Teddington: Economic and social history

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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'Teddington: Economic and social history', 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, (London, 1962) pp. 71-74. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol3/pp71-74 [accessed 13 April 2024]


Until the 19th century Teddington was almost exclusively an agricultural community. There does not seem to have been any other industry in the parish until the 18th century, and there was no corn-mill.

Since Teddington was not mentioned separately in Domesday Book there is no information about the inhabitants or their land before the early 13th century. Before this Teddington was probably a berewick of Westminster Abbey's manor of Staines, (fn. 1) but by the 13th century it was a separate unit in another bailiwick of manors nearer the abbey. A custumal made early in the century shows that the abbey had in the manor 5 free tenants holding 10 virgates between them, (fn. 2) 14 customary tenants with 16 virgates, and 7 cottars (fn. 3) with about 27 acres. The customary tenants each held amounts varying from 2 virgates to a few acres. (fn. 4) The virgate in Teddington seems to have been about 16 acres (fn. 5) and the cotland about 4 acres. (fn. 6) The tenants' lands may thus have covered rather over 400 acres, while the manorial demesne a century later covered 159 acres. (fn. 7) The customary tenants did most of the services on the demesne, but the free tenants did autumn boonworks and the cotlanders did boon-works and haymaking. By the 14th century the customary tenants' services included mowing at Westminster. (fn. 8) In 1312 the position was not very different, though the freeholdings had been divided and consolidated. There were now 15 customary tenants holding 17 virgates, with 12 cottars holding much the same amount as before. But whereas no one in the earlier rental held by more than one tenure, there was much intermingling of the classes in 1312. Of the 22 men with free tenements, often of only a few acres, 3 held as customary tenants or cottars or both, and 2 other customary tenants held as cottars. (fn. 9) About half the customary tenants seem to have had their own ploughs in the middle years of the 14th century. (fn. 10) In 1312 (fn. 11) works were still being done in much the same way though one boon-work seems to have been dropped (fn. 12) and some of the cottars did sheep-shearing services. About 100 people used to work at the boonworks at this time (fn. 13) and Teddington mustered 21 men for a commission of array about 1335. (fn. 14) Five customary tenants died in 1349–50, and a few more in the following years. Their lands were at first taken and cultivated by the abbey, but later were leased to other tenants. Labour-services went on being performed, with three-quarters of the harvest reaped by works and boon-works in 1370: there was never a large staff of paid servants on the demesne. In addition to the manorial officials and to those like the cowman and pigman who also looked after the tenants' animals, there were generally two plough servants, a carter, and one or two others. After 1373, when the demesne was leased, the tenants went on doing works for the farmer. In 1379 a number of the old holdings had been broken up and one or two larger ones had appeared. Nevertheless six customary tenements were held on the old terms, and of the six leased intact, one owed the old labour-services. (fn. 15)

The way in which the demesne was cultivated changed during the early 14th century. In 1314–15 about 135 acres were sown, the area dropping thereafter to 100–110 acres, which, with fluctuations above and below, was the usual amount until the 1360's, when it dropped to a little under 100 acres. The principal crops of the early 13th century are possibly indicated by the types of grain which the tenants then had to give the lord to compensate for trespasses on his corn and meadow. These were rye, barley, and oats. (fn. 16) They no longer gave oats in the 14th century, but corn-rents of barley and rye went on to the fifteenth. In the early 14th century rye seems to have been the chief crop, and about 50 quarters were sent by river to Westminster in 1301 and in 1310. There was a small herd of cows, and cheese was made and sold. The chief livestock was sheep, from which between 90 and 140 fleeces were sold each year and 20 to 35 lambs were produced. By 1320 barley was replacing rye as the chief crop: a few quarters of rye continued to be sent to Westminster for some years, but the shipment of barley increased from 20 quarters in 1320 to 60, 80, or even more in the sixties. The acreage of rye, originally higher, never dropped much below that of barley, but the barley yields rose to nearly two quarters an acre, while the rye yields remained at less than one. Together the two crops accounted for about 2/3 of the total acreage sown about 1314–23 and for about 7/9 in the sixties. Until about 1346 the amount of oats sown (c. 27–30 a.) was not much below that of rye or barley, but thereafter there were only about a dozen acres, and the other crops (generally wheat, peas, drage) were never large. The proportions of crops sown account for the noticeable lack of any systematic rotation, and the arable was not divided into fields between which crops were rotated. (fn. 17) The furlongs which were the only units were often sown with more than one crop, and some were more regularly used for rye and barley than others, with the two crops sometimes following each other in succession.

