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West Brompton is an area of south-west London, that straddles the boundary between the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The centuries-old boundary was traced by Counter's Creek, now lost beneath the West London Line railway.
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|Ceremonial county||Greater London|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||SW5, SW6, SW10|
The name refers to the older locality of Brompton to the east, linked to its western namesake through the areas of Earl's Court and South Kensington by the Old Brompton Road. Before the vigorous urbanisation of the second half of the 19th century, Brompton also referred to the area between the Fulham Road, previously known as Little Chelsea and Counter's Creek to the West, on its way to the Thames. The most famous landmark in the area is the Grade I listed Brompton Cemetery, laid out between 1837 and 1839, with magnificent catacombs and a domed chapel by architect, Benjamin Baud. Since the area was chiefly devoted to market gardens, with leading nurseries such as that of James Veitch & Sons, philanthropists looking to establish hospitals near London. looked no further than Brompton as a suitable healthy location. Thus came into being the Royal Brompton Hospital, for chest diseases. Ten years later, Marsden decided to erect a new Cancer Hospital in memory of his wife, and a tract of land was found for it along the Fulham Road in Brompton. Designed by Messrs John Young & Son, Architects, and built by the Lawrence Company in 1859, it has subsequently achieved world renown as The Royal Marsden Hospital. One famous resident in the area was the writer and illustrator, Beatrix Potter.
The advent of a canal and a road
The most notable landowners in 'West Brompton' at the start of the 19th century were James Gunter, Sir John Scott Lillie and the Edwardes. The first non-agrarian activity in the area was to the West of Counter's Creek, which between 1828 and 1859 became the short-lived, six-mile long Kensington Canal. This area of farm land, bounded by North End Lane to the West, was known then as North End in the Parish of Fulham and was dotted with a few grand houses, such as the Hermitage and the less grand Grange, home of artist, Edward Burne-Jones. A new road was laid out to join North End and Kensington parish with access to the new Hammersmith Bridge by Sir John Scott Lillie (1790–1868), Peninsular War veteran, road builder and investor in the canal company. Lillie is buried in Brompton Cemetery. After Gunter's Bridge was built over the canal in 1826, the road on either side was called the Richmond Road. The remnants of the canal bridge can be seen from platform 4 at the West Brompton station. The early Fulham buildings were associated with freight transport such as the wharves in today's Rickett Street and Roxby Place, south of Lillie Road, and a brewery to offer refreshment to the canal, barge and later railway workers as well as the builders of the nearby Westminster and Brompton Company's new 40 acre cemetery opened in 1840. The oldest extant building is the Lily Langtry public house, formerly the Lillie Arms 1833, part of the old brewery in Lillie Road.
Meanwhile, the Kensington Canal turned out to be a financial fiasco for its backers trying to link the Grand Union Canal and the burgeoning railways with the Thames. They switched to the idea of a railway to benefit from the boom to the West and to the North, and the canal was filled in to make way for the West London (extension) Line 1840.
The earliest Brompton residential development was along the south side of Richmond Road (today's Lillie Road) Lansdowne, Vieras and Beaufort Villas 1853, a group of Palladian style semi-detached houses with front and back gardens, now entirely demolished. These were followed in 1864 off its north side by a small terraced cul-de-sac abutting the railway with a number of attached retail outlets onto the main road, a development called Richmond Place, the current Empress Place (scheduled for demolition for a high rise development), and in 1866 by a terrace of more substantial houses along Richmond Road, both designed by the City of London architect, John Young, known for his signature ornamental brickwork. The houses would have been intended for the different levels of professionals, craftsmen and workers coming into London to service the growing transport and building booms. Indeed, the owners and residents of this Fulham housing development would soon be involved from 1872 in the massive urbanisation of the farmland estates of the Edwardes and Gunter families, over Lillie bridge.
The local railway boom
Sir John Fowler, 1st Baronet, a civil engineer from Yorkshire took over as consulting engineer of the Metropolitan and District Railway following the early death of Brunel and was active in the area laying down tracks and building bridges and leading to the establishment in 1872 of the Lillie Bridge Depot and Railway Engineering works, currently being demolished to make way for a high rise development. Among his many famous designs is the West Brompton station opened in 1865. Fowler, like many people who contributed to the early development of the West Brompton area, is buried in Brompton Cemetery.
West Brompton Station provides London Underground District line services to Wimbledon in a Southerly direction and Edgware Road and Upminster to the North and East. It is possible also to change at Earls Court (1 stop or a short walk) for District line services to Ealing Broadway and Richmond as well as Kensington Olympia. The West London Line also provides services between Willesden Junction and Clapham Junction, South Croydon and Gatwick airport.
