London: Museum of Richmond

img_20160909_142253054There’s a very good reason why I had to drag all those New Zealand and Australia posts out for what probably seemed an interminable length of time.  In the nearly four months I’ve been back home, I’ve only gone to three museums, which is a remarkably low number for someone who blogs at least once a week.  Part of it was burn out from travelling, but mostly it was because we sold our car to help finance the trip, which means I can no longer easily get to destinations outside London, and except for special exhibitions (which cost money that I don’t really have) I feel I’ve exhausted most of what London has to offer.  Which leads me to the Museum of Richmond.

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Now, I have nothing against local museums, but sometimes it feels like when you’ve seen one local museum, you’ve seen ’em all.  Obviously that isn’t true, because many of them contain hidden treasures, as I’ve discussed in many, many past posts, but it’s hard to muster up the same kind of enthusiasm for a local museum as I would for say, a crime museum, or a medical museum.  Therefore, although I’ve been aware of the Museum of Richmond’s existence for a while, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit to get out there.  Actually, before visiting this museum, I don’t think I’d ever actually been in Richmond proper.  I’ve been to Kew Gardens and the National Archives a good few times, and I’ve (been) driven through the centre of Richmond en route to other places, but I’d never actually been to Richmond Station or walked up the high street.  And frankly, it’s so busy and full of traffic there that I’m not exactly in a hurry to go back, despite their surprisingly large Whole Foods (why doesn’t Wimbledon get a Whole Foods?  I want a Whole Foods!).  But enough filler, on to the museum!

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The museum is located on the second floor of the Old Town Hall, which meant it was quite hot and stuffy on the day of our visit (and, I suspect, much too cold in winter, in the way of poorly insulated British buildings. Says someone who lives in one).  Fortunately, it was free, and the volunteer at the desk was very friendly (some American guy happened to pass by as I was chatting with her, and commented that I “didn’t have an accent,” so I must be American, which led to all three of us discussing how many fewer regional American accents exist than British ones.  This conversation ran on for quite some time. And Richmond is apparently full of Americans.  Must be that Whole Foods).  At the time of our visit, there was a special exhibit on about Capability Brown (who I tend to refer to as “Bloody Stupid Johnson,” thanks to the late great Terry Pratchett), which consisted of a bunch of paintings of gardens he designed around Richmond.

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The permanent collections of the museum were fairly standard local museum fare (which I totally want to spell fayre in this context).  There were posters that gave the history of Richmond, which of course skipped neatly from Neolithic times to medieval, because clearly nothing in between was much worth talking about (I kid, I’m sure they mentioned the boring old Romans too), and from there led to Richmond Palace, which sounded awesome, but was destroyed by Oliver Hater-of-Fun Cromwell (or at least his followers.  I mean, I don’t think he personally wielded a smashing mallet or anything).  All that remains today is the gate, a few of the outbuildings, and a pair of awesome trumpeter statues; a replica of one of them is shown at the start of this post, because he was basically my favourite damn thing in the museum.

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Aside from that death’s head carving from Richmond Parish Church of course, because I am enough of a goth/punk to love me some skulls and bones.  In the way of all local museums, the Museum of Richmond had some cool knickknacks laying around the cases, but to get to them, you had to make your way through a veritable wall of text.  This was one wordy museum.  I mean, I’d rather have too much information than not enough, but there are limits to what even I will read through, and this museum was indeed taking me to the limit (and now I’ll have the Eagles stuck in my head all day, not that that’s a bad thing).

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But still, the artefacts.  Well, there was a model of Richmond Palace, and a couple of chunks of stained glass that were salvaged from it.  Other things that I thought were cool included some shoes found inside an 18th century house (put there for luck, and certainly better than the tradition of bricking up a live cat in the walls (and seriously, how would that bring luck?  All it does is make you some kind of psychopathic cat-torturer, and guarantee that if ghost cats are a thing, you’re going to have one running around your house.  Actually, I wouldn’t mind having a pet ghost cat, because I’m allergic to the real thing, but obviously it would have to be one that died of natural causes, because I’m not a psychopath)), a delightful Charlie Chaplin doll, and a really cool map that showed all the bombs that hit Richmond during the Blitz (not the map pictured below, I don’t seem to have a picture of the bomb map for some reason).

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It looked as though Richmond Park was bombed a shitload of times (I think some infantry were stationed there, but it was still a lot of bombings for a park). The museum had a lot of information on the history of Richmond Park (no surprises there, since they had A LOT of information on everything in the museum), which was quite interesting.  As I’m sure fellow Londoners know, Richmond Park is one of the Royal Parks, but it’s open to the public and a bunch of deer; however, that was not always the case (where the humans were concerned anyway; deer were always welcome for hunting purposes).  Charles I established it and decided to enclose it, which pissed everyone off, but he still allowed pedestrian access, so no one raised too much of a fuss.  However, in the mid-18th century, ownership passed to Princess Amelia, who was George II’s daughter.  She decided that only she and her friends would be allowed inside, and it was then that the local people took action.  A man called John Lewis (not affiliated with the department store, I don’t think) sued for pedestrian access to the park and won, becoming a local hero.  He is now commemorated on a small blue plaque inside the park, which I have never noticed, but Richmond Park is a big place, and I certainly haven’t walked the whole of it.

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In the end, the Museum of Richmond certainly wasn’t anything out of the ordinary as far as local museums go, but it was nice enough.  To be honest, the only reason I decided to trek out there in the first place was because I wanted to try an Icelandic soft serve place in Ravenscourt Park (will travel for soft serve, especially if you roll it in Daim chunks), and it only seemed logical to try to visit a museum along that arm of the District line at the same time, so Richmond it was (there is a real dearth of museums out Hammersmith way, or at least, everything that is out there was bizarrely closed for repairs this September), but the museum was decent enough that tubing all the way out there wasn’t quite the waste of time I’d imagined it would be.  I appreciated how nice the volunteer was, and the informativeness of the museum, but maybe they could have had some interactive things to break up all that text.  2.5/5.

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4 comments

  1. Good for that John Lewis. Princess Amelia sounds like a real pill.
    I would love to have one of those ARP or Home Guard dolls. The ARP doll’s potato nose is especially adorable.
    I’m ashamed to say this but I’d never heard of Icelandic soft serve before – or Daim (chunked or otherwise) – so I had to look it up. But now it’s like torture that I can’t have any.

    1. I loved those dolls too. That’s why I had to include pictures of all of them.
      I’d never had Icelandic soft serve before this, but I am a soft serve fiend generally, and the typical Mr. Whippy style soft serve in the UK is pretty disappointing, so I’m always eager to seek out alternatives. And Daim is pretty much the best candy bar ever…I’ve been known to make trips to IKEA just to buy the giant sacks of Daim they sell.

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