Prior to the middle of the 18th century, the only walk by the river at Richmond was past the site of the Old Palace. It was called Cholmondeley Walk after the Earl of Cholmondeley who lived in a house on the site now occupied by Maids of Honour Row.
In 1711 the Earl exchanged plots of land with Richard Hill who lived in Trumpeters’ House, thus giving Cholmondeley a parcel of land by the river and a strip which connected it to his house on The Green. The Earl died in 1724 and his son, the 3rd Earl, built Cholmondeley House on the riverside in 1740 after he had acquired more land.
Cholmondeley Walk now forms that part of the towpath that lies between Old Palace Lane and Friars Lane. The walk is bordered to the east by a series of fine houses, the most northerly of which is Asgill House (local history notes are also available for Asgill House). This is followed by to the south by the long gardens and garden-fronts of Trumpeters House (local history notes are also available for Trumpeters' House) and Queensberry House, a large block of flats built around 1933 to 1934, and finally by numbers 1,2,3, Cholmondeley Walk.
Cholmondeley Walk is situated on land reclaimed from the river. In the 16th century and early 17th century, the river formed the western boundary of the privy chambers of Richmond Palace which was demolished during the Commonwealth period and by 1700 was waste land called, somewhat oddly, "The Fryers". Asgill House was constructed around 1760 on the site of a brewhouse, Trumpeters’ House was converted from the Middle or Garden Gatehouse of the palace by James II and was later altered by Richard Hill and Lewis Way, the site of the Privy Chambers forming the garden of that house.
The land between the gardens of Trumpeters’ House and Friars Lane (then an extremely narrow, but more or less straight road between The Green and the river) comprised, in 1700, waste land to the south which adjoined a kitchen garden to the north and the house of Mrs Darly and Mr Williams and the ruins of the old pump house to the east. The map of the palace site in the Public Record Office (MBE 428) also shows that adjoining east of the Darly-Williams houses was an estate belonging to a Mr Smith. The boundary of his property adjoined south-east on Mrs Hermitage's house (now Tudor Place and Lodge) on the corner of Friars Lane and The Green and north-east to that of the Earl of Cholmondeley whose house had been constructed in part of the outer wall of the palace and was similar in style to the existing Old Palace and Gatehouse. The site is now occupied by Maids of Honour Row (local history notes are also available for Richmond Maids of Honour).
George Cholmondeley, 2nd Earl of Cholmondeley (around 1666 to 1733) was educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He was admitted to the Inner Temple in 1680, but in1686 he abandoned law and joined the Queen Consort's Regiment of Horse. Two years later he espoused the cause of the Prince of Orange and joined the rebels in the north. He was in command of the 1st Troop of Horse Guards at the Battle of the Boyne and in 1691 was made a Groom of the Bedchamber. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1697 and held that rank until 1702.
On 23 June 1711 he wrote to the Earl of Oxford:
"I humbly beg leave to acquaint your Lordship, upon what you were pleased to say to me yesterday morning about Richmond, that this manor, with all lands belonging to it, hath several times been granted by the Crown, particularly in King Charles II’s reign… I have the honour to serve the Crown these thirty years, and am one of the oldest Lieut.-Generals in the Army though the Duke of Marlborough is pleased not to let me serve… I have great sums that are due to me from the Crown by arrears and otherwise in the late reign; and upon these considerations I did petition Her Majesty for this manor, where my family hath long been settled and I have spent great sums in buildings. However, if your Lordship is of the opinion it is not advisable for Her Majesty to make this grant, I shall submit to your great wisdom".
If not then he certainly received the High Stewardship later for by 1726 the Richmond Rate Books contained the entry "Lord Cholmondeley for His Majesty's Manor".
In 1715 George I created him Baron Newborough of Newborough (an Irish peerage) and in 1724 to 1725 he succeeded his brother, Hugh, as Earl of Cholmondeley. He was then appointed Lord Lieutenant of Cheshire, where Cholmondeley Castle was situated, and of most of North Wales. Also remembered as a minor poet he died at Whitehall on 7 May 1733 and was succeeded by his son, George whose wife Mary was the daughter of Robert Walpole and sister of Horace Walpole. The 2nd Earl's only surviving memorial in Richmond is the name of the walk.
The tenancy of Cholmondeley House passed to William Mellish around 1751, although the new Earl was still being rated for the manor until 1755. The house was then acquired by Earl Brook, who in 1759 was created Earl of Warwick. He sold the property to the Hon. Richard Lyttleton who in turn was followed by Georgiana, Countess Cowper whose son John, Earl Spencer, purchased the house in 1765.
During the 1780s the house came into the possession of William Douglas, 4th Duke of Queensberry (1724 to 1810) and "Old Q" of the caricaturists, whose residency changed the name to Queensberry House. He filled it with furniture and fittings from Amesbury. In the 1790's and 1800's he quarrelled with the Richmond Vestry which took him to court for trying to close Cholmondeley Walk and, because of this action, he lost interest in the house.
On his death in 1810 it was inherited, along with all his other property, by the Marquis and Marchioness of Hertford - she being his illegitimate daughter Maria-Emily (Mie-Mie) Fagniani. The rate book of 1830 describes the house as "in ruins".
The Cholmondeley estate was possibly acquired from the Crown by Sir William Dundas, a Richmond landowner who exchanged it for some land in the Kew and Mortlake Roads plus £1380.
