For centuries a sparsely populated area, Sheen – or Shene as it was originally known – was the home to kings
The earliest reference to Shene was in the will of Theodred Bishop of London, who died in 951, bequeathing his land at ‘Sceon’.
The next reference was not until the 12th century, when King Henry I gave the Manor of Shene to John Belet, a Norman courtier.
In the 1360s Edward III decided to build a palace known as Shene Palace. When he died, his grandson, Richard II, who had inherited the throne, married Anne of Bohemia and Shene became their favourite palace. But in 1394 Anne died of the plague and Richard, broken hearted following his wife’s death, ordered the palace to be demolished.
Five years later, Henry IV seized the throne from Richard II and his son, Henry V decided to build a new Palace of Shene on an adjoining site, though it was not completed until many years later. He also founded, and richly endowed, a monastery known as the Charterhouse of Shene, built near where Richmond Railway Bridge now crosses the Thames.
After decades of peaceful existence, a fire seriously damaged the palace in 1498 and so Henry VII decided to rebuild Shene Palace on an even grander scale. In 1501, according to the Great Chronicle of London “the King [commanded]that “From then Forthon it shuld be namyd his manoyr of Rychemount and not Shene” – probably because Henry had been Earl of Richmond of Yorkshire before he became king.
The palace became the favourite palace of Henry VII and his grand-daughter Elizabeth I, who died there.
Later kings, James I and Charles I, used the palace for their children, but after the Civil War and the execution of Charles I in 1649, the Parliamentarians needed to raise money to pay for the cost of the war, so they sold the palace to a consortium for £13,562.0s.6d to be used as building materials.
When the monarchy was restored, most of Richmond Palace had sadly been destroyed. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the buildings of Charterhouse of Shene passed through many hands but were finally demolished in the 17th century. However, a small hamlet grew up around this site, known as West Sheen, only to be demolished when George III commissioned Capability Browne to landscape the park of his country retreat at Kew. The spelling gradually changed over the years, however, today East Sheen and North Sheen station still preserve the name.