Kew (/kj/) is a district in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north-east of Richmond[2] and 7.1 miles (11.4 km) west by south-west of Charing Cross; its population at the 2011 census was 11,436.[1] Kew is the location of the Royal Botanic Gardens ("Kew Gardens"), now a World Heritage Site, which includes Kew Palace. Kew is also the home of important historical documents such as Domesday Book, which is held at The National Archives.


Parish Church of St Anne, Kew

Temperate House in Kew Gardens
Location within Greater London
Area3.30 km2 (1.27 sq mi)
Population11,436 2011 Census (Kew ward 2011)[1]
 Density3,465/km2 (8,970/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTQ195775
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtTW9
Dialling code020
EU ParliamentLondon
UK Parliament
London Assembly

Julius Caesar may have forded the Thames at Kew in 54 BC during the Gallic Wars.[4] Successive Tudor, Stuart and Georgian monarchs maintained links with Kew. During the French Revolution, many refugees established themselves there and it was the home of several artists in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Since 1965 Kew has incorporated the former area of North Sheen[5] which includes St Philip and All Saints, the first barn church consecrated in England.[6] It is now in a combined Church of England parish with St Luke's Church, Kew.

Today, Kew is an expensive residential area because of its suburban hallmarks. Among these are sports-and-leisure open spaces, schools, transport links, architecture, restaurants, no high-rise buildings, modest road sizes, trees and gardens. Most of Kew developed in the late 19th century, following the arrival of the District line of the London Underground. Further development took place in the 1920s and 1930s when new houses were built on the market gardens of North Sheen and in the first decade of the 21st century when considerably more river-fronting flats and houses were constructed by the Thames on land formerly owned by Thames Water.


The name Kew, recorded in 1327 as Cayho, is a combination of two words: the Old French kai (landing place; "quay" derives from this) and Old English hoh (spur of land). The land spur is formed by the bend in the Thames.[7]


Kew forms part of the Richmond Park UK Parliament constituency; the Member of Parliament is Sarah Olney. For elections to the European Parliament it is part of the London constituency. For elections to the London Assembly it is part of the South West London Assembly constituency.

Kew was added in 1892[8] to the Municipal Borough of Richmond which had been formed two years earlier, and which was in the county of Surrey. In 1965, under the London Government Act 1963, the boundaries of Greater London were expanded to include Kew which, with Richmond, transferred to the new London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.


The fashion clothing retailer Jigsaw's headquarters are in Mortlake Road, Kew.[9]

A former industry in Kew was that of nameplate manufacturing, by the Caxton Name Plate Manufacturing Company, based on Kew Green. The company was founded in 1964 and folded in 1997.[10]

Chrysler and Dodge

Kew Retail Park stands on the site of a former factory where, from the 1920s until 1967, Dodge made lorries with the model name Kew. Cars were also manufactured there.[11] Dodge Brothers became a Chrysler subsidiary in 1928 and truck production moved to Chrysler's car plant at Kew. In 1933 it began to manufacture a British chassis, at its works in Kew, using American engines and gearboxes.[12] After Chrysler bought the Maxwell Motor Company and their Kew works, the cars of the lighter Chrysler range Chrysler Airflows, De Sotos and Plymouths — were assembled at this Kew site until the Second World War. The various models of De Sotos were named Richmond, Mortlake and Croydon; Plymouths were Kew Six and Wimbledon.

During the Second World War this Chrysler factory was part of London Aircraft Production Group and built Handley Page Halifax aircraft assemblies. When wartime aircraft production ceased, the plant did not resume assembly of North American cars.


Royal associations with Kew

The Tudors and Stuarts

Charles Somerset, 1st Earl of Worcester, was granted lands at Kew in 1517. When he died in 1526 he left his Kew estates to his third wife, Eleanor, with the remainder to his son George. In 1538 Sir George Somerset sold the house for £200 to Thomas Cromwell, who resold it for the same amount to Charles Brandon, 1st Duke of Suffolk. Brandon had probably already inhabited Kew during the life of his wife Mary Tudor, the daughter of Henry VII and widow of the French king Louis XII. According to John Leland's Cygnea Cantio ("Swan Song"), she stayed in Kew (which he refers to as "Cheva")[13] for a time after her return to England.[14]

One of Henry VIII's closest friends, Henry Norris, lived at Kew Farm,[15] which was later owned by Elizabeth I's favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.[16] This large palatial house on the Thames riverbank predated the royal palaces of Kew Palace and the White House. Excavations at Kew Gardens in 2009 revealed a wall that may have belonged to the property.[17]

