Welcome to the Richmond Local History Society

Our header image is from a self-portrait of Anthony Rampton OBE (1915-1993), a businessman, philanthropist and very accomplished amateur artist who lived in Gort Lodge, Petersham and is buried in St Peter’s Churchyard. He was the subject of our talk on Monday 19 April.

COMING UP On Monday 17 May we have our AGM and a talk on Artists and paintings in Richmond, Twickenham and Kew

Jane Short

The speaker at our May meeting is Jane Short, who has lived locally since 1967 and is a long-time member of the Richmond Local History Society. Before retirement she was a local government officer in Hounslow, where she was a founder member of Hounslow Heritage Guides from 1993; five years later, she also qualified as a Richmond Heritage Guide.

Jane will be looking at professional and amateur artists who have painted in Richmond, Twickenham and Kew, exploring their local connections, and telling us how Richmond is connected with the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.  Jane’s talk will follow immediately after our AGM, which starts at 8pm.

The King’s Observatory: Richmond’s Science Story

The King’s Observatory, in Old Deer Park

The new Museum of Richmond exhibition The King’s Observatory: Richmond’s Science Story, currently available online only, tells the story of the important scientific discoveries and other remarkable achievements made at the Observatory. Now surrounded by a golf course in Old Deer Park, it was built by Sir William Chambers for King George III to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun in 1769.

Find out more in Stewart McLaughlin’s “The early history of Kew Observatory”, first published in Richmond History 13 (1992).

NEW Robert Walpole and Richmond

Robert Walpole, regarded by historians as Britain’s first Prime Minister, started his 21-year premiership 300 years ago, on 3 April 1721. Our speaker on 8 November, Dr Simon Targett, will be telling us about Walpole and his connections with Richmond.

Find out about all our forthcoming talks.

UPDATED Catch up on our previous talks

Lawn Crescent. Copyright Stephen Bartlett

There were 195 Zoom log-ins at Stephen Bartletts talk about Lawn Crescent on 8 March, a joint event with the Kew Society.

If you missed the talk, or would like to hear it again, it’s now available on the Kew Society’s YouTube channel (which also has a video recording of Tracy Borman’s talk on 7 April to the Kew Society on Henry VIII and the Men Who Made Him).

Stephen has an article about Lawn Crescent in the current issue (no 41: 2020) of our journal, Richmond History, which is available from independent local bookshops in Richmond, Kew or Ham, or from our own online bookshop.

John Foley has written reports on Stephen’s talk and Andrew George’s February 2021 talk on the gardens of Twickenham Park. Read reports of our previous talks.

NEW Richmond at War 1939-1945: Bombs on Crown Terrace

The last fatal bombing raid on Richmond occurred on 16 April 1941.

Marie Lawrence and her family sheltered in the Anderson shelter in their garden. She wrote in her diary: “There was a continuous roar overhead all night and at 10.45pm we heard a terrible roar. I thought it was a train coming along the line and then I realised that it was a bomb and I said ‘ears’ and we ducked. The roaring went on for seconds, then there was a tremendous crash, bump and bang all at once and the lamp blew out and smashed.”

Fortunately, they were safe, but next morning she found that the back windows and the glasshouse glass had been blown out. “Oh, what a mess it looks terrible,” she wrote. The Richmond Herald later summarised the evening’s activities: “Two bombs fell in Crown Terrace. Among the victims was a woman who was taking coffee to her husband on fire-watching duty and a woman in a passing motor car who was hit with a fragment of cement…the second bomb fell at the junction of Sheen Vale and the Bricklayers Arms and a man and a woman in a passing motor car were among those injured, the woman fatally. The car was lifted from the road to the pavement by the force of the explosion.”

