History of Whitton

whittonWhitton is first mentioned in historical documents around 1200, though it had probably been settled a century or so earlier. It remained an archetypal hamlet for centuries (specifically of Twickenham parish) but by the 16th century had already begun to attract outsiders.

Around 1640 Edmund Cooke built a large house close to the centre of the village. This was later bought by the court painter Sir Godfrey Kneller who pulled it down and in 1709 erected his own larger house. This in turn was considerably modified by later owners and was eventually acquired by the state in 1847 for use as a teacher training college. By this time the surviving parts of Kneller’s original structure had become unsafe and were demolished. They were replaced by new wings, producing Kneller Hall, the building seen today. Several local roads and buildings are named after the painter, including Kneller Road, Kneller Gardens, Godfrey Avenue and Kneller School.

At the centre of the original village, about 200 m from Kneller Hall is the White Hart, an inn dating back at least to the mid-17th century and possibly much earlier. Records relating to this inn seem to suggest that Whitton had an importance that was not well recorded, or that travellers passed through it in considerable numbers.

As recently as Victorian times Whitton was renowned as a ‘market garden’, known for its roses, narcissi, lilies of the valley and for its apple, plum and pear orchards. Indeed, until the 1920s the village was still separated from the surrounding towns by open fields and much of the earlier character of the old village was retained well into the 1940s. However, in little more than a decade all that changed.

A number of houses were damaged by enemy bombing in the early years of the Second World War. Before 1944, 86 Hounslow Road received a direct hit from a German bomb and was badly damaged, though not destroyed. In June 1944, 81 High Street received a direct hit from a V1 flying bomb. Part of the parade of shops and the flats above was totally destroyed and several people were killed.

In 1851 a Church of England elementary school was opened in the grounds of Kneller Hall, its playground adjoining Whitton Dene and Kneller Road surrounded by a high brick wall and a line of horse-chestnut trees. Originally co-educational, by the end of the Second World War it had become a boys-only school and remained in use until the 1960s. The name of the school was changed to “Whitton Boys Church of England Boy’s School”, known locally simply as “Whitton Boys”.

In 1862 the Gostling family, owners of part of the former estate of the Duke of Argyll, donated land at the junction of Hounslow and Kneller Roads for the Church of St Philip and St James (C of E) and for an adjoining vicarage, since replaced.  A non-conformist Gospel Hall was built in 1881 on the western side of Nelson Road a few metres to the north of the junction with Warren Road. This became redundant with the opening of Whitton Baptist Church in Hounslow Road in 1935 and was later used by various commercial enterprises.