Inventory Site Record

Maids of Honour Row

Maids of Honour Row (Richmond)

Brief Description

Maids of Honour Row, facing onto Richmond Green, was built in 1717-21 on part of the site of Richmond Palace as a speculative development. Two houses were rented for the Maids of Honour to the Princess of Wales. Walled gardens front and back were probably part of the original design, and all houses have retained their garden walls and handsome iron railings and gates at the front. The gardens are now all arranged individually. No very early designs are recorded although there is one design for No.4 in the 1860s.

Practical Information
Site location:
4 Maids of Honour Row, Richmond
Type of site:
Private Garden
Open to public?
Opening times:
Special conditions:
Public transport:
Rail/London Overground/Tube (District): Richmond

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/10/2009
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Maids of Honour Row faces onto Richmond Green (q.v.) The ground on which the terrace of four houses was built was until the mid-C17th part of the grounds and outbuildings of Richmond Palace. The palace had its origins as the manor house of Shene, but was converted into a royal palace by Edward III. After 1394, the buildings were demolished and the site was abandoned. From 1413/14 Henry V started to build the Palace of Shene and laid out a garden on the site lying to the south-east of Palace Lane, where Asgill House now stands. The palace and its grounds were extended to the north-east between c.1445 and 1450, enclosing part of the green. In this area an outer court, or Great Court was constructed, with lodgings, a gatehouse and a wall to the Privy Garden. A fire destroyed most of the palace in 1497. The third palace was erected between 1497 and 1501 by Henry VI. It remained a royal residence under the early Stuarts, being used particularly by the royal children. Under the Commonwealth, from about 1650, much of it was taken down and the materials sold, although parts of the outer courts remained. The site of Maids of Honour Row lies on this boundary wall and part of the Privy Garden.

Information about the Palace can be drawn from a herald’s description written in about 1501 in the reign of Henry VIII, the Parliamentary Survey of 1649, and Wyngaerde’s sketches in the Ashmolean Museum (one dated 1562). Details of these sources are given in Colvin, History of the King’s Works, p.224. The palace itself and the Great Orchard adjoining it on the south-west was moated on three sides, with the River Thames on the fourth. The buildings were approached through an outer gatehouse which led into the Great Court, and thence through another gate into Fountain Court, bounded on one side by the chapel and on the other by the hall. The main palace building lay to the south-west of the Fountain Court, with a central paved court. Wyngaerde’s view from the Green shows the gatehouses and Great Court. The gardens lay to either side. They were the Privy Garden to the eastern side of the Great Court, and Privy Orchard to the same side of the main palace, both of which were walled, and the Great Orchard to the south-west of the main palace which had the moat to its west side and the Thames to its south.

A particularly interesting episode in the history of the gardens of Richmond Palace occurred in the reign of James I, when it was the residence of Henry, Prince of Wales. He was probably living there from about 1604 when a new pheasant-house was built, and a new ship was built for him. At his investiture on 4 June 1610 he was granted the palace and the new park. There followed a period of high expenditure and elaborate plans for both palace and gardens which lasted until the Prince’s sudden death from typhoid. A picture of the work involved can be built up from accounts, letters, plans and projects. Work included much levelling, excavation and embanking, the construction of a new tennis court, a new wharf, raising the height of three existing ayots in the Thames and providing water pipes from the cistern house to them and the linking by bridges of the islands to the bank. The cistern house was built, and a start was made on a grotto or ‘rock house’ near the river bank. Had the plans been carried out a large amount of land reclamation along the river bank would have been undertaken, and extraordinary new gardens on each side of the palace would have been constructed. Some of what was accomplished can be seen in Wenceslas Hollar’s engraving of the palace from the Thames of 1638, including the cistern house and the rock house.

In addition, Prince Henry asked Grand Duke Cosimo II de’ Medici for the help of an Italian designer, and the Duke sent him Constantino de’ Servi, architect and hydraulic engineer. De’ Servi made a magnificent plan which was presented to the Prince in September 1611. It depended heavily on new land reclaimed from the river in front of the palace to provide extended gardens and a grand landing stage and entrance courtyard to the south. This plan increased the area occupied by the Privy Orchard and proposed grand new water gardens there, with a large fish pond and huge Neptune figure. Very little had been carried out of the great garden proposed by de’ Servi and de Caus by the time of the Prince’s death.

