Richmond-upon-Thames, Surrey

Church of St. Mary Magdalene, Richmond-upon-Thames, Surrey

The earliest church here dates to around 1220. Nothing of this first church has survived as all was entirely rebuilt between 1487 and 1506. Richmond was a small hamlet until the Earl of Richmond (the other one in Yorkshire) became King Henry VII and rebuilt the Palace at Sheen (close by). Richmond then became the river port for the palace and grew in size and importance.

Of this early Tudor rebuild only the bottom sections of the tower and the west door survive plus a few other odd arches and windows. The third stage of the tower, clearly different to the rest, was added around 1624. The north aisle was added in 1699 and the nave and south aisle were rebuilt in Georgian style around 1750. This left a church with a very hotch-potch look to it.

This hotch-potch was not to the taste of the Victorians who, under A.W. Blomfield, set about altering, repairing and replacing parts of the church in the 1860s at which time the Tudor box pews were removed and replaced with benches. Lest we think that only the Victorians would remove Tudor work in 1903/4 George Bodley was responsible from removing the small Tudor chancel and building an entirely new one. Even as late as 1936 the west gallery was stripped away.

Despite all this meddling we still have a hotch-potch of a church and it is all the better for it. Strangely, the town of Richmond seems to have turned its back on the church and it is now hidden down a bit of a back alley with no signs to point you in its direction.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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