Typical English villages have historically consisted of a church and a pub. Church Street in Twickenham betrays its origins as an early village as it can boast two pubs and the Church of St Mary the Virgin, which gives the street its name. The church can be dated back to sometime before the thirteenth century although the present building is far younger than that. Alexander Pope, who lived in Twickenham during the eighteenth century, was buried in the church in 1744
Church Street used to be the main route between neighbouring Richmond and the West. Whenever the sovereign passed through Twickenham on his way to Hampton Court, whether by road or by river, the parishioners risked receiving a fine if the church bells weren't sounded. Nowadays it is a quiet side street, paved with eighteenth century stones taken from the church, and runs parallel to the Thames.
What was once a thriving main street, boasting butchers, bakers, builders, shoemakers, builders and publicans is now home to restaurants, cafés, a sweetshop, a bookshop and a mixture of other businesses, as well as the two pubs mentioned above. Times have changed and the adjacent main streets carry on the bulk of the more commercial local trade.
A wander along Church Street will offer treats, both sweet and otherwise. You're welcome to join me in getting to know a few of the local businesses. Let's pop into Sweet Memories, a traditional sweet shop, and buy a packet of something to chew on as we continue on our way.
Sweetie Pies Boutique Bakery, which opened a little under two years ago, is just right for the current vogue for cupcakes; the shop is a combination of a tearoom and a cake shop. You can buy cakes to order, or just pop in and buy off the shelf to take home with you. There are a few tables at the back of the establishment for enjoying a cream tea, or nibbling on a cupcake washed down by a pot of speciality tea or a cup of coffee. A full afternoon tea, including finger sandwiches and cakes displayed on tiered plates, can be pre-ordered at a cost of £15. The shop is child friendly and supplies a high chair and toys. Parties can also be booked, whether for children or for adults.
If your tastes run more to alcoholic beverages than afternoon teas, you should sup a pint at The Fox or the Eel Pie. The former dates back to 1670 when it was called The Bell and is the only surviving original tavern in the street although it used to be one of five hostelries. It has been known as The Fox since 1749, and its main trade during the 1920s was drawn from the bargemen, ferrymen and watermen who worked on the river. The landlord at that period was also a champion sculler.
Langton's is proud to style itself as Twickenham's oldest bookshop and has been selling books to the local public for more than 60 years. They also host an organic bakery as an antidote to all that frantic book browsing.
Whether you just fancy a wander along Church Street to see what I'm talking about, or whether you want to spend money in the shops, restaurants and cafes, visit the church for some quiet meditation, or even take a stroll along by the river, don't go to Twickenham without checking out this quiet little road. But don't trumpet my discovery too loudly. I wouldn't want it to be overrun with crowds who would spoil its atmosphere and tranquillity.
You can reach Twickenham by train from Waterloo and the area is also well served by local bus routes. There is ample car parking in the vicinity.