Changes corresponding to those in cropping took place in the first half of the 14th century in other parts of the manorial economy. Labour services, of which fairly large numbers were sometimes sold earlier in the century, were almost all performed in 1349 and later. Both sheep and cows appear to have been practically given up in the twenties and early thirties but, though dairying was not resumed, the flock of sheep was built up again by 1340. It was apparently kept as a mixed flock until 1353 when it was changed to being exclusively one of wethers, whose fleeces were sent each year to Westminster. There were frequent exchanges of sheep with other Westminster manors in the bailiwick, and numbers of sheep were purchased, or sent from Hendon, Greenford, or Battersea to be sheared at Teddington. The largest number of fleeces produced in any year seems to have been 689 in 1364, but sometimes it dropped below 300. How much the pasturing of sheep on the fields compensated for the lack of fallow is not known: the common (c. 450 a. in 1800) (fn. 18) may have provided much of the pasture.

The predominance of sheep and barley by the third quarter of the century is illustrated by the arrangements made when the demesne was farmed in 1373. The rent payable for the first 15-year lease was 80 quarters of barley and 5d. a head for the flock of 240 sheep. By 1406 the sheep had been given up but the barley rent was paid until some time between 1410 and 1490. Apart from the fact that twelve acres of the demesne were apparently fallow in 1490–1 and 1499–1502, and that about a hundred were cultivated in the 16th century, (fn. 19) virtually nothing more is known of the cultivation of the demesne after it was leased.

The tithes paid by the tenants of the manor in the 1360's show that they, like the lord, then farmed chiefly sheep and barley. They sheared about 600 or 700 sheep and produced about 160–260 quarters of barley in the sixties. Their flocks, unlike the lord's, naturally included ewes and lambs.

After this time nothing is known about the tenants' farming and very little about the community at all. It comprised 72 houseling people in 1547, about a hundred families around 1723, and 699 persons in 1801. (fn. 20) In 1861, just before Teddington became suburbanized, the population was 1,183. (fn. 21) Since the 17th century there had been an increasing number of upper- and middle-class families in the parish. (fn. 22) Of the 51 persons owing hearth-tax in 1664, 5 had 10– 20 hearths, 11 had 5–9, and 31 had 2–4. (fn. 23) In 1767 fewer than 30 persons were assessed to land-tax (fn. 24) and in 1800 only 49 received allotments at inclosure. Many of these allotments were very small, for most of the land was in the hands of the lord of the manor and one or two others. (fn. 25) Presumably the inclosure of the common, even more than the fields, caused distress among those who received small or no allotments, but there is no direct evidence of this. (fn. 26)

In 1801, when the recent inclosure had made the farmers uncertain whether their leases would be renewed, and when the newly inclosed common cannot have been brought into cultivation, 322 acres of the parish were said to be sown with various crops. Oats covered 120 acres, barley 100, and wheat 40, and it was said that probably twice as much would be sown the next year. (fn. 27) In 1866 there seem to have been five farmers in the parish. (fn. 28) Market- and nurserygardening had a brief time of importance. (fn. 29) One large 'nursery', which seems to have consisted largely of orchard, was founded about 1838, (fn. 30) and the novelist R. D. Blackmore had a market-garden at Gomer House, though he failed to make a profit on it. (fn. 31) About 1898 one nursery in Teddington had over 5,000 running feet of hothouses in which ferns, lilies, roses, and other flowers were grown for cutting. (fn. 32) Most of the land in the parish had been taken for building by the 20th century, but there were still 200 people employed in gardening and associated trades in 1921, as well as six in farming. (fn. 33) Udney farm survived until the 1930's, (fn. 34) and Blackmore farm was still in existence in 1957, though with less than a dozen acres of land, on which chickens and a few cows were kept and a market-garden was cultivated. (fn. 35) Part of the Fulwell golf course was also taken for agricultural use during the Second World War, and was under grass in 1957. (fn. 36)

The sudden growth in Teddington's population in the 1860's was caused by the coming of the railway, (fn. 37) and was accompanied by very little growth of industry. The population grew from 1,183 in 1861 to just over 4,000 ten years later, and, after a slight pause in the rate of increase, to about 14,000 by 1901. It continued to rise until 1931, when it was 23,369, but in 1951 it was only about 500 more. (fn. 38) Although Teddington was a separate local government area until 1937 (fn. 39) and from the mid-19th century on had a number of local clubs and societies, it was never a self-contained area. (fn. 40)

Editions of several local papers, as well as a few periodicals, were published in the town in the late 19th century and later, but few of them lasted for more than a few months. (fn. 41) Branches of multiple stores had been established in Broad Street by the turn of the century, (fn. 42) and there are minor shopping centres in other parts of the parish. A tradesmen's association was formed about 1905 and later became the chamber of commerce. (fn. 43) There was a theatre from 1886 to 1903 (fn. 44) and a cinema by 1925, (fn. 45) but for entertainment and shops, as well as for employment, Teddington remains partially dependent on neighbouring areas.

