Perhaps we should start these notes with a few words about the building that is just beyond our margin. In 1514 Thomas Wolsey, at the height of his powers, leased an estate from the Knights Hospitallers and built himself a great palace, calling it Hampton Court. As his power waned, so he presented the building, and its magnificent contents, to the king, Henry VIII, who added a great hall and other features. Other monarchs continued to use it as a favoured residence outside London, as did Oliver Cromwell, but the next great development came when William and Mary commissioned Wren to build them a Renaissance palace to go with the Tudor one. Happily many of the earlier buildings survived and the result was the Hampton Court that we know today, surrounded on three sides by fine gardens. After George II’s day the court ceased to meet here, and in 1838 Queen Victoria opened the grounds and much of the palace to the public, many of the buildings becoming ‘grace and favour’ residences.
Hampton Court may have decided the development of the area, but it did not begin it. During the reign of Edward the Confessor the manor of Hampton was held by Earl Algar and later, after the Norman Conquest, it was granted – with other estates – to Walter de St Valery, remaining with that family until c.1219. It then passed to a London merchant, Henry de St Albans, but in 1237 he sold it to Terrice de Nussa, the Prior of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, the Knights Hospitallers; they would retain the manor for almost 300 years until in 1514 they sold a 99 year lease on it to Thomas Wolsey, then Archbishop of York. Almost as soon as his great house was completed, c.1525, Wolsey gave it to the king, although he continued to live here until 1529 and his final fall from grace. The Manor of ‘Hampton or Hampton Courte’ remained nominally with the prior until 1531 when trustees were appointed to receive the manor ‘to the King’s use’. From that time it became the property of the Crown.
During the latter years of the Knights Hospitallers’ ownership of Hampton Court, the house had occasionally been used by royalty, perhaps as ‘overflow’ accommodation. It grew in importance in 1497 when Richmond Palace was destroyed by fire, and many courtiers had to be housed at Hampton Court for a while. As a result, to provide leisure activities for them, in 1500 the Lord Chamberlain, Sir Giles Daubeney, enclosed about 300 acres of arable land at Hampton into parkland, stocked with deer. Sir Giles himself later took out a lease on the estate – the courtiers by then having departed – but this lapsed after his death, leaving the way for Wolsey’s grand vision.
Henry VIII, an enthusiastic huntsman, quickly set about enlarging the park. In 1536 he acquired Teddington as part of an exchange deal with the Abbot of Westminster Abbey, and a year or so later arable land near to Hampton village was enclosed and emparked. Land to the east of the park (and east of our map), which was partly covered in bracken and so unsuitable for hunting, was leased out as rabbit and hare warrens. Oak trees were planted to provide timber for the navy and by 1604 the area to the north west was being called ‘Bushy Park’, perhaps because of the undergrowth around the trees. Then in 1620 a final extension was made, with the enclosure of an area known variously as Court Field or Hampton Eastfield, basically the area between the Longford River and the village. So Bushy Park was essentially complete, although it was divided into four semi-autonomous areas: the Harewarren, east of our map; the Middle Park, sometimes called Jockey Park, covering much of this map; ‘Old Bushy Park’ to north and west, including plots 64, 75 and 76, extending north onto former heathland and including the Upper Lodge; and the newly enclosed ‘Bushy New Park’ on the east side of the village. Each of these areas had its own under-keeper, under the ‘Keeper of Hampton Court Palace and Chief Steward of the Honour of Hampton’.
These posts were highly prestigious. For instance, in 1616 the overall post of Keeper was granted to the ambitious George Villiers, a year before he became 1st Earl of Buckingham. A man who collected honours as frenetically as Wolsey, and whose fall was almost as great, Villiers can have had little if any interest in Hampton Court. However, he appointed John Hippesley as under-keeper of Bushy Park, for which the Upper Lodge (beyond our map to the north and sometimes called the Greater Lodge) would have been the residence. Hippesley used the post as a step towards greater things, was knighted the following year, becoming an MP and maritime adventurer. For all the glory, this was not entirely a sinecure and in 1648 Hippesley, after joining the Parliamentarians, found himself guarding the various Hampton ferries against the Royalists. Later keepers of Bushy Park included Silius Titus, a captain in Cromwell’s army who was also a supporter of Charles II, and who received the post – along with others – on the Restoration; and a drunkard MP and Vice Chancellor of the Household, Henry Savile d.1687, under whose tenure the house fell into some disrepair.