The sports craze
West Brompton F.C. was a 19th-century pioneer football team, who played in the defunct West London Cup along with the likes of Fulham F.C. and Queens Park Rangers F.C.. Between 1869 and 1874 the Middlesex County Cricket Club had its home on the Lillie Grounds, prior to moving to Lord's in St John's Wood, where the turf was judged to be superior. Nevertheless, WG Grace scored a few centuries in West Brompton. John Chambers, who was himself a competitor and the moving force behind both the Amateur Athletics Club and developing the Lillie Bridge Grounds, is buried in Brompton Cemetery
The entertainment boom
John Robinson Whitley opened his Earl's Court exhibition and fair grounds here in 1887, with the entrance in West Brompton in Richmond Gardens at the bottom of Richmond Place, named subsequently, Empress Place in honour of Queen Victoria's visit to the grounds. His opening gambit was the American Wild West Show which coincided with the Queen's Golden Jubilee and featured William Cody, aka, Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley along with a cortege of First Nation Americans. After Queen Victoria's personal attendance with her cortege on 9 May, the show became a runaway success. The show was not without tragedy, as three performers died during their tours. As a result, two Oglala Sioux Native Americans, 'Surrounded By the Enemy' and 'Red Penny', were buried in Brompton Cemetery. Red Penny was Little Chief and Good Robe's eighteen-month-old son. Brulé tribesman, Paul Eagle Star who died on 24 August 1891 at age twenty-seven due to complications from a horse-riding accident in Sheffield. Fifty-nine-year-old Oglala Sioux tribesman, Long Wolf died due to pneumonia during the Wild West Show's tour on 13 June 1892. Two months later, a two-year-old girl named White Star Ghost Dog lost her life when she fell from her mother's arms on a horse ride. All three of these Lakota Native Americans were buried in Brompton's cemetery. The coffins of Long Wolf, White Star Ghost Dog and Paul Eagle Star were exhumed to Pine Ridge and Rosebud, South Dakota in the late 1990s by their tribal descendants. Whitley did not make money on his venture and in 1894-5 he was replaced by the internationally successful Hungarian impresario, Imre Kiralfy who relaid the grounds and built a hall to accommodate 5,000 spectators and put on spectacles on ice. This was the Empress Hall, sometimes referred to as a theatre, which survived until 1959.
In 1913 Mrs Pankhurst called one of her rallies in the local Empress Hall, just to the West of the Earls Court Exhibition Centre and former Exhibition Grounds. She too is buried in Brompton Cemetery. The Empress Hall was knocked down in the late 1950s and was replaced by the brutalist 30-storey Empress State Building in 1961.
West Brompton today
West Brompton today is bounded by West Kensington and Earl's Court to the north, Chelsea to the east, Fulham Broadway to the south and Fulham to the west. It contains the historic 'Lillie Enclave' destined to be replaced, under the aegis of Mayor Boris Johnson, on its Western flank along with three social housing estates by an ambitious high rise development, trailed as four new 'villages' on decking, due to obliterate most of its existing biodiversity and history. Also included in the area are the Brompton Park Crescent estate, in the grounds of the old Fulham (Fever) Hospital, and its once associated Fulham Ambulance Station. One hospital ward block remains and appears to have been renamed "Lillie Bridge House" although it is a quarter of a mile from the bridge, down Seagrave Road. Aso down that road are The London Oratory School, linked to Brompton Oratory, the Sedlescombe Conservation Area and a number of late Victorian streets of stucco terraces. These now front the dominating new high rise Lillie Square development emerging out of the erstwhile Athletics ground, latterly the Earl's Court exhibition car park, seeking to insert 'modern urban living' into this quiet, human scale and almost rural backwater, permanently obscuring the spires of the Redcliffe Square and Boltons churches and the trees of Brompton Cemetery. After the recent purchase and closure of the 150-year-old retail outlets by Lillie Bridge (scheduled for demolition), the nearest significant local commercial centres are North End Road to the west, which includes a street market, Fulham Broadway to the south and Earl's Court in steep economic decline, to the north.
- ^ West Brompton and the South Kensington Museum, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol5/pp100-117
- ^ "Architect John Young 1797–1877" .
- ^ a b "The Kensington Canal, railways and related developments" .
- ^ Charles Feret, Fulham Old and New, published by Leadenhall Press Ltd. London by private subscription in 1900
- ^ Charles Feret, Fulham Old and New, 1900
- ^ "South London Harriers – Club History" .
- ^ Brompton Cemetery – An Illustrated Guide Text and editing by The Royal Parks and The Friends of Brompton Cemetery. Published by The Royal Parks. Crown Copyright 2002.
- ^ John Glanfield, Earl's Court and Olympia- From Buffalo Bill to the Brits, Stroud, Glos. Sutton Publishing Ltd., 2003. ISBN 978-0750929981
- ^ June Purvis, Emmeline Pankhurst: A Biography, London, Routledge, 2003. p. 237
- ^ https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/wamdocs/ECWKOA_Joint_SPD_March_2012_track_changes.pdf [bare URL]
- ^ "Lost_Hospitals_of_London" .
- ^ Dave Hill. "Earls Court: how to do regeneration wrong" . The Guardian.
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