Thames Pathway

Journal of a Walk Down the River Thames

by Keith Pauling


The meadows end and I am back into the built-up area of Richmond. When I say Richmond that is because that is what it says on the map. However it turns out that I have been in Richmond for a very large part of the day already, and still have plenty more to go, for Richmond is deceptive. The place itself looks a fairly standard size for a London suburb on the map, but as is so often the case appearances can be deceptive. The Borough of Richmond is large, and has a population of over 180,000. There are over 100 parks including Richmond Park, Kew, Hampton Court and Ham, plus over twenty-one miles of River Thames frontage. There are over five times as much open space in Richmond than in any other borough in London. It is also the only London borough to have land on both sides of the River Thames. In short it is big.

Richmond Bridge
Richmond Bridge

Richmond is also relatively new. It is believed to have derived its name from the other Richmond in Yorkshire after Henry VII built a palace here in 1500 and called it Richmond Palace. Previously the area was known as Shene, or Sheen.

Henry I was the first royal to live here, spending long periods at the “King’s House” in Shene. Edward I developed the house into a royal palace in 1299. The first King to make the palace at Shene his official royal residence was Richard II.

The palace was destroyed by fire in 1497. Henry VII rebuilt it and renamed it Richmond Palace. The glory of Richmond Palace was short-lived, with Henry VIII moving his court upstream to Hampton Court as we discovered earlier.

The path soon changes to a busy neo-classical walkway leading to Richmond Bridge, with a wide promenade. The bridge itself has been in view for a while, with the sun glistening off its five classical Portland stone archways. It was built in 1777 by James Pain and Kenton Couse and was originally a toll bridge. The crossing charge was a halfpenny, but anyone who wanted to push a handcart over the crossing would be charged a full penny.

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