Twickenham is a town in south west London on the River Thames in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, located 10 miles southwest of the centre of London. The administrative headquarters of the borough are at York House in Twickenham, which is of equal importance to Richmond in the London Plan. It expanded rapidly during the suburban growth of London from 1881 until 1961, when its population grew and its farms and common were converted to other use. In 1926 it was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Twickenham, which merged into the present Greater London borough in 1965.
This area has three grand period mansions with public access: York House, Marble Hill and Strawberry Hill House. Another has been lost, that belonging to 18th century aphoristic poet Alexander Pope. Among these is the Neo-Gothic prototype home of Horace Walpole which has given its name to a whole district, Strawberry Hill, and is linked with the oldest Roman Catholic university in the country, St Mary's University, Twickenham.
Twickenham's demonym is "the home of England rugby": the home of the Rugby Football Union is at Twickenham, as is Twickenham Stadium. The world’s largest rugby stadium, it also hosts seasonal and particularly charity music concerts.
Excavations have revealed settlements in the area dating from the Early Neolithic, possibly Mesolithic periods. Occupation seems to have continued through the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Roman occupation. The area was first mentioned (as "Tuican hom" and "Tuiccanham") in a charter of 13 June 704 AD to cede the area to Waldhere, Bishop of London, "for the salvation of our souls". The charter is signed with 12 crosses. The signatories included Swaefred of Essex, Cenred of Mercia and Earl Paeogthath.
In Norman times Twickenham was part of the Manor of Isleworth – itself part of the Hundred of Hounslow (mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086). The manor had belonged to Ælfgār, Earl of Mercia in the time of Edward the Confessor, but was granted to Walter de Saint-Valery (Waleric) by William I of England after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
The area was then farmed for several hundred years, while the river provided opportunities for fishing, boatbuilding and trade.
Bubonic plague spread to the town in 1665 and 67 deaths were recorded. It appears that Twickenham had a pest house (short for "pestilence") in the 17th century, although the location is not known.
There was also a watch house in the middle of the town, with stocks, a pillory and a whipping post whose owner was charged to "ward within and about this Parish and to keep all Beggars and Vagabonds that shall lye abide or lurk about the Towne and to give correction to such...".
In 1633 construction began on York House. It was occupied by Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester in 1656 and later by Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon.
1659 saw the first mention of the Twickenham Ferry, although ferrymen had already been operating in the area for many generations. Sometime before 1743 a "pirate" ferry appears to have been started by Twickenham inhabitants. There is speculation that it operated to serve "The Folly", a floating hostelry of some kind. Several residents wrote to the Lord Mayor of the City of London:
...Complaining that there is lately fixed near the Shore of Twickenham on the River Thames a Vessell made like a Barge and called the Folly wherein divers[e] loose and disorderly persons are frequently entertained who have behaved in a very indecent Manner and do frequently afront divers[e] persons of Fashion and Distinction who often in an Evening Walk near that place, and desired so great a Nuisance might be removed,....
Alexander Pope's villa
In 1713 the nave of the ancient St Mary's Church collapsed, and the church was rebuilt in the Neo-classical style to designs by a local architect, John James.
In 1736, the noted pharmacist and quack doctor Joshua Ward set up the Great Vitriol Works to produce sulphuric acid, using a process discovered in the seventeenth century by Johann Glauber in which sulphur is burned together with saltpetre (potassium nitrate), in the presence of steam. The process generates an extremely unpleasant smell, which caused objections from local residents. The area was also soon home to the world's first industrial production facility for gunpowder, on a site between Twickenham and Whitton on the banks of the River Crane. There were frequent explosions and loss of life. On 11 March 1758, one of two explosions was felt in Reading, Berkshire, and in April 1774 another explosion terrified people at church in Isleworth.
In 1772 three mills blew up, shattering glass and buildings in the neighbourhood. Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, wrote complaining to his friend and relative Henry Seymour Conway, then Lieutenant General of the Ordnance, that all the decorative painted glass had been blown out of his windows at Strawberry Hill.
The powder mills remained in operation until 1927 when they were closed. Much of the site is now occupied by Crane Park, in which the old Shot Tower, mill sluices and blast embankments can still be seen. Much of the area along the river next to the Shot Tower is now a nature reserve.
