Pictures cannot do justice to this walk, but that doesn’t matter because you’ll be able to use your own eyes. At the heart is a historic town with the remnants of a Tudor palace and much from the Georgian period, when so much of the London area was developed. This one is just about in Greater London, though right on its edge. The walk takes us up Richmond Hill to a Royal park, with views over the meadows of the Thames, and down to not one but two of the great mansions which were favoured by the aristocracy for their country locations and easy boat journey into Westminster and the City of London.
There’s a plethora of cafés, pubs and restaurants in Richmond itself, near the start and finish, but unlike the central London walks it does take you away from civilisation so it’s worth thinking about where to eat before you start.
An alleyway leads us to Richmond Little Green, where red brick flats on the northern edge were once home to Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Richmond Theatre was one of several lavishly escapist theatres designed by specialist Frank Matcham in the 1890s.
Georgian houses line the eastern side of the Green proper, and look out for Old Palace Terrace (shown right) which is especially picturesque. On the south side you’ll pass Maids of Honour Row, built for courtiers when the palace was still there.
After Henry VII became king in 1485, he built a palace here. The gatehouse and wardrobe (he had more clothes than us) survive. Inside the palace yard you’ll face Trumpeter’s House, built in place of earlier palace buildings in an act of early eighteenth century vandalism which has left us a beautiful house.
Before long we reach the river and Asgill House, another (but later) eighteenth century house built from stone within the palace grounds. The view along the river is to the only surviving Georgian bridge in London, which seems perfectly happy carrying double decker buses.
The riverside area immediately before the bridge was redeveloped in the nineteen eighties, reusing some facades but also designing new in a style which fits in perfectly, and is an improvement over the old.
The architect, Quinlan Terry (who you’ll come across in Regent’s Park too) borrowed an unused 200 year old drawing by William Chambers for the offices pictured above. The reused facades were the three nearest the bridge. The picture right shows a part of the development which Terry designed himself.
See if you can spot the local heron in or near the water. He’s usually there.
The walk up Richmond Hill takes you past more fine houses, some incorporating rather bijou shops. Eventually the houses on the right cease, and a view over the Thames and surrounding greenery opens up. (Pictured below). There’s an information board which will enable you to identify some of the sights, though changes in the foliage will sometimes foil your efforts.
It’s tempting to look only that way, but don’t miss the eighteenth century houses on the other side of the road, which, of course, command the same view. The 1769 stone frontage of no 3 The Terrace (by Robert Taylor who did Asgill House) marks the house of Mrs Fitzherbert, mistress and alleged wife of the fabulously scandal prone Prince Regent, later George IV.
The houses restart on the right with The Wick, built 1775 but owned more recently by the Who’s Pete Townsend, and Wick House of similar vintage designed by William Chambers (him again) for Sir Joshua Reynolds, the most fashionable and expensive of portrait painters, who improved the appearance of many wealthy patrons’ wives and daughters.
The enormous red brick Star and Garter building at the top of Richmond Hill was a home for disabled soldiers for nearly a hundred years, but escalating land prices won in the end and in 2015 it was converted to flats, two bedroom versions going for nearly three million pounds.
Assuming you survive the road crossing, you’ll find yourself in the largest of the Royal Parks, more akin to heath land than a manicured park. You might see fallow deer or even red deer in the distance, although they seem shy of this corner of the park, preferring to obstruct the traffic elsewhere. The route leads you to King Henry’s mound, from which he’s said to have watched St Paul’s Cathedral for a flare to signal that Anne Boleyn had been executed. Astonishingly, the line of sight from here to St Paul’s has been kept free of obstruction and there’s a telescope to improve your view.
Pembroke Lodge (pictured above) was originally a mole catcher’s lodge, but the house was rebuilt by distinguished architects in Regency times and later occupied by the aristocratic Russell family. In the twentieth century Bertrand Russell was a leader of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, attending demonstrations into his old age, resulting in brief stays in the less beautiful surroundings of Brixton Prison in South London. Now the place is surely one of the best locations for a café, from the magnificent entrance to the rear terrace looking down on the Thames valley. A walk downhill through the park leads you to the village of Petersham, packed with seventeenth and early eighteenth century mansions, though we skirt the edge and head for the river.
Across the water is Marble Hill House (above), built in the 1720s for George II’s discarded mistress. An early example of the style which was to sweep across England, it was intended to have external staircases like those at Chiswick House, but money ran out.
Soon afterwards, on this side of the river, is Ham House (right), a rare survival of a Jacobean (1610) residence. Many were demolished to make way for the classical Georgian style in the eighteenth century. Marble Hill is owned by English Heritage, Ham House by the National Trust, and both are open to visit if you choose the right time.
