The Museum Of Richmond: Remains Of A Tudor Palace, And A Very Odd Chair

By M@

Last Updated 14 May 2024

The Museum Of Richmond: Remains Of A Tudor Palace, And A Very Odd Chair
A model showing Richmond Palace on the Thames at Richmond Museum
Model of Richmond Palace

Continuing our tour of London's local history museums.

Richmond has an unusual history. On the one hand, it boasted a Tudor palace, which makes it proper ye olde. On the other, there was no such place as Richmond on the Thames before the Tudors came along. Henry VII took over the local palace of Shene, rebuilt it, and renamed it Richmond after his Yorkshire Earldom. Hence, as London place names go, Richmond is a relatively new kid on the block.

All this backstory is told in much greater depth at the Museum of Richmond. Or, rather, much greater heights, because the museum is perched among the upper floors of the Old Town Hall building, directly above the library.

The eye is immediately drawn to a spectacular model of Henry's palace (above). We can see the scale and grandeur of the place, which made it Elizabeth I's favourite palace (she ended up dying here). Alas, the building was largely torn down during Cromwell's interregnum. Richmond's subsequent history might have been very different had it survived and continued in royal hands.

Richmond Museum

The rest of the museum is peppered with objects of note. Here a clock mechanism from the old workhouse (which still stands), there a tooth from a mammoth; here some salvaged glass and stone from the palace, there a key from the old tollhouse on Richmond Bridge. As local museums go, they have an abundance of objects to complement all the written information. Some are really very unusual, like this chair:

Kew Bridge chair at Richmond Museum

It's a replica of one presented to King Edward VII at the opening of Kew Bridge in 1903. It's made from timbers salvaged from the previous version of the bridge. Meanwhile, the back of the chair shows the profiles of all three incarnations of the span, with the current one at the bottom. I've seen a similar object before. A chair in Fishmonger's Hall is made from timbers of Old London Bridge, and depicts the various versions of that crossing. Must have been a 'thing', back in the day.

A mammoth's tooth at Richmond Museum
A mammoth's tooth, surrounded by stone tools, showing that the history of Richmond goes back a very long way

Overall, this is a compact museum with much to see, even if you're not particularly local. The emphasis is heavily upon Richmond the town centre rather than the wider borough, but other venues like Twickenham Museum and Eel Pie Island Museum help fill in the gaps. The venue also puts on temporary exhibitions (the local industry in artificial silk at the time of my visit), which are later archived to the website.

When you're done, I'd recommend taking a poke around the site of Richmond Palace. The gatehouse and several buildings still survive in the space between the Green and the river.

The tudor gatehouse to Richmond Palace
Richmond Palace Tudor gatehouse

Museum of Richmond is open Tue-Fri 11am-5pm; Sat 10am-4pm. Entrance is free. Step free access is possible, although check the note on the website, as it sounds like lift repairs are imminent. All images by Matt Brown