I have long wanted to return to Hogarth’s House and the lovely spring weather drew me westwards, along the river path from Hammersmith towards the pretty village of Chiswick, a mere six miles from Charing Cross.
London in the springtime; coats left at home, pink cherry blossom, LBJ’s (little brown job’s) busy in the warm sunshine, and a sparkling river that’s almost blue.
The tide was going out and we probably could have walked onto Chiswick Eyot, a small, uninhabited tidal island that is a well-known landmark used by rowers and sailors. These tidal islands are sometimes associated with being ancient sanctuaries and meeting places. Perhaps no co-incidence that St Nicholas Church, Chiswick Mall is just west of the island on a slight rise beside the river – also the final resting place of William Hogarth, the man whose house we were going to visit.
Just across the river is the oddly named Leg of Mutton wild-fowl reserve – the origins of which seems to have been lost through the murk of time.
We could have walked and walked, all the way to Kew. Our riverside idyll came to a brutal halt however, as we headed away from the river and into the nearby hell that is the Hogarth roundabout. This is so typical of London – one minute in one type of space, around the next corner, you could be in another city. Always full of horrendous traffic trying to get into or escape from London, we were ready to use our walking apps to navigate our way through and almost missed the old-fashioned “I don’t need a signal to work’ brown signs.
It’s hard to imagine that this charming 300-year old house, now surrounded on all sides by a collection of eyesore’s from the 1970’s and 80’s, was once a country retreat from London. The house was originally built in an orchard – the mulberry tree in the front garden, all bent and gnarled is probably older than the house itself. Today the house is a celebration of the life and work of the great London artist and satirist William Hogarth, born 1697.
Re-opened in 2011 following extensive refurbishment and refreshingly free of technology and gadgets, this fascinating house, with it’s restored panelling and paintwork doesn’t compete with the real stars – the famous prints that gave a sharp commentary on the London he knew so well – that hang on the walls. It is a marvelously understated welcoming experience. Something sadly lacking in so many modern museums.
The lone member of staff (a volunteer I think), was informative and like the house, didn’t intrude, unless you wanted more information which was gladly shared.
London isn’t a city that needs to re-invent itself, it just needs to work harder at telling locals and visitors about the wonderful places there are to be enjoyed. For free.
For further information on Hogarth’s House, visit www.Hounslow.info/arts/HogarthsHouse