Museum of Richmond

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The wonderfully varied architecture of Richmond  – a testament to the history of the area.

The borough of Richmond is home to many different styles of architecture dating from the 1600s. As a town which has attracted nobility, gentry and royalty, the architecture of Richmond often echoed the architectural fashions of the period such as Dutch or Germanic inspired design, Regency, Gothic or Classical styles. From ordinary town houses to mansions, villas and Royal palaces, architecture in Richmond was greatly varied and much is still visible today.

The town began as a small village but in the late 1600s there was a surge in building construction with houses for nobility and gentry, London merchants seeking homes outside but close to the capital. As well as building new houses they also converted existing buildings by adapting the frontage, work was often completed by local builders and craftsmen. In this period the boundaries of the town grew. This period gave many local craftsmen the chance to exhibit their work with elaborate carvings, cornices, and iron work, and in particular cherubs heads.

Richmond was home to many individuals of considerable wealth, who as early as the 1750s were instrumental in the construction of Richmond’s first Almshouse designed to house the poor. In this period of surge in building of the 1770s architectural fashions of the day were emulated in the designs of many of Richmond’s residencies, including ‘Dutch’ gables, Germanic turrets, ornate Victorian decoration and sub-Palladian villas.

During the 1840s the railway came to Richmond and with it brought more growth for the town as a new suburb of London. The construction of areas such as ‘New Richmond’ included rows of workmen’s cottages and grand villas, and many private estates had houses built on their land which bore their name. This expansion of population (4628 in 1801 and 9255 in 1951) also led to a growth in new churches and amenities being built. In 1890s one of the first council estates was built on the east side of Manor Road, after an Act of Parliament – Housing of the Working Classes Act.

During the 20th century many of the state homes were turned into Hotels including Bingham Villa, Hobart House and the Star and Garter which was rebuilt in 1921 to the appearance we see today. Between the wars new blocks of flats were built, along with new roads, and later in the century many of the grand villas were converted into more compact dwellings or demolished.

Richmond has always had strong links with royalty, and architecture is no exception. Richmond Palace which was built by Henry VII as a royal residence, and in the 1600s Kew Palace and Ham House were also built. Royals from Henry I to Charles II, George I and Caroline, Prince Henry and James I. Many of the staff of the royal households lived in the local area.