These words from a 19th-century song-sheet, ’The Lass of Richmond Hill’ form part of Richmond folk-lore.
A popular song of the 1900s, the lyrics originated from a poem by Reverend Thomas Maurice which was first read in 1807 at Vauxhall Gardens – the most famous of the pleasure gardens. The Poem recounts the supposed true story of the young lady ‘Mira’ who lived in Richmond and killed herself for love.
This narrative mirrored the events of 1782 where a Susanna Cropp a Richmond Hill resident and daughter of a rich merchant family, died at the age of 27 after falling in love with an ineligible suitor. On 22nd April Susanna committed suicide, by jumping from a window of the family home, now The Richmond Hill Hotel.
Her death was only briefly noted in the next-day paper which gave no details of her tragic demise. Probably out of respect to her locally prominent parents Richard and Mary Cropp.
Susanna had fallen deeply in love, but the man she wished to marry was not considered of a high enough social standing to be accepted by her father as marriage material. The man was an officer in the army, stationed at Richmond and although of good character, and with a respectable family, he was poor.
Fearing Susanna might elope with her lover. Richard Cropp prohibited the officer from approaching the house and Susanna was strictly confined within the walls of her gilded cage.
Consumed by grief due to her predicament, she was recorded to be “in a fit of despair bordering on insanity”. Flinging herself from an upper window of the house she was dashed to pieces on the stone steps below. After her death, the officer was sent to serve in American and was shot dead in action.
It is important to say that there is more than one contender for the Lass of Richmond Hill. Providence is shaky for all, however I uncovered corroboration that the true identity could indeed be Susanna Cropp.
Clementina Black, a writer of the 1920s had researched letters held in the British Library for her book. The correspondence of Richard Dennison Cumberland between the years 1771 and 1784 was her focus. Her book was compiled to provide a portrait of the typical concerns of an 18th century gentile family. ‘The Cumberland Letters” was published in 1921. Details of Susanna Cropp, her family and her death were recounted within these letters by an extended member of the Cropp family.
THE HOUSE AND LAND
The House later became Mansfield House after the Duchess of Mansfield who lived there for over 20 years and died there in 1843. Then it became a popular Hotel, The Queens, which as it expanded incorporated two other houses already built in Mansfield Place and built in the 1830s. It changed its name to the Richmond Hill Hotel early in the 20th Century.
The acre of land, on which the The Richmond Hill Hotel and the new Harbour Hotel stand was originally part of Richmond Common. In 1621 a lease was granted by The Crown to a to Thomas Mercer who built a windmill which stood for over 100 years at the crossroads of Queens Road and Star & Garter.
Despite the origins of the who Lass of Richmond Hill was still being conjecture. I find the possible connection with the story of Susanna Cropp and her tragic end fascinating and one I often ponder as I walk past her former family home in the Richmond Hill Hotel…