Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

Shepherd's Bush - A Potted History

At the heart of Shepherd's Bush is the Green, a triangle of common land, where drovers used to rest and graze sheep on the way to the market at Smithfield. This is probably how the place got its name.

 

The name has been known since 1635, but until the nineteenth century it was a completely rural place, just a few houses and farms clustered around a junction in the old Roman road where the track turned off towards the river spa of Hammersmith.

 

In the eighteen-forties London started to expand westwards, gradually engulfing the villages on its borders - Kensington, Bayswater, Brompton etc - until by the eighteen-eighties the built-up area was unbroken all the way to Shepherd's Bush, which marked the western edge of the Metropolis.

 

In 1864 the Metropolitan Railway - the world's first underground railway - reached Shepherd's Bush. It ran from Hammersmith all the way to Liverpool Street. Until 1905 the trains were pulled by steam engines.

 

In 1908 a Great Exhibition was held on a specially-built site to the north side of Shepherd's Bush. It had 120 exhibition halls, 20 palaces and half a mile of waterways, including a magic lagoon. The buildings were finished in white stucco which gave rise to the nickname of The White City. A new undergound station was built to serve it, and a sports stadium was also erected there for the 1908 Olympic Games. After the first World War the exhibition site was used for social housing and a vast estate of council flats was erected - the White City Estate.

 

Shepherd's Bush has had its fair share of celebrities. Oliver Cromwell was almost assassinated there in 1657. Charles Dickens helped found a home for reforming prostitutes in Lime Grove. Gustav Holst lived in Shepherd's Bush in a two-room flat above a shop in the 1890s. John F Kennedy attended an athletics meeting in White City Stadium in 1939.

 

And of course present day Shepherd's Bush is home to the BBC, Queen's Park Rangers football team - and Inspector Bill Slider!