Barnes, Richmond upon Thames

A classy riverside settlement situated to the north-west of Putney

Barnes village pond

This was the place of the barn or barns that stored grain for the manor of Mort­lake, and the first authen­ti­cat­ed appear­ance of its name was in Domes­day Book. When Barnes became a manor in its own right, under the own­er­ship of the dean and chap­ter of St Paul’s Cathe­dral, the manor house was built at Barn Elms and was lat­er enlarged into an aris­to­crat­ic man­sion.

Fur­ther inland, Barnes remained a remote farm­ing com­mu­ni­ty for sev­er­al cen­turies. The most note­wor­thy event was a dis­pute in 1589 that result­ed in the men of Barnes refus­ing to let their Put­ney neigh­bours con­tin­ue to share Barnes Com­mon with them.

Per­haps sur­pris­ing­ly, giv­en its prox­im­i­ty to the Thames, the vil­lage devel­oped around the green, which had three ponds. Mil­bourne House has faced the green since the 15th cen­tu­ry, albeit in sev­er­al incar­na­tions.

The parish had around 200 res­i­dents by 1600 and at least two inns by 1637. Barnes Street, now Barnes High Street, was in exis­tence by 1700. Sev­er­al vil­las and man­sions were built in the 18th and ear­ly 19th cen­turies, notably along the river­side on the Ter­race. The pop­u­la­tion had grown to 860 by the time of the first cen­sus in 1801.

The Barnes penin­su­la was espe­cial­ly iso­lat­ed until the open­ing of Ham­mer­smith Bridge in 1827, afford­ing its mar­ket gar­den­ers improved access to their pri­ma­ry mar­ket and bring­ing res­i­den­tial poten­tial to the local­i­ty lat­er called Castel­nau. The arrival of the rail­way in 1846 opened up the wider dis­trict to devel­op­ment. The orig­i­nal sta­tion build­ing sur­vives, mak­ing this one of the old­est such struc­tures in Greater Lon­don.

Hidden London: Barnes railway bridge

Shown in the pho­to above, Barnes Bridge was built in 1849 to car­ry the loop line of the Lon­don and South West­ern Rail­way across the Thames to Chiswick, bring­ing a sec­ond sta­tion to the vil­lage. An embank­ment was con­struct­ed to raise the line as it approached the bridge, block­ing the river­side path.

At this time, much of the water­front area was still cov­ered by mar­ket gar­dens. These were sold in 1865 to the British Land Com­pa­ny, which laid out a tight net­work of ter­raced cot­tages.

Over the next hun­dred years mid­dle-class sub­ur­ban devel­op­ments filled the area more dense­ly, togeth­er with some lat­er pock­ets of coun­cil hous­ing. St Mary’s church was dev­as­tat­ed by a fire in 1978 and has been com­plete­ly rebuilt, but with great sym­pa­thy for its medieval ori­gins.

Much of the vil­lage is now des­ig­nat­ed the Barnes Green con­ser­va­tion area. This is a pop­u­lar place of res­i­dence for estab­lished fig­ures in the arts and media, and Barnes High Street and its off­shoots have indi­vid­u­al­ly-owned out­lets spe­cial­is­ing in food­stuffs, inte­ri­or design and fash­ion. There’s anoth­er lit­tle clus­ter of shops and cafés on Church Road, just east of the junc­tion with Grange Road.

Only the Grand Pond sur­vives from the orig­i­nal trio at the heart of the vil­lage – and it’s now called Barnes Pond. Barnes Fair is held annu­al­ly on the green on the sec­ond Sat­ur­day of July.

The novelist and dramatist Henry Fielding lived briefly at Milbourne House in the mid-18th century before leaving for southern Europe in a vain attempt to improve his failing health.

The rock star Marc Bolan was killed in a car crash on Queens Ride in 1977. The sycamore tree that his car hit is now the site of a shrine to his memory.

Postal district: SW13
Population: 10,299 (2011 census)
Stations: South West Trains (Barnes and Barnes Bridge, both zone 3)
Further reading: Maisie Brown, Barnes and Mortlake Past, Historical Publications, 1997
and Mary Grimwade and Charles Hailstone, Highways and Byways of Barnes, Barnes and Mortlake History Society, 2014
Websites: Barnes Community Association, Barnes and Mortlake History Society