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Friday 5th March
Saving Twickenham Riverside

THE HISTORY OF TWICKENHAM RIVERSIDE SITE SINCE THE CLOSURE OF TWICKENHAM OUTSIDE BATHS

- bought by the Council in 1924 for the purpose of providing "public walks and pleasure grounds




Twickenham Riverside 1980 - 2000

It seems that throughout the years our Council administrations have changed after residents have become very dissatisfied with Council development plans. This definitely appears to be the case with the old pool site on Twickenham Riverside but other development issues have also played a part.

“Twickenham Riverside” has been a contentious issue since the closure of the popular Twickenham Baths in 1980. The history of the site and immediate area was recorded by the Richmond Environmental Information Centre (REIC) during a two-year Heritage Lottery Fund project and can be viewed at Memories of Twickenham Riverside. Our primary historical research goes back to 1662! But back to more recent times ....

In 1980, while under a Conservative administration which lasted until 1983, Twickenham Baths were suddenly and unexpectedly closed for “refurbishment” and never opened again. You can read and hear people’s memories which were recorded by the REIC on the Lidos Alive website. It is interesting to note that in January 1982 the Council’s Planning Committee Minutes recorded that the Council’s view was there should be no housing development on the site.

In 1990, whilst there was a Liberal Democrat administration, a scheme was put forward for a Marks & Spencer store but permission was refused following the intervention of the Department of the Environment and a Public Enquiry in 1991 – “Commercial ambitions were to be kept subordinate.” (reference:Twickenham Museum). This particular scheme was of some interest to me as I used the proposal in a business studies case study for a group of my pupils at a local school. After preparing their questionnaires we went to Twickenham High Street where the students interviewed shoppers about what they would like to see on the old pool site. The overwhelming result was positive for Marks & Spencer – no doubt as Twickenham High Street left much to be desired as a destination for shoppers. And in 2021 Twickenham's High Street is still in need of regeneration.

To return to Twickenham Riverside ... In 1996 the Council held a competition for plans for the Twickenham Riverside site. There were five schemes and it was hoped that there might be some Lottery funding but this was refused.

1999 saw a proposal for the Twickenham Riverside site for thirty-nine flats, six restaurants, shops, an auditorium for over four hundred and fifty people, three cinemas and very limited parking. This was considered to be “over development” and following public outcry the Council asked for a smaller version; there were various rethinks but nothing came of any of the proposals. During the year 2000 a proposal for a Heritage/Arts Centre was put forward and a three-screen cinema but this was not supported by the Council.

Twickenham Riverside 2000-2021

In 2001 a planning application was submitted by Dawnay Day. The Council gave the go-ahead for forty flats, shops, a restaurant and a health and fitness centre – some people have been heard to say that one of the current plans looks like the Dawnay Day development. However, a Public Enquiry put a stop to the Dawnay Day proposal; an Environmental Impact Assessment was requested but seems not to have taken place.

Serge Lourie became the leader of the Liberal Democrats in 2001 but the Conservatives gained office from 2002 to 2006. Perhaps this was the see-saw effect of unpopular proposals for Twickenham Riverside and maybe the final realization that there would not be a replacement ice rink? (REIC HLF project The Most Famous Ice Rink in the World).

Café and Children's Playground Opened

In 2005 the children's playground, café and toilets were opened, along with a new retaining wall. Landscaping was carried out at the front of the site. The [award winning] garden area hosted an array of plants selected for providing an attractive environment for bees and butterflies; overall, the first positive steps since the pool site closed in 1980, but the art deco building had been demolished. (Note: it seems that the swimming pool may not have been entirely removed - 2021).

During these years the Twickenham Challenge for Twickenham Riverside appeared. One of the members of the REIC was very interested in a Duke of Edinburgh Award Centre; other proposals were the Environment Trust’s proposal for a River Centre, the Busen Anglo-Japanese Club and the Laura Sevenus Swimming School.

From 2006 to 2010 the Liberal Democrats took office. Four housing developments were put forward in 2008 (along with the Environment Trust’s River Centre) – Countryside was chosen as the developer by the administration.

There was huge opposition to housing on the site and after consultation with the Department for Communities and Local Government - with which I had some association - I decided to become a client of Electoral Reform Services (ERS) to find out what residents wanted (Serge Lourie refused to carry out a requested referendum). However a group of local residents came forward to share the cost and eventually most of the money was donated by people living in Twickenham and Strawberry Hill, along with many letters of support. This only goes to show the strength of feeling in the community to preserve Twickenham Riverside.