The 1818 Enclosure Award led to the development of 182 acres of land to the west of the town centre largely between the present day Staines and Hampton Roads, new roads – Workhouse Road, Middle Road, 3rd, 2nd and 1st Common Roads (now First to Fifth Cross Roads respectively) – being laid out. During the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of fine houses were built and Twickenham became a popular place of residence for people of "fashion and distinction". Further development was stimulated by the opening of Twickenham station in 1848.
Electricity was introduced to Twickenham in 1902 and the first trams arrived the following year.
In 1939, when All Hallows Lombard Street was demolished in the City of London, its distinctive stone tower designed by Christopher Wren, with its peal of ten bells and connecting stone cloister, and the interior furnishings, including a Renatus Harris organ and a pulpit used by John Wesley, were brought to Twickenham to be incorporated in the new All Hallows Church on Chertsey Road (A316) near Twickenham Stadium.
The Twickenham Green area witnessed a high profile murder on 19 August 2004, when French woman Amelie Delagrange (aged 22) died in hospital after being found with a serious head injury (caused by battery) in the area. Within 24 hours, police had established a link with the murder of Marsha McDonnell, who was killed in similar circumstances in nearby Hampton 18 months earlier. Levi Bellfield was found guilty of both murders on 25 February 2008 (as well as a further charge of attempted murder against 18-year-old Kate Sheedy) and sentenced to life imprisonment. He is also suspected of a series of other unsolved murders and attacks on women since 1990, most notably the murder of Amanda Dowler, a teenage girl who vanished from Walton-on-Thames in March 2002 and whose body was later found in Hampshire woodland
The town is bordered on the south-eastern side by the River Thames and Eel Pie Island — which is connected to the Twickenham embankment by a narrow footbridge, the first of which was erected in 1957. Before this, access was by means of a hand-operated ferry that was hauled across using a chain on the riverbed. The land adjacent to the river, from Strawberry Hill in the south to Marble Hill Park in the north, is occupied by a mixture of luxury dwellings, formal gardens, public houses and a newly built park and leisure facility.
In the south, in Strawberry Hill, lies St Mary's University, Twickenham historically specialising in sports studies, teacher training, religious studies, the humanities, drama studies and English literature. Strawberry Hill was originally a small cottage in two or three acres of land by the River Thames. Horace Walpole, a son of the politician Robert Walpole, rented the cottage in 1747 and subsequently bought it and turned it into one of the incunabula of the Gothic revival. The college shares part of its campus with Walpole's Strawberry Hill. On adjacent land were the villa and garden of the poet Alexander Pope. The villa was demolished in 1808/09 following the orders of Lady Howe, who became irritated with the large number of tourists who visited the place. The grotto which formed the basement survived. A memorial plaque was placed on the site in remembrance in 1848.
A road just north of the campus is named Pope's Grove, and a local landmark next to the main road is the Alexander Pope Hotel (previously known as Pope's Grotto), a public house and hotel where Pope's landmark informal garden used to be. Near this hostelry lie St Catherine's school for girls and St James's school for boys, formerly a convent, in a building on the site of Pope's white stucco villa and the location of Pope's original — surviving — grotto.
There are a large number of fine houses in the area, many of them Victorian. The open space known as Radnor Gardens lies opposite Pope's Grotto.
Not far from Pope's Grotto is the Roman Catholic Church of Saint James, which has a memorial window in the form of the Royal Arms of Portugal and memorials to Manuel II, Portugal's last king, who worshipped here and died in nearby Fulwell Park in 1932.
Twickenham proper begins in the vicinity of Pope's Grotto, with generally large period houses to the west, the traditional definition of which is Twickenham Green, and similar housing in the east all the distance to Richmond Bridge typically largest near the Thames. Further to the north and west lies the town of Whitton, an area once of allotments and farm land but as with much of the nearest part of Twickenham (separated by the A316) 1930s–1960s housing.
The districts of East Twickenham and St Margarets lie to the north-east of central Twickenham on the west side of Richmond Bridge, the shortest bridge on the Tideway. These are popular for their attractive tree-lined residential roads and an eclectic range of shops and cafés. St Margarets is the location of Twickenham Studios, one of London's major film studios. You can visit any of these locations if you book a Minicab or Executive Taxi with Ridesmiths.
Twickenham is covered locally by the newspaper The Richmond and Twickenham Times
Should you require a taxi or mini cab whilst in Twickenham please contact the team at Ridesmiths