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Richmond, Surrey

Historical Description

Richmond, a town, a parish, and a municipal borough in, Surrey. The town stands on the river Thames at the boundary with Middlesex, 9¾ miles by railway WSW of Waterloo Bridge, London, and has a joint station for the L. & S.W. and North London railways, and one on the District and Metropolitan line. It was anciently called Sheen, a name signifying "brightness" or " splendour," and given to it on account of its natural beauties; was first called Richmond by Henry VII., from his own title before he became king; was originally a hamlet of Kingston; had a palace of the Anglo-Saxon kings; passed for some time to the Belets and the Walletorts; and returned to the Crown in the time of Edward I. That king built a palace, and received there the Scottish nobles after the death of Sir William Wallace. Edward III. and Anne of Bohemia, queen of Richard II., died in the palace. Richard II. deserted it at the death of the queen. Henry V. restored it. Edward IV. gave it to his queen. Henry VI. made it his frequent residence, held a tournament adjacent to it, and on its being accidentally destroyed by fire in 1498 rebuilt it. Philip I. of Spain was entertained in it in 1506. Henry VII. died in it. Henry VIII. kept Christmas there, and held a tournament adjacent to it in 1510. The Emperor Charles V. lodged in it on his visit in 1523. Cardinal Wolsey was allowed to reside in it in exchange for Hampton Court. Anne of Cleves also resided in it, but restored it to Edward VI. Queen Elizabeth, when princess, was imprisoned in it by Mary; she frequently resided in it during her own reign, and she died in it. James I. gave it to his son Henry, and afterwards to Charles. Charles I. was. frequently in it, made a collection of pictures in it, and settled it on his queen, Henrietta Maria. Charles II. was. educated in it under Bishop Duppa. It was greatly injured during the Civil Wars of Charles I.; it was sold by the Parliament; and, after the return of Charles II., it was restored to Henrietta Maria. It was then scarcely habitable, yet is. said to have been the nursing-place of the old Pretender, tha son of James II. It was afterwards sold; it gave place to. several houses-Queensbury Villa, Asgill House, and others, held under the Crown; and it is now represented by only the entrance-gateway of the wardrobe court, called Old Palace. Yard, and by some portions of the adjoining buildings. Caroline, queen of George II., had a lodge in the old or little park; yet she figures in Sir Walter Scott's " Heart of Midlothian " as receiving Jeanie Deans in the New Park. Richmond Park extends into the parishes of Mortlake and Putney; measures about 2300 acres in area and nearly 9 miles in circuit; was first enclosed by Charles I.; owes much of its present features to George II. and William IV.; abounds in exquisite sylvan scenery and in fine distant views; is stocked with deer; and contains or adjoins the White Lodge, Pembroke Lodge, the Thatched Lodge, Sheen Lodge, and other residences occupied by persons in connection with the Crown.

The town occupies a site of remarkable beauty at the base and on the slope of a hill, commanding a most magnificent view; had anciently a Carmelite convent founded by Edward II., a Carthusian priory founded by Henry V., and a house of Observant friars founded by Henry VII.; figures much in history in connection with its quondam royal palace; presents now a well-built, handsome, and pleasant appearance; enjoys ample communication with the metropolis by the Southwestern and the North London railways. The town was incorporated in 1890, and handsome municipal buildings were erected in 1893 at a cost of £24,000. They stand at the comer of Whittaker Avenue (the site was given by Sir Whittaker Ellis), and comprise the usual suites of rooms for the corporation and its officials. They have three fronts-one on Hill Street, a second on Whittaker Avenue, and the third facing the Thames; the open space from the wall to the towing-path being laid out as a pleasure ground. The building is in the Elizabethan Eenaissance style. The borough was extended in 1892, and now includes Kew, Petersham, and North Sheen, and is governed by a mayor, 10 aldermen, and 29 councillors. It has a head post office, a bank, several good hotels, a five-arched bridge, a railway bridge, a police station, two lecture-halls, atheatre, commodious baths, a free library and reading-room, six churches, several dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, a Wesleyan theological institution, an endowed school, four blocks of alms-houses, a dispensary, a workhouse, and miscellaneous endowed charities. Richmond Bridge, a fine stone erection built in 1774-77 at a cost of £26,000, is 300 feet long, and stands near three wooded islets. A handsome new footbridge, together with a lock and wen', were completed and opened by the Duke of York in 1894; the works were three years under construction, and cost over £60,000. The lock is of ordinary construction, but is more commodious than any other lock on the Thames, being large enough to take six barges and a tug. The sluices occupy nearly the whole breadth of the stream and are three in number. They differ from all other weirs on the river inasmuch as they are entirely movable, whilst an ordinary weir, such as that at Teddington, may be described as a step built in the river bottom, having shutters or sluices above to control the flow of water. At Richmond the bottom of the river is unbroken in level, the weir being, in fact, all sluice. Each sluice consists of a large steel shutter, suitably stiffened, 66 feet wide, 12 feet deep, and weighing 32 tons. To operate these sluices there is a double bridge above, and this is used as a footway connecting Richmond with St Margarets on the Middlesex side. The lock is what is known as a half-tide lock-that is to say, it is only used during the first part of the flood and the last part of the ebb; and it is during these periods that the sluices are closed. To raise and lower the sluices there is hand-worked machinery on the bridge above, and the balancing by counterweights is so well arranged that one man is able to cany out the operations at slow speed, or three men at a quicker rate of working. In order to overcome the effects of friction of the sluices in lifting, due to the head of water or otherwise, an ingenious roller principle has been adopted. The course of working is as follows:-Starting at high water, when the sluices are open, the attendant waits until the tide has ebbed away sufficiently, and then the three sluices are lowered until their lower edges nearly touch the bottom, thus forming a vertical wall blocking the arches of the bridge and preventing further ebb to tide. There is, however, a sufficient space between the bottom edge of the sluices and the river bottom to pass a volume of water equivalent to that flowing over Teddington Weir. It will be seen, therefore, that, so long as the sluices are down, the level of water in the reaches above remains constant; and thus Richmond, Twickenham, and Teddington now no longer suffer from an almost empty river bed. When the returning flood tide brings the stretch of water below the sluices to a level with that of the reach above them, the attendant again lifts the sluices, which remain open until the tide has once more fallen to the period of half ebb. Whilst the sluices are raised-that is, when the ebb and flow are at their highest periods, and there is deepest water in the river- the navigation is unobstructed, craft passing under the footbridges in the usual way. When the sluices block the fairway the lock is naturally brought into requisition. It will be seen that the sluices are vertical shutters when down, but an extremely ingenious arrangement has been devised to cause these shutters to lie in a horizontal plane when raised. It would be difficult to describe the method of operation without the aid of drawings, but it may be said to consist of a curved guide, by which the ends of the sluices are automatically directed, thus causing them to turn through a quarter of a circle as they ascend. When fully housed the sluices are, therefore, tucked away snugly overhead in the space between the two paths of the double footbridge. The advantage of this is twofold. In the first place, if the sluices were to remain in a vertical position they would detract greatly from the headway for passage of craft; and, secondly, they would form extremely unsightly features in the landscape. The bridge is a well-designed structure, and, as it is, the sluices do nothing to mar its pleasing outline. For the accommodation of the large number of pleasure-boats which throng this part of the river in summer, inclined planes, with rollers, have been constructed.