The earliest evidence of any industry in the parish apart from agriculture comes from the 18th century. In 1746 the land between the north of Broom Road and the river was occupied by 'Mr. Goodchild's bleach-field for Scotch and Irish linen'. (fn. 46) A 'factory' mentioned in 1754 may have been connected with this. (fn. 47) Linen-bleaching was possibly discontinued by 1800, (fn. 48) but by 1831 the parish contained 'the largest and most complete establishment...in the kingdom' for wax-bleaching and candle-making. Nearly 4 acres were said to be covered with wax in the summer and 200,000 lb. were bleached each year. (fn. 49) The wax factory went on until the early 20th century. (fn. 50) Its buildings were taken over in 1927, and later extended, by the Paint Research Station, which employed about 90 persons in 1957. (fn. 51) Work of various kinds was also provided by the river. In 1832 a boat with machinery for grinding corn was moored at Teddington weir, but it soon sank and the experiment of a water-borne mill was not repeated in the parish. (fn. 52) Lampern-fishing is said to have been a profitable industry at Teddington before lamperns became rare in the Thames later in the 19th century. (fn. 53) Eight fishermen in the parish were listed in 1845, six ten years later, but only one in 1878. (fn. 54) Amateur anglers also frequented the river and the inns nearby in the mid-19th century and later. (fn. 55) There was a boatbuilder in 1855, (fn. 56) and about 1895 R. A. Tough founded the boat-yards in Manor Road now occupied by Tough Bros. Ltd. and Tough & Henderson Ltd. The two firms employed about 100 persons in 1957. Part of their buildings were formerly used as a brick and cement store to which sailing barges brought materials until about 1939, and the adjoining storage depot (established c. 1937) of H. J. Heinz & Co. Ltd. was until recent years also supplied from the river. (fn. 57)

The National Physical Laboratory in Bushy Park has employed an increasing number of people since it was opened in 1902. Since the First World War and especially since the 1930's, the amount of industry in the parish has considerably increased. In 1921 3,612 men living in Teddington worked outside the parish and 1,648 inside, while 1,011 came into the parish to work from homes elsewhere. In 1911 there were 36 offices, warehouses, workshops, and factories, in 1921 there were 53, and in 1957 there were 87 factories and workshops. A good deal of the increase has been in engineering, in which 22 firms were engaged in 1957, a few of them employing 50 or more people. Of the remainder of the 87, 33 were factories (furniture, timber, &c.) and the rest were small workshops, garages, and so forth. (fn. 58) One noteworthy development was the opening by Warner Bros. in 1931 of the film studio in Broom Road. It is said to have produced 10 per cent. of British films before it was bombed and closed in 1944. (fn. 59) In 1957 the buildings which remained on the site had been used for some years as a temporary store by Hawker Aircraft Ltd.


