Image above: Kew Green c1810, West family home shown on the right
It was 1809 and the patriarch was dead. Henry West was long gone and with him the little empire he had built at Kew was dying; the old Swan Tavern on the Brentford Ait had been surrendered by his wife in 1793 to Thomas Samuel Maycock and from him to Elizabeth Legh and her descendants; until finally Robert Hunter the irritated occupant of the house opposite, made a complaint to the City of London about the noise. The island, he said ‘was a great Nuisance to the parish and Neighbourhood on both sides of the river…,’ it lured, enticed and encouraged the worst type of behaviour drawing debauched individuals to the ‘House of Entertainment, which has long been a Harbour for Men and Women of the worst description, where riotous and indecent scenes were often exhibited during the Summer months on Sundays.’
Whilst under the proprietorship of the West family, the Swan Tavern dazzled George IV and he used it to plot his seduction of Mary Robinson, but by 1800 his father’s court had drifted away to Windsor and old King George III paid his last visit to Kew in 1806. He did not return to this fond place of memories for his jubilee, but the remaining members of the West family including my great, great, great grandparents Henry and Henrietta would have joined in the celebrations on Kew Green:
‘The morning was ushered in by the firing of cannon, and the ringing of bells. The board of Artifers walked in procession to church at ten o’clock. After divine service, Messrs. George and Henry Warren [local landowners and probably relatives of Henry West’s chum Thomas Howlet Warren] entertained 100 persons with roast beef, plum-pudding, &c. in a spacious marquee, erected for the purpose, upon Kew Green. Porter ale, and punch, were likewise plentifully distributed. On his Majesty’s health being drank, 50 pieces of cannon were discharged. In the evening, the whole town was illuminated. A grand gothic arch was erected, from the centre of which the British Star was suspended, and underneath a striking likeness of his Majesty, with the motto of ‘Virtue, Honour, and Glory.’ The whole of the trees around the green were illuminated by variegated lamps, in radiant arches, wreaths, and columns, and the evening concluded with a rustic dance, and fire-works.’
Surely even a fogyish stick-in-the-mud like Robert Hunter would not have objected to such a celebration on his doorstep?
(c) 2022 Mish J Holman. Not to be reproduced without permission.
An account of the celebration of the jubilee, on the 25th October, 1809; being the forty-ninth anniversary of the reign of George the third, collected and publ. by a lady, the wife of a naval officer.