MEMOIRS OF PENNY CHILVERS/MACDONALD
nee Florence Vera May Penn
The following extract from "PENNing a History" by Ronald M Penn OAM JP, contains a part of Penny Chilver/Macdonald's memoirs that encapsulates memories of her childhood when living at number 4 Chiswick Square and at "Hawthorns", 5 Burlington Lane, Chiswick.
Penny Chilvers/Macdonald wrote her memoirs in the 1980's at the request of her brother Ron for him to include in his book that also contains details of the history of the Penn family, Ron's own memoirs, Ron and Penny's father's war service in World War One, and information about the actions in World War One in which three of their uncles were killed.
"PENNing a History" is currently being prepared for limited publication in Sydney, Australia. June 2006
Ron Penn can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The title "PENNing a History" is Copyright ©1990 - 2006 Ronald M Penn all rights reserved.
The Memoirs of Penny Chilvers Copyright © 1990 - 2006 Penny Chilvers & Ronald M Penn all rights reserved.
MEMOIRS OF PENNY CHILVERS/MACDONALD (Florence Vera May Penn)
Many travellers on the M4 motorway which devours its way through many miles of fertile and infertile land, through towns, villages, hamlets and over and under flyovers of all descriptions will have speedily and probably nonchalantly climbed the flyover entrance from Burlington Lane, Chiswick, to the A4 Great West Road that takes them to the centre of the vast metropolis of London, or perhaps they have travelled around the large Hogarth Lane roundabout that lies under the flyover entrance on their way to other parts of Chiswick. In doing so, they most likely will not have noticed the history that is peeping at them from the little old village of Chiswick that is located between the flyover/roundabout and the nearby River Thames. Also, the noise of progress will have drowned the whispers of peaceful and bygone ages and cultures, but in fact here dwelt, and still dwell in this tiny riverside community, the artists of canvas, clay, stage and screen, the authors, the princes and paupers, the rich and the struggling merchants and their employees, the lowly fisher folk, the high church dignitaries, the simple and the eccentric. Great events have occurred there and the pageantry of royalty has passed by, whilst brewers and Sisters in Holy Orders have literally rubbed shoulders in the street. Was there ever so much variety and interest in so small an area?
I was less than three years old when I first set foot in this approximately square mile that was to impress itself into the deepest recesses of my mind and heart for ever. My introduction into this new and exciting kingdom came in 1921 when my parents had the extreme good fortune to have offered to them for rent, the lower half of a house at No. 4 Chiswick Square. (In the recent renovations that have been carried out, the house is now number 1). To my parents, after suffering multiple bereavements in both their families, my father's years of service in the waterlogged trenches of France in World War One, his incarceration as a prisoner-of-war from March 1918 until the end of the war, and after three years in rooms with my paternal grandparents, it was a great joy to be in a place of their own.
My father had been in the employ of the Chiswick Polish Company prior to the war and had returned into their fold after being demobilised. The company had purchased part of the old Chiswick village, which was (and still is) known as Chiswick Square, reputedly the smallest square in London. The house that was number 4 and is now number 1 is located on the left side of the square immediately off Burlington Lane, with Boston House the large main building occupying the end of the square and other houses on the right.
Boston House and surrounding buildings all date back to the 1680's, with Boston House being extended and refronted by Viscount Boston, Earl of Grantham, in 1754. Viscount Boston sold the property in 1772 for nine hundred and sixty pounds and since that time it has had an interesting history, several owners, and a variety of incidents that have occurred on the premises. Quite soon after it was first built, it was a grim witness to the murder of Lady Boston, allegedly killed by her husband in the Print Room of the house. Her body is reputed to have been thrown by Lord Boston into the nearby River Thames. However, the tide in the river apparently washed the body back on to the shore of the river at the rear of Boston House, where it was discovered by the murderer and buried under a huge Cedar of Lebanon tree that stood in the grounds of the house. Lady Boston's ghost was said to haunt the house, but apart from a late night reveller reeling on his way past Chiswick Square, no one seems to have seen her. For many years the walls of the Print Room bore stains that were said to be bloodstains from the murdered Lady Boston and many years later, when my brother Ron was himself employed by the company that had by then been renamed Chiswick Products Ltd., he reported feeling a very strange sensation when collecting back copies of scientific magazines that were stored in the old Print Room in a disused part of the house.
Towards the end of the 19th century, Boston House became a school for young ladies, and later a Roman Catholic convent, during which time it was known as Nazareth House. Until the fairly recent remodelling of the square, small viewing grills in each front door of the house in the square were reminders of this latter era. After Mr. Dan Mason, one of the founders of the Chiswick Polish Company, bought Boston House and Chiswick Square in its entirety, he gave it to the company in 1924 for Boston House to be used as a girl's club for the employees and the houses to be rented to valued employees. A large dining hall that could be converted into a very fine concert hall was later erected in the grounds of Boston House, also for the benefit of the company employees. Dan Mason was also well known as a great benefactor of the people of Chiswick, building and providing for the maintenance of Chiswick Hospital, which later became Chiswick Maternity Hospital.
Chiswick Square has another connection with history, this time in fiction, but perhaps based on fact. In Thackeray's book "Vanity Fair" Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Young Ladies is described as being a large house in Chiswick with large gates and a carriage drive. The character of Becky Sharp in the book, as she was living the academy for the last time, threw out of the carriage the present of a dictionary given to her as a parting gift by the principals of the academy. This event supposedly represents Boston House, its gates and garden, and a plaque on the wall of what was No. 4 Chiswick Square states that this was the point where the dictionary was supposed to have landed.
Boston House now has been declared a "Building of Special and Historical Interest" with the superb ceiling of the room known as the "Adam Room" making it a true gem of its type. With the expansion of Greater London engulfing it, Chiswick Square is still the smallest square in London, and since the demise of Chiswick Products is privately owned and has been tastefully redeveloped into apartments.
To return to my own memories of Chiswick, although I was less than three years old, I clearly remember the occasion when I first saw No. 4 Chiswick Square. As I stepped into the room that was to be our future living room I was immediately struck by the curious sight of a brand new dustbin (garbage bin to my Australian family members) standing there in all its gleaming galvanized glory. I also remember my own childish curiosity and the questions that I asked about the dustbin. Why was it here inside the house? Who brought it and where did it come from and why? This odd episode was the commencement of a voyage of discovery which led to pages of history and events being unfolded for years to come the farther away in time that it becomes, the more deeply etched in my memory are its origins.