The Castle Inn is not a name you would associate with Richmond today but it was a leading hotel and event location during much of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Originally it was located in George Street, the building had two Jacobean Gables, one of which still survives from the late 17 century at 37 George Street.
In about 1760 the first owner, John Halford, moved the establishment to an existing mansion on Hill Street. The gardens stretched all the way to the boathouses on the riverside, making it a hugely desirable location In around 1830 Joseph Ellis took over, renovating much the buildings. He was already the proprietor of the celebrated Star and Garter Hotel on the Hill and the location really took off.
Numerous balls and famous parties were held in the assembly rooms. In 1838 the Austrian Ambassador, held a fete in honour of Queen Victoria’s coronation here. The Hotel remained popular until the 1870s finally closing in 1878, although the assembly rooms remained open for sometime. Shown as the Castle Rooms in this postcard from the 1930s.
Incidentally in the late 1870s the town vestry were looking for new premises. Having long outgrown the halls located in 21 Paradise Road where they held their meetings. They had looked at the Old Castle Hotel site but found it too pricey.
John Whittaker Ellis a former Mayor of London stepped in to help. He had strong ties with Richmond as the the 5th son of Joseph Ellis, and although the family no longer owned the Castle Hotel site he arranged to purchase the land as a gift to the town. so it could build its own new municipal offices. The new Town Hall opened in 1888.
The area included where the Wold War I memorial stands and a condition of the gift was that a road should be made to provide more riverside access for the public. Originally called Castle Road, it became Whittaker Avenue a few years later, as it is now known.
Richmond received the charter of incorporation on 23 July 1890 making it a Borough, in its own right and John Whittaker Ellis was made the first Mayer of Richmond. His bust still sits in this beautiful building which is still serving the public It was unveiled by the Princess of Teck in 1895. John Whittaker Ellis died on 20 September 1912, and is buried at St Peter’s churchyard, Petersham.
The Castle Hotel name may be lost in time to Richmond, were it was once synonymous but traces of its presence still remain.