to Powell’s Walk. I walk along this eerie narrow pathway until I arrive at the iron gates of a burial ground and the pretty church of St Nicholas.
The church was founded in the 15th century when Chiswick was still a fishing village, it was rebuilt in 1882 however the tower is original and dates from 1446. The churchyard contains along side many other graves the tomb of engraver William Hogarth. The churchyard is also haunted by the white clad figures of Mary Fauconburg and Frances Rich, daughters of Oliver Cromwell. The lady’s lived a full and long life but rumours persist that following her father’s beheading, Mary bribed a guard to allow her to smuggle her father’s headless corpse away from Tyburn and that she subsequently had it re-interred in the same vault here at St Nicholas’s Church where she and her sister would eventually rest.
Apparently when the church was rebuilt in 1882 the vicar decided to investigate the rumour and opened the vault. He found the coffins of the two sisters but also found a third coffin, which showed signs of rough usage, pushed hard against the wall on the far side of the vault. Fearing the arrival of groups of sightseers, he had the vault bricked up and left unmarked. Maybe because the vicar who desecrated their resting place and admitted to hating everything their father stood for is why the two spirits return to wander amongst the graves. It is said they drift through the early morning mists until the first rays of daylight are seen, then melt into the wall of the church and back to their unmarked grave.
Leaving, with my back to the church I go a little way along Church Street, on the right with a large lamp outside is The Old Burlington. This quaint old house with timbered walls was once an old public house. It is now a private residence. The building is haunted by a good humoured, harmless old ghost, who wears a wide brimmed black hat and a billowing cloak. He has been seen staring out from the upper windows, the owners have christened him Percy.
I follow the road down the hill towards the river and turn left onto Chiswick Mall. This to me is one of the prettiest parts of the River Thames and feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of London. Take some time to look at the beautiful houses which date from the 17th to the 19th centuries.
Walking along I spot what I’m looking for, Walpole House. This was the home of Barbara Villiers, Dutchess of Cleveland (1640-1709). She was the mistress of King Charles II and arguably the greatest beauty of 17th century society. By the time Barbara Villiers came to live here, her royal lover had been dead twenty years and her appearance had changed dramatically. She was diagnosed with dropsy and so her body had swelled. Her time spent her proved one of the most miserable periods in her life. Local residents would talk of seeing her, bathed in moonlight, standing at the windows, her hands clasped to her breast, imploring her maker to restore her beauty. Her pleas went unanswered and, on Sunday, 9th October, 1709, at the age of 67, she passed away.
Legend has it that on nights when the moon is full and it casts it light on the Chiswick Mall illuminating the windows of her old house, Barbara’s puffy, bloated face can be seen, pressed against the glass, her dark eyes rolling in despair as she begs for the restoration of her looks. Others have heard the distinctive tap of her high heels moving backwards and forwards across the upper floor as her restless spirit relives time and again the agonies of those final years at Walpole House.
I continue walking along Chiswick Mall following the road until I reach the Black Lion Pub. Two hundred years ago this was the site of a piggery. The farmer began to brew beer for himself and his friends, this became so popular that it soon overtook his pig farming and the Black Lion was born.
Black Lion Lane, on which the pub is situated was a much troubled place from 1804 onwards by the Hammersmith Ghost. This white, shrouded, spectral form would wail, moan and writhe its way around the area causing terror to local residents. The haunting ended in tragedy when a local excise officer, Francis Smith, “filled his blunderbuss with shot, and himself with ale” and went out to shoot the ghost. Unfortunately he shot dead a white clothed plasterer, Thomas Millwood, who was on his way home from work. The inquest that followed was held at the pub and full details can be read in a newspaper cutting on display in the pub. Incidents that have happened here include, bar staff working alone, early in the morning often hear strange, anxious footsteps pacing back and forth across the upper floor. Also in the Long Room towards the back of the pub, a barmaid noticed a pretty little girl, wearing an Alice in Wonderland style dress, skipping along the centre aisle. Wondering who the girl was she went to investigate and found the room completely empty.
If you haven’t been scared off the Black Lion is a great little pub to stop and have a drink, they also serve fantastic food and I can highly recommend it for lunch.