Closing Thames Street

The Thames Street affair was one of the most controversial issues in the history of Mortlake. Thames Street was one of the more important highways in the town until its closure in 1866. It ran from the junction of the Lower Richmond Road and the High Street, through what is now the heart of the brewery, to emerge on the banks of the river near Bulls Alley. Charles Phillips and James Wigan, owners of the brewery, applied to the Vestry in 1865 for permission to:

divert and stop up Thames Street leading from the towing path on the River Thames opposite to the wharf of the parish through their property and joining the road from Richmond at the back of the High Street, and also Brewhouse Alley leading from the Thames to the High Street; adding to Bulls Alley as much of the land on the east side thereof as will make the passage 30 feet wide; and also widen the High Street from the Tithe Barn to the King's Arms corner of the High Street.

A detailed map was supplied. The Vestry rejected the request by 27 votes to 19. A poll was demanded and held on 6 April. There was much discussion in the parish and feeling ran high pending the poll. Posters were put up throughout the neighbourhood. The local historian C. Marshall Rose commented "the stinging, caustic wit obviously captures the atmosphere in which the poll was taken – the author was certainly not a country bumpkin." The result was in favour of Phillips and Wigan by 237 votes to 123.

But the result of the poll was not the deciding factor. The case was transferred to the Kingston and then the Newington sessions where for several days more than 60 witnesses gave evidence. The Justices, Stuart Wortley and FM Ommanney, supported the closure with a rather lame argument:

the stopping up of Thames Street will remove a source of considerable danger to the persons going by the Lower Richmond Road to Barnes and London, or in that direction on foggy or dark nights in as much as Thames Street on such occasions appears to be liable to be mistaken for a part and continuation of the high road and the persons making such mistake and passing up the same night might be in danger of being precipitated into the river.