East Sheen’s a funny kind of place, really, the sort of location you happen across because you happen to be driving along the South Circular, rather than on purpose. It’s something of an infill town, being recognised formerly as some nowhere in the Brixton Hundred of Surrey, then as the eastern part of Sceon/Sheen (now Richmond), or as being an extension of Mortlake – the shops encroach along Sheen Lane to Mortlake Station even now – and later a constituent of the municipal borough of Barnes. Nevertheless, given its nondescript beginnings, there’s plenty to East Sheen, and it’s almost totally concentrated along the A205.
On a long, stretched out main road like an American edge city, the shops in East Sheen radiate out from the central crossroads with Sheen Lane, where you’ll find Waitrose, and the busiest traffic. There’s little to point to East Sheen as anything other than a charity shop or local amenity destination, as with Richmond, Twickenham and Putney within spitting distance, there’s little requirement for boutiques and extensive chain restaurants. There is, however, charity shops, and they perhaps benefit from the proximity of Richmond and its inhabitants: a mixture of vintage, obscure bric-a-brac and a pretty good overall selection.
Octavia, if I recall correctly, is the first one when approaching from the East, a labyrinthine and somewhat vintage-orientated shop with a distinctive aroma. Though there was a few vaguely interesting, but expensive, knick-knacks, this was sadly lacking in general goodness (a pity, as this is a charity I could get behind – it’s a contemporary extension of the fascinating work of Octavia Hill in nineteenth century London). We also have some nice bric-bracery on the crossroads, in Barnardo’s, Fara (two shirts for me), Cancer Research, Mind and the like. Not many stick out, which is strange because overall I’m left with an overwhelmingly positive impression of the place. Perhaps it’s the proximity of Richmond Park (so close, your rotisserie chicken won’t get cold) or the discovery of not only a wicker linen basket, but tapes of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue in Princess Alice Hospice. There was also chunky mirror-based indecision in a shop I can’t find listed, but definitely had something to do with missing people.
Sometimes the most fun in researching a location is not the place itself, but the people (of course it is! I’m a human geography student, what do you expect?), particularly those considered ‘notable’ by the hive mind of Wikipedia. Obviously, a pinch of salt is occasionally required (although Jacques Ranciere has a thing or two to say about the overthrow of expertism by collective knowledge), but there’s a full-on slew of names associated with East Sheen, so I leave you with the highlights:
Tim Berners-Lee Marc Bolan The Moody Blues Rudolph Nureyev Omid Djalili Debbie Harry Tim Henman Andrew Marr Davina McCall Trevor McDonald Roy Kinnear Rob Brydon Phillip Glenister Daniel Craig. Nice.
Find: East Sheen @ Google Maps
Consume with: As mentioned, a cooked chicken and fresh bread dinner from Waitrose comes highly recommended. There’s a snack/coffee point at Pembroke Lodge too.
Visit: Richmond Park, of course.
Overall rating: three audiobooks