Twickenham, southwest of the centre of London, Charing Cross, is a town on the River Thames in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. The administrative headquarters of the borough are at York House in Twickenham, which is of equal importance to Richmond in the London Plan. Historically, Twickenham was a parish and then a civil parish in the county of Middlesex. It expanded rapidly during the suburban growth of London from 1881 until 1961, when its population grew and its farms and common were converted to other use. In 1926 it was incorporated as the Municipal Borough of Twickenham, which merged into the present Greater London borough in 1965.
This area has three grand period mansions with public access: York House, Marble Hill and Strawberry Hill House. Another has been lost, that belonging to 18th century aphoristic poet Alexander Pope. Among these is the Neo-Gothic prototype home of Horace Walpole which has given its name to a whole district, Strawberry Hill, and is linked with the oldest Roman Catholic university in the country, St Mary's University College, Twickenham. Twickenham's demonym is 'the home of English rugby': the headquarters of the Rugby Football Union is at Twickenham, as is Twickenham Rugby Stadium, the world’s largest stadium officially solely for rugby but which also hosts seasonal and particularly charity music concerts.
Excavations have revealed settlements in the area dating from the Early Neolithic, possibly Mesolithic periods. Occupation seems to have continued through the Bronze Age, the Iron Age and the Roman occupation. The area was first mentioned (as "Tuican hom" and "Tuiccanham") in a charter of 13 June 704 AD to cede the area to Waldhere, Bishop of London, "for the salvation of our souls". The charter is signed with 12 crosses. The signatories included Swaefred of Essex, Cenred of Mercia and Earl Paeogthath.
In Norman times Twickenham was part of the Manor of Isleworth – itself part of the Hundred of Hounslow (mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086). The manor had belonged to Ælfgār, Earl of Mercia in the time of Edward the Confessor, but was granted to Walter de Saint-Valery (Waleric) by William I of England after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.
The area was then farmed for several hundred years, while the river provided opportunities for fishing, boatbuilding and trade.
There was also a Watch House in the middle of the town, with stocks, a pillory and a whipping post whose owner was charged to "ward within and about this Parish and to keep all Beggars and Vagabonds that shall lye abide or lurk about the Towne and to give correction to such...".
1659 saw the first mention of the Twickenham Ferry, although ferrymen had already been operating in the area for many generations. Sometime before 1743 a "pirate" ferry appears to have been started by Twickenham inhabitants. There is speculation that it operated to serve "The Folly", a floating hostelry of some kind. Several residents wrote to the Lord Mayor of the City of London:
Gunpowder manufacture on an industrial scale started in the area in the 18th century, on a site between Twickenham and Whitton on the banks of the River Crane. There were frequent explosions and loss of life. On 11 March 1758 one of two explosions was felt in Reading, Berkshire, and in April 1774 another explosion terrified people at church in Isleworth.
In 1772 three mills blew up, shattering glass and buildings in the neighbourhood. Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, wrote complaining to his friend and relative Henry Seymour Conway, then Lieutenant General of the Ordnance, that all the decorative painted glass had been blown out of his windows at Strawberry Hill.
The powder mills remained in operation until 1927 when they were closed. Much of the site is now occupied by Crane Park, in which the old Shot Tower, mill sluices and blast embankments can still be seen. Much of the area along the river next to the Shot Tower is now a nature reserve.
The 1818 Enclosure Award led to the development of of land to the west of the town centre largely between the present day Staines and Hampton Roads, new roads – Workhouse Road, Middle Road, 3rd, 2nd and 1st Common Roads (now First-Fifth Cross Roads respectively) – being laid out. During the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of fine houses were built and Twickenham became a popular place of residence for people of "fashion and distinction". Further development was stimulated by the opening of Twickenham station in 1848.
In 1894 Twickenham Urban District Council was formed. In 1902 the council bought Radnor House as the home of the legislature. The council bought and occupied York House in 1924. (Radnor House was destroyed by a Luftwaffe bomb during the Blitz of 1940.)
In 1939, when All Hallows Lombard Street was demolished in the City of London, its distinctive stone tower designed by Christopher Wren, with its peal of ten bells and connecting stone cloister, and the interior furnishings, including a Renatus Harris organ and a pulpit used by John Wesley, were brought to Twickenham to be incorporated in the new All Hallows Church on Chertsey Road (A316) near Twickenham Stadium.
In 1926 Twickenham was constituted as a municipal borough. Eleven years later the urban district Councils of Teddington, Hampton & Hampton Wick merged with Twickenham. In 1965 the former areas of the boroughs of Twickenham, Richmond and Barnes were combined to form the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. The borough council offices and chamber are located at York House, York Street, Twickenham and in the adjacent civic centre.
The Member of Parliament for Twickenham has been Liberal Democrat Dr Vincent Cable since his first election in 1997. Twickenham (UK Parliament constituency) includes St Margaret's, Whitton, Heathfield, Teddington, Hampton, Fulwell, Hampton Hill and Hampton Wick.
The Twickenham Green area witnessed a high profile murder on 19 August 2004, when French woman Amelie Delagrange (aged 22) died in hospital after being found with a serious head injury (caused by battery) in the area. Within 24 hours, police had established a link with the murder of Marsha McDonnell, who was killed in similar circumstances in nearby Hampton 18 months earlier. Levi Bellfield was found guilty of both murders on 25 February 2008 (as well as a further charge of attempted murder against 18-year-old Kate Sheedy) and sentenced to life imprisonment. He is also suspected of a series of other unsolved murders and attacks on women since 1990, most notably the Murder of Amanda Dowler, a teenage girl who vanished from Walton-on-Thames in March 2002 and whose body was later found in Hampshire woodland.
Twickenham is one of the ancient parishes of Middlesex. It became an Urban District in 1894 and a Municipal Borough in 1926. In 1934 it absorbed the neighbouring Hampton, Hampton Wick and Teddington Urban Districts. It became part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames in 1965.