- Jill Armitage
15th February 2022
Secret Shepperton explores the history of the town from its early origins as an Iron Age settlement nestling on the banks of the River Thames. It’s the place where Caesar crossed the river in AD 54. Subsequent river finds reveal that this area regularly encountered invaders, such as the Saxons, who grazed sheep here and consequently called it Shepperton. It’s always been a place that attracts artists, such as Turner and Constable, and writers such as Charles Dickens and J. G. Ballard, who wrote the Unlimited Dream Factory in which his protagonist gains energy by phagocytizing the people of Shepperton. In H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, the Martians destroy Shepperton and turn the Thames into a boiling inferno with their heat rays.
In the twentieth century Shepperton was dubbed the playground of London and Richard D’Oyly Carte bought an island here to build a mini version of his Savoy Hotel. In 1931, Sir Richard Burbridge, Chairman of Harrods, sold his Shepperton mansion to Norman Loudon at a time when ‘the pictures’ were in their infancy but a new fad was catching on – films with sound. This was the forerunner of Shepperton Studio, still operating today and known throughout the world as the ‘Hollywood of England’.