These were essentially keepers of Bushy Park proper, ie the area to the north west, though probably including Bushy New Park. The keepership of the Middle Park and of Harewarren was granted separately and in 1665 it was offered to Edward Proger, a Groom of the King’s Bedchamber and a personal friend who is thought to have helped Charles II in his assignations with women. Proger would hold the post for 48 years and, at the king’s command, he immediately built Bushy House, designed by a court architect, Wiliam Samwell. It has been suggested that an early reason for the sumptuous house was to provide a venue for the king’s romances.
In 1709 Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax (1661-1715) and sometime Chancellor of the Exchequer, purchased the Keepership of Bushy Park, with its dilapidated house, and built a new Upper Lodge, similar to if rather smaller than Bushy House. On the death of Proger in 1713 he also acquired the keeperships of the Middle Park and Harewarren, so finally uniting the whole park. Montagu had no sons, and the earldom died with him, but he was succeeded at Bushy Park by his nephew, George Montagu (c.1684-1739) for whom a new earldom was created, so that he too became 1st Earl of Halifax. It was he who did much to enlarge Bushy House, creating fine gardens around it; he also involved himself in local affairs, and was partly responsible for enlargements to Hampton church. He was succeeded by the 2nd Earl of Halifax, also George Montagu (although he changed his name to Montagu-Dunk to ensure inheriting a fortune through his wife). This Halifax (1716-1771) also held high office, especially during the short premiership of George Grenville, and in 1765 became Lord Privy Seal. Earlier, as President of the Board of Trade, he helped develop Nova Scotia, and the capital, Halifax, is named after him. After his wife’s death he took a mistress, the actress Mary Anne Faulkner, and established her in a new house, Hampton Court House, built on land enclosed from Hampton Court Green.
Halifax’s title died with him but the family connection with Bushy Park continued. The post of Keeper was now being referred to as Ranger and George III offered this to his Prime Minister, Lord North, who was a relative of Montagu-Dunk. In practice, the post was taken by North’s wife and she, outliving her husband, continued here as Ranger until her death in 1797. The post was then granted to the king’s third son, William, Duke of Clarence, later William IV. He lived at Bushy House with his mistress, Dorothea or Dora Jordan, the greatest comic actress of her day, who bore him ten children, seven of them born here. William, more interested in the navy than in hunting, cut down many of the trees and turned much of the park over to agriculture, while his lover’s earnings, often in comic trouser-roles, helped support his lifestyle. Eventually, realising that he could eventually be king, he was obliged to seek a wife and in 1811 Mrs Jordan was cast adrift; broken-hearted (she is said to have wept on stage) and pursued by her creditors, she fled abroad, dying alone and penniless near Paris in 1816. William eventually married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, a relationship in which he appears to have been equally content, and continued to use Bushy House as a residence, adding several rooms. Queen Adelaide continued to spend much of her time here until her death in 1849.
The glory days of the house were then over, but in 1865 Victoria offered it to the Duc de Nemours, a son of the exiled King of France, and he retained the house as a possible emergency ‘bunk-hole’ until his death in 1896. With no obvious occupant, the house was then offered to the Royal Society as a National Physical Laboratory, for the maintenance and development of national measurement standards. The largest applied physics organisation in the country, the NPL, which is still based at Bushy House, was carrying out major research into radar in the 1930s, as well as conducting wind tunnel experiments that led to the success of the Spitfire. New buildings have been added (north of this map) and research work continues in many fields, from radioactivity and biotechnology to acoustics.
