It’s rather enviable to have a house looking over the Thames, in Chiswick none the less. As with Hogarth’s House (visited the same afternoon as Emery Walker’s), if one ignores the busy main roads and steps off onto Hammersmith Terrace, life could be quite idyllic in this little enclave of Chiswick (also ignoring the fact that the basements back up with sewage when it rains heavily, explaining the presence of Thames Water in the street outside).
On our first visit we entered only the ground floor of this house as it was open to provide a corridor into the rear garden (originally the front before the private walkway along the river was walled up by residence of the row) as part of London Open Squares Weekend 2012. However, later in 2012 we went back for a tour of the whole house.
The house and garden are thin and long, just one room’s width. The house is two rooms deep – a very small kitchen at the front window and a compact sitting room, with a small porch (they say conservatory) of glass on the back with the stairs down to the garden (and housing a grape-vine coming through a hole in the wall from outside, keeping its roots nice and cool). Upstairs there is a reception floor and bedrooms. There are pictures on the house’s website.
Emery Walker lived here from 1903 to 1933. His friend, William Morris, lived up the road in Kelmscott House (what is now home to the William Morris Society). We visited Morris’ house a few years ago and the garden is much superior, spoiled by the presence of a very noisy garden to the rear where the home of EW just has the Thames over the wall.
The house was lived in my Emery Walker’s daughter Dorothy until 1999, and it was she who put the kitchen in (together with cork tiles) in the 1960s (when the original basement kitchen was converted into a separate flat). However, William Morris wallpaper is preserved in the sitting room. Nevertheless, the house is opened on the basis that it is the only domestic interior of its kind preserved in England and so those with an interest in all things Arts & Crafts, who might find Red House (Morris’ first purpose-built house) rather bare of furniture, this house is on the opposite end of the scale.
The house is small, domestic, the dark Green interior of this elegant Georgian house’s ground reception room wrong (in my humble opinion). The house isn’t twee enough for the Arts & Crafts movement with a Victorian legacy. The mantelpiece too cluttered. I’d want a regency balcony and stair on the back, in a room filled with light, pale colours, mirrors bouncing the light around, and views over to the space of the water beyond.
The garden is stuffed with plants – borders on both sides with beds in the centre. Where there was the riverside path providing access to the garden there is now a raised seating area. There is a small pond beneath the raised area and shading over the seating. I would take all the central beds out, have a little bit of a parterre and a fountain leading to a wisteria seating area. I can see myself moving in very easily.
There is no café at the house, but a few steps away is a (posh) riverside pub called the Black Lion, with plenty of inside and outside seating. Not a bad way to spend a lazy afternoon. If you’re wondering how to spend your London Open Garden Squares Weekend (June 8-9 2013), perhaps a trip to Hammersmith Terrace might suit?
When visited: June 2012 and August 2012
House * out of 5: **
Garden * out of 5: *
Theme tune: Sitting on the Dock of the Bay