Richmond upon Thames, in full, is a borough
in south-west London
, on the south bank of the Thames
. At this point the Thames is flowing northward, and Richmond is a beauty spot, with the most impressive views along the river; for this reason it is also home to a number of historic properties.
Richmond Palace was a great royal residence: the palace itself no longer exists, but several of its outbuildings, such as the gatehouse, still do, from the part rebuilt in Tudor times. King Edward III died here in 1377, Henry VII in 1509, and Elizabeth I in 1603. Before the rebuilding the area was known as Shene (a suburb to the east is still called East Sheen), but Henry VII renamed it after Richmond in Yorkshire. Richard II's much beloved queen, Anne of Bohemia, died at the old Shene Palace in 1394, and the grieving king had it demolished.
It is bounded by two open spaces, the Old Deer Park and the Green. Across the Green is the main town part of Richmond, and on the edge of the Green are elegant Georgian houses and my candidate for best pub: the Prince's Head, a Fuller's pub with no piped music and no drastic modernisation.
Downriver from Richmond is Kew, and it's a short walk to the Lion's Gate entrance of Kew Gardens. Upriver from Richmond Palace is Richmond Bridge, and a towpath or footpath goes all the way up the river, probably as far as Hampton Court, though I haven't yet done that full walk. The Thames is beautiful all along here. In the stream there are a few small islets, one delighting in the name Eel Pie Island. Beyond the water meadows of Petersham lies Ham House, a seventeenth-century mansion (now National Trust), and across the river is Marble Hill Park (English Heritage). Horace Walpole's pioneering Gothic confection Strawberry Hill is a little further south.
Richmond Hill is a long ridge rising up from the town to the next village, Petersham, with increasingly impressive views across to the south and west, and fine public gardens tumbling down the hill. It was a view from here that inspired the naming of the Richmond in Virginia. Because of the elegance of the grand buildings along the hill, it is a good view from the river too. The 1790s popular song 'Lass of Richmond Hill', however, refers to the place in Yorkshire.
At the far end of the hill comes Richmond Park, which I think is probably the biggest open space in London. This is an old royal hunting preserve, and to this day is well stocked with deer, red and fallow, though I am hopeful that the gun-mad royals are not allowed to indulge their tastes as they used to in past centuries. Dotted amid the wilder forest regions of the Park are a few more attractions. Pembroke Lodge was the house where Bertrand Russell was brought up, and is now a tea-room. Within its grounds is a prehistoric barrow called King Henry's Mound. As well as having yet another magnificent view of the river lands in their splendour in one direction, in the other it looks through a 'keyhole' in a hedge, and carefully trimmed avenues, to far-distant St Paul's Cathedral, which is only just visible; but this is one of the seven protected views from the high points of outer London, meaning that it is illegal ever to build anything that obscures the view of the cathedral.
The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames also covers Kew, East Sheen, Mortlake, Twickenham, and extends as far as Hampton Court Palace. There is yet another palace in the borough, the small 1600s Kew Palace within the grounds of Kew Gardens, though currently being restored and not open to the public. The whole area is a must-see attraction of outstanding beauty.