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315 Richmond Road,
Ham, Kingston,
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Ham – its history and development
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The village of Ham has a most appropriate name since it probably derives from the Old English word ‘Hamme’, - meaning ‘the place in the bend of a river’. This is pretty much exactly what Ham is today when you look at it on a map, - a large bend of the Thames defining its western edge and the eastern side defined by Richmond Park. In former times the district of Ham was larger than it is now. Prior to 1637, Common land stretched across to what is now the other side of Richmond Park. Until as recently as the 1930s, the administrative area of Ham also included the area which today is the North Kingston Tudor estate and the Royal Park Gate development.
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Back in the Middle Ages, the village of Ham probably centred around what is now the Common and Ham Street. The land would have been a mixture of grazing areas with strips of crop cultivation.
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Ham House
The 17th and 18th century saw the development of large houses outside London, and Ham has an above average collection of such houses for a small rural settlement. Ham House, - today a National Trust property, -was built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, Knight Marshall to James 1st. It passed soon after into the ownership of the Earl Of Dysart. His daughter Elizabeth married twice, first to Sir Lionel Tollemache and later to the Duke of Lauderdale. Their names live on today in our local street names and landmarks. Lauderdale Drive is a road of fine 1930s houses, the Tollemache Almshouses can be found in Ham Street and the impressive Mock Tudor building of the Dysart Arms is found in Petersham near the bottom of Star and Garter Hill.
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In 1637, Charles 1st created Richmond Park for hunting. Today it is the largest open space in Greater London, covering almost 2,500 acres, and has free roaming herds of Fallow and Red Deer. The enclosure robbed Ham of much agricultural and Common Ground, but in return most of the remaining common land beyond the Park wall was protected and mostly survives as public spaces to the present day.Today the Park is accessed locally through Ham Gate at the top of Ham Gate Avenue and the wooded copses to each side are still considered to form part of Ham Common.
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Ham Gate into Richmond Park
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Ham House was enlarged and remodeled in 1672. During the Restoration of Charles 11, it was a centre for political intrigue. It hosted meetings of his inner circle, - the infamous Cabal, - a word originating from the first letters of the 5 members, - Clifford, Ashley, Buckingham, Arlington and Lauderdale. Today all five have local streets named after them.
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Melancholy Walk
The Great South Avenue of Ham House was created by 1680 and runs in a straight line to Ham Common, crossing Sandy Lane at one point and running behind gardens in Martingales Close in one section known as ‘Melancholy Walk’. Conceptually the Avenue is still delineated on the Common by a row of lime trees. A private grant in the 1970s helped to restore much of the gardens of Ham House back to their more formal style.
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Ham Gate Avenue
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By the early 19th century, Ham mainly comprised three large farms, all owned by Lord Dysart and worked by tenant farmers. It was a small village of around 80 houses and about 500 inhabitants. More cottages were built in Ham Street around 1830 and 31 houses along the Petersham Road from the New Inn in the 1830s. The small size of Ham before the 19th century can be deduced from there being no church here until St Andrews was built in Church Road in 1832. At that point the road only reached the Church and the parallel road to the park, now Ham Gate Avenue, was marked out as a footpath. By the mid 19th century, the population of Ham had grown to over 1,300 and 200 houses. But the only proper roads were what is now Petersham Rd/ Richmond Road, plus Ham Street and Sandy Lane (which was originally called Blind Lane).
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Petersham Chapel sketched by
Van Gogh 1876
Ham Street was the childhood home of Cardinal Newman at Greys Court and also the home of the architect George Gilbert Scott at Manor House. Back Lane ran parallel behind Ham Street as a track for men and their animals going to the fields. There was a horse drawn omnibus service along the Petersham/Richmond Road until the number 65 motor bus service replaced it in the early 20th century. There was a small Wesleyan chapel off the Petersham Road from 1866 to 1891. Vincent van Gogh preached there during his visit to England in 1876 and sketched the chapel in a letter to his brother Theo. A more frequent visitor to the area in this era was Charles Dickens who wrote much of Nicholas Nickleby whilst renting Elm Cottage (later greatly enlarged and renamed Elm House.) Indeed a duel between two of the characters in Chapter 50 is staged in fields near Ham House. In recent years a development of detached properties near to Elm House by the entrance to Richmond Golf Club was named Dickens Close.
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Victorian Cottages in Evelyn Rd.
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The footbridge from Ham to Teddington opened in 1888. By then the former heavy use of the towpath by horses drawing barges had declined after the spread of the railways. But Ham didn’t change as much in the latter 19th century as other parts of Richmond Borough because the railway didn’t pass through it. This allowed Ham to retain a much more semi-rural village feel, compared with surrounding built up areas. There is less stock of Victorian houses in Ham than other surrounding areas, which tends to increase the premium on their prices. New Road was built in the 1870s onwards,- a few houses at a time by speculative builders. Evelyn Road, comprising 18 houses, was built around the mid 1880s. The older part of Lock Road (so called because it went originally from the Common to the lock) began to be built around 1890. After the First World War a further row of houses were built there for returning soldiers. The upper section of the road was built around 1934 and joined up with the 1930s-built section of Broughton Avenue.
