Welcome to the Richmond Local History Society

Our talks programme resumes in September

Melanie Backe-Hansen

Our speaker on Monday 13 September, Melanie Backe-Hansen, will talk on Tracing the history of your house. Find out about all our forthcoming talks.

UPDATED Catch up on our previous talks

Judy Weleminsky

Extract from a self-portrait of Tony Rampton

There were 68 Zoom log-ins at Judy Weleminsky’s talk on 19 April about Tony Rampton OBE, a pioneering philanthropist who lived in Petersham and was also an accomplished amateur artist.

If you missed the talk, or would like to hear it again, it’s now available on our YouTube channel and you can also read a report on it written by RLHS member John Foley.  Read reports of this and previous talks.

Richmond’s almshouses

Bishop Duppa’s Almshouses. Photo: Andy Scott/Wikimedia Commons

Hickey’s Almshouses. Photo; Colin Smith/Wikimedia Commons

Richmond upon Thames has many almshouses. Remarkably, new ones are still being opened.

Find out more.

You can read more about Richmond’s historic almshouses, and the lives of their residents, in our book Poverty and Philanthropy in Victorian Richmond.

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, 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, the Observatory 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 Unique air raid shelter found at Manor Road allotments

by Simon Fowler

I was recently alerted to an air raid shelter in the allotments at Manor Road, Richmond. Such shelters are extremely rare. Naturally most were demolished after the Second World War. A few Anderson shelters, which were designed for domestic use, survive as greenhouses. Indeed, the allotments still has a fine crop of very rusty Anderson shelters which are used by holders to store plants and equipment. 

This shelter looked more or less as it was 80 years ago. It was now a toilet block and store. Windows had been punched through the thick walls, but little else had changed, even down to the light fittings. One could easily imagine local residents nervously sheltering from raids on chilly winter evenings.

Yet my research made it clear that the shelter was never used – at least for the purpose it was designed.

Richmond’s largest set of allotments lay off Manor Road. During the war there were 187 plots available for annual rent at 25 shillings per plot. Because of their size and location by the railway they were a potential target for enemy aircraft. Indeed, a bomb landed between plots 161 and 163 during a raid on 29 September 1940, demolishing a shed.

The Manor Road Allotment Association in November 1940 petitioned the council to provide a shelter for the allotment holders. It could also be used by the residents of nearby streets as well. As there was a shortage of public shelters in the area, Richmond council readily agreed to build a shelter to accommodate 48 people, although “no bunk beds were to be provided”. Interestingly the Association also cunningly argued that the shelter could be used to “provide much needed accommodation at the end of the war for allotment storage purposes”.

It is not known exactly when the shelter was built (or at what cost), but it was not ready until the following summer. But by then the Blitz was over and the Luftwaffe now rarely raided Britain. The numbers using the shelters across the area rapidly fell away. By the end of 1941 only a few dozen people were sheltering in the hundred or so shelters provided across Richmond each day. In early 1942 the council decided to close all, but a few in the main shopping areas, as there seemed to be no point in keeping them open.

Entrance to air raid shelter in St Leonard’s Court, East Sheen. Photo: Robert Smith

All, except two public shelters, were eventually demolished. One survives in East Sheen, and the one here is still used for the purpose it was probably really built for. It is a unique survival and deserves to be protected

This article was originally published in Twickenham and Richmond Tribune, 28 May 2021.

**An allotment holder has now suggested that the shelter was built for use by a barrage balloon crew based in the area. There seems no written evidence for this, but it is possible that it was handed over to Balloon Command as accommodation. Can anyone reading this provide additional information?

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.

Industry in 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
  • articles by our Society’s founder, the late John Cloake, and by present-day Richmond Park historian Dr Robert Wood, dispelling myths about Richmond Park. Did Henry VIII stand on what is now called King Henry’s Mound, to watch for a sign from St Paul’s  (which is visible from the mound) that Anne Boleyn had been executed at the Tower of London? Find out more. And why is the strip of land immediately outside the park’s wall called the “deer leap” or “freebord“? Find out more.
  • an article on the explorer Richard Burton, who went to school in Richmond and is buried in Mortlake
  • a history of Walnut Tree Meadow Allotments in Ham by Dr Linna Bentley

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