The boroughers, 31/03/2018: Hammersmith & Fulham Crafty

It’s Easter, and the last day of March. 2018’s weather has been a pile of bullshit – I’m yet to wear shorts except when running, ffhs – but nonetheless we go again, out and about in London. Our quest to visit each of the 32 boroughs throughout the year finishes the first quarter slightly ahead of schedule inside number 9: Hammersmith & Fulham.


The first of our double-barrelled boroughs, Hammersmith and Fulham is a small sliver of the inner west poking up from the river looking shiftily up towards Brent.

Due to having moved house over the last couple of days – I’d been living with Helen in her Thames Ditton cottage for the previous 4 weeks, but we’ve now both moved into a newly painted, decorated, and just generally refurbished flat in Surbiton – preparation was poor for this trip. At some point we’d made a start on looking up some “interesting” facts but quickly got put off by the sheer amount of them, since Hammersmith & Fulham seems to have quite the set of claims to fame. Eventually, after a recap, we settle on:

  • Hammersmith was one of the last places to still see heart burials, a tradition which sees a dead person’s heart dealt with separately to the rest of their body
  • The first ever speed bump was laid down within the borough’s border
  • Hammersmith Bridge is so weak only one bus at a time is allowed on it

I like the first one but the other two nag at me for being a bit crap.

Hammersmith & Fulham

For numerous reasons we were able to head out at a leisurely 11.35am, what with Saturday meaning parkrun, the proximity of our destination, and the improved transport regime living in Surbiton provides. While I spent a disappointing hour taking my “sorry we missed you” Royal Mail slip to the local office who told me they couldn’t find it, Helen got cracking with the picnic, about which she would like to say the following:

Apologies for the lack of sandwich creativity. This is a temporary glitch due to spending so much time unpacking. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

With that in mind, behold the shapeless (well, only in the shape of “slices of bread”) wonder of “Full-ham”.

Bravo! And in fact double bravo, because despite the merely sandwich shaped nature of this sandwich they taste bloody wonderful. Helps that (a) there’s so much ham (b) the bread is fancy jalapeño and cheese bread. Lovely, and a good start to our three-legged journey. At Wimbledon we change onto a district line train to Earl’s Court, the early part of which is taken up by Helen playing with some new AR features on her phone that enable her to video me eating and superimpose a penguin onto the floor, staring at me.

At Earl’s Court we admire the wonderful old destination board still in use, and hop across to the “westbound” platform. I have a problem with Earl’s Court describing the district line as only east- and westbound, given trains from here go east, west, north and south. But whatever. There’s a service waiting for us and a few stops later we decant ourselves above the streets of Stamford Brook.

Consulting a map tells us we have to turn right, which was my guess anyway. Everything immediately seems very nice indeed, long terraces of very large houses with seemingly only one or two doorbells where in many parts of London you would expect 5 or 6. How terribly well-to-do. A fairly preposterous number of Papa John’s bikes makes us wonder if the locals have a serious pizza addiction problem.

If anything the property gets bigger just before we reach the noisy main road, under which we must walk via a subway with an excellently defaced signpost, and one which doesn’t look or smell like piss whatsoever. I had very little idea such underpasses existed.

There’s a sign to a pub saying “open fire” which seems unncessarily ambiguous. Bypassing that we approach a different pub called the Black Lion, on the wall of which is a sign explaining that it was formerly known as the Black Lion. Um.

Hammersmith Terrace is next, our first proper stop. It’s about 1255 and we’ve got tickets for a thing starting at 1300, so there’s just enough time for me to accuse this street of taking the piss. There are three blue plaques within 14 buildings, and the numbers on the doors above 8 are in Roman numerals. I mean come on.

Now as it happens one of these plaqued houses is what we’re here for: a tour of Emery Walker’s house. I’d never heard of this guy before Helen bought tickets when researching cultural things to do in Hammersmith, and even until today I mostly thought “some mate of William Morris, who did typography”.

The door opens on time and in we go, along with a handful of other people: there are only tours twice a day, and each limited to 8 people. Seven of us file in and have our ticket details dealt with by a man with the air of a country estate groundskeeper who has yet to properly grasp how to use his iPad. A couple of folk turn up on spec asking if they can fit in, but they are out of luck when number 8 turns up a couple of minutes late.

We’re in the Phone Room, and leave our bags there. Instructions are doled out, all of which are a variation on the theme of “the stuff in this house is really delicate”. There’s no heating; no photography allowed; keep your feet strictly within the guided bits.

Because there are no photos this is obviously a bit wordier than your usual Boroughers episode, and somewhat frustratingly so. I made many notes about all the stuff we got told because it was all really bloody interesting, and I’ll impart a bunch of it here – not least because at the end of the tour everyone present was implored to “tell your friends, go on TripAdvisor, write a blog post”. But I’ll probably leave a lot out, and get a lot of what I do write wrong – it was tough to keep up, and mostly it was scribbled down in a “what the fuck did we just get told?” frenzy once the tour was over.