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View to Petersham & Ham from Richmond Hil by Turner (circa 1815)
The rural feel of Ham was further preserved by the Richmond, Petersham and Ham Open Spaces Act of 1902. Lord Dysart offered to help protect the iconic view of Petersham and Ham from Richmond Hill, which had been painted by numerous artists, including Reynolds (circa 1780) and twice by Turner (circa 1815 pictured and the grander scale Richmond Hill on the Prince Regents Birthday circa 1819.) Lord Dysart donated a large swathe of his land in Ham and Petersham to be public open spaces in perpetuity, free from roads and buildings. This included the land alongside the river from Petersham down through Ham Riverside Lands. This was also a shrewd move by Lord Dysart because in exchange he was allowed to end grazing rights on the common fields he still owned and extract gravel near the river. Nevertheless, in the modern era of vulnerability to overdevelopment, Ham and Petersham are unique in having much of their open spaces protected by Act of Parliament.
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The last major change in the outline of Ham occurred in 1932 when Surrey County Council moved the border between Richmond Borough and Kingston Borough, hiving off the southern part of Ham to Kingston. The former dividing mark between Ham and Kingston can still be seen on the raised footpath near the river in Lower Ham Road. In 1932 the land that is now the Tudor estate passed over to Kingston and the southern boundary of Ham was established around Ham Cross.
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From this point the population and housing stock in Ham began to increase markedly. By 1940 Cleeves Road, Lovell Road, Mowbray Road, Riverside Drive, Murray Road, Sheridan Road and parts of the present Stuart Road and Woodville Road had all been built, as was the West side of Ham Parade. In 1948 Ham House was presented to the National Trust.
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Parkleys
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In 1954 the former Church Farm was bought by Span Developments, with their pioneering architect Eric Lyons, and developed as the Parkleys Estate and Ham Farm Road. Span also built the final section of Ham Parade in the same style as Parkleys. In the same period, the first mature work of Sir James Stirling, who is now commemorated by the Stirling Prize for Architecture, was built to the side of Ham Common at Langham House Close, in the former long garden of one of the Georgian houses on the Common. Both Parkleys and Langham house Close are now protected by English Heritage as listed buildings and Langham House Close has recently been upgraded further to Grade 11 *.
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The former schoolhouse in Ham Street, now St Thomas Aquinas RC Church
In 1958, Ham Manor Farm House was partially demolished. Richmond Council built 13 new shops on the site at the corner of Ham Street and Ashburnham Rd. There was also a proposal to build 9 storey blocks on Ham Green. After much opposition, more modest 3, 4 and 5 storey blocks were developed retaining a considerable area of green around. A clinic and public hall were also built. Some blocks of flats on Ham Green in present day Ham Close are named after farmers from Hams former agricultural days. For example Secretts House is named after the owner of Secretts Farm and Hornby House and Clarke House in Ham Close are both named after dairymen who took over from Secrett. Secrets Farm itself in Ham Street was closed in 1959 and cattle grazing ceased in Ham.
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In the 1960s, the housebuilding company Wates bought and developed a 60 acre site in Ham. The development extended the housing along Broughton Avenue and Ashburnham Road and many other new roads were created and laid out in careful proportions with plenty of green spaces and trees. The new roads included Breamwater Gardens, Perryfield Way, Willowbank, Kingfisher Drive, Mariner Gardens, Watermill Close, Fellbrook, Ferrymoor, Link Way and Lake Gardens. The population of Ham increased by 3000 in only 3 years. Wates also built St Richards Church in the centre of the new Ham Riverside Village.
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Houses in Ham Riverside Village
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The late 1960s saw other developments in what previously had been the gardens of larger buildings. Mornington Walk was formerly part of the garden of Gordon House. The gated development at the Orangey in Ham Street is on part of Ham Manor House grounds, though its rear extent was restricted because the Avenue behind from Ham Common to Ham House is a protected view. The maisonettes in Bishops Close were developed in the former grounds of South Lodge, - the large detached building facing the Common near the New Inn. South Lodge in turn had originally been The National Orphans Home but today comprises several impressive converted apartments. Just along off the Common, Martingales Close was built on part of the former Hardwicke House and St Michaels Convent. The Convent still remains with its gardens at the junction of Martingales Close and the Common.
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South Lodge
Since the 1960s there has been little available room left for development. One remaining pocket at the edge of Ham Lands was developed in 1981 by Ferndale Homes as the Locksmeade estate. This comprised 88 plots and offers a wide mix of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom configurations. Since then, subsequent developments in Ham have been relatively small scale because of the large proportion of protected land and have been mainly individual houses and blocks of mainly 1 and 2 bedroom apartments. The most recent developments have been Meadowview in Ashburnham Road, apartments in Croft Way and a mix of houses and apartments at the Denes in Craig Road.
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The semi-rural feel of Ham and the protection of the open spaces have become more and more of an attraction to potential residents over time and is now one of the main reasons for people choosing to move into Ham. In addition to the river on the west side and Richmond Park on the east, the character of Ham is now further protected by the delineation of three conservation areas. The Ham House conservation area covers not just the grounds of Ham House but stretches also down the eastern side of Ham Street. Ham Common conservation area also covers parts of Ham Gate Avenue and Petersham Road near the Common. Lastly in December 2003 the Parkleys Estate, along with Ham Farm Road and the 1950s terrace on Ham Parade was designated as Richmond Borough conservation area 67.
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