  • 1. See p. 69.
  • 2. For the freeholders, see pp. 70, 71.
  • 3. They are called cotlandi in this custumal and coterelli in the 14th cent.
  • 4. There are 2 copies of this custumal: B.M. Add. Ch. 8139 and W.A.M. 9287.
  • 5. Cf. virgaters in W.A.M. 27197 with, e.g., S.C. 6/919 /2, 8.
  • 6. Guildford Mun. Rm. L.M. 323, m. 11.
  • 7. See p. 69.
  • 8. W.A.M. 27197.
  • 9. W.A.M. 27197 (extent and demense terrier); W.A.M. 27196 appears to be about the same date.
  • 10. Except where otherwise stated the medieval agrarian history is based upon the manorial accts. These survive for 1286–7, 49 yrs. between 1300 and 1379, 1406–7, 1409–10, and 18 yrs. between 1490 and 1545. It has been possible to consult only about half of them for this article, so that some of the statements made here must be regarded as provisional. The accts. are preserved partly at the P.R.O. (S.C. 6/918/1–25; /919/1–11; /Hen. VII 388–9; /Hen. VIII 2101–2, 2339, 6089–95), Westm. Abbey (W.A.M. 27174–83, 27186–94), and the B.M. (Harl. Rolls BB 22–24). Those at the P.R.O. were used in V.C.H. Mdx. ii. 62–64, 66, 69–71, 78–80. In addition to the ct. rolls (see p. 74, n. 36) and the rentals, custumals, &c. cited in the notes to this section, subsidiary manorial docts. are W.A.M. 26707 (view of acct.), 27184–5 (rectory accts.), 32023, 32038A, 32256 (accts. of repairs to buildings, &c.).
  • 11. It was done in 1301: S.C. 6/918/2.
  • 12. S.C. 6/918/2.
  • 13. e.g. B.M. Harl. Roll BB 22; S.C. 6/918/1, 2, 10, 16.
  • 14. M.R.O., F 37/4.
  • 15. S.C. 11/456 (rental). Another apparently incomplete rental of the same date is W.A.M. 27198.
  • 16. W.A.M. 9287.
  • 17. For the medieval and later position of the fields, &c., see p. 67.
  • 18. See p. 67.
  • 19. Req. 2/119/3.
  • 20. E 301/34/144; Guildhall MS. 9550; Census, 1801.
  • 21. Census, 1861.
  • 22. See p. 67 and occupations given in Census, 1801–31.
  • 23. M.R.O., H.T. 6, m. 17: in 1671 there were 75 households or houses, some of which were unoccupied.
  • 24. M.R.O., L.T.A. Mdx. 6779.
  • 25. See p. 71.
  • 26. There is, e.g. no evidence of any direct effect on the poor rates: see vestry min. bks. cited on p. 74, n. 40, and, e.g. Returns on Expense and Maintenance of Poor, H.C. 175 (1803–4), xiii (demi-folio); ibid. H.C. 82 (1818), xix (demi-folio).
  • 27. H.O. 67/16.
  • 28. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1866); see Teddington Memorial Hosp. Swan and Stag, ii (7), 10.
  • 29. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1874); cf. O.S. Maps 1/2,500 Mdx. xxv. 3, 4 (1st and 3rd edns.), Lond. cxxxi, cxxxii (2nd edn.).
  • 30. Teddington Memorial Hosp. Swan and Stag, i (6), 15.
  • 31. D.N.B.
  • 32. W. E. Bear, 'Flower and fruit farming in Eng.' Jnl. R. Agric. Soc. ser. 3, ix. 532.
  • 33. Census, 1921.
  • 34. See p. 68.
  • 35. Ex inf. Mrs. Poupart, Blackmore Farm.
  • 36. Fulwell Golf Course: Official Handbk. 14.
  • 37. For an account of the spread of building in the par., see p. 68.
  • 38. Census, 1861–1951.
  • 39. See p. 75.
  • 40. For societies, &c., see, e.g. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1845 and later edns.).
  • 41. See catalogues of B.M. Newspaper Libr. and Twickenham Libr.
  • 42. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1902).
  • 43. Teddington Memorial Hosp. Swan and Stag, ii (7), 31.
  • 44. See p. 68.
  • 45. Teddington Memorial Hosp. Swan and Stag, i (3), 61.
  • 46. Rocque, Map of 10 miles round Lond. (1746).
  • 47. It employed at least one weaver: 'Cath. Reg. of Isleworth' in Miscellanea (Cath. Rec. Soc. xiii), 303, 305.
  • 48. C 54/7518, map at m. 1: the Bleach Field is mentioned but the house which seems to have belonged to Goodchild in Rocque's map is here called the old factory: ibid. m. 21.
  • 49. Lewis, Topog. Dict. (1831).
  • 50. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1914); see also Teddington Memorial Hosp. Swan and Stag, i (4), 35; i (7), 13–15.
  • 51. Ex inf. Paint Research Station, Waldegrave Rd.
  • 52. F. S. Thacker, Thames Highway: Locks and Weirs, 468.
  • 53. C. S. Johnson, 'Totyngton-Teddington' (notes of a lecture preserved in Twickenham Public Libr.): the evidence for the statement is not known; cf. V.C.H. Mdx. i. 268–9.
  • 54. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1845, 1855, 1878).
  • 55. Thorne, Handbk. to Environs of Lond. (1876), ii. 603: for the inns, see p. 69.
  • 56. Kelly's Dir. Mdx. (1855).
  • 57. Ex inf. Tough Bros. Ltd.
  • 58. Census, 1911, 1921; ex inf. Twickenham Boro. Co.
  • 59. Teddington Memorial Hosp. Swan and Stag, ii (10), 23; The Times, 13 July 1944; The Star, 26 Oct. 1944.