This was another of those houses that I had been hoping to be involved with for many years and then fate struck twice. In the late 1990s I carried out an initial paint investigation of two of the rooms and then I worked on a proposal for the redecoration of the whole house nearly ten years later
The house, which is on Richmond Hill, was built for Christopher Blanchard, a playing card manufacturer in 1769. The architect appears to have been Sir Robert Taylor and it is similar to his later Ely House, in Dover Street.1
The house has a 3-bay rusticated ground floor with frieze above; aedicule surrounds in the Ionic order to the first floor windows and a 2-bay pediment above.
The house with its pediment can be seen clearly
It is said that King George III, while walking along The Terrace, asked to whom the house belonged. “To your Majesty’s Card-maker,” was the reply. “Blanchard ?” said the King ; “why, all his cards must have turned up trumps.”
When Christopher Blanchard died he left the house to his daughter Ann, wife of William Richardson, son of Sir William Richardson, Bart. who occupied Doughty House next door. Subsequently the house was occupied by Mrs. Fitzherbert, who first became acquainted with the Prince of Wales (afterwards George IV) when living there.3
The view of the Thames from Richmond Hill has long been the inspiration of writers and artists, both native and foreign.
The Scottish poet, James Thomson, refers to the view in Summer (of 1727) – one of the poems from the cycle called The Seasons:
“Here let us sweep
The boundless landscape; not the raptur’d eye,
Exulting swift, to huge Augusta send,
Now to the sister-hills that skirt her plain
To lofty Harrow now, and then to where
Majestic Windsor lifts his princely brow.
In lovely contrast to this glorious view,
The German, Karl Philipp Moritz, whose impressions are recorded in his Travels, chiefly on Foot, through several parts of England in 1782, described in Letters to a Friend said:
“The terrace at Richmond does assuredly afford one of the finest prospects in the world. Whatever is charming in nature or pleasing in art, is to be seen here: nothing I had ever seen or ever can see elsewhere, is to be compared to it.”4
The walk along Richmond Terrace is listed as Grade II* in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. Laid out in the 1700s, the Terrace Walk towards the end of the 20th Century was in need of upgrading. The famous View from Richmond Hill was protected by an Act of Parliament in 1902 and it was this Act which provided the catalyst for the development of the London’s Arcadia project.
The interior is particularly fine and has some magnificent plasterwork.
The staircase balustrade is in wrought ironwork with a moulded wood handrail ramped at each landing, as also is the capping of the plain dado. The door-cases on the landings have triangular broken pediments and enriched mouldings. The six-panel doors are wide and handsome, the panels being raised and fielded. The staircase and landing walls are decorated with mouldings and ornament, and at intervals there are elliptic plaques bearing heads in relief.5
The staircase rises through three floors to a lantern above.
Opposite the house, on the other side of the road, is Wick House, which belonged to the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1732-1792). He painted the view from the Hill in about 1780.
1 The name of Sir William Chambers had been mentioned in connection with the building, but this is generally dismissed.
2 George was the son of celebrated landscape painter George Barret Snr. (1732–84), a founder member of the Royal Academy. In addition, both George’s brother James and sister Mary painted landscapes. George Jnr. specialised in romantic classical landscapes inspired by the paintings of 17th century artist Claude Gellée Lorrain.
3 “Memoirs of Mrs. Fitzherbert” by the Hon. Charles Langdale, 1866.
4 More information can be seen here – The View from Richmond Hill.
5 “No. 3 The Terrace, Richmond Hill”. Nathaniel Lloyd. The Architectural Review. January 1921.
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