They loom over the rooftops and chimney pots like the Martian ‘Tripods’ in “War of the Worlds”, these soaring builder’s towers of scaffold and sheeting. Once there were none. Now our streets are full of them - with more to come. They are the changing face of our community. They are the future…
Over the last 150 years or so there have been some marked changes in St Margarets and these changes continue to this day. The process started in the 1870’s when local business men with vacant land on their hands and a busy railway line running through the middle of it realised that all they needed to make a fortune was a railway station…
“To the City merchant a station at his door will mean a saving of time; or in other words money; the clerk will find that his journey to his daily avocations will be of shorter duration; the ‘home bird’, who loves his fireside better than any spot on earth, will have more of it when the station saves him long and melancholy tramps through the mud of ‘Ducks Walk’ to the comparatively far off starting points at Richmond or Twickenham…”
RICHMOND AND TWICKENHAM TIMES January 8th 1876
Such was the anxiety to get a station that local residents started a fund to buy one for themselves. The donations did not come from a spirit of altruism, a dislike of the mud along ‘Ducks Walk’ or a simple wish to make it easier to catch a train. As the ‘Rich and Twick’ noted the project was driven forward by the hardnosed realisation that a station in St Margarets would be good for business and property prices.
“The Conservative Land Society regard the station project as one that must benefit them permanently…. No one can reap such great advantages from a station as the owners of the houses and lands in the immediate locality… Many landlords have already contributed promptly and liberally.”
On October 7th 1876 the ‘Middlesex Chronicle’ was pleased to announce…
“The new St Margarets Station was opened on Monday last. The structure is very commodious and well arranged, and will undoubtedly prove a great boon to residents of the St Margarets district who are in the habit of travelling by train.”
And so ‘St Margarets Station’ became the hub of a burgeoning railway settlement. Hard on its heels came new streets, new houses, and a new community. In the years before the 1st World War St Margarets boasted drama and light opera groups, a football team, Scout and Guide troops, a sewing guild, a Mother’s Union, two mission halls, at least one dance band and a glee choir. It was even rumoured that certain groups of women went out ‘cycling’ - alone! Shock! Horror! St Margarets, with its easy connection to town, was becoming a very desirable place to live….
“There is a phenomenal demand in Twickenham just now for houses, flats and furnished houses. House property is changing hands at greatly enhanced prices, and good class would-be tenants are coming forward.”
RICHMOND AND TWICKENHAM TIMES 8th March 1919
MAY 1919 - FOR OCCUPATION or INVESTMENT - ST MARGARETS ROAD
Substantially built house - two reception, five bedrooms, bath (hot and cold), usual offices, good neighbourhood £400
JUNE 1919 - ATTRACTIVE MODERN VILLA - ST MARGARETS
Three bedrooms, bath (hot and cold), sitting room, kitchen and usual offices; good garden and conservatory, select and quiet road, close to trams and station. £225
In the 1920’s the catchment around St Margarets and Twickenham stations spread even further with new estates being built along the London Road towards Isleworth and out on the Chertsey Road towards Sunbury. By the early 1990’s the Victorian two-up, two-down terraces of St Margarets, once on sale for £350 were going for over £120,000. The milkman and the railway worker, the lodging house keeper and the plumber, the clerk in the candle factory and the woman who boiled beetroots have all gone, replaced as the ‘Rich and Twick’ predicted in 1919 by “good class would-be tenants”… the banker and the IT expert, the television producer and the financial advisor, the actor in the weekly soap and the script writer who created it. Now, in the same terraced streets, from beneath the plastic skirts of the ‘Martian Tripods’, the first £1 million pound houses are beginning to appear…
A hi-speed H37 bus ride from Richmond to Hounslow through our little corner of Paradise. Music is ‘Ignition’ by R Kelly. Toot toot! Beep beep!
– from Martyn Day