In Elizabeth's reign, and under the Stuarts, houses were developed along Kew Green.[18] West Hall, which survives in West Hall Road, dates from at least the 14th century and the present house was built at the end of the 17th century.[19]

Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James I, was given a household at Kew in 1608.[14]

Queen Anne subscribed to the building of the parish church on Kew Green, which was dedicated to St Anne in 1714, three months before the queen's death.[20]

The Hanoverians

The Hanoverians maintained the strongest links with Kew, in particular Princess Augusta who founded the botanic gardens[21] and her husband Frederick, Prince of Wales who lived at the White House in Kew. Augusta, as Dowager Princess of Wales, continued to live there until her death in 1721.[22] Frederick commissioned the building of the first substantial greenhouse at Kew Gardens.[23]

In 1761 the future George III and Queen Charlotte moved into the White House at Kew.[22] They established their main summer court at Kew from the 1760s and 1770s. Queen Charlotte died at the Dutch House in Kew in 1818.[22]

William IV spent most of his early life at Richmond and at Kew Palace, where he was educated by private tutors.[24]

Georgian expansion

During the French Revolution, many refugees established themselves in Kew, having built many of the houses of this period. In the 1760s and 1770s the royal presence attracted artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and Johann Zoffany.[14][25]

Artists associated with Kew

Other notable inhabitants

Historical figures

Living people


In the ten years from the time of the 2001 census, the population rose from 9,445[77] to 11,436,[1] the sharpest ten-year increase in Kew since the early 20th century. This was partly accounted for by the conversion of former Thames Water land to residential use, and increases in property sizes. The figures are based on those for Kew ward,[77] the boundaries of the enlarged parish having been adjusted to allow for all wards in the borough to be equally sized.

Homes and households

2011 Census homes
WardDetachedSemi-detachedTerracedFlats and apartmentsCaravans/temporary/mobile homes/houseboatsShared between households[1]

2011 Census households
WardPopulationHouseholds% Owned outright% Owned with a loanHectares[1]


The 2011 census showed that 66.2% of the population were White British. Other White was the second largest category at 16%, with 8.1% being Asian.[78]


A main mode of transport between Kew and London, for rich and poor alike, was by water along the Thames which, historically, separated Middlesex (on the north bank) from Surrey: Kew was also connected to Brentford, Middlesex by ferry, first replaced by bridge in 1759. The current Kew Bridge, which carries the South Circular Road (the A205) was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra in 1903.[22]

The A205 road commencing there passes through Kew as a single carriageway. However Kew Road provides the main road link to Richmond. The M4 motorway starts a short distance north of Kew, providing access to Heathrow Airport and the west. The A316 road starts in Chiswick and continues over Chiswick Bridge and a complex junction with the South Circular Road at Chalker's Corner at the south-eastern end of the district.

Since 1869 rail services have been available from Kew Gardens station. London Underground (District line) services run to Richmond and to central London. London Overground trains run to Richmond and (via Willesden Junction) to Stratford.

Three bus routes serve Kew: the 65, 391 and R68.[79]

River bus services supported by publicly funded Transport for London are from Kew Pier, to Richmond, Hampton Court and to Westminster Pier in central London.[80]

Nearest places
Nearest railway stations

Parks and open spaces

  • Kew Green is used by Kew Cricket Club for cricket matches in the summer.
  • Kew Pond, near the northeast corner of Kew Green, believed to date from the tenth century,[81][82] is originally thought to have been a natural pond fed from a creek of the tidal Thames. During high (spring) tides, sluice gates are opened to allow river water to fill the pond via an underground channel. The pond is concreted, rectangular in shape and contains an important reed bed habitat which is vital for conservation and resident water birds. The pond is managed in partnership with the Friends of Kew Pond.[83]
  • North Sheen Recreation Ground in Dancer Road, known locally as "The Rec", was originally part of an orchard belonging to the Popham Estate, owned by the Leyborne Pophams whose family seat was at Littlecote House, Wiltshire. Opened in June 1909 and extended in 1923, it now contains football pitches, a running track, a children's paddling pool, two extensive playgrounds, a large dog-free grassed area and a pavilion set amongst trees and shrubs.[84] It is also the home of a local football club, Kew Park Rangers. A new £1 million sports pavilion[85] was opened in September 2011.[86]
  • Pensford Field,[87] previously playing fields of the former Gainsborough School, is now a nature reserve and also the home of Pensford Tennis Club.
  • St Luke's Open Space, a quiet sitting area and toddlers' play area, was previously a playground for a former Victorian primary school.[88][nb 2]
  • Westerley Ware is at the foot of Kew Bridge. It was created as a memorial garden to the fallen in the First World War, and also has a grass area, three hard tennis courts and a children's playground. Its name refers to the practice of netting weirs or "wares" to catch fish.[89][90]

Sport and leisure

Kew's several other sports clubs include:

The nearest football club in the Football League is Brentford FC, approximately one mile away.


