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Welcome to the Richmond Local History Society

COMING UP Our December talk has a Christmas theme

Mr Fezziwig’s Ball. Illustration by John Leech from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, London 1843

Our speaker on Monday 13 December is local author George Goodwin, whose book Christmas Traditions reflects the joyful nature of Christmas time. Join him as he shares his enthusiasm for a very special time of year and explores the gradual creation of our modern celebrations.

George has adapted his highly-illustrated Christmas talk to consider when and how the modern commercial Christmas came to Richmond – which may be earlier than many might think!  As a postscript, he takes one church in Kew St Anne’s to illustrate the origins of the religious celebration of the Christmas story.

George Goodwin

George Goodwin, who lives in Kew, has written Benjamin Franklin in London: The British Life of America’s Founding Father; Fatal Colours – Towton 1461, War of the Roses; and Fatal Rivalry – Henry VIII, James IV and the battle for Renaissance Britain. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Royal Society of Arts.

Find out about all our forthcoming talks.

UPDATED Catch up on our previous talks

Our YouTube channel now has videos of four of our talks in 2021:

  • Simon Targett’s talk earlier this month on Robert Walpole and his connections with Richmond
  • Paul Velluet’s talk last month on Arts and Crafts architecture in Richmond
  • Judy Weleminsky’s talk in April on Petersham philanthropist and amateur artist Tony Rampton
  • Stephen Bartlett’s talk in March (a joint event with the Kew Society) on the early history of Lawn Crescent, Kew.
  • You can also read reports – in our website’s Archive section – on previous talks.

NEW Richmond History, our double award-winning journal

We are delighted that our journal has won an award from the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society  (LAMAS). The 2020 issue of Richmond History – produced with colour illustrations for the first time – was the winner in the category for best journal in LAMAS’s 2020 Publications Awards, announced on 13 November.

An article by Martin Stilwell, describing Kew and North Richmond’s industrialisation in the First World War, was given an award earlier in 2021 by the British Association for Local History.

Also in the 2020 issue are articles by Robert Wood on Richmond’s first balloon flight, Stephen Bartlett on the history of Lawn Crescent, Kew and its early residents, and Ron Berryman on Isador Caplan, one of founder members of the Richmond Society.

Buy the 2020 journal (postage-free in the UK), using your credit card or debit card:

Richmond History 41 (2020)

This year’s journal – our 42nd – features Richmond Park ad celebrates an international tennis champion from Richmond, Betty Nuthall.

When Betty won the women’s singles title at the US National Championships in 1930, The New Yorker described her as  “England’s most photographed female”. Rose Barling tells the story.

Ground-breaking research by new contributor Timothy M M Baker has revealed the site of a Second World War radio observatory in Richmond Park, which made pioneering discoveries about the Sun as a radio source.

And, using extracts from historic maps drawn up over the past 400 years, Dr Robert Wood looks at what they can tell us about the park’s history. The six maps are illustrated in colour.

This year’s journal has 94 pages, more than 30 of them in colour. Find out more about this issue.

Copies of both journals are available (£5 members, £7 non-members) from our online bookshop. You can also buy the journal and our other publications from The National Archives’ shop, Kew Bookshop, The Open Bookshop in Richmond, Parade’s End Books in Ham, Richmond Local Studies and the Museum of Richmond.

Buy the 2021/22 journal (postage-free in the UK), using your credit card or debit card:

Richmond History 42 (2021/22)

NEW For our first talk in 2022 we will hear stories about Cambridge Park in East Twickenham, just across the river

Jonathan Crofts

Our 2022 talks programme kicks off on Monday 17 January when local historian Jonathan Crofts will give a talk based on his book Meadows, Mansions and Munitions. Cambridge House and Park’s streets and gardens have a history to rival that of neighbouring Marble Hill House and Park.

Find out more.

NEW Railway to nowhere

by Simon Fowler

It’s not hyperbole to say that the railway transformed Richmond and Twickenham. The railway from London arrived in Richmond in 1846, crossing the Thames two years later towards Twickenham and points west.

A decade earlier, in 1836 there was much discussion about the construction of a City and Richmond Railway. The grand idea was to unite all the railways then being built into London into one terminus south of the Thames near Southwark Bridge. The new station would have been within easy walking distance of the City.

It was intended that the construction of the line would have been funded by revenues from an initial branch line to Richmond. In the company prospectus investors were promised eye-watering dividends of up to 30 per cent per annum. In fact, not a penny was paid out nor a brick laid, the company eventually collapsing amidst an acrimonious legal dispute over unauthorised expenditure by the secretary, which had bankrupted the railway.

The prospectus suggested that just over a million people a year would pay a shilling each to travel from Southwark to Richmond and another 700,00 passengers nine pence each to travel the slightly shorter distance from Richmond. These figures were clearly conjured out of thin air. As railways were still very new nobody had any idea how popular they would be. A shilling was getting on for a day’s wage for labourer, so the directors were looking towards a more affluent clientele.

The line would have been constructed across the built-up parts of London on nearly two thousand arches. An advertorial in The Times described the arches striding through the Borough traversing “Blackfriars Road by a splendid arch” and ending near Vauxhall Bridge where the railway would divide into various branches to Southampton, Brighton and Richmond. The company even published a lithograph showing the railway cutting through Lambeth and Battersea. Copies can be found online.

From the map which came with the prospectus the line of the railway to Richmond would have been almost identical to the one that was constructed in the mid-1840s, using the flat terrain along the Thames with stops in Putney, Mortlake and Richmond.

The directors suggested that “passengers would have been conveyed to the city in 25 minutes” – comparable to the journey time today. When the line was eventually built, it actually took 40 minutes to get to Waterloo, still considerably faster than the two hours it previously took. And in more comfort too.

Like so many railway companies of the period, the City and Richmond never raised enough capital. It was a preposterous idea, as each of the companies which they hoped to link preferred to build their own terminuses. Something which passengers still rue today.

This article was originally published in the Twickenham and Richmond Tribune, 19 November 2021.

Two ten-minute talks

The British Association for Local History (BALH)’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. And Ralph Thompson at The National Archives writes about the restrictions on public access to Richmond Park in the 18th century and the attempts to overturn them. Read Ralph’s blog.
  • an article on Richmond’s almshouses. Find out more.
  • an article, based on Charlotte Papendiek’s memoirs, about members of the Royal Family, living in Kew, being vaccinated against smallpox. Read the article.
  • 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

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, The National Archives’ shop 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 several smaller companies largely making aircraft and parts for Sopwith including the Whitehead Aircraft Company.

Find out more