Sunbury: Introduction

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.

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'Sunbury: Introduction', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington, ed. Susan Reynolds( London, 1962), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'Sunbury: Introduction', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Edited by Susan Reynolds( London, 1962), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"Sunbury: Introduction". A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 3, Shepperton, Staines, Stanwell, Sunbury, Teddington, Heston and Isleworth, Twickenham, Cowley, Cranford, West Drayton, Greenford, Hanwell, Harefield and Harlington. Ed. Susan Reynolds(London, 1962), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.


Sunbury (fn. 1) lies on the north bank of the Thames just upstream from Hampton. (fn. 2) In 1930 the old parish was enlarged to include Ashford Common (307 a.). Subsequent changes in the 1930's added Feltham Hill (98 a.) and 2 acres of Hampton parish to Sunbury and transferred one acre from Sunbury to Hampton. Also in 1930, Shepperton and Littleton parishes were added to the urban district of Sunbury on Thames, which had been created in 1894 and had until then comprised only the parish of Sunbury. (fn. 3) This article is concerned with the old parish of Sunbury, which in 1930, before all these changes, covered 2,658 acres. (fn. 4) The parish is bounded on the south-east by the River Thames, except in several places where the boundary follows what are no doubt earlier courses of the river, so that Sunbury Lock Ait and the lock itself and bits of the north bank lie in Walton on Thames (Surr.). (fn. 5) The River Ash forms most of the south-western boundary, and the eastern and north-eastern boundaries also follow a stream and rivulet. The boundaries of Sunbury which are described in a charter of 962 may well have corresponded to the later boundaries of the manor; (fn. 6) they were certainly not those of the parish, and the date when the parish boundaries were fixed, dividing the manor of Halliford between Sunbury and Shepperton, is not known. The fact that meadow at Halliford belonged in 962 to Sunbury manor although Halliford manor-house and demesne are later known to have lain in Shepperton (fn. 7) may have some bearing on this.

The parish is without significant physical features. The surface is composed of gravels and brick-earth and falls from a little below 50 feet in the north to 25 feet by the Thames. (fn. 8) The hamlets of Sunbury and Kempton, first mentioned respectively in 962 and 1086, (fn. 9) stand on slight rises on the river bank at junctions between the main road along the river from Kingston to Chertsey and lanes (Green Street and French Street) running northwards to the common. Charlton and Upper Halliford lie away from the river in the west of the parish: Charlton is mentioned in 1086 and Halliford in 962, though no reference has been found to the hamlet of Upper Halliford before 1274. (fn. 10) Each of these settlements represented the nucleus of a medieval manor, except for Upper Halliford which was probably the lesser of the two hamlets within Halliford manor, and each of the manors except Charlton, which had no river frontage, formed a narrow strip running back from the river over the open fields to the common. (fn. 11)

Charlton lay on the edge of the common, which covered most of the parish north of the approximate line of Nursery Road. To the south of Charlton and around the other hamlets lay the open fields. By the 18th century, when they had been reduced by inclosures on the edges, these were known as Charlton Field, between Charlton Road and Upper Halliford Road; Sunbury Field, between Upper Halliford Road and Green Street; and Kempton Field, on the east of Green Street; each of these lay across manorial boundaries. The common meadow lay by the river in the south-west. In 1246 the first inclosure for a park was made at Kempton. Later the park covered much of the area north-east of Kempton village and extended into Hanworth. During the Middle Ages the royal manor-house of Kempton may have stood within the park near the site of the present Kempton Park House. (fn. 12)

The river probably formed the chief highway of the parish in early times, and the small alleys in Sunbury village between Thames Street and the river no doubt led to wharfs. One of these, called Church Wharf, could not be reached by barges in 1897 because of silting and a few years later visits by barges were said to be rare. (fn. 13) A ferry was conveyed with the manor in 1604 (fn. 14) and there were two ferries near Thames Street in 1956 which by means of the lock foot-bridge gave access to the Surrey shore. There are two main roads through the parish. One of these, running from Kingston to Hampton along the river bank, has already been mentioned as the site of two of the ancient settlements. It crosses the River Ash into Shepperton by Hoo Bridge, which was mentioned in 1293 and was a foot-bridge in 1826. (fn. 15) The other main road ran across Sunbury Common from Hampton to Staines. Its eastern section by Kempton Park was formerly known as Port Lane and the bridge by the boundary is still known as Port Lane Bridge. The Staines Road was turnpiked from 1773 to 1859, (fn. 16) but most of its course in Sunbury lay across the common and so was not defined before inclosure. The other roads in the parish were tracks linking the settlements to the common and crossing the common to the villages beyond. Of these Green Street was known as Sunbury Lane in 1722, (fn. 17) while French Street was called by its present name in 1799. (fn. 18) A track between them, which formed the boundary between Sunbury and Kempton manors, ran roughly along the line of the modern road called the Avenue and continued northwards to Feltham. Farther west the Upper Halliford Road and Windmill Road gained in importance after Walton Bridge was built in 1750. (fn. 19) Gaston Bridge, which had been in existence at least since the 15th century, was rebuilt at the same time. (fn. 20) The Upper Halliford Road has been yet more used since the Queen Mary Reservoir was constructed in 1925, since that destroyed the road from Ashford Common to Littleton. The farthest west of the north-south roads is the Charlton Road, which in 1959 still went through a deep ford at the River Ash, thus virtually cutting Charlton off from the growing town of Shepperton close by. There is, however, a foot-bridge beside the ford.

