Richmond Palace

IMG_2236

Between Richmond Green and the river Thames a royal palace once stood proudly alongside the water, its turrets thrusting into the sky. A 100-foot long great hall, a 200-foot long open gallery, a chapel and a library were all contained within its walls. Once a favourite haunt of Elizabeth I – who hunted in the nearby Old Deer Park – you will be called upon to use your imagination when visiting this site today as only traces remain.

richmond palace2

But there is certainly enough here to warrant a visit: the gatehouse in particular is well preserved. Although now privately owned (on land rented from the Crown Estate), you can still walk amongst the buildings, pass directly underneath the old gate, and see what remains…

IMG_2323

Built in around 1501 for Henry VIII (formerly the Earl of Richmond), royalty lived in Richmond Palace until 1649. The nearby town felt it sensible to obey Henry’s edict and change its name from Shene to Richmond. Tragically, the bulk of the Palace was demolished in the mid-17th and early eighteenth centuries.

IMG_2287

The street names themselves are evidence of the site’s former life –  today you can still traverse along Old Palace Yard, Old Palace Lane and The Wardrobe. Keep an eye out for the Royal bollards. As well as the five-bedroomed Gate House, you can see the Wardrobe (which was joined up to the Gate House in 1688-9), and the Trumpeters House (built in 1702-3, replacing the Middle Gate). Maids of Honour Row, just to the left of the Gate House along The Green, was built in 1724 for the women attending the Princess of Wales, though it was only used for this purpose for a few years. The Victorian explorer Richard Burton – whose tomb I visited last year – lived at number two as a child.

IMG_2302

IMG_2230

The closest station to the Richmond Palace zone is Richmond, which has all bases covered with tube, overground and National Rail services. Head to the southern side of Richmond Green to find the site. There are some very informative signs in the park just across the road from the Gate House; I recommend a quick read of these first to glean some basic history and to orientate yourself within this unusual site.

IMG_2218_2

IMG_2278

The view from Richmond Hill

If you had to guess the location of the only view in England that’s protected by an Act of Parliament, somewhere in the Lake District would possibly spring to mind, or perhaps the white cliffs of Dover. In fact it’s right here in London – the view from Richmond Hill. Sir Walter Scott (Heart of Midlothian) and Wordsworth (Sonnet June 1820) wrote about it, and Reynolds and Turner painted it. The view from the hill looks up the Thames towards Twickenham, and includes tiny Glover’s Island. And all to be found in zone four no less!

Turner – who lived nearby at Sandycoombe Lodge for a number of years – returned to this theme time and time again. A number of his paintings and numerous sketches show this view, or views of Richmond Hill itself – many of which can be easily viewed in digital format here on Tate Britain’s website. Reynolds lived on Richmond Hill itself – his 1788 work The Thames from Richmond Hill, can be seen here.

My photographs of the view were taken from the top of Terrace Gardens, which itself is also Grade II* listed and is on land that was originally three large private estates. The local authorities had been buying up various properties – including Glover’s Island – over the years in order to preserve and protect this area and its view. The view from Richmond Hill was officially protected in 1902 by an Act of Parliament known as the Richmond, Ham and Petersham Open Spaces Act. The National Trust took over the protection of the Petersham Meadows (at the bottom of the hill, on the left of these photographs) – and its languidly grazing cattle – in 2010.

Nearby: You are indeed spoilt for choice in Richmond and surrounds. Next to Richmond Hill is the lovely Richmond Park (pictured below), where you can watch wild deer roam and take tea in Bertrand Russell’s childhood home, Pembroke Lodge. Turner’s old house, Sandycoombe Lodge, will re-open for visits on the first Saturday of the month in April 2013. Nearby grand houses include Ham House (open some weekends in winter) and Marble Hill House (closed until late March 2013, but you can still visit its grounds and grotto).