Three bridges have spanned the Thames at this point, but before the first bridge was built a horse-ferry carried traffic across the river.
From 1659, the ferry was owned by the Tunstall family of Brentford. Robert Tunstall petitioned Parliament to replace the ferry with a bridge and in 1757 was authorised to begin construction 100 yards down-stream. The structure was built in 1758 – 59 by John Barnard, who had worked on Westminster Bridge
The scour of the river began to cause damage to the wooden structure and, because the bridge was difficult to navigate, it was regularly hit by barges.
A new bridge, designed by James Paine, was built of Portland and Purbeck stone. In 1789 the new stone bridge was opened with a long procession led by George III.
In 1873 the bridge was sold to the Metropolitan Board of Works, who made it free of tolls. Later, the bridge was transferred to the Surrey and Middlesex County Councils.
The councils agreed to widened the structure. Sir John Wolfe Barry, who created Tower Bridge, informed the counties that the bridge should be rebuilt for reasons of safety and economy.
In 1898 an Act was passed to replace Paine’s bridge and the new structure was built by Easton Gibb to the designs of Sir John Wolfe-Barry and C A Brereton. Constructed with concrete foundations and piers and abutment of granite from Aberdeen and Cornwall, the bridge has three arches and is decorated with the coats of arms of the two counties.
Opened by Edward VII in 1903, the new structure was named the King Edward VII Bridge in his honour. However, the new name was unpopular and after a few years it reverted to Kew Bridge.