We watch in amazement at the scale of some of London’s newest mansions but today’s billionaires cannot hope to match the extravagance of Tudor monarchs: Richmond Palace is one such symbol of 16th-century super-spending, built by Henry VII in 1501.
The writer Mrs AT Thomson, in her book Memoirs of the Court of Henry VIII describes its breathtaking opulence: “On the night of Epiphany a pageant was introduced to the hall at Richmond representing a hill studded with gold and precious stones and having at its summit a tree of gold from which hung roses and pomegranates.”
All that remains today of the palace is a fine gatehouse overlooking Richmond Green. This is now one of London’s oldest houses and is let on a long lease by the Crown Estate, which still retains a small foothold in this privileged and wealthy suburb.
Richmond is one of London’s most attractive and sought-after suburbs with a 20-minute commute to central London, the wide-open River Thames, good schools, leafy streets, a busy shopping centre, fine period houses and Richmond Park, with its 2,500 acres and herds of red and fallow deer. It also has one of London’s most famous views.
From the top of Richmond Hill the view over the Thames and Petersham Meadow, where brown and cream cattle seem to have quietly grazed since Turner painted them more than 200 years ago, is stunning.
Property in Richmond
Matthew Abernethy, from estate agents Savills’ Richmond office, says that prices for the top houses are holding up and are even receiving multiple bids.
“The over-£3 million market is particularly buoyant with houses selling for between £800 and £1,300 a square foot, and flats between £700 and £1,000 a square foot.”
Richmond has fine Georgian houses — especially around Richmond Green and on Richmond Hill. On the top of Richmond Hill there are large Victorian detached and semi-detached houses and period conversions.
Best roads: The most desirable and expensive roads are Richmond Green, where Lord Attenborough has lived for many years; Richmond Hill, where Who guitarist Pete Townshend and Sir Mick Jagger’s ex-wife Jerry Hall both have houses; and Montague Road.
One very good semi-detached house on Montague Road sold for £3 million last year.
The area attracts: Richmond is very much a family area with good schools and lots of open space. The easy commute to the City via Waterloo means it attracts City bonus money.
Staying power: families put down roots in Richmond and many buyers are locals either trading up or downsizing.
Postcodes: there are two Richmond postcodes: TW9, which also takes in North Sheen and Kew, and TW10, which also covers Petersham and Ham. TW10, which takes in Richmond Hill, has the most prized houses.
What’s new and up and coming
Terrace Yard (020 8940 2772) in Petersham Road is a Berkeley Homes development of three five-bedroom townhouses and six one- and three-bedroom flats. The price of the houses has not yet been released, but there is only one three-bedroom flat remaining, priced at £1.8 million.
The Printworks (Savills; 020 8614 9191) is a development in the centre of Richmond which will be launched next month. There are four houses and 10 one-, two- and three-bedroom flats. Prices for the apartments start at £395,000, and for the houses from £2.25 million.
The Alberts is a pretty enclave of terraced two and three-bedroom cottages south of Sheen Road where houses sell for between £400,000 and £550,000. Another area worth seeking out is the roads between Kew Road and the Old Deer Park where there is a mix of terrace cottages, and semi-detached Victorian and Edwardian houses which are cheaper than other areas of Richmond but have the advantage of being close to the station.
Getting an education
Richmond has very good schools both state and private. The following primary schools are rated “excellent” by the government education watchdog Ofsted: The Vineyard in Friars Stile Road, and St Elizabeth’s RC and Marshgate, both on Queen’s Road.
There are three private prep schools: King’s House (boys age four to 13), Old Vicarage (girls four to 11) and Falcon’s (boys seven to 13). The best local comprehensive is Orleans Park (co-ed ages 11 to 16) in nearby Twickenham.
Richmond College is one of the largest sixth-form colleges in the country; it is rated “good”. The top private schools are the Lady Eleanor Holles (girls age 11 to 18) and Hampton School (boys age 11 to 18) which sit next to each other in large grounds in Hampton.
Shops and restaurants: Richmond has a busy and successful high street. There is a House of Fraser department store and a Waitrose; most of the high street staples are here as well as many of the more upmarket clothing chains such as Margaret Howell and Matches and cult French brands Zadig & Voltaire, Cop Copine and Comptoir des Cotonniers.
The little streets between the high street and Richmond Green are where the independent shops are clustered. A particular strength is the number of interesting jewellery shops — Courtlanders is good for antique jewellery — and Paved Court is where one of William Curley’s chocolate shops can be found. There is a good choice of places to eat; as well as chain restaurants such as Carluccios, Wagamama and Côte, there are plenty of fine dining restaurants.
Locals rave about All Boccon di’Vino, an Italian restaurant with no menu; La Buvette is in a former church refectory; two are in hotels — the Restaurant at the Petersham and Bingham — but the stand-out experience for charm and eccentricity is Skye Gyngell’s Petersham Nurseries Café, a restaurant housed in the greenhouses of a garden centre. There are local shops along Friars Stile Road where the Richmond Hill Bakery is a good place for a morning coffee.
* MORE ON THE BOROUGH OF RICHMOND UPON THAMES:
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Open space: Richmond Park with its deer herds is London’s largest. From King Henry’s Mount there is a protected view to St Paul’s Cathedral. There are also lovely Thames-side walks past fine old mansions such as Ham House and Marble Hill House.
Leisure and the arts: Pools on the Park with indoor, learner and outdoor pools, close to Richmond station in the Old Deer Park, is the nearest council-owned pool. Richmond has two theatres — the Richmond Theatre, which puts on pre-West-End shows, and the Orange Tree, a fringe theatre. The Odeon is a split-site multiplex with one cinema in Red Lion Street and the other in Hill Street.
Travel: Richmond is in Zone 4 and an annual travelcard to Zone 1 costs £1,576. There are overground trains to Waterloo which take a little over 20 minutes and the station is the terminus of the North London line. The same station also serves the Underground with the District line taking half an hour to Victoria.
Council: Richmond-upon-Thames (Conservative controlled); Band D council tax for the 2011/2012 year is £1,597.21.
Buying in Richmond
One-bedroom flat: £297,000
Two-bedroom flat: £418,000
Two-bedroom house: £478,000
Three-bedroom house: £641,000
Four bedroom house: £870,000
Renting in Richmond
One-bedroom flat: £1,500 to £2,000 a month
Two-bedroom flat: £1,800 to £2,500 a month
Two-bedroom house: £2,500 to £3,000 a month
Three-bedroom house: £3,000 to £4,000 a month
Four bedroom house: £3,500 to £5,500 a month
Five-bedroom-plus house: £6,000 to £10,000 a month
Photographs: Graham Hussey Reuse content