Ferry Lane, TW9

Place Name

Kew had built up around the ferry crossing to Brentford. Originally just a tiny hamlet of less than half a dozen cottages, it grew in importance as some of the leading courtiers of the 16thCentury made it their home – partly to be near Richmond Palace but as likely a bolthole for the summer months to escape the City and the occasional outbreaks of plague. In any case it soon became a fashionable resort and the ferry was an important commercial link between London and the West Country. From 1659 it was managed by the Tunstall family. By the early 18thCentury two ferries were being operated by Robert Tunstall, a Brentford citizen, one for pedestrians and the other for carriages. Traffic increased significantly from 1731 when, shortly after arriving in England, Frederick, Prince of Wales and his wife Augusta leased a house at Kew from the Capel family as their country home. Passengers would travel along Kew Green and across land on the Kew Palace estate to reach the ferry. Despite a toll bridge being built in 1757, there was still a great deal river traffic – in part because the bridge was difficult to navigate and needed constant repair from the barges that damaged it as they made their way under the arches. Even with a new bridge opening in September 1789, the landing point continued to be used with passengers and cargo being transported via the right of way to the ferry.¬†George IV fed up with the constant traffic across is property, sought an Act of Parliament which was granted in 1823 to get the route diverted off his land and instead run via Meyer’s Alley (originally Water Lane, it was so-called after the former owner of Hanover House Jeremiah Meyer a founder-member of the Royal Academy). David Blomfield in Kew Past writes: “The new King, George IV, had never shown much affection for Kew, and the changes he made there were hardly popular. In 1824 he closed the road that had run for years across the Green and down to the old ferry. With this closure in mind, he had already bought Hunter House and all the property that lay between it and the Dutch House. Now he enclosed his estate with a fence, which ran across the Green on the line of Ferry Lane. In the middle he built a gate, surmounted with a Lion and a Unicorn, and made a new entrance to the botanic garden by the barracks.. It must have been a period of major disruption for Kew, as the same Act of Parliament that enclosed the Gardens also enclosed most of the riverside land, splitting it up among those who already had property in Kew and therefore had rights to the meadows. In this it was typical of the 19th-century enclosures. The beneficiaries’ names are familiar: Tunstall, Tyrrell, Aiton, Selwyn, Engleheart, Doughty, His Majesty. It must have been fine for the great and good, but it is hardly surprising that the new century would be bedevilled with the problems of the poor.”


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