Turnham Green by Angela Caldin
There’s a catch with the expanse of open space called Turnham Green in Chiswick, west London: it’s quite a long way from Turnham Green tube station and Turnham Green Terrace, and this often causes confusion for visitors who assume that the grassy area opposite the tube station must be the eponymous park, whereas it is actually Acton Green and just the other side of the bridge, there’s Chiswick Common. Turnham Green itself is a good fifteen minutes’ walk down the High Road.
One of Turnham Green’s main claims to fame is that a battle was fought there on 13 November 1642 during the Civil Wars between the parliamentatians and the royalists. Following the battle of Edgehill, and after taking Banbury and Oxford, the royalist army eventually advanced on London along the Thames valley. On 12 November, a royalist detachment attacked two parliamentarian regiments quartered in Brentford, which were covering the approach to London from the west. The royalists were victorious, but their army was delayed by the parliamentarian resistance and halted, probably on Turnham Green, at nightfall. This allowed the parliamentary field army and London militia to form up on Turnham Green and Chiswick Common the next day.
The battlefield was the open space formed by Turnham Green, Acton Green and Chiswick Common. The parliamentarians’ front ran from the modern South Parade to the garden walls of Chiswick House. The royalist army extended from Acton Green across Turnham Green and close to the line of the modern Sutton Court Road, as far south as the modern Elmwood Road.
The battle of Turnham Green became a stalemate, with the armies facing each other for many hours until the royalists drew off during the afternoon, retreating through Brentford to Hounslow Heath, losing their momentum towards London. The parliamentarians had fewer than twenty men killed, and royalist losses are unlikely to have been higher.
Although the first Civil War continued until 1646, the royalists never again approached London, which had firmly displayed its loyalty to the parliamentarian cause. The battle of Turnham Green proved to have been decisive in ending the royalists’ hope of capturing London. The Civil Wars finally ended with the parliamentary victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651. The Wars led to the trial and execution of Charles I, the exile of his son, Charles II, and the replacement of the English monarchy with, first, the Commonwealth of England (1649–53), and then with a Protectorate (1653–59), under Oliver Cromwell’s personal rule.
Nowadays, Turnham Green is a welcome piece of open space between shops and houses, crossed by paths, with Christ Church in the middle, and home to a series of funfairs and community fairs in the summer time. There’s an organisation called the Friends of Turnham Green who have made it their business to beautify the area a little. Working with Hounslow Council, they have brought about the planting of a wild flower meadow on part of the Green. Now, at the end of August, this is a thick and flourishing carpet of flowers, predominantly white daisies, interspersed with yellow daisies, cerulean blue cornflowers and the occasional bright orange poppy. A footpath has been mown through so it’s possible to get very close to enjoy the flowers while they are at their best and a team of local people has been helping to clear some of the less desirable weeds. You can see lots of families with children, people laden with bags of shopping and others with walking sticks and zimmer frames, happily zig-zagging along the path, savouring this little corner of wild, beautiful nature.
Strange to think that years ago, soldiers lined up to face each other and fight in this place, whereas now people lounge on the grass in the sunshine and stroll happily amongst abundant wild flowers.