Hidden things to do in Richmond

Hidden things to do in Richmond

Richmond is widely known for the expansive Richmond Park – but there’s so much more to this beautiful part of London

It’s easy to characterise Richmond around Richmond Park – after all, it’s one of the largest in London, and exploring it could keep you going for days! And then there’s the river, the culture – Eel Pie Island and the Crawdaddy Club to name but two – as well as the incredible history.

But there’s so still more to Richmond, including bits that only regular visitors and locals know about – and we’re going to introduce you to them.

The Marianne North Gallery

Marianne North Gallery
Marianne North Gallery | Image credit: Heather Cowper

Everyone knows Kew Gardens – but this spectacular gallery is often unjustly overlooked.

Marianne North, known as the “huntress of flowers”, dedicated her life into painting and discovering plants. Documenting nearly 1000 species of plants on six of the seven continents, a gallery opened specially to hold her work in 1882.

Now the only permanent gallery dedicated to a single female artist’s works in Britain, a refurbishment in 2009 discovered yet another painting that curators had never seen before.

The Treatment Rooms

Treatment Rooms
The Treatment Rooms | Image credit: Jim Linwood

A quiet corner of West London hides a house that can only be described as wondrous.

Carrie Reichardt, the renowned mosaic artist, finally completed her collaborative Treatment Rooms work in 2017. This ordinary suburban house is now covered both front and back with intricate mosaics, illustrating issues close to their heart – from Martin Luther King to inmates on death row.

The back wall is the exclusive domain of a huge white octopus, look to the top of the wall for small pyramids detailing the phases of the moon.

King Henry’s Mound

View from King Henry's Mound
The view from King Henry's Mound | Image credit: Allan Harris

Head to the depths of Richmond Park to find this very ordinary telescope looking over a very extraordinary view.

Said to be where King Henry VIII climbed to watch for a signal from the Tower of London that Anne Boleyn had lost her head (although he was likely in Wiltshire at the time), the hill has a clear view all the way to St Paul’s Cathedral - a view which is now protected so that no buildings can be built which obstruct that sightline. Even the copse of trees at the top of the hill is pruned to ensure a line of sight straight to that distant dome.

Water Dragons

Chinese Water Dragon at Kew Gardens
Chinese Water Dragon basking | Image credit: Jim Linwood

Kew Gardens is full of hidden treasures, and these cute residents are definitely one of them.

Resident pest managers for the Princess of Wales greenhouse and the Palm House, the RSPCA and customs officers rescued the first Chinese water dragons from inappropriate conditions and illegal trafficking. Since then they’ve made themselves at home, breeding numerous times – and their offspring live productively at the conservatory today.

Head to the lily pool to catch a glimpse of these docile dragons basking or swimming.

The Tent-Tomb of Sir Richard Burton

Sir Richard Burton's Tomb
Sir Richard Burton's Tomb | Image credit: TP Holland

Sir Richard Burton had a life-long fascination with all things Arabian, and after being expelled from Oxford for horse racing, joined the East India Company and began to travel the world.

Marrying Isabel Arundell, the couple lived together in Brazil, Syria, and Italy – where Richard spent time translating some most famous and scandalous works, including The Arabian Nights and The Perfumed Garden.

His final wish before he died was to build the unique tent-shaped mausoleum, said to be based on one the Burtons shared during their time in Syria. A ladder at the rear gives access to a stained glass window where you can see twin caskets – the couple together at rest.

The Naked Ladies

York House Naked Ladies
The Naked Ladies | Image credit: Jim Linwood

This group of unusually posed statues came to reside under most unusual circumstances. Originally belonging to fraud artist Whitaker Wright, they were moved to York House following his conviction and suicide. The statues were moved, however, without any notes being taken as to their original arrangement – so the designers of the gardens simply guessed at how they should go!

Eight statues comprise the collection – although two figures are said to belong to a different collection – but the Oceanids have now become part and parcel of the grounds.

Parakeets

Whether they were released by Jimi Hendrix, escaped from the set of The African Queen, or (most likely) absconded from pet shops and aviaries in the 1960’s and ‘70s, these colourful colonists are now a feature of London life. Head to Richmond Park and keep your eyes up and see if you can find any of the 8,600 breeding pairs now roosting across the United Kingdom.