After the death of Prince Henry, the new Prince of Wales, Prince Charles took up residence at Richmond in 1617, and a new pheasant house was built at this time. Charles settled Richmond on his Queen, Henrietta Maria in 1626, and his children lived at Richmond. A large raised octagonal bird house was built in the orchard in 1636-7, and a pigeon-house in the green garden. The tennis court was paved with Purbeck stone in 1637-8. After the execution of Charles I in 1649, the property was appropriated and a Parliamentary Survey was made. The site of the Row was described as a ‘tiled building, well guttered with lead and batteled, and adorned with divers pinnacles covered with lead’ which contained ‘choice and fayr rooms both below stayrs and above, and one Tennis Court’ (Cloake). At the Restoration in 1660, the property was returned to the Crown, but little interest was shown in it. It was partly demolished and in poor repair. Sir Edward Villiers, Keeper of the House and Steward of the Manor, lived in the best preserved part of the palace buildings - the range now occupied by Maids of Honour Row. Gradually, new houses began to appear on the palace site. François Gasselin’s drawing of the north front of the palace buildings of c.1695 shows that some building had recently taken place near the palace wall, but that the site of the Row was still occupied by the old Tudor lodgings against the wall. In 1703, Brigadier George Cholmondeley was appointed Steward of the Manor. By then, several plots were set out on the ground and building started on some of them (Plan of the site of Richmond Palace, c.1703, TNA MPE 428). Cholmondeley was granted a new lease on the site on 28 December 1708, which mentioned the poor condition of the buildings there. (Cloake) A Crown lease dated 1757 records that Cholmondeley granted a lease of the plot of Maids of Honour Row to Thomas Honour, carpenter, on 13 September 1717, and other documents relating to a Chancery suit against Elizabeth Honour, Thomas’s widow show that Thomas Honour then proceeded to build the four houses now called Maids of Honour Row between 1717 and 1721 in partnership with William Walmesley, who later acquired the lease. The Chancery documents also show that the Prince of Wales rented property from 1722. The Poor Rate books for the period show that he rented two of the houses for his wife’s Maids of Honour.

Thomas Honour, carpenter, of Twickenham, had obtained his lease on the ‘Pile of old buildings situate near adjoining to or upon Richmond Green in the County of Surrey being part of the old Palace . . . with the Court or Courtyard before the same. And also of the slip of ground or garden behind the same’ which equalled in size 129 foot by 120 foot. This old building had possessed ‘gardens and courts’ and also had a small piece of ground adjoining it ‘then lately enclosed with a brick wall’. The four new houses constructed on the site were described as having a ‘Court or Court Yard’ in front ‘and also the Slip of Ground or Garden Plat behind the same and the Walls of and to the same Court or Courtyard belonging’. Both these documents are slightly ambiguous, but it is clear that the front gardens were walled and that there was another piece of ground adjoining with a new wall around it. This was probably the back gardens. Thus the gardens at the front were certainly walled from the time they were built, and perhaps those at the back were too. They certainly were by 1756, as will be seen later.

The building accounts attached to the Chancery documents mention a number of payments to a gardener, named as Mr Thomas Dunn. These start very early in the building history, in the spring of 1718 and continue until the autumn of 1719. He was specifically paid for cutting turf in February 1719, and for mowing the grass twice in September 1719. On 13 February 1719 fruit trees were purchased from George Moor, and gravel was supplied in June 1719. It is likely that the gardens were extremely simple at this time, consisting only of grass, gravel paths and fruit trees planted against the walls. George Moor was a nurseryman at Twickenham.

Overton and Hoole’s famous Prospect of Richmond of 1726 shows the new houses abutting the buildings around the gatehouse of the palace. This view correctly shows four houses, each with their front gardens, front walls, railings and steps up to the front doors. However, it is unreliable where the back gardens are concerned since it shows them running down to the river bank. The whole of the site of the old Privy Orchard and the palace itself is missing. Even so, the layout of the gardens may give some clue to their appearance at the time and tends to confirm the information in the accounts. Two are shown in detail. The garden which apparently belongs to No.1 is walled, with what may be fruit trees trained against the walls. It is divided by paths, probably of gravel, into eight rectangles of grass, with standard clipped evergreens bordering the central path beside the four central grass plats. The next garden also has trees trained against its walls. It is divided into four grass plats bordered with beds, in which there are alternating clipped evergreens, perhaps hollies or yews, in globes and cones. Such arrangements were characteristic of town gardens of the time, when the fashion was for topiary shapes and simple symmetrical designs. These gardens to the Row were perhaps the more fashionable ones of the area. Other gardens on Overton’s view are shown only with vegetable plots and fruit trees.

