Richmond Midsummer Stroll

From the Newsletter announcement:

Guides: John and Evelien Hurst, including: visit to Ham House and Guided Tour of the Gardens, optional Lunch : Gaucho’s Riverside Restaurant.

What better day to visit the greenest – and one of the most historical – boroughs of London, Richmond-upon-Thames, than the start of summer? Find out why Henry VIII, Queen Mary, Napoleon III and George II all chose to reside here. Put on comfortable shoes, bring your suntan cream – and your umbrella – and join ex-residents John and Evelien for a stroll past some of the sights.

Starting from Richmond Station, our walk will take us past the remains of Henry’s castle, through Marble Hill Park with its grotto and 300-year-old Black Walnut tree, and back across the Thames by the last private ferry on the tideway, to arrive at Ham House and Gardens. This is one of the finest examples of a 17th Century Stuart house, with beautifully restored gardens. The house contains a wealth of furniture and paintings, including some of Dutch origin. Each room has a knowledgeable guide, happy to answer all your questions. We will have a guided tour of the gardens, view the interior, and at some time have a coffee in the restored Orangerie.

The stroll will finish with an optional lunch at Gaucho’s, a stylish riverside restaurant opposite the site of the former Richmond Ice Rink (now millionaires’ flats), where Sjoukje Dijkstra trained in the 1960’s.


From the Report in the Summer 2016 Newsletter:

Ann McMellan on the stroll, and visit to Ham House and Garden, on 21 June.

Our compact group assembled in sunny Richmond, keen to enjoy a Thames-side walk led by Evelien Hurst-Buist. Evelien’s research informed us that Richmond Station’s construction in 1846 had led to the area’s development as a desirable residential neighbourhood. Next we paused to admire Richmond Theatre whose architect, Frank Matcham, also designed Hackney Empire, the Coliseum and many other theatres. Crossing Richmond Green, the oldest part of Saxon Sheen, we imagined scenes of knightly jousting tournaments.

Our efforts to do this were aided by the strong presence of Henry VII’s Gate House, all that remains of Richmond Palace which the king had built in 1501. Within the grounds of old Richmond Palace there is the Trumpeters’ House which, constructed between 1702-4, took its name from the statues of two trumpeters in Old Palace Yard. Passing rose-covered cottages, we heard about celebrated historical individuals who had lived in the vicinity such as the novelist Henry Fielding and musician Gustav Holst. More recent well-known local figures range from the Dimbleby family, producers of the Richmond and Twickenham Times, to David Attenborough and Jerry Hall, doubtless still a ‘Sweet Lass of Richmond Hill’.

At a leisurely pace we came to Richmond Bridge, the oldest surviving bridge over the Thames in Greater London and a source of inspiration for JMW Turner’s paintings such as his 1805 ‘The Thames and Richmond Bridge from the Surrey Bank’. Our next landmark was the splendid Marble Hill House, the gift* of George II (when Prince of Wales) to his mistress, Henrietta Howard, who regularly entertained Walpole, Pope and other notable 18th century figures. Our sights however were set on Ham House which we reached via Hammerton Ferry, the only private ferry crossing the Thames.

* To be exact: the house was built with money given in trust by the Prince of Wales to his mistress Henriette Howard  to make her financially independent of her husband, with the express purpose of making it possible for her to build her own house.

At Ham House Evelien had made a booking for the Garden Tour and this enabled the group to be as impressed as guests of the Duchess of Lauderdale would have been by the expense of gardener-maintenance of the eight square lawns in the 17th century, an era prior to the lawn mower. Use of the original plans has brought about the restoration of the Wilderness, the Kitchen, the Fountain and the Cherry Gardens after wartime neglect.

Particularly interesting features were the lead busts of Roman emperors set into the garden walls and the Still Room where the Duchess made medicines for the household. Whilst there was almost too much to see inside Ham House, individuals did view many of the treasured tapestries, paintings and objets d’art which Elizabeth and her husband had collected on their continental journeys to France and Holland.

From Ham House we strolled back along the river past the German beer garden to a relaxing meal at Gaucho’s where we heartily thanked Evelien and John for a most enjoyable walk along the Thames.