Four thousand people (at the cost of £1 for each person) in the Parish of St Mary’s were given a vote. The area chosen radiated out from Twickenham Riverside: 41.7% voted and the result was 93.5% against housing on Twickenham Riverside.

Diamond Jubilee Gardens opened by HRH Princess Alexandra and Boris Plants a Tree

The incoming Conservative administration formed a charitable Trust with a 125 year lease designed to protect the Diamond Jubilee Gardens, opened by HRH Princess Alexandra in 2012. (Previously, in the Spring of 2011, Boris Johnson, the then Mayor of London, had taken part in a tree planting ceremony relatively near the café.) And in January 2014 Diamond Jubilee Gardens was designated a Public Open Space.

(It should be remembered that before leaving office the Liberal Democrat administration signed off a "Linked Sites Strategy" for the Twickenham Riverside site. This scheme allowed the social housing component of their housing plan to be off-loaded onto other sites in the Borough. The sites designated for social housing in the Linked Sites Strategy included a number of garage sites and various garden plots, including a community garden. This housing was built and it seemed that the social housing for the Twickenham Riverside site had been fulfilled, although the Hopkins plan (2021) is hoping to include 50% social housing.)

In 2013 the Council decided to purchase the Santander Corner including the car park: "properties on King Street and Water Lane, connecting to the derelict Pool House buildings already owned by the Council". In 2015 another competition for the Twickenham Riverside site took place. I advised on one of the four schemes (by a prominent global company) with my colleague, Berkley Driscoll; this plan had a lido and health spa on part of the site but unfortunately never saw the light of day – and the Council’s chosen architect for the site eventually went the way of all the others.

This time the Environment Agency stepped in at the planning stage and the “see-saw” effect of the old pool site brought the Liberal Democrats back to office once again.

And now we have the Hopkins Design with housing proposed, a proposal for a pub, and much cause for concern about the future of this unique Conservation Area on the Thames:

There is also a popular plan for the site Twickenham Lido which has thousands of supporters signing its petition (with comments) but the Council does not seem to want to replace the outside pool which has been left buried under the site for many years.

The old pool site and Riverside Conservation Area 8

"The Village core, on the raised river terrace including Church Street and its associated alleyways, forms a focal point when viewed from the Thames and is closely linked to it. The medieval settlement is clearly visible from as far away as Radnor Gardens, Ham House and Richmond Hill. Physical and visual links between the original village street, Church Street, and the River Thames are very important as evidence of the village’s historical development and present day character."

Twickenham Riverside - once the site of Richmond House:

Prior to Twickenham Baths, Richmond House, a very grand and impressive house, stood on the Twickenham Riverside site for centuries (1662-1923). The story starts with the Birkheads. Edward, the first inhabitant married Eleanor Myddleton. Members of the Birkhead and Middleton families emigrated to America and Henry Middleton was a signatory of the American Declaration of Independence. Towards the end of a Heritage Lottery project in June 2013 Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was pleased to receive a copy of “Richmond House” with information about links to Twickenham).

Some of the other inhabitants who lived in Richmond House on Twickenham Riverside:

Earl of Bradford, Lord Torrington, Countess of Shelburne, Countess of Elgin, Dowager Duchess of Roxburghe, Field Marshal Sir Edward Blakeney.


And .....HORACE WALPOLE'S VIEW OF TWICKENHAM RIVERSIDE FROM STRAWBERRY HILL HOUSE

"The enclosed enchanted little landscape, then, is Strawberry Hill.... This view of the castle is what I have just finished [it was a view of the south side, towards the north-east], and is the only side that will be at all regular. Directly before it is an open grove, through which you see a field, which is bounded by a serpentine wood of all kind of trees, and flowering shrubs, and flowers.

The lawn before the house is situated on the top of a small hill, from whence to the left you see the town and church of Twickenham encircling a turn of the river, that looks exactly like a sea-port in miniature.


Other Links:

Strawberry Hill House with Links to Strawberry Hill, Popes Villa, Strawberry Hill House Gifford Lodge and Richmond House

Twickenham linking to Eel Pie Island and Ten Years of Community Events


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TWICKENHAM & RICHMOND TRIBUNE

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