St Mary Magdalene Church is ancient, was restored and enlarged in 1866 at a cost of about £4500, and contains monuments of Thomson the poet, who was interred in it, Gilbert Wakefield the critic, Lord Brouncker, Viscount Fitzwilliam, Admiral Holbourn, E. Gibson the painter, Mrs Yates the actress, Edmund Kean the tragedian, Lady Margaret Chudleigh, Major Bean who fell at Waterloo, the Rev. R. Delafosse, the Hon. Barbara Lowther, and Mrs Hofland author of the " Son of a Genius." The churchyard contains the graves of Dr Moore author of " Zeiuco," Mallet du Pan editor of the "Mercure Britannique," Heydegger master of the revels to George II., and Lady Diana Beauclerk. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Rochester; gross value, £500 with residence. Patron, King's College, Cambridge. St John's Church was built in 1831, and is a stone building in the Gothic style. The living is a vicarage; gross value, £240 with residence. Patron, the Vicar of Richmond. St Matthias' Church was built in 1858, is in the Decorated English style, and has a tower and spire 195 feet high. The living is annexed to that of St Mary Magdalene. Holy Trinity Church was built in 1870, and is a plain stone building in the Early Norman style. The living is a vicarage; gross value, £360. Christ Church was at one time a Baptist chapel, but belongs now to the Established Church. The living is a perpetual curacy; gross value, £300. The Wesleyan theological institution was built in 1843 at a cost of about £10,000, and is in the Tudor style, 248 feet by 65, with wings and tower. A handsome Unitarian chapel was erected in 1895. Area of municipal borough, 1210 acres; population, 22,684; of the ecclesiastical parish of Holy Trinity, 5671; of St John the Divine, 6477; of St Luke, 2726; and of St Mary Magdalene, with St Matthias', 8454.

Mansions and villas, within the parish and in its immediate neighbourhood, are numerous. Rosedale House was the place where the poet Thomson wrote many of his works, and where he died; it was only a cottage in his time, but was enlarged soon after his death, and retains the rooms in which he studied. The splendid scenery within and around the parish and the superb view from Richmond Hill are sung in Thomson's " Seasons." On the lower road, facing the Thames, stands Buccleuch House, where the Queen and Prince Albert were entertained in 1842. In 1886 the house and estate were purchased by the Richmond Vestry for £25,000, but the house and part of the estate were afterwards sold for' £10,000 to Sir Whittaker Ellis, and the remaining grounds, comprising about 10 acres, devoted to the public as a park and pleasure ground under the name of the Terrace Gardens. The famous Star and Garter Hotel is situated close to the gates of the park on the hill. Richmond is a favourite resort for boating parties during the summer months. Her Majesty the Queen is lady of the manor. Dudley the son of Elizabeth's favourite was a native; and Dr Moore, Gainsborough, E. Gibson, Joseph Taylor, Mrs Yates, Edmund Kean, Collins the poet, Edema the landscape painter, and Sir Joshua Reynolds were residents.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountySurrey 
Ecclesiastical parishRichmond St. Mary Magdalene 
Poor Law unionRichmond 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Church Records, in association with Surrey History Centre, have images of the Parish Registers for Surrey online.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Richmond from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Surrey is available to browse.


Online maps of Richmond are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Surrey papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Surrey, 1662-1668 is available on the Heraldry page.

CountyRichmond upon Thames