Over forty years ago, developers had designs on Barnes which, combined, would have obliterated its unique ‘village’ identity forever. The most dramatic of the schemes involved the stretch of riverside land from Hammersmith Bridge to Small Profit Dock. Had this gone ahead, the Leg o’ Mutton would be filled with nine thirteen-storey blocks of flats and the site now occupied by St Paul’s School would be a huge shopping centre with high-rise office blocks and more flats. It was prevented by the united efforts of local people.
Writing in Barnes in Common Sally Holloway recalled:
“Without any experience of battling for land, local people formed the Barnes Riverside Residents’ Association. A protest meeting in Holy Trinity Church Hall was packed, with people even leaning in through the open windows. Many experts emerged from that meeting – including a top civil servant experienced in planning matters, and a barrister who would present our case, free of charge. Our milkman became a valued PRO, delivering pamphlets and posters with the ‘pintas’.” (Barnes in Common, March/April 2006)
In the face of ‘formidable opposition’ from the local residents the whole scheme was dismissed, but as Sally wrote:
“We had to watch the site for the next twelve years and face two more Inquiries. St Paul’s and the Swedish School arrived, leaving us with the final battle for the Leg o’ Mutton. For that Inquiry, local artists Jan Pienkowski and David Walser produced a chart showing how the area might become a nature reserve. The scheme was accepted. The riverside was saved.“
However, residents at the other end of Barnes also had a battle on their hands, to prevent one of the few remaining historic houses in Barnes, next to St Mary’s Church, from being demolished and replaced. Again, strong and organised local opposition won and The Homestead was saved.
The groups which staged these successful campaigns eventually came together to found the Barnes Community Association (BCA), and it was through yet another campaign that the Association acquired its headquarters. Plans were afoot to demolish Rose House, the cottage at the Pond end of the High Street which had been 17th century inn, to make way for a supermarket. The newly-formed BCA managed not only to stop the sale, but also to raise the funds to buy Rose House themselves. The former inn became the thriving community centre for Barnes that we see today.
Maintaining this historic building is costly, and the need to raise funds gave rise to the idea of resurrecting the Medieval Fair on Barnes Green. The Fair has grown steadily over the years, now attracting an average of 15,000 people throughout the day, and money raised contributes to staff salaries, the upkeep of Rose House, and many community projects.