Kew, Richmond upon Thames

An attractive village lying in a crook of the Thames, opposite Chiswick and Brentford

Kew Green, St Anne’s church and a cricket sightscreen

Kew’s name is prob­a­bly derived from ‘key-hough’, the wood or ‘hough’ by the quay, and was first men­tioned in 1327.

When the Tudors made Rich­mond upon Thames a reg­u­lar seat of their court, Kew ben­e­fit­ed as a home for their courtiers. The Duke of Suf­folk had a man­sion here that was built and pulled down in the Tudor era. The house now called Kew Palace was built in the reign of James I by a Flem­ish mer­chant and hence became known as the Dutch House.

The vil­lage had a chapel from the 16th cen­tu­ry and St Anne’s church (shown in the pho­to­graph above) was built on Kew Green in 1714, when a pub­lic sub­scrip­tion raised the mon­ey and Queen Anne grant­ed the plot of land. The vil­lage grew around the green and then south­wards along the east­ern edge of what is now Kew Gar­dens. The green used to be a reg­u­lar place for fairs until these became too riotous.

Kew came to promi­nence as the resort of George II’s fam­i­ly. The Hanove­ri­ans lav­ished mon­ey and atten­tion on Kew House, or the Old Palace, and its grounds. The house was tak­en down in 1802 and a replace­ment was com­menced but left unfin­ished by George III.

To the east of Kew Bridge was the old Kew dock, which was once the cen­tre of a thriv­ing fish­ing indus­try until it was killed off by pol­lu­tion in the Thames. The toll bridge was bought for free pub­lic use in 1873, by which time Kew Gar­dens sta­tion was bring­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of vis­i­tors a year to the gar­dens and turn­ing the vil­lage into a sub­urb.

The mas­sive archive repos­i­to­ries of the Pub­lic Record Office were built at the end of Ruskin Avenue in the mid-1970s, when the insti­tu­tion moved here from Chancery Lane. Fur­ther to the south-east, St James Homes have built 500 upmar­ket hous­es and apart­ments at Kew River­side, on the site of a for­mer sewage works. To the annoy­ance of some res­i­dents, a neigh­bour­ing recy­cling cen­tre con­tin­ues to oper­ate and was refur­bished in 2006.

The res­i­dents of Kew tend to be white and well-edu­cat­ed. Few­er than 10 per cent of homes are rent­ed from the coun­cil or a hous­ing asso­ci­a­tion.

The landscape and portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough was buried in St Anne’s churchyard in 1788.

Postcode area: Richmond TW9
Population: 11,436 (2011 census)
Riverboat pier: Kew
Further reading: David Blomfield, Kew Past, Phillimore, 1994
See also: Kew Gardens