The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

University of London Boathouse, Chiswick

It was with considerable relief that we learned at the beginning of November that proposals for development at the listed University of London Boathouse, 81 Hartington Road, Chiswick, had been rejected by Hounslow Council. This satisfactory result was secured after a vigorous campaign by the West London River Group and other local amenity societies, actively supported by C20 Society.

The University of London Boathouse was built in two phases commencing in 1936 and in 1937 respectively. The construction of the building in its present form was completed in 1938, since when it has been in continuous use as a university boathouse. The architects were Thompson and Walford.

This boathouse is the exemplar of a university boathouse in the international modern style. The elegant forms of the design are a direct expression of the function of the building, and an honest reflection of the nature of the materials used. The boathouse’s structure is reinforced concrete with flat concrete roofs. There are metal rolling shutter boathouse doors, Crittall metal windows, and Corbusien steel ‘ship’s railings’ at the first floor deck, and second floor flat roof levels.

Most remarkably, there have been no significant alterations to the building. The interior is as originally designed. The first floor clubroom is a very rare survival of an original 1930s sporting clubhouse interior. The rowing tank in the ground floor is a very fine and complete example of an architect-designed 1930s sports training facility.

Viewed from either the Surrey bank of the Thames or from the river, the boathouse is seen together with the adjacent Hartington Court as a part of a unique Thames vista, a continuous panorama of 1930s waterfront architecture. Nowhere on the tideway is there such an extensive and striking unspoiled view of distinguished architecture of that period.

This is a building of national and international importance and review of its present inadequate Grade II status is long overdue. The Society is applying for upgrading.

Joseph Mirwitch