A Day out from London
Richmond Palace, Park, and town have a long royal history. Henry I originally formed the Royal Manor of Kinston of which the area and palace called Shene was a part. It was given to the Norman family of Belet until the 1290s when Edward, Prince of Wales, rented the manor house. By 1313 it had reverted to the Crown. Richmond Park
Richmond Green was, before the royal takeover, common land providing pasture for animals. On the south-west side was the manor house, on the north-west were lands belonging to the Lord of the manor, and south-east were homes for tenants. The green was larger in those days.
Once the manor house became a royal residence the green served as a tournament and pageant location for the court. In the next 200 years the royal stables and grants of land took over parts of the green, and by the 17th century the animals had disappeared. Gentry homes were built on two sides of the green. A 19th century (restored in 1977) drinking fountain is located at the corner of Greenside.
Shene Palace was used at times by Edward I and II then became the property of Queen Isabella, Edward III’s mother. After she died, Edward III used it regularly and died there in 1377.
Richard II and his wife, Anne of Bohemia, favoured the palace and spent much time there. Anne died in 1394 of the plague at the palace, and Richard ordered the palace to be destroyed.
In 1414 Henry V began to build a new palace, but it was not finished until the 1440s under Henry VI. In 1497 fire ravaged the building. Henry VII, king at the time, rebuilt it and changed its name to Richmond Palace and the village name to Richmond in 1501. The name came from his earldom in Yorkshire. He died here in 1509, after which Henry VIII continued to use the palace until he took Hampton Court for his own.
Anne of Cleeves was given the palace upon her divorce, but she gave it back to Edward VI. In 1557 Queen Mary and Philip of Spain honeymooned in the palace. Queen Elizabeth I died here in 1603. Richmond became the seat of the new Stuart Prince of Wales. He planned rebuilding it, but died before anything was done.
King Charles formed Richmond Park and used the palace as a home for his children until the civil war. In 1650 the buildings were sold by the Parliament, after which the purchasers divided the property and demolished the main stone buildings—the chapel, hall, and royal apartments.
The Great Court (including the middle gate, wardrobe and brick buildings ranged along the wall) were all that remained after 1660. Only a small part of these Tudor buildings still exist. These include the gateway (much restored), palace gatehouse, and a portion of the old palace.
Opposite the gateway is the Trumpeters’ House, built in the early 1700s for a statesman and diplomat, Richard Hill. In the Museum of Richmond at the Old Town Hall is a model of the palace as it was in 1562.
The palace covered 20 acres and ranged from Richmond Green to the Thames river in one direction and from Wate Lane to about the location of the present Old Palace Lane. Because of the palace many nobles and wealthy people were influenced to build country residences in the area.
Richmond Park is a Royal Park and covers 2470 acres. It is mostly unchanged since its establishment by Charles I who commandeered the land from local farmers. He then built a wall around it to keep the farmers out. Although mainly grassland it is home to 200,000 trees.
The park has 7.5 miles for horse riding, cycle trails, two golf courses, a woodland garden, and herds of fallow and red deer. It is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest as it has 21 species of dragon and damsel fly and 200 species of beetle.
The park was first restricted to the royals and their friends with the occasional foray allowed by the poor to gather firewood. In the late 1700s a Richmond brewer brought a court action against exclusion, and the judge ruled in favour of the public, opening the park to all. During the mid 1700s gravel pits were transformed into ponds and fish were added to the streams.
The 42 acre Isabella plantation is home to wildlife and blooms in the spring with rhododendrons, camellias, magnolias, and azaleas. Bluebells and daffodils lend their colour to the ground. Stand on Henry VIII’s mound (a probable bronze age barrow) for far reaching views of the Thames and its valley. Nearby is Pembroke Lodge where a cafeteria serves tea and sandwiches. The building was the home of Bertrand Russell, mathematician and philosopher in the 19th century.
At the end of the mile long Queen’s Ride is White Lodge, a Palladian villa, built for Queen Caroline and George II as a hunting box. Another famous inhabitant was Queen Mary who grew up in the house and gave birth here to Edward VIII. The house now serves as the Royal Ballet School’s home base.
There are six main gates into the large park: Richmond gate (the nearest one to the station), Sheen gate (nearest Holly Lodge), Roehampton gate (near the golf course), Robin Hood gate (nearest to White Lodge), Kingston gate, and Ham gate. Holly Lodge in the park is an information centre and has park maps. Close to the Richmond gate is the Star and Garter hospital, a famous building.
Buildings of note around Richmond Green are:
King Street: Numbers 15,16, 17, 18 and 19 are 18th century buildings. No 14 dates from 1870. On the left at the southern corner of the green is Oak House dating from 1760. Old Palace Place dates from 1699-89. Parts of old timber houses, including Old Friars, date from the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
Opposite the Old Palace and Old Friars is a terrace of buildings considered one of Richmond’s most important locations historically. No. 32 dates from 1692. Friars Lane was the boundary between the palace of Henry VII and the 1501 friary.
South-west side of the green: Here is the Tudor Lodge dating from the early 19th century, the Tudor House and Tudor Place next to it were built in the 1650s. The Maids of Honour Row consists of four three-storey terrace houses built in 1724. The Old Palace House and Palace Gate House are next on the street and have many features of Henry VII’s outer palace wall.
Western corner of the green: Look for the Old Court House and Wentworth House, both dating from the early 1700s with later changes. Garrick Close is home to two groups of neo-Georgian style houses dating from 1960. A 1765 theatre was demolished to build them.
North-west side of the Green: once the site of Pembroke Lodge of the late 1600s but demolished to build houses in the 1840s.
Portland Terrace: the north-east side of the green was the site of large mansions for nobles in the early 1700s. They were demolished in the 1970s.
Little Green: a small green on the north-east side of the larger green has three historic houses and several of the 19th century including the United Reformed Church (1885), the library (1881), and the Richmond Theatre (1899).
Other buildings of note in the town
On Brewers Lane are antique, jewellery and gift shops that mimic the street’s usage for shops since the time of Queen Elizabeth I. Nos 12-14 date from 1690.
The Cricketers pub: on the site of cricket playground from 1666.
On Ormond Round are the Rosary and the Hollies, back-to-back houses dating from c 1700. Nearby on Church Terrace are four row houses dating from the 1720s. Next to them is Bethlehem chapel dating from 1797.
The Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene at the lower end of Church Terrace has a medieval tower dating from 1480 but the exterior of the church is of later date—18th century. The interior was renovated in the 1850s.
The railway bridge over the river was built in 1848. Nearby is a footbridge over the half-tide lock and weir opened in 1894. It was built to keep the water level more stable as the river is semi-tidal at this point. To the left of the footbridge is Asgill House built c 1760 for Sir Charles Asgill, Lord Mayor of London. A walk leads toward Richmond Bridge where Queensberry House dates from 17890. Richmond Riverside the next area along the walk has many renovated/restored buildings, including the old town hall and late 17th century Heron House.
Richmond Bridge was designed by James Paine and Kenton Couse and finished building in 1777 with widening in 1937.
Open: 7am in summer, 7.30am in winter for cars, 24 hours for pedestrians; closes at dusk year round.
Holly Lodge: Tel. 020 948 3209 for events and activities schedule.
Parking available in the park; walking distance from Richmond tube/train station.
Web: Richmond Park
Photos © by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland as follows:
deer by Peter; conduit wood by Derek Harper; flower bed by Colin Smith; Holly lodge by Eirian Evans; Portland Terrace by Ian Yarham
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