Distance 9.0km / 5.6 miles.
1. Turn left out of Richmond station, and cross the road at the lights controlled crossing.
2. Go straight ahead from the crossing into the narrow Old Station Passage.
3. Turn left over the railway Bridge to reach the Little Green. (The red brick flats to the right were home to Harold Wilson. Pass Richmond Theatre on your left).
4. Continue down the eastern (left) edge of Richmond Green, past Georgian houses.
5. Turn right at the south eastern corner of the Green, then left along Old Palace Terrace.
6. Turn right at Old Palace Place and continue straight over a small cross roads, with the green on your right. (Notice Maids of Honour Row on your left behind railings).
7. Cross the road to look at an information board next to the post box.
8. From the information board, cross the road again and go straight through the Old Palace Gates. (The building on your left is the Royal Wardrobe).
9. The house ahead of you is the early 17th century Trumpeters House. Turn right when you reach it.
10. Pass modern houses on the left and go straight ahead through an alleyway.
11. Turn left into Old Palace Yard (that’s the name of the street).
12. Reach the river and turn left. (You could divert right to look at Richmond Lock and return to this point).
13. Asgill House on your left is still owned by the crown. Designed by Robert Taylor in 1758.
14. Continue towards Richmond Bridge, London’s last remaining Georgian bridge.
15. Just before the bridge, there’s a green on the slope to your left. The development on the left was built in 1988, re-using facades of Heron House 1716, Palm Court 1850, Tower House 1856. (Quinlan Terry).
16. Turn left from the river path to go up steps into archway in the fine modern building.
17. Turn right into the square, and go straight through another arch to leave.
18. Turn right and go onto the centre of the bridge for the best view.
19. Return from the bridge on Bridge Street; at the mini roundabout cross Bridge Street in order to turn right.
20. There’s a zebra crossing almost immediately. Cross it and turn right off the crossing, staying on that side to walk up the steepest road. No sign’s visible but it’s Richmond Hill. (On your left pass No 3 The Terrace by Robert Taylor, once lived in by Mrs Fitzherbert).
21. Cross the road for better views over the Thames when the houses on the right hand side end.
22. The houses restart with The Wick 1775 (once home to the Who’s Pete Townsend) and Wick House, built by Sir William Chambers for Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1771.
23. Pass the former Star and Garter Home for disabled soldiers, visible for miles around, built 1924 by Sir Edwin Cooper and converted in 2015 into flats.
24. At the road junction, go straight ahead through the gates into Richmond Park.
25. Take the right hand tarmac footpath by the public toilets to your right, which follows a metal fence.
26. Eventually the path turns left in front tall gates and a brick hut, but you go through the pedestrian part of the gate.
27. Continue through a long pergola, the John Beer Laburnham Walk.
28. Immediately after the pergola, the path splits. Ignore the misleading wooden signpost and take the middle path up to King Henry’s Mound, where a telescope gives views of St Paul’s Cathedral in one direction and the Thames Valley in the other.
29. Continuing past the telescope, leave the mound, the path curving left to reach a metal gate.
30. Go through the gate and turn right towards a car park.
31. Continue with the car park on your left until you pass an Information office, turn right after this to go towards Pembroke Lodge. (Originally a molecatcher’s lodge, extended and remodelled by Sir John Soane and Henry Holland, lived in by Bertrand Russell, now a café).
32. Before reaching the front door of the Lodge, turn left, then right and right again to go along the back of the house onto the terrace. (Better still, ignore these instructions and have lunch there).
33. Go left down the steps from the terrace, and follow a path to a gate.
34. Go through the gate and bear right down a green path, towards the main sand-coloured path at the bottom of the hill.
35. When you reach it, bear right along this broad path to the main road.
36. Turn left onto the main road, but cross to the other side. This is Petersham.
37. Take the next right into River Lane.
38. Reach the river and turn left. On the other side, you will see Marble Hill House.
39. Reach Ham House, a rare surviving 17th century house. On a fine day it’s worth paying the admission to the gardens to use the café.
40. Start back the way you came along the river path. Stay on the path past River Lane.
41. After a ‘Welcome to Buccleuch Gardens’ sign, turn left through a kissing gate to stay near the river, and follow it to Richmond Bridge.
42. Walk under the bridge and immediately go right, up the steps to Bridge Street.
43. At the mini roundabout in front of the Odeon, turn left onto Hill Street.
44. Continue on this main road as it becomes George Street and then The Quadrant.
45. Enter Richmond Station which is on your right in The Quadrant, and go home.
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