Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park in London, covering an area of 2,500 acres. From its heights there is an uninterrupted view of St Paul's Cathedral, 12 miles away.
The royal connections to this park probably go back further than any of the others, beginning with Edward I in the thirteenth century, when the area was known as the Manor of Sheen. The name was changed to Richmond during Henry VII's reign. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London and turned it into a park for red and fallow deer. His decision, in 1637, to enclose the land was not popular with the local residents, but he did allow pedestrians the right of way. To this day the walls remain. In 1847 Pembroke Lodge became the home of the then Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, and was later the childhood home of his grandson, Bertrand Russell.
However, Richmond Park emerges from its historical record as a place that has seen many changes in fabric and detail and yet remains the embodiment of a medieval deer park. It is a palimpsest, retaining subtle clues to each period in its history.
Paul Rabbitts has over twenty years of experience in designing, managing and restoring urban parks across the UK. As a qualified Landscape Architect and current Head of Parks for a SE Local Authority, he is also a published author and regular contributor to journals and periodicals. Currently head of parks for Watford Borough Council, he is also project director for the GBP6.5 million restoration of Cassiobury Park, as well as an author on books on Regent's Park, Richmond Park, the royal parks and bandstands, on which he is acknowledged as a UK expert. He lives in Leighton Buzzard.