The first mention of Brook Green is found in a 1493 document when a tributary of the Stamford Brook called Black Bull Ditch or Parr’s Ditch, probably man made, flowed across the marshy green to enter the Thames south of Chancellor’s Wharf. By the late 18th century this was recorded as being “a 4ft wide ditch, constantly full of filthy water”. Eventually the brook became so polluted with waste from nearby brick fields that it was covered and finally converted to a sewer in 1876. The fair held on the Green was a popular annual event but having attracted some undesirable characters it was closed by magistrates orders in 1823.
During the 18th and early 19th century the area was extensively used for market gardening, the most famous being that founded by James Lee and Lewis Kennedy on the site of a former vineyard – Olympia now marks the spot. They introduced hundreds of new plants to this country including standard roses and fuchsias, the latter discovered growing in a sailor’s garden in Wapping having been brought back by him from Chile.
Nearby Blythe Road, once known as Blinde Lane, was recorded in 1839 as being “sadly neglected and nearly impassable in winter”. The brickfields and market gardens were beginning to give way to some larger dwellings, one being Eagle House situated on the corner of Luxembourg Gardens, the entrance to which was flanked by two impressive stone eagles. Demolished in the 1890s, Bute House now stands on its site. The Grange, just to the east of Rowan Road, became the home of the actor Henry Irving and St. Paul’s Girls’ School has been built on part of its grounds. The original Blythe House stood north of the Green but had long disappeared when the Post Office opened their Savings Bank and offices in 1899 in a building of the same name. The Post Office workers have also now gone but the building remains as a store for the V&A, Science and British Museums.
For many years there was a strong Roman Catholic presence in the area and it was sometimes referred to as Pope’s Corner. Eagle House at one time was occupied by the religious organisation of St. Vincent. A school for girls known as “The Ark” which had been established in 1760 at Brook Green House on the eastern corner.
Two early houses built on the Green in 1796 were 14 Brook Green (currently FBG’s registered office) and 13 Brook Green, which in the early 1900’s became licensed premises trading under the name “The Queens Head”. The Georgian part of each house was designed by the same architect for the two owners who were brothers and they served as their out of town villas for a number of years. Later the Marquis of Queensbury resided at 14 Brook Green.
Speaking of FBG, we were legally incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and became a registered charity in 2010.<
FBG initially ran in parallel with the long-established Brook Green Association, and in March 2012 the two amalgamated. Membership is free, and there is an email newsletter of about 7 issues per year, which aims to keep Friends of Brook Green up to date. There is an Annual General Meeting, and the board aims to hold consultations over major decisions, and welcomes constructive opinions.
The FBG name was used for legal reasons, but the board (committee) retained members of both organisations. The Green is owned by LBHF, but the FBG has an arrangement with them over the management of the tennis courts, and has a lease on the small piece of ground on which the proposed pavilion will stand. We keep watch over the area between Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith Road and between the two north-south railways. We look after the trees, plant crocuses and daffodils, and negotiate with Council officers and employees.
Our successes to date include arranging all aspects of the the Playground’s renewal and enlargement (which was completed in 2012) and of the tennis courts’ renewal and upgrade (which was completed in 2014). Other successes include keeping open the Olympia footbridge, and moving the initially proposed site of the hire bicycles to Little Brook Green.
The board consists of local volunteers, limited to 12 in number, and listed below. Each is a member of one or more working groups which include other residents, and which report into the main board as necessary. Residents who have an interest in a particular aspect of the board’s endeavours are invited to help with a working group.