Armies march on Turnham Green and Brentford
Retracing the history of local Civil War battles
More than 360 years ago, two decisive Civil War battles were fought on local soil. A pair of crossed swords and a 1642 date mark superimposed on the A-Z map of Syon Park has probably made some residents vaguely aware that a battle once occurred in the area.
But many may be surprised to learn that fighting was more widespread than Syon Park and that their house is built on one of two battlefields in the borough.
Brentford residents living in the vicinity of the old gateway to Syon House and along the High Street as far as Kew Bridge live on the civil war battlefield of Brentford.
Meanwhile, residents around Acton Common and Turnham Green, and as far south as Chiswick House, inhabit the battlefield of Turnham Green, where the armies of King Charles and parliament clashed again, just the day after battling in Brentford.
“Charles I had won a victory at Edgehill, the war’s first major battle, and was trying to end the conflict at a stroke by capturing London,” said Dr Stephen Porter, a civil war historian and member of the Battlefields Trust.
The royalists defeated parliamentary troops defending Brentford – and sacked the town - in a hard fought battle on the afternoon of 12 November 1642.
The royal army was forced to retreat at Turnham Green the next day, however, when parliament blocked the road to London with twice as many soldiers.
“Turnham Green is important; it is the second largest confrontation of the war with 36,000 soldiers facing each other,” Dr Porter said. “It is the closest the King comes to victory.”
Dr Porter and his colleagues at the Battlefields Trust aim to preserve battlefields as historical and educational resources, raise awareness by providing information boards, and argue against inappropriate development at a number of historic sites.
“Churchill claimed that battles were the punctuation marks of history, but for places such as Brentford and Chiswick the battles there were significant events which had a huge impact on the local community,” said Frank Baldwin, chairman of the London and South East branch of the trust. “It is vital that these stories are not forgotten.”
The London and South East branch is very active in the area. Members are working to install information boards and create battlefield trails, with the support of Hounslow and Ealing Councils and in partnership with the Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society.
October 21, 2004
Article originally published in HM Magazine. Republished with kind permission.