The Kew Society
MottoWe care about Kew
Formation1901 (as the Kew Union)[95]
Legal statusregistered charity
Roger Mason
Main organ
The Kew Society Newsletter

The Kew Horticultural Society, founded in 1938, organises an annual show in late August/early September[98][99][100] as well as talks, events and outings throughout the year.

The Kew Society, founded in 1901 as the Kew Union,[95] is a civic society that seeks to enhance the beauty of Kew and preserve its heritage. It reviews all planning applications in Kew with special regard to the architectural integrity and heritage of the neighbourhood, and plays an active role in the improvement of local amenities. The Society, which is a member of Civic Voice,[96] organises community events including lectures and outings and produces a quarterly newsletter.

The Richmond Local History Society is concerned with the history of Kew, as well as Richmond, Petersham and Ham.[101]


Primary schools

  • Darell Primary and Nursery School is on Darell Road and Niton Road. It opened in 1906, as the Darell Road Schools, at the southern end of what had been the Leyborne-Popham estate.[102] Darell School was Richmond Borough Council’s first primary school and was built in the "Queen Anne" style, in brick with white stone facings. Although it has been extended several times, it is now the only Richmond primary school still in its historic original pre-1914 building.[103]
  • Kew Riverside Primary School, on Courtlands Avenue, opened in 2003.[104]
  • The Queen's Church of England Primary School is in Cumberland Road, where it moved in 1969.[105] In her will of 1719, Dorothy, Lady Capel of Kew House left to four trustees Perry Court Farm in Kent, which she had inherited from her father. One twelfth of the rent from the farm was to be given to St Anne's Church to establish a school in Kew.[106] In 1810, a "Free School" was opened in the church for 50 children, financed by subscribers who gave one guinea a year, in addition to a contribution by King George III. In 1824 the school moved to a site near the pond on Kew Green. The foundation stone was laid on 12 August, the birthday of King George IV, who gave £300 on condition that it be called "The King's Free School". Queen Victoria gave permission for it to be called "The Queen's School" and decreed that its title should change with that of the monarch.

Independent preparatory schools

  • Broomfield House School, on Broomfield Road, was founded in 1876.[107]
  • Kew College, a co-educational school for 3–11 year olds, was founded in 1927 by Mrs Ellen Upton in rooms over a shop in Kew. Mrs Upton’s young daughter was one of the first pupils. The school later moved to Cumberland Road. In 1953, Mrs Upton retired and sold the school to Mrs Hamilton-Spry who, in 1985, handed over the buildings to a charitable trust to ensure the school's long term continuity.
  • Kew Green Preparatory School, at Layton House, Ferry Lane, near Kew Green, opened in 2004.
  • Unicorn School, established in 1970, is a co-educational, parent-owned school on Kew Road, opposite Kew Gardens.

Places of worship

Five churches in Kew are currently in use:

Former churches include the late 19th-century Cambridge Road Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, previously known as the Gloucester Road Wesleyan Methodist Chapel[108] and also known as Cambridge Road Methodist Church,[109] which was in use from 1891 to 1969.[109] A late Victorian Salvation Army hall at 6 North Road, built in the style of a chapel, was converted into flats (1–5 Quiet Way) in the early 21st century.[110]

Cemeteries and crematorium

Mortlake Crematorium and two cemeteries North Sheen Cemetery and Mortlake Cemetery – are located in Kew.[111]

Literary references to Kew

I am His Highness' dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?

Epigram, engraved on the Collar of a Dog which I gave to his Royal Highness (Frederick, Prince of Wales), 1736[112] (Alexander Pope, 1688–1744)

And the wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Khatmandhu

In The Neolithic Age, 1892 (Rudyard Kipling, 1865–1936)

Go down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn't far from London!)
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer's wonderland;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn't far from London!)

The Barrel-Organ, 1920 (Alfred Noyes, 1880–1958)

Trams and dusty trees.
Highbury bore me. Richmond and Kew
Undid me.

The Waste Land, 1922 (T. S. Eliot, 1888–1965)

Lady Croom: My hyacinth dell is become a haunt for
hobgoblins, my Chinese bridge, which I am assured is
superior to the one at Kew, and for all I know at Peking, is
usurped by a fallen obelisk overgrown with briars.

Arcadia, 1993 (Tom Stoppard, b. 1937)

See also


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Further reading

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