Strand and Mall —VII.: Kew Bridge

Kew Bridge by A. H. Henley. Signed lower right. Source: the 1884-85 Magazine of Art. Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary from the 1884-85 Magazine of Art

Between Mortlake and Kew the river is at its prettiest hereabouts. The Surrey shore is fringed with alders and water-side growths down to the river's edge; bushy luxuriant hedge-rows separate the towing-path from fields and market-gardens. Over on the Chiswick bank are rustic boat-houses and trim villas, with ample lawns shaded by old trees. Our third illustration depicts one of these boat-houses — that of the Grove Park Rowing Club —  with a glimpse of Mortlake in the distance. In the grey gloaming of an autumn evening the soft haze which here hangs over water and sky produces an effect which must be strangely like to the hues of the Indian summer. The Grove Park Boat-House is backed by a thick belt of trees, behind which is a delightful nook known only to the initiated — what our grandfathers would have called a "bosky dell." A deep and silent pool, dotted with water-lilies and swarming with pike, lies under the shadow of beech and elm and silver-birch. A rude grotto of uncemented stones, overgrown with mosses and creepers, is a relic probably of the days when the dell was promenaded by ruffled dukes and silken duchesses from Grove House hard by. This little plesaunce almost adjoins the grounds of Grove End, Mrs. Pullman's French-baronial villa, pictured in our fifth cut. Opposite the Eyot, which Mr. Henley has sketched for us, and on the Chiswick bank, is Strand-on-the-Green, the oddest surely of the far western malls. Here there are the same alternations of substantial old houses and humble cottages as on the Hammersmith malls; but they have nothing else in common. Decay has lightly touched the quaint, forgotten old strand. The large houses are gay with flowers and creepers and brilliantly-striped sun-blinds; the cottages are gaudily painted and ambitiously named. They also have floral attractions: marigolds, virginia-stock, and a rose or two. Everything here is wondrously clean and bright, and squalor finds no place. The strand is really a miniature dock, and is indeed a port in a small way. Most of the barges which lie hauled up here on a Sunday are the property of amphibious Chiswickians in blue jerseys and sou'westers, who drink beer brewed in the parish out of shining pewter pots, in river-side hostelries with aquatic names — the "Ship," the "Steam Packet," and the "City Barge," not to mention the poetically named "Indian Queen." The "City Barge" was so named, I think, in honour of the state barge of the London Corporation, which is brought up to Strand-on-the-Green early every summer to be overhauled. These bargemen affect the airs of those who go down to the sea in ships ; some even wear rings in their ears. But most of them are natives and land-lubbers. The strand indeed makes a brave effort to look nautical. There is a litter of cables and ropes, and more mysterious seafaring gear of which the uninitiated cannot safely discourse. During the spring tides the residents along the strand have a damp time. A tide a very few inches higher than usual floods the forecourts of the houses, and stilts and pattens become prime domestic neces- sities. Zoffany, the painter, had a great affection for the straggling strand. . . .

It is but a few steps hence to Kew Bridge [see above], grey and sharply arched and narrow — a terror to those who for their sins have frequently to scale it. Strand-on-the-Green is in full view of passers over the bridge ; but of the hundreds of thousands of holiday-makers who cross it every year it is rare indeed that one turns for half an hour out of his way to explore this unbeaten path. It is, indeed, almost unknown save to residents in the immediate neighbourhood. The tea-gardens are all over the water. Just where our stroll ends is Kew Green, one of the completest bits of the Eighteenth Century anywhere near London. Its red-brick houses, not too lovely, buried in lilac and laburnum, its Georgian church, where Gainsborough sleeps and Handel’s own organ still swells to psalm and litany, are graphic reminders of the vanished days when the later Georges essayed to make of Kew a clumsy German Versailles.

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Penderell-Brodhurst, J. “Strand and Mall.” Magazine of Art. 7 (1883-84): 392-459. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Web. 2 January 2015.

Created 2 January 2015