Richmond, London

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Richmond is a town in southwest London, England and is part of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is located 8.2 miles (13.2 km) west-southwest of Charing Cross.

The Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew World Heritage Site is in the Borough of Richmond upon Thames.

The founding and naming of Richmond followed the Tudor building of Richmond Palace early in the 16th century. During this era the town was particularly associated with Elizabeth I. The development of Richmond as a London suburb then began with the opening of the railway station in 1846. It was formerly part of the ancient parish of Kingston upon Thames in the county of Surrey and it became a municipal borough in 1890 that was enlarged in 1892 and 1933. It has formed part of Greater London since 1965.

Richmond is a much sought after residential location, and among the wealthiest areas in the United Kingdom. It is also a significant commercial and upmarket retail centre, and has a developed day and evening economy. The town is located on a meander of the River Thames, with a large number of parks and open spaces, including Richmond Park, and many protected conservation areas. Richmond is noted for its high quality of life, as well as its affluence, and has been assessed as one of the happiest places in the UK.

The area now known as Richmond was formerly part of Shene until about five centuries ago, but Shene was not listed in the Domesday Book, although it is depicted on the map as Sceon, which was its Saxon spelling in 950AD. Henry I lived briefly in the King’s house in Sheanes (or Shene or Sheen). In 1299 Edward I “Hammer of the Scots”, took his whole court to the manor-house at Sheen, a little east of the bridge and on the riverside, and it thus became a royal residence. William Wallace was executed in London in 1305, and it was in Sheen that the Commissioners from Scotland went down on their knees before Edward.

Edward II did not fare as well as his father. Following his defeat at the hands of the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, he founded a monastery for Carmelites at Sheen. When the boy-king Edward III came to the throne in 1327 he gave the manor to his mother Isabella. Edward later spent over two thousand pounds on improvements, but in the middle of the work Edward himself died at the manor, in 1377. Richard II was the first English king to make Sheen his main residence, which he did in 1383. Twelve years later Richard was so distraught at the death of his wife Anne of Bohemia at the age of 28, that he, according to Holinshed, “caused it [the manor] to be thrown down and defaced; whereas the former kings of this land, being wearie of the citie, used customarily thither to resort as to a place of pleasure, and serving highly to their recreation.” It was rebuilt between 1414 & 1422, but destroyed by fire 1497.

Following the fire Henry VII had a palace built there and in 1501 he named it Richmond Palace in recognition of his earldom and the ancestral home of Richmond Castle in Yorkshire. The town that developed nearby took the same name as the palace, and there are unconfirmed beliefs that Shakespeare may have performed some plays there. Once Elizabeth I became queen she spent much of her time at Richmond, as she enjoyed hunting stags in the “Newe Parke of Richmonde”. She died there on 24 March 1603. The image shown above right is dated 1765 and is based on earlier drawings. The palace was no longer in residential use after 1649, but in 1688 James II ordered partial reconstruction of the palace: this time as a royal nursery. The bulk of the palace had decayed by 1779; but surviving structures include the Wardrobe, Trumpeter’s House (built around 1700), and the Gate House, built in 1501. This has five bedrooms and was made available on a 65 year lease by the Crown Estate Commissioners in 1986.

Beyond the grounds of the old palace, Richmond remained mostly agricultural land until the 18th century. White Lodge, in the middle of what is now Richmond Park was built as a hunting lodge for George II and during this period the number of large houses in their own grounds increased significantly, such as Asgill House and Pembroke Lodge. These were followed by the building of further important houses including Downe House, Wick House and The Wick on the hill, as this area became an increasingly fashionable place to live. Richmond Bridge was completed during this period in 1777 as a replacement for a ferry crossing which connected Richmond town centre on the east bank with its neighbouring district of East Twickenham. Today, this, together with the well-preserved Georgian terraces that surround Richmond Green and line Richmond Hill to its crest, now has listed building status.

As Richmond continued to prosper and expand during the nineteenth century, much luxurious housing was built on the streets that line Richmond hill, as well as shops in the town centre to serve the increasing population. A large part of Richmond Hill is now a conservation area some of which is protected by an Act of Parliament. The town is now home to just over 20,000 residents.

The name chosen by the founder of the US city of Richmond, capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, derives from here. The founder had spent time in Richmond during his youth and knew that the views from the hills overlooking the rivers in both places were similar. Naturally these two Richmonds are twinned. In addition, Richmond is twinned with Fontainebleau, France and Konstanz, Germany.

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