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Our next event, on Monday 9 February, is a dramatised reading

9 February 2015 Sabina Franklyn and Doug Pinchin MARY E BRADDON (1835–1915), NOVELIST

300px-Mary_Elizabeth_Maxwell_(née_Braddon)_by_William_Powell_FrithOf all Richmond’s famous writers, Mary Braddon was the most popular, and the most prolific. Her work is still studied at universities, yet in Richmond she is almost totally forgotten, despite the mark she left on the town – Lichfield Gardens covers just a fraction of her own estate; Marchmont and Audley Roads are named after her best known books.

This inattention will now be corrected by a dramatised reading, in which Sabina and Doug will bring her back to life. It is based on Secrets and Rumours, a play written by Doug and Richard Morris for the Orange Tree Theatre. (Sabina starred this year in the Orange Tree’s School for Scheming.) The Society has never before had the chance to present history in this way – and it will be appropriate: Mary Braddon was a playwright, and this will mark the centenary of her death.

Mary Braddon, who died in Richmond on 4 February 1915 and is buried at Richmond Cemetery, is commemorated by a bronze wall memorial plaque at St Mary Magdalene’s Church.

Read more about Mary Braddon.

The talk, which will be at Duke Street Church in Richmond TW9 1DH, starts at 8pm, with coffee available from 7.30. The talk is free to members. Visitors are welcome: admission £2.

Download a leaflet/poster about this event.

Christopher May 1943-2014

We are very sorry to announce the death, on Tuesday 11 November, of our Chairman, Christopher May.  Read more

Committee changes

Elections to the Society’s committee, including the post of Chairman, will be held at the Annual General Meeting on 18 May 2015. In the meantime, Robert Smith, the Society’s webmaster, has been appointed as Acting Chairman. David Blomfield, Vice-President, has resumed the role of editor of Richmond History, the Society’s journal; the next issue will be published in May.

Our journal, Richmond History

Richmond Hist  2014-cropped cover

Remaining copies of our journal, Richmond History, no. 35 (2014) are on sale, at  £4.95 (£3.95 to members).

Journal no. 36 (2015) is in preparation and is due to published in May. It will be edited by David Blomfield. Before his death, Christopher May handed over to David a fair number of articles ready for this issue, but there is still room for more. With the sad loss this year of our two most eminent researchers, we aim to maintain their high standards. If you have something to contribute, please contact David by email (david.blomfield@virgin.net) or tel (020 8940 8749), or by post at 7 Leyborne Park, Kew, Richmond TW9 3HB.

Women in West London’s History: Conference on 28 March

jpg WLC A4 poster 2015Richmond Local History Society is co-sponsoring the 35th West London Local History Conference, which will be held on Saturday 28 March 2015 at the University of West London, The Paragon, Boston Manor Road, Brentford on Saturday 28 March 2015.

Tickets, £15, are available only in advance at Richmond Local History Society lectures or from J McNamara, 31B Brook Road South, Brentford TW8 0NN. Please send a stamped addressed envelope and a cheque made payable to “West London History Conference”.

See the programme and download a poster.

Winnie in Richmond

So far as is known Winston Churchill only made two visits to Richmond during the Second World War. They couldn’t have been in more different circumstances.

The first was during the height of the Blitz. On 10 October 1940 Churchill made a surprise visit to 333 Heavy Anti Aircraft Battery in Richmond Park. The unit war diary records that he arrived at 8.30pm and spent about 75 minutes with the unit: “Prime Minister, Lt Gen Sir Frederick Pyle, Maj Gen Crossman, with other visitors arrive and inspect all instructions on position. They watch unseen target shooting first with VIE [?] and subsequently GL [gun laying].” Sir Frederick was General Officer Commanding Anti-Aircraft Command and Crossman was the Officer Commanding 1 Anti-Aircraft Division. Senior figures indeed. Nothing else is known about the visit or where Churchill came from or went to next.

170px-Churchill_V_sign_HU_55521The other took place on 2 July 1945 in very different circumstances. By now the war was all but over. Back home a general election had been called. As part of the campaigning Churchill made a triumphant procession through south-west London. The event had been well publicised and tens of thousands had turned out to cheer the Prime Minister. At 5.45pm he was due to arrive on Richmond Green, where he was to speak on behalf of the Conservative candidate George Harvie Watt, who had been Churchill’s private parliamentary secretary during the war.

He arrived in Richmond along the Lower Mortlake Road. The Times reporter said of the Prime Minister that “smiling he smoked his cigar and alternatively gave the V sign or waved his hat.”

Marie Lawrence, who was returning from a driving lesson, noted in her diary: “People were thronging everywhere to see Winnie. I came away from Holbrook and met Mrs Humphreys who was waiting for Churchill. Just at that moment came the outriders, then the mounted police, then a long open car and standing in the middle making the V sign to Churchill. The crowd went wild and shouted and cheered.”

The Prime Minister arrived on Richmond Green, which was full of thousands of his cheering and admiring supporters. There’s a short clip of film at Richmond Local Studies Library showing the PM’s arrival surrounded by crowds of people. Churchill is seen standing waving his hat. Standing on the running board at the back of the car are two Special Branch officers looking for all the world like American gangsters.

The Times said that “Churchill’s car stopped under some trees and here he made a long speech… Mr Churchill’s voice amplified by loud speakers was resonant and was clearly heard. ‘Can you hear me?” he asked at the beginning. The ‘Are we downhearted?’ When the cheers in response died away he said amid laughter ‘I only do this to test the microphone.’” He then spoke in support of Harvie Watt outlining his policies to rebuild post-war Britain.

The newspaper also noted that “The weather which had been threatening with overcast skies cleared while the Prime Minister was speaking and for a few minutes the sun shone… As Mr Churchill drove away [across Twickenham Bridge]… the people ran across the Green to give him a parting cheer. In a short time only a few people were left to listen to an address in an obscure corner of the cricket field on behalf of the Liberal candidate.”

The procession across south-west London made little difference to the election result. Most of the constituencies he passed through voted Labour, although Richmond remained in Conservative hands.

Richmond Park and its role in the First World War: a free exhibition

The Hearsum Collection at Pembroke Lodge has a free exhibition about Richmond Park and its important role in the First World War.

Military Band editedThe Second Battalion Artists’ Rifles leaving Richmond Park for a route march, headed by their band, 1914