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The Long Life Of The Star And Garter

The Star and Garter

If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting Richmond Hill, I am sure you’ve heard of The Star and Garter. The Star and Garter has played a big role in the history of Richmond. Many important people have visited and stayed there and it has helped to serve not just its guests, or Richmond, but the country.

There has been a Star And Garter in the area since Tudor Times. The first records in the British Museum mention that in Christmas 1509 officials of the Court of Henry VIII dined together in the village of Shene (which is what Richmond used to be called) at an establishment of the same name. Sadly, the exact location of this inn can’t be confirmed as the same.

Starting life as just an alehouse. A watercolour from 1750 by F.Grose, shows a collection of partly timber-framed buildings with a Star and Garter sign above the door. John Christoper was the first to lease the land from the Earl of Dysart and after Christopher died in 1758 the inn was leased to several people with mixed success.

Mary Berry (1763-1852) was a non-fiction writer of the day. Most famous for her diaries of the time. She recalled coming across the Star and Garter In 1808. “The door of The Star And Garter being open and we walked in and a civil quondam(Latin for ‘at one time’) servant of the house showed us the rooms. Dismal history from the woman of the foolish man, who made these great additions to the former house, ruined himself, and died in prison! His wife, seeing that all was going wrong, became insane and died before him.” This sorry story of a foolish husband was probably about Richard Brewer, who had made some extravagant additions after acquiring the lease in 1803.

It was when as a Hotel it passed into the hands of Mr Joseph Ellis in 1822 that the establishment took off. The Ellis family ran the hotel until 1864 and during this time the Hotel became the place to be seen in English, fashionable society. It would be impossible to name all the celebrated people that had stayed in this wondrous place let alone the people that have dined there.

The Royals flocked, King Louis Philippe with his Queen Amelie and their family stayed for six months in 1848-9 and were visited by Queen Victoria. Napoleon III, Empress Eugénie, Emperor Alexander of Russia and King Fredrick William of Prussia all visited. It was not just popular with royalty but also with the writers and other artists of the day. Charles Dickens loved the place. In fact for twenty years, on the date of his wedding anniversary, he held a dinner at the hotel, inviting friends such as Thackery and Tennyson.

In 1864 it was bought and run not by an individual or a family but by a corporation, a limited company with shareholders. The Limited Liability Act had was only passed in 1855 so this was a very novel arrangement. A new dominating building, designed by EM Barrie was erected opposite the gates. But terrible misfortune would now change its future forever. On Wednesday, 12 January 1870, a horrible fire broke out, destroying nearly all the original buildings that had been there before 1864. Luckily, as it was the winter season the hotel was empty of guests. Just three people were inside, two died, including the hotel manager John Lever. The hotel was so well-known that the news of the fire spread as far as newspapers in Australia!

Another fire in 1888 finished off the old coffee room, the only historic part of the building left. A banqueting hall was built in that area but the establishment would never recover in popularity. It stood empty for a few years before World War I when it was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers.

In 1919-20 the buildings were pulled down to make way for a new design by Sir Edward Cooper. Once a famous place for the rich, royal and famous it now became The Star And Garter Home For Disabled Sailors And Soldiers, a beautiful spot for them to convalesce for nearly a century!

The Grade II listed was sold to developers in 2013 and converted into luxury flats.

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