At some point during the reign of Henry I the manor of Kingston was divided thus creating the manor of Sheen. The manor house at Sheen was given to Henry's butler Belet (possibly a more important role in those days than the title suggests). It was passed down through the generations eventually coming into the ownership of the Earl of Gloucester. It is thought that this manor house had a small deer park attached (1st deer park).
In 1299 Edward I took his court to the manor house. He then acquired it and it became a royal residence used also by Edward II and Edward III who made extensive improvements to the manor house but died before they were complete. Richard II was the first English king to make the manor house his main residence in 1383, but on the death of his wife Anne, Richard in his grief ordered the manor house it to be ruined.
Henry V rebuilt the manor house and started to call it Sheen Palace. He also founded a Carthusian Monastery known as Sheen Priory. During the reign of Henry VI a new deer park of 50 acres was created (the 2nd deer park)
Following his victory over Richard III at Bosworth Field Henry Earl of Richmond became Henry VII. He renamed the Manor of Sheen as Richmond and thus Sheen Palace became Richmond Palace. After a fire had destroyed the mainly wooden palace in 1497 Henry VII rebuilt the palace. During this rebuilding process the 2nd deer park was absorbed into the palace grounds and a new deer park (the 3rd) was created on the Middlesex side of the Thames at modern day Teddington.
Henry VIII liked to stay at Richmond Palace but grew jealous of Thomas Wolsey's new residence at Hampton Court and at the start of Wolsey's fall from power forced him to swap homes. Henry re-acquired the palace following the death of Wolsey and gave it to his fourth wife Ann of Cleeves as part of their divorce settlement.
Both Mary I and Elizabeth I liked to spend time in Richmond Palace. Elizabeth in particular used to like hunting stags in Richmond Park. Towards the end of her reign Queen Elizabeth disposed of the 3rd deer park.
When he succeeded to the English throne the Scottish king James I, who was a keen hunter, created a new deer park in Richmond (the fourth deer park).
Charles I suffered from rickets as a boy and could not walk properly until the age of 3 ½ when he walked the great hall of Dunfermline Castle unassisted and was regarded as a weakling. He showed great courage in overcoming his physical problems to become an accomplished hunter. Hunting became his great passion in life and he wanted a far bigger deer park which he could use when staying at both his palaces of Hampton Court and Richmond. He also needed somewhere to bring his court in times of plague.
Charles selected an area which now comprises the modern Richmond Park (the fifth deer park). The king already owned about half the land in this area, but the rest comprised of small hamlets, much common land and some private estates. Charles offered generous compensation but some of the estate owners initially refused to sell. Most of Charles's ministers and the church advised against proceeding but Charles showed his stubborn streak and all the land was acquired. By 1637 he had enclosed 2500 acres of Richmond Park by building an 8 mile wall around it. Initially be denied public access but after protests he relented by building ladder stiles at various places. Charles renamed the fourth deer park as the "Old Deer Park" which is an area which still exists today. The fourth deer park also included the southern part of modern day Kew Gardens.
During the time Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector, parliament decided that Richmond Palace was not needed and the stone buildings at its centre were demolished for building materials. Many of the brick buildings survived for a time but today only the Gatehouse, Trumpeters House, and the Wardrobe exist as private residences. Management of Richmond deer park was given to the Corporation of London during this period but reverted back to the crown during the restoration of the monarchy.
Charles II inspired by his stay in Versailles created a lot of the ponds in the park, although the biggest Pen Ponds wasn’t dug until 1746.
In 1751 the daughter of George II Princess Amelia became ranger of Richmond Park and tried to deny access to the public. A local brewer John Lewis took her to court at Kingston Assizes and won and the public were allowed greater access than before. The future George III became ranger and he banned hunting in the park,
Today Richmond Park is home to 630 Red and Fallow deer which wander freely in the park. It is a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
King Henry's Mound is the highest point within the park and is located within the public gardens of Pembroke Lodge. It is named after Henry VIII. It was traditionally thought to be the spot where Henry stood in 1536 to watch a rocket fired from the Tower of London to announce the execution of Anne Boleyn. It was probably a Bronze Age burial chamber. From the Mound there is a protected view of St Paul's Cathedral which is 10 miles away.
Between 1819 and 1835, Lord Sidmouth (the former prime minister Henry Addington) who was deputy ranger, established several new plantations and enclosures, including Sidmouth Wood and the ornamental Isabella Plantation, both of which are fenced to keep the deer out. After World War II the existing woodland at the Isabella Plantation was transformed into a woodland garden which was opened to the public in 1953. In 2014 it has been improved again by the injection of £1 ½ Million from the lottery heritage fund.
Refreshments on route
Roebuck pub - Richmond Hill (5 mins from Richmond Gate) http://www.taylor-walker.co.uk/pub/roebuck-richmond/s5628/
Pembroke Lodge Tea Rooms http://pembroke-lodge.co.uk/the-butlers-pantry/
Cycles can be hired at Richmond Park www.parkcycle.co.uk
The main attraction, however, is the town of Richmond. At Pembroke Lodge turn left and exit Richmond Gate. Turn right to reach Richmond Hill for superb views and the Roebuck pub. Go down Terrace Gardens on left to reach riverfront. Turn left for a walk along the Thames to Richmond Bridge where boats can be hired. http://www.richmondbridgeboathouses.co.uk/