“Hearts at peace, under an English heaven”
Rupert Brooke 1914
This is where we live. We recognise the place. We know the buildings and the names of the streets. If like Alice we could step into these old postcards we would walk around with confidence. If any of these people, smocked and hatted, asked us for directions to Richmond or Isleworth we could direct them with ease because this is where we live.
This is where we live as it was over 100 years ago when the world was different. There are no cars and no aeroplanes and no TV aerials and no traffic lights and no parking restrictions and no us. Instead of exhaust fumes there is the smell of horse manure and coal smoke and instead of engine noise there is the gentle clopping of hooves along empty streets and the nocturnal hiss of gas lamps. This is where we live as it was in Edwardian times, before the coming of the Great War.
Here is the Broadway. It is absolutely free of traffic. People walk in the street and feel safe enough to stop and stare at the photographer. On the right a woman hurries by in bombazine and large hat and outside the Post Office a boy watches a child in a wicker pushchair. A horse and cart have stopped outside the St Margarets Hotel. On the right double yellow lines appear to be coming in from Amyand Park Road but it is an illusion. We won’t be seeing yellow lines on our streets until 1958.
Northcote Road is in North St Margarets on the other side of the A316 – although the A316 didn’t exist then and neither did North St Margarets. When this photograph was taken it was part of Isleworth and remained so until 1994. Walk down Northcote Road today, past All Souls Church, and in the distance beyond the trees you will see the tower blocks of the Ivy Bridge Estate and Twickenham Stadium. When this photograph was taken about 100 years ago there was nothing between us and Hounslow save fields and orchards.
Crown Road is empty without parking bays or cars. On the left are children wearing smocks and hats. Outside the greengrocer’s shop is a man in a flat cap and muffler staring at the camera. Opposite is a boy standing by a tricycle carrier. In the distance coming down the slope towards us is a horse and cart. Could it be the same one as was parked outside the St Margarets Hotel?
ST MARGARETS ROAD
The photographer is standing in the middle of the road on the bridge outside St Margarets Station. The shops and the London and Provincial Bank on the left tell us that the photograph was taken after 1898 when the area was developed and before 1917 when the bank became part of Barclays. In the far distance St Margarets Road continues northwards to Isleworth and Hounslow. Along this road operates the 37 bus which runs all the way to Brixton and East Dulwich – one of the longest bus routes in London. The 37 bus still runs today but it terminates at Richmond.
Apart from the Thames Barges lined up on the foreshore Isleworth looks much the same today as it did when this photograph was taken around 1906. The only obvious difference is the main body of the church which was rebuilt in 1970 after a fire in 1943. It was started by two schoolboys who a few days later went on to burn down Holy Trinity Church in Hounslow. If you step inside the 14th century tower which survived the flames you can still see the burnt timbers of the bell loft.
This tree lined street, running from the St Margarets Road down to the river, was once one of the smartest in the area. Now it is overshadowed by Twickenham Bridge which was built in 1933 and the A316 which crosses over it. The street is empty of traffic apart from an approaching horse and carriage. A similar vehicle is going in the opposite direction, probably on its way to the St Margarets Ferry which operates from the bottom of the road. A couple are standing on the right hand pavement while on the left a cat is looking back over its shoulder. The high brick walls on both sides and the cart tracks turning left and right suggest that this photograph was taken from the junction with St Margarets Road. 100 years on, the photographer would now be standing in the middle of the St Margarets roundabout.
This is where we live. The only thing missing is us and the things that we have brought into this world. In 100 years time will others look at similar photographs taken today and wonder about us, our community and the strangeness of our lives?
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
L.P Hartley – “The Go-Between” 1953
— from Martyn Day
Credit: Thanks to a resident of St Margarets from whose collection of old postcards these images have been selected.