Several features in the Park demand mention. The Longford River, sometimes known across the years as the Hampton Court Canal, Cardinal’s River or King’s River, was commissioned by Charles I in 1638 to provide an additional water supply to Hampton Court, especially to drive its fountains and other water features. More than nine miles long, it is an artificial river or canal, sourced at the Colne River, and was dug in just nine months. It was unpopular locally, partly because it blocked paths and divided fields, partly because many local labourers had problems getting paid. It has been diverted in various places across the years, most recently for construction of Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
Work on the Chestnut Drive started in 1699, an avenue conceived by Wren as a grand approach to the colonnaded entrance he planned for Hampton Court. In the event, that entrance never materialised and much of the Tudor palace survived. It was originally envisaged that the avenue would be lined by lime trees, but a visit to Paris by George London – responsible for the early preparation of the scheme – led to the inclusion of the horse chestnut trees which would become its great glory. At the point where it met the Longford River a circular pond was dug, and from here avenues of limes ran west and east. In 1713 a statue and fountain taken from the Privy Garden were placed in the centre of the pond, and became known as the Diana Fountain. However, the statue, which was commissioned by Charles I for his Queen, Henrietta Maria, and which originally stood outside Somerset House, is actually of the Nereid nymph, Arethusa, who is said to have been turned into a fountain by the goddess Diana to escape rape by Alpheus,
When Alpheus pursued her into watery shape, Diana ‘cleft the ground’, sending Arethusa down into Delos, to become a sacred spring. The sculpture group also includes bronzes by the French sculptor, Hubert Le Sueur.
During the war much of Bushy Park was used by the military, with the Americans setting up Camp Griffiss as his Supreme Headquarters. This took place east of this map (see Hampton Wick map) but towards the end of the war many German and Italian prisoners of war were housed in huts close to the Chestnut Avenue. Today Bushy Park is once again open parkland, where one can stroll in relative solitude, often with little but the deer for company, the constant stream of cars up and down Chestnut Drive the only distraction.
Our map’s theatrical connections continue further west, where Garrick’s Villa is perhaps the most illustrious of several fine houses built close to the river. David Garrick was one of the greatest of actors, especially famed for his Shakespeare performances (although he did much to revive interest in other 17th century playwrights) and associated with the Drury Lane Theatre, where he was manager for many years. He took a tenancy on Hampton House in 1754, quickly acquiring the copyhold, and commissioned Robert Adam to modernse and improve the house, which later became known as Garrick’s Villa. He bought several other properties in Hampton, including The Cedars (later renamed Garrick’s House) for his nephew David. Just opposite his own house, on the riverbank, he built an octagonal, porticoed Temple as a monument to Shakespeare, and had a tunnel dug beneath the road to his riverside land. This lawn area is shown strangely blank on this map – even the Temple is not named – and this is because a Paul Glaize had acquired the Temple and Lawn in 1923, building himself a 3-storey house there. This caused such an outcry that in 1932 Hampton UDC bought it, demolishing the house and turning the Lawn intro recreation land.
The islands have always been an enticement away from the traffic that blights Hampton Court Road, although house-boats have cluttered their shorelines since the mid 19th century. The largest island shown here, Walnut Tree Island, was home to a beerhouse, Anglers Retreat, in the early 19th century. It became known as Tagg’s Island after Tom Tagg established a boatbuilding yard here in 1868, later replacing the decrepit beerhouse with the more upmarket Island Hotel. The island became a major river attraction, drawing the well-heeled, and in 1887 J M Barrie rented a house-boat, writing some of his plays here. In 1913 a lease was taken on the island by the entrepreneur Fred Karno, who had revolutionised the music hall, especially its comedy side, giving early chances to stars such as Chaplin, Will Hay and Stan Laurel, and at one time running 30 or more companies around the world. Karno had seen Tagg’s Island while staying on his large house-boat, Astoria. Dutch engineers were brought in, and the simple island was turned – with the help of thousands of tons of concrete – into an entertainment complex, The Karsino, planned to be the most magnificent in the country. At the opening on 18 May 1913 some 5,000 guests turned up, and subsequent events included almost nightly fireworks displays, an impromptu piano recital by Paderewski, and a band concert where a total of 250 musicians proved too many for the island to hold. However, the usually parsimonious Karno, accustomed to the mutual trust of the theatre, was ill-prepared for the casual labour needed for such a complex, and he was swindled by some of his waiters, while thefts from his guests were all too common. In the earlier stages of the war The Karsino did good business, famously with RFC officers who could land at Hurst Park (the race course was situated in the Surrey area shown blank on this 1930s map) and meet their girl friends here, but tastes in entertainment had changed by the end of the war. Fred Karno hit financial difficulties that led to bankruptcy in 1926, and The Karsino, under different management, became known as the Thames Riviera and, later, Palm Beach. In 1940 AC Cars moved here, converting the hotel into a factory; they later manufactured 3-wheeled invalid carriages here, as well as the trains for Southend Pier. They also built a bridge across, but this collapsed in 1965 and has since been replaced. The hotel was demolished in 1971, but The Chalet, a ‘Swiss Cottage’ style extravaganza erected on the shore in the late 19th century, survives within the boatyards.