The open fields and commons were inclosed in 1803, and the roads across the common were laid out on their present lines. By this time there had been a good deal of change in some of the areas of settlement. In 1697 Sir Thomas Grantham, lord of Kempton manor, built 'a fair house' at Sunbury, (fn. 21) and this was probably the first of many large houses which were built in the parish. (fn. 22) Sunbury was almost the farthest upstream of the Thames villages which became popular with the upper and middle classes in the 18th century, and it never became fashionable in the manner of Richmond, Twickenham, or Hampton. (fn. 23) A little colony of exiled Huguenots probably accounted for a fair proportion of the gentlefolk in the parish during the earlier years of the century. (fn. 24) By 1816 it was possible for a perhaps over-effusive writer to comment on the 'long range of fine domestic structures' facing the river and to add that other 'ornamental dwellings of this splendid village' lay farther inland. (fn. 25) Among the finest of the houses was Sunbury Place (now Sunbury Court and occupied by the Salvation Army), which lay farthest downstream towards Hampton. There was a house on the site by 1754, (fn. 26) from which some features in the main block of the present building seem to survive. It had been much enlarged by 1816, when it was said to show four fronts with an ornamental pavilion at each corner. (fn. 27) The pavilions have been demolished and wings have been added on either side of the sevenbay south front. The house is of red brick with stone and cement-rendered dressings and has a central pediment to the south front. Behind this house and beyond Staines Road the house at Kempton Park was rebuilt in an apparently gloomy and unattractive Gothic style soon after 1800. It has since been replaced once more. (fn. 28) Darby House, a little upstream, dates from the late 18th century and is unusual in the parish for the pointed windows on its otherwise Georgian south front. On the corner of Lower Hampton Road and French Street two or three early-19th-century buildings are the only survivors of the smaller houses of the old hamlet of Kempton, though there are still a few good 18thcentury houses of the larger sort in French Street. Another of them had been pulled down shortly before 1959. Those remaining include Ivy House, which is possibly of the very late 17th century. Thames Street, running along the river between the villages of Kempton and Sunbury, is still predominantly Georgian in character, and Orchard House and Rossall House, which has been much altered, are fine examples of the early 18th century. Near Kempton the road is still open to the river bank on its south side, but as it approaches Sunbury village it is built up on both sides, this development apparently dating from the early 18th century. The former assembly rooms (now a factory) were housed in a classical building of c. 1835. The manor-house (Sunbury Park) by the church has now been demolished, but many buildings from the early 19th century and before remain in the triangle of roads (Church Street, Green Street, and Thames Street) which formed the old village (see frontispiece). They include the 'Three Fishes' in Green Street, which was built in the 17th century. (fn. 29) Its sign is mentioned in 1705. The 'Magpie' and the 'White Horse' (1729) and the 'Flowerpot' (1730) are mentioned a little later (fn. 30) but have all been rebuilt. The larger 18th-century houses in the old village include Blakesley Lodge and Montford House in Green Street; Brooklands, also in Green Street, may contain work of the 17th century. Farther along Green Street away from the river is Hawke House, which is dated 1703 but was altered and enlarged in the early 19th century. Beyond it again is the Rookery, an 18th-century house covered with later roughcast. Just upstream from the village is West Lodge, also of the 18th century. The last house upstream was Sunbury House, which faced the river across Fordbridge Road. It has always been identified (fn. 31) with the house built in 1712 for Sir Roger Hudson. This was designed by Thomas Fort (d. 1745), clerk of the works at Hampton Court, (fn. 32) and was illustrated in Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus. It had a threestoried main block of seven bays connected by curved passages to pavilions at each end. The house on the site in 1754, however, seems to have been much more modest, while the manor-house was then shown with the plan of the 1712 house. (fn. 33) Sunbury House seems to have disappeared by 1912, when a terrace of three houses stood on the site. (fn. 34)