In 1830 to 1831, using much of the materials of the old house, the new Queensberry House was built on the eastern part of the estate, possibly to the design of Louis Vulliamy who carried out alterations to it in 1835. The house was also set further back from the river.
The house remained in the Dundas family till around 1875 and a later resident was Thomas Cave, J.P. and M.P. for Barnstaple from 1865 to 1880. In 1876, when the Vestry were proposing bye-laws for the Walk, there was a dispute between Cave and the Richmond Vestry over its ownership. His son wrote to the Vestry claiming that his father owned the whole of Cholmondeley Walk and not just the part in front of Queensberry House. The claim was based on the deed of 8 June 1830, by which George IV granted to the late Sir William Dundas "in exchange for lands at Kew and a money payment – first Queensberry House and grounds in fee simple, and second all the estate, right, and interest of his Majesty in Cholmondeley-walk free from encumbrance, and subject only to the right of user by the public as a terrace." As all the interest of Dundas in this deed had been passed to Cave, he was advised that Cholmondeley Walk belonged to him. There was a plan that went with the deed, but, unfortunately, there was a mistake in the colouring of it. The Vestry thought that they had acquired some right to the Walk as they had kept it in repair since the date of that deed. They also had a deed dated 19 November 1806 which showed that the Duke of Queensberry held an interest merely in Queensberry House and Cholmondeley Walk. In December 1876, the Vestry wrote to both the Office of Woods (for the Crown) and Mr Cave asking each if they would sell their respective interests in the Walk to them and under what terms. Cave’s son replied in January 1877 that "since there is such a wide difference between the opinion of the Vestry and his own as to the extent of the property in Cholmondeley Walk, his father feels that the terms upon which he might be disposed to part with his interest would not be entertained by the Vestry." June 1877 saw a letter from the Office of Woods also declining to sell the Crown’s interest in Cholmondeley Walk. A letter was received from the Office of Woods on 16 July which stated that " …as far as the Crown is concerned …the Vestry can maintain as heretofore all such parts of the walk as belongs to the Crown… the soil of the whole of the Walk belongs to the Crown with the exception of the portion which lies between the western boundary of Mr Cave’s enclosed freehold property and Friar’s Lane." A further letter. on 28 July, from the Office of Woods informed the Vestry the Mr Cave had been told " that the law officers of the Crown had advised that, by the Deed of Exchange with the late Sir Wm. Dundas dated 8 June 1830, the Crown parted with its interests in that portion only of Cholmondeley Walk which is opposite to the premises conveyed by the same deed to the grantee." No further correspondence seems to have been received from either side so presumably the matter was closed.
Thomas Cave died in 1894, but the house remained in the possession of the family and was let to tenants until 1919 when it was acquired by Mr Galfrid C.de Trafford. After his death in 1924, his widow and daughter continued to live in the house. In January 1933 it was announced that the house was up for sale with the possibility that it would be demolished and the site redeveloped. An auction was held on 9 March, but as the reserve price was not reached, the property was withdrawn. A planning application was made to the council at the end of March to build 48 flats, 4 storeys high in 5 blocks and 16 garages on the site. Consent was needed under the Town Planning Scheme which limited the type of building that could be erected on this site to 8 dwelling houses per acre and no flats, the area of the site was 2.4 acres.
It was then revealed at the beginning of April that the property had been purchased by Henry Heath, a Putney builder and that he would be putting in his own proposals for the site; it is not known who put in that first planning application. Heath wanted to increase the number of garages to 25 and he also put in an alternative plan for 20 houses on the site.
The Times newspaper carried articles and editorials about the scheme. Letters from Philip Connard, the artist, who lived in Cholmondeley Lodge, and Lady Cave appeared with the latter querying what would happen to Cholmondeley Walk as the rights of way along the Walk in front of the house belonged to the owner of Queensberry House. The Richmond and Twickenham Times also printed a long article on the subject.
On 11th April the Council considered the offer of the house for either a) municipal purposes or b) accept it as a gift for municipal purposes on the understanding that the grounds would remain unbuilt on. It was decided that the Council would not purchase the property, but would accept it as a gift provided they were under no obligation to maintain the existing house.
The Highways committee looked at the planning applications on 25 April and they considered the amenities of Cholmondeley Walk and the Riverside would be better secured by flats rather than houses. They recommended that permission should be given for the building of not more than 48 flats in 3 storeys and 25 garages of 1 storey. The Office of Works then became involved because of the surrounding Crown property and suggested that the number of flats should be reduced to 36 and garages to 20, but the committee recommended the original scheme. By September the only objection to the scheme was that the Office of Works preferred the mansard roof design as shown in the original drawings rather than the flat roof given in the revised drawings and the Council agreed. So the house was demolished and the present Queensberry House flats were erected on the site whilst most of the garden area was retained and by August 1934 the first flats were advertised for rent at £150 to £260 a year.
There are 3 parts of the former houses still remaining on the site. The first is a series of 6 brick arches ending with a hexagonal tower or gazebo in Friars Lane. These are shown on 19 century maps and the gazebo has been restored into a little house. A lodge situated against Trumpeters House in the north-west corner of the site is the second and it was formerly a gardener’s cottage for the 1830 house. The final part is the magnificent cast-iron fountain that stands in the centre of the garden and, again, was probably from 1830 development.
Further reading on Cholmondeley Walk.
Updated: 10 February 2020