The origins of the name have long since been lost, but there are two theories that exist; 'Mortuus Lacus', which means 'The Dead Lake', and as it was recorded in the Domesday Book as 'Mortelage', which is thought to mean 'A small stream containing young salmon'. The latter seems more likely, as it is also believed to refer to a fishery that once operated on a tributary of the River Thames.
The land once included Wimbledon and Putney, and belonged to the Archbishop of Canterbury until the reign of Henry VIII in the 16th Century when it was passed to the Crown. In the early 17th Century, a tapestry works was established and Mortlake was celebrated for their craft. Upon its closure in 1703, after the civil wars, market gardening and brewery became its main industries.
Mortlake was originally a riverside village, and this origin is preserved with the few late 15th Century houses that still stand along the riverfront today at Thames Bank. Since 1845, Mortlake has been the finish-point for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, marked by the University Boat Race stone just downstream of Chiswick Bridge. Also, several other important rowing races over the Championship Course either start or finish at the stone. Another point of interest is that St. Mary Magdalene's Church is the resting place for many famous names, among them being Sir Richard Burton and his wife Isbael Arundell.