Upper Halliford and Charlton did not share in the 18th-century popularity of the riverside and seem to have contained little but cottages and farm-houses. Several houses around the green at Upper Halliford survive from the early 19th century, while those called Halliford Manor (fn. 35) and Halliford Home Farm Cottage are of earlier date though they have been much altered. Some 17th-century barns at Clock House Farm were demolished about 1958. (fn. 36) At Charlton the only early building is the Harrow Inn. It is timber-framed, partly refaced in brick, and has a thatched roof. The front range contains an open hall of medieval origin in which a chimney was inserted probably in the 16th or early 17th century. (fn. 37) A windmill and poorhouse were built on the common to the west of Green Street early in the 18th century and the medieval windmill may have stood in that area. (fn. 38)

Some building by the roads on the common followed the inclosure and more large houses were built. Some of these were at the riverside and others were farther away, notably around Upper Halliford. In 1859 the 'palatial residences of the nobility' were said to be 'interspersed and disfigured by the rude and dilapidated dwellings of the lower classes', which, it was implied, were exceptionally poor and unhealthy. (fn. 39) In 1826 the village was served by the Chertsey-London coaches four times a day and by carriers. (fn. 40) In 1864 the Thames Valley Railway (now part of the Southern Region) was opened with a station at the north end of Green Street. The halt at Upper Halliford was not opened until 1944, while Kempton Park Station is only used during racemeetings. (fn. 41) A new settlement, consisting for the most part of small houses and called Sunbury Common or Upper Sunbury, quickly grew up round the station and the earliest factories appeared here towards the end of the century. (fn. 42) Meanwhile the first of the reservoirs and waterworks buildings which now encircle the parish appeared after the Metropolis Water Act (1852) prohibited the taking of water from the river below Teddington. The first waterworks in the area were in Hampton, but their reservoirs were extended along the riverside into Sunbury parish in 1898. Following the cholera epidemic of 1866, the East London Water Works in 1871 established a pumping station, filter beds, and reservoirs, just inside the parish by the Hanworth Road, and a pumping station by the river in Fordbridge Road. (fn. 43) The buildings were Italianate in style and of brown brick with stone dressings. Most of those in Hanworth Road were demolished about 1955. (fn. 44) Those in Fordbridge Road remain, though they have belonged to the Thames Conservancy since 1924. (fn. 45) The aqueduct from the Staines Reservoirs was constructed across the north of the parish about 1904, (fn. 46) and in 1925 the great Queen Mary Reservoir was opened, extending into the north-west corner of the parish. More works of the Metropolitan Water Board were being constructed in 1957 on the site of the urban district council's former sewerage works to the east of the Reservoir. (fn. 47)

During the 20th century building has spread over much of the eastern half of the parish and along the river bank. The electrification of the railway in 1915 no doubt contributed to this, and Upper Sunbury, around the station, is now virtually the centre of the parish, with the council offices, public library, and main post-office. The chief shopping centres are here and in Thames Street at what is now called Lower Sunbury. The principal industrial areas are in Hanworth Road and Windmill Road. Except in Upper Sunbury, where terraces and semi-detached houses predominate, most of the modern buildings are small detached houses and bungalows. In 1957 there were 996 council houses and flats. (fn. 48) Many large trees have been preserved, both along the roads and in the gardens of the original houses, though some of these have been demolished, so that despite the new building the district retains part of its earlier character. The remaining spaces near French Street were being fast filled in 1959, but there was still open land between Green Street and the Avenue, notably in two sports grounds and in Sunbury Park, which is still private, though the house is gone. The largest open tract east of Green Street is at Kempton Park, where part of the estate has been used as a racecourse since 1876. (fn. 49) The new brick grandstand here has been erected since the Second World War. The rest of the estate, around the house, is still parkland and wood, and in 1957 sheltered the only heronry in the county. (fn. 50) Until the 1950's there was very little new building in the western half of the parish. Gravel-working had left many large pools around Upper Halliford and Charlton, and the rest of the land was open, with many market-gardens and glasshouses. (fn. 51) A good deal of land still remained open in 1959 and gravel-working was continuing, but there was new building around Upper Halliford. At Charlton, which until the 1950's was a comparatively remote and completely rural hamlet, many houses were being built in 1959 and there were new factories to the north of the hamlet. One shop had then been opened.

