Richmond in the 17th Century


In the early 17th century, Richmond was slowly becoming a self-contained village, though it was still dominated by Richmond Palace. James I made less use of this palace than Elizabeth I, but both James and his son Charles I liked hunting and both created new parks for their sport, which are today known as respectively Old Deer Park and Richmond Park.

Then came the Civil War and with Parliament victorious, Charles I was executed in 1649. Following his death, Parliament needed to raise money urgently to pay for the cost of war. Their Commissioners sold Richmond Palace to a consortium for £13,562.0s.6d as building materials. Parliament also gave Richmond Park to the City of London, who had to return it to Charles II when he recovered his throne.

By this time, little of Richmond Palace was left and Charles II never sought to rebuild it. During the course of the century, Richmond began to grow into a much larger village. Its population was about 500 in 1603, but by 1703 it had grown to about 1,600. Between those dates, the number of houses almost doubled and it was not surprising that it was the building trades, which employed most tradesmen – almost double the number of those employed on the river.

What is surprising is that in 1634 there were already 10 taverns.  Their popularity was possibly due to many of their customers being part of the household of Richmond Palace. Sadly, none of these taverns have survived.

After the Civil War and Restoration, a number of rich City merchants with money to invest began to develop Richmond.  One was Nathaniel Rawlins, who was responsible for building Clarence House in the Vineyard as well as The Rosary and Hollies in Ormond Road. Another, the wonderfully named Vertue Radford, built the houses in Old Palace Terrace.

Richmond also attracted a number of well-to-do people. One of them was Colonel Washington, whose cousin has settled in Virginia and who was the great grandfather of George Washington. Another was the Earl of Carlisle, who had changed sides twice in the Civil War, but Charles II made still him an earl. Also, at this time a number of Jewish merchants settled in Richmond, including Sir Solomon de Medina, the first Jew to be knighted. His honour was all the more impressive as Jews had only been permitted to settle in England in 1656.

By 1771 Richmond’s population had expanded to nearly 3,500 and by the beginning of the 18th century, many more houses were built, transforming it from a small rural village to an elegant town.

 (c) John Moses 2019

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