Emery Walker was a working class member of the Arts & Crafts Movement, moving to Hammersmith down from Paddington. He was an innovating pioneer in many fields including typography, a field in which he advised his friend (and almost-neighbour) William Morris in the latter’s quest to create “the book beautiful”. The house itself was his, where he lived from 1903 to his death in 1933, and it stayed in his extended family until 1999. It’s one of the most authentic and pristine houes of its kind, as they have kept it almost entirely as it really was rather than rearranged and augmented with items that were never actually there.

We’re shown photos of Walker and his family; the furniture, fixtures, and fittings are all described. Much of it is bespoke or commissioned, with several pieces featuring his initials. In numerous rooms we are told stories of philandering: George Bernard Shaw was a local and part of the Socialist League set, and he had an affair with Walker’s daughter, only to dump her when he got bored; William Morris buggered off to Iceland for 18 months to let his wife’s affair with the poet Rosetti simmer down.

There is Phillip Webb furniture, and some master plasterwork by someone whose name I forget. And of course Emery Walker’s own work. We’re shown reproductions of some Kelmscott Press books, the work of Morris, Walker and Burne Jones. Then, an original from the Dove bindery and press, the business of Walker and a lawyer-turned-artist with the dual surnames Cobden Sanderson. “Cobden” was the surname of his suffragette wife whose name he took on.

Such behaviour was probably not unusual for the Socialist League set, but it was a bit surprising to hear the story of Walker and Morris threatening to stop paying their chosen printers when they bitched about how hard it was to use the tooling provided to them and asked for more money. The printers relented but went on a go-slow, until Morris eventually acquiesced and upped their cash.

Cobden Sandersen invented the Dove font, but after a huge falling out with Walker decided he was going to bequeath the typeface not to Emery should he die first (as was contractually agreed), but to the Thames. He took 170 separate trips, in his 70s, to transport the physical metal type down to the river and throw them away. In total it weighed a ton, and in 2015 a man named Robert Green made it his business to recover what he could from the water, resurrecting and expanding the font across characters originally not present.

Out in the garden we’re told the basement is a studio flat let out privately, providing income for the trust, and whose resident had his mates over last week to watch the boat race. Here we’re allowed to take photos, which basically means this bit of stone that’s apparently a trough but looks like a single element of a small pi-henge.

Back inside, we’re shown the bedroom used by the last resident of the house - Dorothy Walker’s companion, who inherited the place and eventually set up the Emery Walker Trust before her death in 1999. An exquisitely made bedspread is there; it was used as a funeral pall for Walker, his daughter, and the companion.

I’ve missed tons out, but it was all just so fascinating. Oh, that’s right, in one room there was a tray of stuff from William Morris which included a small box full of insects deemed to be the greatest source of the colour red there is.

Back in the Phone Room we get our bags back and are on the verge of buying a Dove typeface tea towel, with a capital T and everything else in a block. T towel, see? Julie, the guide, tells us Cobden Stephenson would be horrified and that totally puts us off buying one, so instead we get some notelets and envelopes, and bugger off.

Whew. That was honestly completely fascinating. I know I’ve barely talked about the actual interior, but Helen absoultely fell in love with every room. Nicest house she’s ever seen, she reckons.

We’re not there for long, because the next item on our itinerary is only a five or so minute walk away. Past yet another fucking blue plaque, we’re at the William Morris society. Told you he and Walker were near neighbours; next door to Morris’s Kelmscott House, it’s a small exhibition of a bit of his stuff including the original and still working printing press (there’s a much bigger William Morris thing up in Walthamstow).

There’s loads of gumpf about other places to visit, plus Morris’s writing.

Giant Morris & Co wallpaper pattern books keep Helen’s attention for a good while.

But in the basement, the proper printing press. There’s a video showing how it works, and in fact people still do use it now - there’s plenty of evidence on the side of visitors doing prints.

All this art and craft is thirsty work, so after buying a tea towel that would not make the designer spin in his grave we pop to the Dove. This happens to be a world record holding pub, having as it does the officially “smallest public bar room”. As luck would have it there’s no-one there when we arrive, so we get it to ourselves.

We’d noticed how high the river was, which makes the “floods in 1920-odd reached here” mark a little worrying. Maybe we should skull this booze and get going. I’m actually surprised at how big this smallest room is, and it’s in no way cramped when an old geezer perches alongside us at the other end of the bar.

Under another piss-free subway and back towards King Street, we pass a car park containing vehicles from the local council and, curiously (to me at least), some Kensington & Chelsea vans. Oi, hop it back to your own borough!

Following a sign that says Ravenscourt Park tube station and its namesake of an actual park, we skirt round the edge and enter at the completely opposite end to where we want to be. But hey, the loo is nearby and that’s useful. The advice given to men looks a bit weird.

