The ferry crossing at Twickenham in southwest London, though existing for hundreds of years as a way for the residents of the local manor, Ham House, to reach the village, is best known for a short span of three years in the 1740s when a unlicensed ferry became known as the way to get to what would now be called a party barge, causing an uproar among the local populace for the late-night carousing and disorderly conduct.

Ten miles to the southwest of central London, Twickenham is the way to privately-owned Eel Pie Island, the site of a renowned jazz club in the 1920s and 1930s and a rock-and-roll club from 1957 to 1971. David Bowie, Pink Floyd, the Who, the Yardbirds, Genesis and Black Sabbath, to name only a few, all staged concerts there.

A ferry line was known to exist there in 1652, if only because of a published notice that use of the Twickenham Ferry, also called the Dysart Ferry, was prohibited after sunset. The ferry did not sail across the Thames or get rowed across — instead, the boatman pulled the boat along by way of a chain embedded in the river bottom. The terminus in Twickenham was not in the village itself, but upstream at a point that just avoided the tip of Eel Pie island. These boats and the boatmen were all licensed as a ferry service by the Lord of Ham House. It was the unlicensed ferry of the 1740s that became the problem.

In 1743, four residents of Twickenham decided that there might be profit in setting up transport to a barge called the Folly that was anchored in the Thames near Eel Pile Island. Samuel Kain, Samuel Kain the Younger, Margaret Langely and an individual known only as Treherne ran the ferry service to the Folly through the evening and early morning hours, much to the consternation of residents. The Lord Mayor of London received several complaining letters in 1745 and referred the matter to the local courts. In 1746, the Folly and the ferry that served it were both shut down by court order.

The chain ferry continued to operate as needed under the auspices of the Lord of the Manor for the next two hundred years. When Ham House became part of the National Trust in 1948, a private operator took over operations. Dwindling ridership and a right-of-way dispute closed the Twickenham Ferry in 1985. Today, Twickenham and Eel Pie island are connected by a narrow footbridge.