Mr and Mrs Thomas Sargent and their 10-year-old daughter June, who were in their Anderson shelter at 34 Crown Terrace, were killed by a direct hit. Mrs Hyde and her baby who usually shared the shelter were away. Mr Sargent had been on duty as a firewatcher and had returned home to see how his wife was getting on. Their house and the adjoining one were almost completely demolished, the roof and upper floor sloping down sharply, but a piano and other furniture on the ground floor could still be seen undamaged. Out of one house Mrs Ayling and her three children, two girls and a boy, emerged only slightly injured. Mrs Ayling had her leg and her head cut. They had been sheltering under the stairs. Mr Ayling was also away fire watching. Their Anderson shelter, with its bunks, was flattened by the direct hit.

Marie wrote that: “The crater they say is a tremendously big one. Houses in Crown Terrace and Victoria Villas are down. The second bomb fell outside the Bricklayers Arms which has broken two water mains. The places look terrible.”

And then there was silence. For three years there were just a few nuisance raids on Richmond or the neighbouring areas. This would change with the V1 and V2 rockets.

This article, by Simon Fowler, originally appeared in the Twickenham and Richmond Tribune on 9 April 2021. You can read more about Richmond and the Second World War in Simon Fowler’s book Richmond at War 1939-1945, available from Richmond Park’s information centre just outside Pembroke Lodge, the Kew Bookshop, the Open Book at King Street in Richmond, Parade’s End Books in Ham and our own online bookshop.

 Richmond in the First World War 1914-1918

In 1914 Richmond had little industry, but inevitably this changed during the First World War. As well as Sopwiths giant aircraft works in Ham, there were also several smaller companies largely making aircraft and parts for Sopwith including the Whitehead Aircraft Company.

Find out more

You buy the book – we pay the postage!

“A joy to read and attractively designed with some excellent illustrations” Simon Fowler

In The Richmond Vicars, Derek Robinson has uncovered stories about the ministers of St Mary Magdalene, Richmond since the 16th century. They include two vicars ejected for their political views, another who inspired Gulliver’s Travels, and a pair of performing poodles, Mouton and Don. Published by the Museum of Richmond, copies are available direct from us, now postage-free in the UK.

Our online bookshop also offers these publications postage-free to UK addresses:the 2020 issue (no 41) of our journal, Richmond Historythe 2019 issue (no 40), including a history of early performances at Richmond Theatre
Old Palace Lane: Medieval to Modern Richmond (second edition, 2020) – a fascinating and very readable history of arguably Richmond’s most historic street, accompanied by four pages of historic maps, all in full colourPoverty and Philanthropy in Victorian RichmondSimon Fowler writes about the lives of those living in our  almshouses and the local workhouse and how charities tried to assist people in need – a reminder that despite the appearance of prosperity there have always been pockets of poverty in RichmondThe Streets of Richmond and Kew, which includes an up-to-date full colour map, helping you explore the local area while discovering the history of each street

 The West London History Conference turns 40

The West London History Conference is an annual event organised jointly by the Richmond Local History Society and other local history societies in west London. Liz Velluet, Secretary of our own society, has been the conference’s Secretary since 1988.

Find out more about the 2020 event, which took place online and view a souvenir booklet commemorating the conference’s 40-year history.

Two ten-minute talks

The British Association for Local History’s website has speaking notes and slides for two ten-minute talks by our Vice-Chair, Simon Fowler. Find out more about Being old in Victorian Richmond and An Alternative Local History: the time traveller of Richmond.

Resources on Richmond’s history are at your fingertips

The Star and Garter Home in Richmond. Image: Carcharoth/ Wikimedia Commons

Our website’s Resources section includes two articles from our Richmond History journal on Richmond’s former Royal Star and Garter Home. Stephen Spencer writes about the disputes concerning the building of the new home in the 1920s. Simon Fowler reflects on the remarkable philanthropy of British and overseas people, especially women, who gave money to establish it. Find out more 

Our Resources pages also include:

Elsie Chamberlain, the Vineyard Congregational Church’s first female minister

London United Tramways tram in front of its tram-shed on the Kew Road, c1900