As the temperatures plummet, it is possible to embark on a historical journey without leaving the warmth of 20 The Barons. One needs merely to consider the address to venture beyond the building’s façade into the hidden story of its environs. The Barons derives its name from a key moment in the chronology of England and English democracy that occurred a few hundred metres away. On 29 June 1263, the parched fields of the 200-acre Manor of Isleworth (later Twickenham Park), were ablaze with the tents and fluttering standards of rebellious barons, the noblemen who held the key to the King’s power. The reign of King Henry III (1207–72) had been one of failed campaigns, famine, misrule and rebellion. Five years earlier, an uprising in London had imposed the Provisions of Oxford on Henry, requiring him to govern through an advisory council selected by the most powerful barons. By the summer of 1263, the King had overturned the Provisions through an appeal to the Pope, but his authority was hollow. In June, the historic Encampment of the Barons gathered under Simon de Montfort, Duke of Leicester, a French nobleman married to the King’s sister. Henry was holed up in his brother Richard’s nearby manor house. For a fortnight, the two sides parleyed as De Montfort sought to temper royal power with civil government. There was to be no peaceful solution. In the spring, the Manor of Isleworth and its watermills were sacked as civil war broke out, leading to the defeat and imprisonment of the King at the Battle of Lewes. De Montfort now called to Westminster Hall not just barons and church leaders, but two knights from each shire, and two citizens from every important town. This established England’s first true Parliament. Sadly, de Montfort did not live long enough to enjoy his revolutionary achievement. He was defeated and killed at Evesham by Henry’s son Edward, his head paraded around the country on a pole. But the noble gathering is commemorated at The Barons; the Manor of Isleworth would become the streets of St Margarets; and the principle of royal rule through parliamentary government was here to stay.
Archives for November 2013
The wonderful phrase “The Lungs of London,” describing the green spaces that offer breathing space among the city’s urban sprawl, is attributed to William Pitt the Elder in the 18th Century. It is an evocative expression that has, over the centuries, been used to defend the life-giving green parks and squares against the creep of grey development. One look at the map reveals how splendidly 20 The Barons and Twickenham Bridge are situated between two of the greatest and greenest of those lungs, which open up like butterfly wings to the east and north-east. A brisk 20-minute walk, crossing the Thames at Richmond Bridge, takes you to the fringes of vast green acres that have no equal in London. Walk south-east from the bridge, and Richmond Hill offers you views of the Thames painted by Turner and now preserved by an Act of Parliament. Your path encompasses the award-winning Terrace Gardens and the bucolic serenity of Petersham Meadows before reaching Richmond Gate. Beyond this stretch the 1,000-hectares of Richmond Park. The oldest and largest royal park, this vast wonderland of ancient oaks, deer and scattered ponds was named by Henry VII in the 16th Century and is little changed since Charles I fenced its boundaries in 1637. Alternatively, walk north from Richmond Bridge to reach Richmond Green, regarded by some as the most beautiful urban green in England. It was originally a Tudor jousting ground, before cricket became the sport of choice in 1650, and it is fringed with labyrinthine passages that hide such delights as the Old Palace Yard. Continue north, and you reach the Old Deer Park, where the acres designed by Capability Brown include footpaths, tow-path, the Royal Mid Surrey Golf Course and the King’s Observatory, stretching all the way to the botanical wonders of Kew Gardens.
Staying at 20 The Barons, one feels instantly part of a vibrant community. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the crackling atmosphere surrounding the local sporting events on any given Saturday. Last Saturday was a case in point. Setting off from the tranquil surroundings of St Margarets, The Baron could hear the roar of the crowd from nearby Twickenham (a brisk 20-minute walk away) as England’s Rugby Union team battled back to beat the Wallabies 20-13 in the first of three November internationals. He considered taking a 20-minute taxi ride north-east to Craven Cottage to indulge in some Premier League football, but anticipated Fulham’s resounding 1-3 defeat by Manchester United. Instead, The Baron took a 40-minute bus ride south-west to Rectory Meadow to support his favourite local football team. Hanworth Villa were formed in 1976 and have since scaled the league ladder to compete at the top of the Combined Counties Premier Division. At a time when another local club, Chelsea, failed to field a single English player under the age of 21 last season and pays its players a weekly salary far exceeding most supporters’ annual income, The Baron enjoys getting back to the traditional values of non-league football. Kick-off at 3 o’clock, tickets a pensioner can afford, standing up to cheer on local players, it’s like travelling back in time. Hanworth Villa’s clubhouse, The Ranch, is a focal point for the community when many public houses are closing down. There is an academy scholarship scheme, a Ladies team, and first-team goalkeeper Terry Buss has just made his 500th appearance. There’s also no lack of drama. Yesterday, Hanworth played Epsom & Ewell (“The Villains” versus “The Salts”), scoring twice in injury time to salvage a 3-3 draw. As FA chairman Greg Dyke’s new commission explores ways to create more players for the England team, he could do worse than to join The Baron at Rectory Meadow and discuss the club’s aim of: “Providing facilities for all local people, regardless of gender and age, to be able to play football at whatever level.”