Apart from a few lords of the manor and incumbents, (fn. 52) Sunbury has not had many inhabitants of distinction. Daniel Rogers, clerk of the Privy Council, lived at Sunbury and was buried there in 1591. (fn. 53) Sir Nathaniel Lloyd (d. 1745), Master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and Admiral Lord Hawke (d. 1781) appear to be the only 18th-century inhabitants, apart from vicars and lords of manors, who qualified for inclusion in the Dictionary of National Biography. Samuel Owen, water-colour painter, died in the parish in 1857. (fn. 54)


  • 1. This article was written in 1957 and revised in 1959.
  • 2. In addition to works cited below this description is based on O.S. Maps 6" Mdx. xxiv, xxv (1st and later edns.); Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754); Greenwood, Map of Mdx. (1819); M.R.O., Sunbury Inclosure Award (1803), and Acc. 598/ map of Sunbury manor, 1722.
  • 3. Census, 1901, 1931 (pts. 1 and 2), 1951.
  • 4. Census, 1921, 1931 (pt. 1).
  • 5. For boundary disputes with Walton, see Par. Rec., correspondence, 1865, 1889, 1913.
  • 6. Cart. Sax. ed. Birch, iii, p. 315. For the charter and the manor boundaries see p. 53.
  • 7. See p. 6.
  • 8. Geol. Survey Map, sheet 269 (drift).
  • 9. Cart. Sax. ed. Birch, iii, p. 315; Dom. Bk. (Rec. Com.), i. 128b.
  • 10. J.I. 1/540, m. 14.
  • 11. The boundaries (see pp. 53, 54, 55) are shown on M.R.O., Sunbury Incl. Award map.
  • 12. For the park and manor-house, see pp. 56-57.
  • 13. Sunbury U.D.C. Min. Bk. i. 526; Sunbury U.D.C. Medical Rep. 1904; Par. Rec., statement of boundaries.
  • 14. C.P. 25(2)/385/2 Jas. I. East.
  • 15. J.I. 1/544, m. 52d; Rep. of Cttee. of Magistrates on Public Bridges in Mdx. (1826), 270.
  • 16. See p. 15.
  • 17. M.R.O., Acc. 598/map of Sunbury manor, 1722.
  • 18. Par. Rec., Vestry Min. Bk. 1792-1823, f. 26.
  • 19. See p. 4.
  • 20. W.A.M. 4984, 32189; Rep. on Public Bridges in Mdx. (1826), 270.
  • 21. Lysons, Mdx. Pars. 277; see p. 56.
  • 22. The earlier houses are described in Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 118.
  • 23. See p. 53, and note the comparative absence of distinguished residents mentioned, e.g. in Lysons, op. cit.
  • 24. See p. 58.
  • 25. Brewer, Beauties of Eng. and Wales, x (5), 491.
  • 26. Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754).
  • 27. Brewer, op. cit. and plate facing p. 491.
  • 28. Ibid. 494; see pp. 56-57.
  • 29. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 118.
  • 30. M.R.O., L.V. 4/31; 5/4, 18, 25, 34.
  • 31. Notably by Lysons, Mdx. Pars. 270; it is difficult to reconcile the information set out by Lysons, who may well have seen both houses, with that in Rocque's map.
  • 32. Colvin, Dict. Eng. Architects, 1660-1840, 210.
  • 33. Rocque, Map of Mdx. (1754); see also p. 54.
  • 34. O.S. Map 6" Mdx. xxv (3rd edn.): Loudwater and Burwash are two of these three houses. They may embody parts of the original house, which is said to have been burned down: Sunbury and Shepperton Local Hist. Soc. Sketch of Sunbury's Hist. [1952].
  • 35. This is not in fact a manor-house: see p. 6.
  • 36. Local inf.; see Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 118.
  • 37. Hist. Mon. Com. Mdx. 118: there seems to be no particular evidence for the theory (Robbins, Mdx. 340 and plate 29) that it is 'perhaps the oldest inhabited house' in Mdx.
  • 38. See pp. 58, 60.
  • 39. Builder, xvii. 414.
  • 40. Pigot, Lond. and Prov. Dir. (1826-7).
  • 41. Ex inf. British Railways (Southern Region).
  • 42. For the factories, see p. 59.
  • 43. H. W. Dickinson, Water Supply of Gter. Lond. (Newcomen Soc. 1954), 77, 84-85, 92-93.
  • 44. Ex inf. Metropolitan Water Board.
  • 45. Ex inf. a member of the staff.
  • 46. Metrop. Water Bd. London's Water Supply, 1903-53, 86-87.
  • 47. Ex inf. Metropolitan Water Board; cf. O.S. Maps cited in n. 2.
  • 48. Ex inf. Sunbury U.D.C.
  • 49. See p. 56.
  • 50. Lond. Nat. Hist. Soc. Birds of the London Area, 127.
  • 51. For the history of market-gardening and gravelextraction, see p. 59.
  • 52. See pp. 55, 56, 62.
  • 53. D.N.B.; Mdx. Pedigrees (Harl. Soc. lxv), 84.
  • 54. D.N.B.