The History of Richmond upon Thames

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The area now known as Richmond (or Richmond upon Thames) was, until about five centuries ago, part of Sheen. The Domesday Book of 1086 has it listed on the map as Sceon, which is known to have been its Saxon spelling as far back as 950AD. King Henry I lived briefly in the

King’s house in Sheen. In 1299 another monarch, Edward I , took the entire royal court to the manor-house at Sheen, a little east of the bridge and on the riverside and it thus became a royal residence. William Wallace (otherwise known as “Braveheart”) was executed in London in 1305, and Sheen was the place where the Commissioners from Scotland went down on their knees before Edward I who had defeated them.

King Edward II founded a monastery for Carmelites at Sheen and his son, Edward III then spent over two thousand pounds on improvements. Edward died at the manor, in 1377, before the work was complete. King Richard II made Sheen his main residence in 1383 and was the first English king to designate it as his main residence. Twelve years later Richard was so distraught at the death of his wife Anne of Bohemia at the age of 28, that he had the palace virtually destroyed. It was
rebuilt between 1414 & 1422, only to be destroyed by fire 1497.

Following the fire of 1497 Henry VII had another palace built there. He completed it in 1501 and named it Richmond Palace in recognition of his earldom and its ancestral home of Richmond Castle in Yorkshire. The town that sprung up in the shadow of the palace nearby took the same name. The palace fell into disuse use after 1649 and then, in 1688, James II ordered a partial reconstruction of the palace as a royal
nursery. The bulk of the palace had decayed again by 1779 and the a few surviving structures today include the Wardrobe, Trumpeter’s House (built around 1700), and the Gate House, built in 1501.

Richmond Park is Britain’s largest urban walled park. It is three times the size of New York’s Central Park at 2,360 acres and is the largest of the Royal Parks in London. It lies on the south western edge of London near to Richmond, Ham, Kingston upon Thames , Wimbledon , Roehampton and East Sheen. It was originally enclosed by Charles I in 1637 for use as a royal deer hunting park.

Since the Industrial Revolution , Richmond has been slowly surrounded by the urban sprawl that headed west out of central London. Despite now being completely enveloped by development, Richmond has clung on to its open spaces and retained much of its old buildings, and therefore its charm and character. The surviving buildings include the Richmond Theatre , which first opened in 1899, and is an important example of the work of theatre architect, Frank Matcham. Also still standing is the terrace of well preserved three-storey houses known as Maids of Honours Row, originally built in 1724 for the maids of honour (trusted royal wardrobe servants) of the wife of George II .

The site of Richmond College , (now known as: Richmond The American International University) has been used for educational purposes since the 1840s. It was at this time that the Methodist Church celebrated the centenary of Wesley’s Ministry by building two theological institutes, one near Manchester and one in Richmond. The manor house of Squire Williams and its spacious grounds on the brow of Richmond Hill were chosen as the site of The Richmond Wesleyan Theological Institute of 1843.

With a commanding view over the town from up on Richmond Hill, the former Star and Garter home was built on the site of an old hotel as a hospital for wounded servicemen. It’s just another of the fine old buildings that still grace Richmond today.

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