An illustration by W. Shaftoe published in Joseph Grove’s The History of the Life and Times of Cardinal Wolsey of 1742 is also ambiguous. It shows No.4 of the Row, behind which there seems to be an unwalled section of land common to all four houses. Generally, though, the details on this engraving are not very accurately drawn, so this information may be unreliable too. John Rocque’s An Exact Survey of the City’s of London Westminster ye Borough of Southwark and the Country near 10 miles round London, 1744-6 is not very accurate and gives little idea of the form of the gardens. The first accurate plans are dated 1756 and 1757 (Charles Evans, The Map of the Ground on which the Pallace of Richmond in Surry formerly stood. March 23 1756; Charles Evans, The Map of the Ground on which the Palace of Richmond in Surry formerly stood. 1757). Evans drew the various buildings on the site of the palace, and included the four houses on the Row. They are noted as belonging to Mr Walmsley, and are shown as walled both front and back. Thomas Richardson’s Plan of the Royal Manor of Richmond of 1771 shows the plots walled as before, but with the addition of small constructions at the end of the gardens. These were probably privies. No.4 has two, one in each corner.

The first two Ordnance Survey maps of Richmond both date from 1867 and are respectively to a scale of 25 inches to the mile and 60 inches to the mile. Here for the first time the houses have the name of Maid of Honor Row. Here too is the first reliable record of the garden layouts. No. 4 is the most detailed. It shows the front garden with a path to the front door and area, and shrubs or bushes planted at regular intervals in beds round the edges. The rest of the garden is left blank. At the back there is a border round three sides, again planted with evenly spaced bushes, and a central rectangle with a path round it. There are two trees and some shrubs. The small buildings at the end are no longer there. The other gardens are less detailed, although No. 2 has a central path in the back garden with a shrubbery at the end.

The garden designs shown on the OS maps of 1867 are very simple, and cannot have changed a great deal over the years. Other larger gardens shown on the map had curving paths, specimen trees and shrubberies, but in small gardens there was little room for such things. Gardens of this period were more lushly planted than before, with plenty of foliage and plants which were desirable for their flowers. These simple gardens, with their regularly-spaced planting, probably remained until the beginning of the C20th, when less formal designs became popular. Subsequent OS maps do not detail the gardens.

From this survey of evidence from 1700 onwards it appears that the size of the plots has not changed since about 1717, and the gardens have always been walled at least in part. Front courts or gardens were designed with the houses. Photographs from the early C20th show two of the houses covered with creepers, and a number of prominent hedges. They retain their walls and railings. Their appearance from the street has not changed much since. The back gardens also retain their walls. However, the designs of the gardens today must surely be the most complex ever, and have been frequently changed in recent years. For example, the back garden at No.4 until recently had something of everything, with urns, columns, a classical alcove, a summerhouse, gravel areas, flower beds, and climbers on the walls. The front garden was paved, with low green planting between the stones, and two columns.

Sources consulted:

John Cloake, Richmond Palace. Its History and Plan, Richmond Local History Society, 2001; H.M. Colvin (ed.), The History of the King’s Works, Volume IV, 1485-1660 (Part II), HMSO, 1982, pp.222-234; Paula Henderson, The Tudor House and Garden, Yale, 2005; H.E. Malden (ed.), The Victoria History of the County of Surrey, vol.3, University of London, 1911; Luke Morgan, Nature as Model. Salomon de Caus and Early Seventeenth-Century Landscape Design, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2007; Sally Jeffery 'The Gardens of Maids of Honour Row, Richmond, Surrey Gardens Trust Newsletter Spring/Summer 2009 Issue No 36; Sally Jeffery 'The Building of Maids of Honour Row, Richmond', The Georgian Group Journal vol xviii, 2010.

LPGT Volunteer Research by Sally Jeffery, October 2009

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
Site management:
Listed structures:
LBI: Terrace of 4 houses
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Richmond Green
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Area of Archaeological Potential, priority 1
Other LA designation:

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