The village itself, with its riverside attractions, had brought visitors out of London since the 17th century. It is perhaps a surprise to find that the church is not older, for St Mary’s was rebuilt in 1831 by Edward Lapidge and enlarged in the 1880s by Sir Arthur Blomfield, although it does contain numerous older monuments. Too many of the otherwise attractive houses seem weary and worn down by the traffic and the most enjoyable buildings, architecturally, are the various pumping stations and ancillary offices of the water companies, three of whom congregated along this stretch of riverbank. Most of those shown here belonged to the Southwark & Vauxhall Co, notably the Riverdale engine house of 1897 and (just opposite the fire station) a charming little clock tower, a reminder, with the Post Office marked here, that Thames Street was once Hampton’s main street.
One building deserving mention is the so-called ‘Manor House’, although its precise status is unclear. This was an 18th century building, red brick and latterly covered with foliage, which stood on the site of an earlier house; for around 100 years it was at the centre of an estate owned by the Frederick family, but in the 1820s this was broken up. The house had a chequered history in the 20th century, standing empty for part of the time, although the grounds remained sufficiently trim to host flower shows and other events, one of the last being a party on Jubilee Day, 1935. Nevertheless, it was demolished soon afterwards, to be replaced by a housing development, Manor Gardens.
Hampton was also altered by the tramways, for which several buildings had to be demolished to allow the roads to be widened. The London United Tramways, under the energetic management of James Clifton Robinson, opened an extensive electric tram network in the early 20th century, and a ‘loop line’ from Twickenham through Fulwell, Hampton, Hampton Court, Hampton Wick and Teddington – and so back to Fulwell – was opened in 1903. The route was a busy one and eventually the whole loop – about 7 miles – was double-track, although most trams terminated at Hampton Court. To help with the necessary road widening the LUT bought Garrick’s Villa and its grounds, exchanging slivers of land with Bushy Park, and Robinson (who was knighted in 1905) lived here for several years. A siding was installed here, much to the irritation of Hampton UDC, and this was used for occasional excursion traffic when events were being held at Garrick’s Villa, for the Robinsons made the grounds available for fêtes and the like. The LUT put the house on the market after Robinson’s resignation in 1910, and the siding was then removed. Tram services on the eastern part of the loop were replaced by trolley buses in 1931 (note that the tram tracks have been removed here) while those on the section through Hampton were converted in 1935.
Through all these changes, Hampton was slow to organise itself, only forming a Local Board in 1890. In 1895 it became an Urban District but, unlike Hampton Wick, it never ran to the dignity of a Town Hall; instead, in 1902 it acquired Rose Hill (west of our map), formerly the home of the tenor John Beard, and provided offices and a library here. However, both Hampton and Hampton Wick were merged, with Teddington, into the Borough of Twickenham in 1937 and they now form part of Richmond.
©Alan Godfrey, July 2008
Principal sources: John Sheaf & Ken Howe, Hampton and Teddington Past (Historical Publications, 1995); C S Smeeton, The London United Tramways, Vol 1 (Light Rail Transit Association, 1994); Kathy White & Peter Foster, Bushy Park: Royals, Rangers and Rogues (Foundry Press 1997); Victoria County History of Middlesex, Vol 2.
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