The Twickenham Museum
Exhibitions : Villages on the River

The River Thames
The river has long played a significant role in the commercial life of the area.

Kingston Bridge

Long before man settled locally, the River Thames flowed past what were later to become the settlements of Twickenham, Teddington and the Hamptons. The course of the river, at that time, was similar to that of today, although its appearance would not have been the same. It would have been shallow and reedy and its course less sharply defined, with many more islands. It was only much later that bridges would replace fords. The bridge between Kingston and Hampton Wick dates from the late 12th century, and the first bridge at Hampton Court from only 1753.

Molesey Lock, c1875

The river has long played a significant role in the commercial life of the area. Indeed, until late in the 18th century when turnpike roads were built, it was the main highway between settlements.

After 1770, when the Thames Commissioners were established, action was taken to improve navigation. Over the next hundred years much work was carried out to remove obstructions, and to introduce locks. This produced the deeper, more sharply defined river course that we know today.

View of The Thames at Radnor House by Muntz, 1756

Boat building became important locally, particularly after 1850, and the hire of boats for fishing and leisure became popular. The huge Waterworks came to Hampton in 1850, bringing an influx of workers, which led to the growth of Hampton Hill.

Even today one third of London's water supply is extracted from the Thames at Hampton.

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