Windham Road, TW9

Place Name

Now largely forgotten, the people of Richmond have a lot to thank William Windham, since it was he who first proposed a bridge across the River Thames into the town. From 1661 and for most of the next century the Windham family held the lease of the hugely profitable Richmond Ferry but times were changing. The recently completed bridge at Kew was proving a great success and the annual rent to run the ferry service had gone up to £3 13s 4d. For Windham, who  had been sub-tutor to Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, and was the former husband of Mary, Lady Deloraine, mistress to George II, the future was a toll bridge at Richmond but in 1771 the lease still had more than 20 years to run. So he sold the lease to the Crown Commissioners for £6,000 saying in return would build a bridge. Almost immediately the plans ran into trouble. His proposals to build a wooden structure in six months were derided and the proposed route from Ferry Hill had a steep incline making it unpopular with coach drivers. “Indeed the declivity was so great that a poor woman… gained a small livelihood by keeping a few chairs for invalids and aged persons to rest upon.” His detractors were equally desirous of a bridge but they wanted a stone one built crossing from Water Lane. Lloyd’s Evening Post published a letter on February 18, 1772 from A Friend of the parish of Richmond outlining the case: “At a meeting of many respectable inhabitants of this place, I found that the remainder of a lease of the… King’s Ferry was sold to the Proprietor, Mr Windham, and that he intended to build a bridge on that spot, to be passable in 6 months. It is to be a wooden bridge – what a cat-stick building must this be, to be executed in so short a time! Methinks I hear Old Thames groan, to be so vilely strode… let it be an elegant and free bridge, and not for the emolument of any one individual.” They added it would be better for the bridge to enter the centre of town by pulling down the Feathers Inn “and those houses on Water Lane which, as present, is the sink and disgrace of the place, and also, at the other end of the street, removing a next of houses which is very properly called Bug Island; by this means you will have the finest street in the kingdom, and a full view of near a mile, without interception.” The Vestry agreed and Windham had no choice but to withdraw his plans. Instead money was raised for a new bridge costing £26,000 using Tontine shares of £100 each. Under this system a shareholder got a proportion of the tolls until death; his shares were then added to those of the other shareholders. The Tontine could not lapse until the death of the last survivor. But while the funding was being agreed there was another problem, the residents of Water Lane flew into opposition, so too did Henry Holland who had sub-let the right to operate the ferry, the landlord of the Feathers was equally unimpressed but, what really did for the scheme was that the owner of the land on the Middlesex side of the river objected to having an access road driven through Twickenham Farm. With no choice the original route was reinstated and the bridge completed in 1777. Perhaps it was because of the opposition that Windham’s role was largely ignored. That changed in 1931 when the the Council resolved that a new council housing estate should include the name “Windham Road in commemoration of William Windham who was chiefly instrumental in securing the construction of Richmond Bridge”.



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