Kneller Gardens are named after German-born portrait painter Sir Godfrey Kneller, who was appointed Court Painter in 1680, knighted in 1691, later made a baronet in 1715. By then he had built his villa, Whitton House, on a site to the north-west of Kneller Gardens. The house was replaced by Kneller Hall in 1848, which is now the Royal Military School of Music. Maps of 1915 show the site of Kneller Gardens as a bathing place surrounded by farmland; in 1930 Twickenham Borough Council developed 12 acres here as a new recreation ground for Whitton's growing population. The park was officially opened in 1931 providing sports pitches and pavilions, a children's play area, and riverside walk with new trees and shrubs planted.
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Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) came to England in 1676 and was appointed Court Painter in 1680. Knighted by William III in 1691 he was made a baronet in 1715. By then he had moved to Whitton and built his villa, Whitton House in 1709-11. His many royal paintings include portraits of 10 reigning monarchs, Charles II to George I of England, Louis XIV of France, Peter the Great of Russia and the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI. Whitton House was enlarged, but later demolished and replaced by Kneller Hall in 1848, which is now the Royal Military School of Music, although the late C18th gate piers with wreaths and shallow urns still form the entrance.
In 1930 Twickenham Borough Council developed 4.86 hectares (12 acres) of the farmland as a new recreation ground for the rapidly growing population of Whitton. Maps of 1915 show a bathing place surrounded by farmland of Jubilee Farm Estate on the site of Kneller Gardens. The park was laid out at a cost of £4,000, and officially opened in 1931 providing sports pitches and pavilions, a children's play area, and riverside walk with new trees and shrubs planted. The gardens lie alongside the River Crane and now comprise part of the River Crane Walk, which continues to the west into the linear Crane Park (q.v.) following the river.
The Duke of Northumberland's River, which leaves the Crane in Kneller Gardens, is an artificial waterway constructed in the 1530s to provide water for flourmills in Isleworth from the River Colne to the west and which for part of its course joins the Crane. Kneller Gardens today includes sporting facilities, mature trees, grass and some flowers, with paths along the river and around the park perimeter.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; Chambers Biographical Dictionary, 1990 edition; John Archer, David Curson, 'Nature Conservation in Richmond upon Thames, Ecology Handbook 21', (London Ecology Unit) 1993