I mean, like, on the one hand no-one sane needs to be told this – and if you’re stupid enough to go barefoot into a public gents loo then you deserve what you get. I kept my shoes on.

The park’s not right impressive tbh. There’s a map showing what little it has, and also asking for information about a sexual assault that took place 9 months previously. Grim. At the other end of the path and actually just outside the park is the West 6 Garden Centre, in which Helen spends half hour or more picking out house plants for the flat and smiling at herself while doing so. I’m told this is an excellent garden centre, and need to be told because what the fuck do I know about garden centres? Fuck all, that’s what.

We’re hungry now. Most of the local nice looking places on King Street are closed, so we keep wandering towards central Hammersmith and eventually are the only customers inside a tapas bar called Toro Gordo. Our drinks arrive promptly, as does the tapas, most of which is very nice.

Croquetas and camembert are particularly good.

Albondigas are also nice, but the pork toasted thing isn’t pork but beef, and chewy stringy beef at that. When time comes to pay it takes us about 10 minutes to get it all sorted, despite STILL being the only punters there.

By now we’re almost at Hammersmith tube station. Despite being in charge of the main itinerary, Helen’s utterly refusing to head up to Westfield shopping centre near Shepherd’s Bush. She works near there, but also it’s shit anyway. I want to go there because we’re meant to be going to Grate Beer, but with all her bloody moaning plus my feeling that we’re a bit Hammersmith-heavy and Fulham-light, I have found an alternate venue for craft beer just a bus ride away – assuming we can navigate our way through the Broadway centre to find the right stop.

We can and do, and the 220 is due almost imminently. I feel very self-conscious taking a photo of our chariot as it arrives, surrounded as we are by locals just trying to get from A to B.

It’s not crowded and we get seats downstairs. The sun has come out, which is good because our destination only has seats outside. It’s a hipster off-licence called Dr.Ink of Fulham and a piece of piss to find, just down the long straight-ish Fulham Palace Road. And, oh bollocks.

Well, at least it’s still an excellent off-licence. Helen buys rhubarb and damson beers, I get a selection of stouts. Hours later, as I type the day up, both Helen’s beers are disposed of down the sink because they’re nasty as fuck. My kerala stout was lovely though, thanks for asking.

At the time though, we still wanted a venue where we could sit down and have a nice drink. Having crowd-sourced other suggestions earlier I’d been alerted to the King’s Arms, just up from Putney Bridge.

It’s a fairly cavernous place, with about 10 or so other punters but virtually every table has a “RESERVED FOR xxx AT yyy” piece of paper on. Seriously something like 90% of all seating in here was reserved from 7pm or so onwards. Never seen such a thing. But as it was only 5.30pm it didn’t matter to us. Man City ran riot over Everton while we drank, and just as a family arrived to take up their reservation next to us we buggered off.

Being at Putney Bridge I was convinced our last job of the day would be my favourite thing: a welcome sign. I hadn’t managed to find one on street view but that didn’t concern me too much. What did concern, or more accurately, what did wind me up, was the complete lack of Welcome to Hammersmith & Fulham sign anywhere at Putney Bridge. I mean fucks sake! On the south side is a very prominent Welcome to Wandsworth, so why no corresponding sign heading north?

God damn it I’m so annoyed by this. On the bus back to Kingston I get back on street view and “walk” across Hammersmith Bridge instead, spotting a sign badly placed and off a different style and shape to every other borough’s sign. We’re nowhere near it anyway, but I seriously do plan on going back and filling in the gaps later in the year. Just could do without many of them.

you must be (judge)mental

In the King’s Arms we’d sat down and revealed our ratings, the marks out of 7 we both give to a borough across 3 categories. Much debate ensued on the bus home as I wanted to downgrade at least one category purely on the lack of welcome sign at Putney, but eventually I agreed to stick with the visceral score I originally wrote.


  • Fun: 6. Loses a point for Dr.Ink being only an off-licence
  • Learning: 7! I learnt SO MUCH, and unlike in Southwark, it was consensual. Emery Walker Trust is fantastic.
  • Nice: 7! I’m sure there’s a shady estate or two somewhere, but frankly Hammiersmith and Fulham - certainly the bits we saw - is relentlessly lovely. Could’ve knocked a point off for the Broadway, but too many good memories of going to the Odeon.


  • Fun: 6. Arts & Crafts PLUS a garden centre. Peak fun! Point deducted for lack of alpacas.
  • Learning: 7! Typography, socialism, furniture, Victorian scandals and OWLS - awesome
  • Nice: 6. Very nice indeed. Point deducated for Hammersmith centre.

Holy shit, eh? Hammersmith and Fulham storms straight to the top with a hugely impressive 39 out of 42 even with no farms or zoos, let alone alpacas. Still 23 boroughs to go but there ain’t much room for anywhere else to top that.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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