History Focus

Local historian and TW contributor Ken Howe reveals some of the historical finds discovered during his lockdown walks.

When we first heard the dreaded words that we were going into lockdown, very few of us could have known how long it would last and what it might entail! Pubs, restaurants and cafés, as well as cinemas and theatres, all closed. No spectator sports were allowed. Only shops selling essential items, such as food, could stay open. 

Although a full public transport service still carried on, travel was not encouraged unless it was to and from work.

What was left? Hardly anything! We were, however, told to maintain physical exercise for our wellbeing, even though the gyms were closed and we were living under severe Covid restrictions. One of the easiest exercises to pursue was walking, and in Teddington we are blessed with areas of outstanding natural beauty in Bushy Park and the River Thames riverbanks, plus many other less well-known green spaces.

In addition to that, what better way is there to get to know your own neighbourhood than by walking the roads, streets and lanes? Unencumbered by the constraints of motor vehicles, it is quite amazing what features you may discover for the first time. Such things have always been there – it is just that travelling past them at 20mph, you can easily fail to notice them at all.

Discovering history on foot

A good case in point is a pillar in a wall on the Twickenham Road. My wife and I created the habit of walking into Twickenham once a week to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from Paul Cooper’s shop in King Street. In passing Cross Deep House, which is enclosed by a huge ancient wall, you suddenly see a large pillar on which the initials G S are carved, with a date of 1781 beneath. I have no idea how many times I have driven or ridden past this house but it was not until I was on foot that I was able to take in the carving and wonder who G S might have been.

Just along from the greengrocers, and before the Pound Shop (formerly Woolworths), is the empty Cycle Republic shop (soon to be a Tesco Metro) and at the foot of the windows each side of the shop, I noticed the inscriptions:

I had forgotten that this was once a branch of Montague Burton, the 50 Shilling Tailor who had made his fortune by securing the contract to make demob suits for discharged servicemen after WW2. He had four children who all followed him into the business, and the names of all of them were shown on various branches of his shops. Such was the demand for his clothing after army uniform that a full set of civilian clothes was dubbed ‘The Full Monty’. Sadly, it’s now a long-forgotten name swallowed up in Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group and no longer trading.

Local guided walks

The April issue included an article – A Walk on the Website – that gave details about the first website walk from the Teddington Society’s Paddy Ching and Jenny Michell. Taken from Paddy’s original A Walk In Teddington, this has now been updated and can be downloaded from the Society’s website. I have just checked Jenny’s second walk, which should also be on the website now. Go to www.teddingtonsociety.org.uk for details.

Jenny has persuaded me to write up one of my old Teddington walks covering the Broad Street/Queen’s Road/Park Road area. This was for a walk that I organised in 2010; I thought the best way to test it was to do the walk myself and I was surprised to see how many changes there have been in 10 years. There will be more about this walk in a forthcoming issue.

My friend Peter Denton brought the following item to my attention…a mystery monument standing at the side of Clarence House and next to the road sign for Middle Lane. Peter deals with the many tweets that come through to the Society and a caller brought this to his attention and set us all thinking. It looks very much like a milestone but with no inscription. Peter has checked with the Milestone Society but they do not list it. Our local Boundary Stone is next door in Park Lane and it is highly unlikely that there would be another in such close proximity. It has probably been overlooked by millions of passers-by until now and we are still trying to discover what it is.  

I believe that LBRUT Local Studies is now open for visitors, subject to appointment, and hopefully some of my long-standing queries will be resolved.

Ken Howe is a local historian and author of several books.


020 8943 1513

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