UK Genealogy Archives logo

Kew, Surrey

Historical Description

Kew, a village and a parish in Surrey. The village stands on the river Thames, at the boundary with Middlesex, opposite Brentford, near the loop-line of the Southwestern railway, and near the North London railway, 2 miles NNE of Richmond, and 6 WSW of Hyde Park Comer, is notable in connection with adjacent palace and public gardens, and has a steamboat pier. Steamers ply to it from the London piers during summer every half hour. A seven-arched stone bridge connects it with the South-Western railway station and with Brentford. The place is first mentioned in records of the time of Henry VII., and was then called Kayhough, and that name may possibly be a form of Quay, in allusion to proximity to the river, and was afterwards written variously Kayhowe, Kayhoo, Keyhowe, Kayo, Keye, and Kewe. The village consists chiefly of houses scattered on the borders of a green, with the parish church near the centre, and it contains on the N side a house which was inhabited for some time by Sir Peter Leiys. The green has been enclosed with iron posts and rails, and is ornamental. The church was built in 1714, was enlarged by George III. in 1766 and 1805, was enlarged again in 1837 at a cost of £4000 by William IV., and again in 1844; it is a brick structure of plain appearance, and contains the-organ which was used by George III., and which is said to have belonged to Handel, and was presented to the church by George IV. The churchyard contains the graves of the artists Meyer, Gainsborough, and Zoffany, of General Douglas, of Governor Sir Charles Eyre, of W. Aiton, author of " Hortus Kewensis," and of Sir William J. Hooker. The first Duke of Cambridge and the Duchess of Cambridge are interred in the vaults. The civil parish comprises 291 acres; population, 2076. The ecclesiastical parish was constituted by Act of Parliament in 1769, and was previously a hamlet or chapelry of Kingston. The living is a vicarage in the diocese-of Winchester; gross value, s£520. Patron, the Crown.

Kew first became a royal residence about 1730. Kew House then belonged to the Capel family. Frederick, Prince of Wales, took a long lease of this, laid out the pleasure-grounds under the direction of Kent, and died here in 1751. His widow, the Dowager-Princess of Wales, continued to reside here, and erected extensive additional buildings, of an ornamental kind, after designs by Sir W. Chambers. George-Ill. afterwards resided much here, without courtliness or ceremony, and in 1803 he took down the old house and erected a new palace, partly near the river, after designs by Wyatt. This was entirely demolished by George IV. The-present palace is an edifice of the time of Charles I.; belonged to Hugh Portman, a Dutch merchant, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, is a structure of red brick, was leased by Caroline, queen of George II., and afterwards bought by Queen Charlotte, received the furniture from Kew House when that edifice was taken down, and was the death-place of Queen Charlotte, and the place of George IV.'s education under Dr Markham.

Kew Gardens are botanic, originally occupied only 11 acres, occupy now 75 acres, and adjoin pleasure-grounds of more than 250 acres. They were formed by the Dowager-Princess of Wales, were improved by Queen Charlotte, became enriched with collections obtained by Captain Cook, Sir Joseph Banks, Flinders, Wallis, Carteret, Vancouver, and others; went afterwards into comparative neglect, were transferred in 1840 to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, were placed for enlargement and improvement under the care-of Sir William J. Hooker, and now include what were portions of the palace kitchen-gardens and pleasure-grounds, and are the most beautiful and well-stocked establishments of their kind in Europe. The entrance gateway was erected in 1846 after a design by Decimus Bur-ton. The conservatory, to the-right on entering, was removed hither from Buckingham Palace-in 1836, and contains a rich collection of Australian, Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican shrubs. The orangery, close to the broad gravel walk, was erected in 1766 by Sir J. W. Chambers, and contains in winter a collection of tender pines, which are placed in summer on the adjoining lawn. The Victoria House, to the right of the fountain in front of the great palm-stove, has a circular tank, 36 feet in diameter, with the Victoria water-lily, and contains also the " sacred bean " of India and other interesting aquatics. The Palm House was completed in 1848, after designs by Decimus Burton, occupies an area of nearly an acre, has upwards of 40, 300 superficial feet of glass, measures 137½ feet up the centre, 362¼feet in total length, and 69 feet in height to the summit of the lantern; has a gallery round the centre portion, 27 feet above the floor, is maintained in the coldest winter days at a temperature of 80— by hot-water pipes; has at a considerable distance a smoke shaft, in the form of an ornamental tower, 96 feet high, has also a tank with capacity for 42, 000 gallons, supplied with water by means of steam-engine and pumps from the Thames; contains a very rich collection of palms, the names of which are all labelled, and cost about £33, 000. The Temperate House was completed in 1861 at a cost of about £10, 000, comprises a central portion 212 feet long, 137 feet wide, and 60 feet high, two side octagons 50 feet in diameter, and two wings each 112 feet long, 62 feet wide, and 36 feet high, is of iron and glass, and contains valuable trees and plants from temperate climates. Another conservatory, 500 feet long, has been added. A pinetum, extending W of the palm-stove, contains all the coniferous plants which will bear the open air. The Museum, at the head of a lake, fronting the palm-stove, contains a large collection of dead vegetable products. The Herbaceous Ground, near the museum, contains a classified collection of indigenous plants. The Orchid Houses, the Tropical Aquarium, the Succulent House, the New Zealand House, the Australian House, the Tropical Fern House, the Amherstia House, the Heath House, the Museum Stove, the Azalea House, the Aroideous House, the Temperate Fernery, and the Camelia House contain collections or specimens of the kinds indicated by their several "names. Very interesting trees also are scattered over the lawns, especially about the old arboretum; and they contribute, with parterres, avenues, and the general disposition of the grounds and the buildings, to render the gardens decidedly picturesque. The pleasure-grounds adjoining the gardens on the S contain an arboretum, nursery-grounds, the new lake, the Queen's gardens, and many of the ornamental buildings erected for the Princess of Wales by Sir W. Chambers. The Pagoda here is 136 feet high, consists of ten storeys, each with a balcony, and commands from the summit a panoramic view to the distance of 30 miles. The Temple of Victory was erected in 1759 to commemorate the battle of Minden. 'The Pantheon was built for William IV. by Wyatt, has the form of a small Doric temple, and bears the dates of battles fought by British troops from 1760 to 1815. Eich-mond Old Park adjoins the pleasure-grounds and contains an observatory built for George III. by Chambers, given by the Crown to the British Association, and used for magnetic and meteorological observations. They are open to the public every week-day from 12 till dusk, and on Sundays from 1.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountySurrey 
Ecclesiastical parishKew St. Anne 
Poor Law unionRichmond 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records, in association with Surrey History Centre, have images of the Parish Registers for Surrey online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Kew from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Surrey is available to browse.


Online maps of Kew are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Surrey papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Surrey, 1662-1668 is available on the Heraldry page.

DistrictRichmond upon Thames
CountyGreater London
Postal districtTW9
Post TownRichmond