(with thanks to Rob Kemp)
On April 11th 1912 RMS Titanic embarked on her maiden, and only, voyage. The passenger list included Thomas Pears, and his wife Edith. The great-great grandson of Andrew Pears, founder of the Pears Soap empire, Thomas managed the firm’s Lanadron Works which stood on London Road, Isleworth. Thomas and Edith were looking to expand the Pears brand into America. They boarded the Titanic at Southampton and occupied cabin C-2. A telegram sent on 18 April from the rescue ship Carpathia to the Pears family said 'Edith safe, all hope for Tom'. Edith had been rescued in lifeboat 8. Thomas Pears was among the 1500 passengers that perished. A memorial service held on Sunday 21 April 1912 at St John's Church, Isleworth was attended by 1200 people, including many of his local workforce. The Pears family memorial in the cemetery on Park Road commemorates Thomas Pears.
Excavations around the eastern end of the Syon Park estate have unearthed evidence of a Romano-British settlement. 'Gislheresuuyrth', meaning in Old English Enclosure belonging to [a man called] Gīslhere, is first referred to as a permanent settlement in an Anglo-Saxon charter in the year 695.The Domesday Book says that during the reign (1042–1066) of Edward the Confessor the manor belonged to Earl Algar (probably Ælfgar of Mercia), and a modern road off South St today carries his name.
Isleworth was a well-cultivated farming and trading settlement, more valuable than many of its neighbours, stretching from the Middlesex bank of the River Thames west to the centre of Hounslow (including the land of later Hounslow Priory) and as far as the borders of Southall (in Hayes parish at the time) at the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Domesday Book (1086) as Gistelesworde records its 55 ploughlands, 118 households and amount rendered, £72 per year, to its feudal system overlords.After the Conquest, successive Norman barons of the St Valeri family held the manor of Isleworth but there is no evidence that they ever lived there – it being held as a source of revenue and power. One of the later barons gave several manorial rents and privileges to London's Hospital of St Giles. He also gave the church and advowson to the Abbey of St Valeri, which stood at the mouth of the Somme in Picardy.
In 1227, when he took control of England from his childhood regents, Henry III seized Isleworth and other property of the St Valeri family and gave the manor to his brother, Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall. He built a new moated manor house, which is described in the Black Book of the Exchequer – having a tiled roof, chimney, two bedchambers and an inner courtyard. Beyond the moat was an outer courtyard with a number of buildings for servants and supplies, and a short distance away was a watermill. The exact location of this house is not recorded, but a report of an area long ago known as 'Moated Place' puts the likely place between the Northumberland Arms and Twickenham Road, with the watermill being near Railshead, on the River Crane (not where the traditional Isleworth mill 'Kidd's Mill', because the stream there is artificial and did not exist at that time).The seemingly classic medieval manor house was burned down during the Second Barons' War in 1264.
The Abbey of St Valeri in Picardy held the livings (benefices) and revenues of several English parish church lands and, responding to growing disquiet over these foreign holdings, in 1391 it transferred those of Isleworth (for a fee) to William of Wykeham, who endowed them to Winchester College, which he founded. The Wardens and Scholars of Winchester College therefore became proprietors of productive rectory (which had glebelands). This lasted for 150 years, then in 1543 King Henry VIII exchanged with Winchester certain manors elsewhere for five churches in Middlesex, including All Saints. Four years later he gave the Isleworth rectory and advowson to the Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, but they returned to the crown when the Duke was executed in 1552. Soon after, they were given to the Dean and Canons of St George's Chapel, Windsor, with whom they remain today. The castle-like stone church tower by the river remains from this period, see below.
In 1415 Henry V granted nuns from the Swedish Bridgettine order land on the bank of the Thames, in Twickenham parish opposite his new Sheen Palace, where they built their first house Syon Monastery. In 1422 Henry V transferred ownership of Isleworth Manor from the Duchy of Cornwall to Syon Monastery, which in 1431 selected a new location within their manor to rebuild their monastery. This is the site of the present Syon House
Henry VIII demolished most of Syon Monastery after 1539 and the site and manor was granted to Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset. It was Seymour who built Syon House in 1548. Lady Jane Grey was taken from here to the Tower by Royal barge in anticipation of her being crowned the Queen of England
Forty-six years later, in 1594 Queen Elizabeth I granted a lease of the manor of Syon to Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland on his marriage to Dorothy Devereux the younger daughter of Walter Devereux, 1st Earl of Essex, who later received a grant of the freehold from King James I in 1604. It has remained in the possession of the Percy family, now the Dukedom of Northumberland, for over four hundred years. The Royalist army occupied the house during the Battle of Brentford in November 1642. Syon Park was rebuilt and landscaped by the Adam brothers and "Capability" Brown between 1766 and 1773. It became the new home of the Dukes of Northumberland when Northumberland House in the Strand was demolished in 1874.
Much of Isleworth became orchards in the 18th century (including part of Hugh Ronalds' renowned nursery) and then market gardens in the 19th century, supplying the London markets. Lower Square and Church Street still have buildings dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries. A striking element of this period was the establishment in Isleworth of many mansions and large houses, principally for aristocrats and high achievers. This phenomenon arose owing mainly to the collection of royal and noble residences and ecclesiastical establishments that already existed nearby. The subject is examined in depth in the "Notable houses" section.
The first half of the 20th century for Isleworth generally was characterised by a very substantial amount of artisan and white-collar residential development throughout the town, at the expense of numerous market gardens. The former western area was ceded to the town and parish of Hounslow, which was invested as a civil parish in 1927. This period also included the building of several new factories and offices, mostly towards the north-east, up to the town's eastern boundary with New Brentford. This rapid spread of building transformed the nature of Isleworth's layout in the space of just fifty years, from an agrarian pattern to an urban one.
Isleworth's former Thames frontage of approximately one mile, excluding that of the Syon estate, which is shared with Brentford, was reduced to 0.5 miles (0.80 km) in 1994 when a borough boundary realignment was ordered by the UK's Local Government Minister to add land to the district of St Margarets, Twickenham.
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