Last updated 3rd June 2015

Local History Group

The History Group meets regularly, normally on the second Tuesday each month from 11:30 am to 1 pm. New members are very welcome - call us for details of the current programme and to join the distribution list.

Listed below are details and reports of some of our previous activities.

Family History for Absolute Beginners, 14th April.

The Cambrian Centre History Group met on Tuesday 14th April for an Introduction to Family History led by Ken Samuels. Many thanks to Ken for a fascinating account of his research and how he went about it. For those who want to have a go at looking into their own family past, here are Ken’s notes about how to get started.

If you want to take advantage of some group support, come along to the next History Group meeting on May 12th 11.30am – 1.00pm and learn how to use the internet for access an ever-increasing bank of online information.

After the next meeting the plan is to run a Family History Workshop on the fourth Tuesday of each month. This will give members an opportunity to get help with their own research and to learn about the following:

  • Discover what you already know
  • How to access census information
  • Where to find data on Births, Marriages and Deaths


Visit to the Poppy Factory, January 20th.

We had a fascinating and informative trip to the Poppy Factory for our last meeting - many thanks to Mary McDonald for organising this.

Poppy Factory

The Poppy Factory

A number of regular group members and others took advantage of this opportunity to experience something of national and historical significance on our doorstep.

We have all grown up with the iconic poppies of Remembrance Sunday. But few of us knew much about their story, which started towards the end of WW1 amongst the graves of soldiers killed in Flanders and the blood red corn poppies which flourished there. The inspiration was a poem – In Flanders Fields - written in May 1915 by a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, faced by the carnage of the Second Battle of Ypres (see below).

After the war, the poem generated a powerful urge to commemorate the sacrifice of so many lives – first in America and then in France. The poppy became a potent symbol, manufactured and sold to raise funds to support ex-servicemen and those whose lives had been devastated by the War.

The first poppy appeal was in1921 and the first in the UK was 1922. Poppies have been made in Richmond since 1926. The Richmond factory currently makes about 36 million poppies a year, and now employs around thirty men and women. This is far fewer than originally, when so many disabled ex-servicemen were in need of work. As well as poppies, they make a variety of wreaths, including those laid at the Cenotaph by the Royal Family each November. They also decorate small wooden crosses planted at gardens of remembrance, as well as producing other tributes.

The world at home and abroad has changed a good deal in the decades that have passed since the Great War and so has the Poppy Factory. This visit was a fascinating view of events which still exert a powerful influence.

Want to know more about the Poppy Factory?
  You can also view the British Legion site.
  Here's a British Legion "History of the Poppy"


In Flanders Fields - by John McCrae. 1915.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Report of History Group Meeting Tuesday, May 13th.

Photo of Queen's Road Estate, Phase 1.

Queens Road Estate, Phase 1.
(Photo by local resident Fred Cox)

The relative lack of provision of affordable housing to the many who need it is a hot topic these days and there was a good turn out to hear Paul Velluet, architect and past chairman of the Richmond Society, give an illustrated talk about the history of the Queen’s Road Estate in the context of that of social housing in general. It came as no surprise to hear him describe the QRE and other work of the architects Darborne and Darke, as examples of such provision at its best, and Richmond as a pioneer in the field. In the course of a necessarily brief outline of the history of social housing from the nineteenth century onwards, Velluet described interwar experiments such as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City. More recently, it was interesting to learn that another familiar landmark, the Roehampton Estate, which he described as an experiment in landscaping and ‘working well socially’, was itself modeled on the work of Corbusier. A number of those present were themselves QRE residents and there were many questions and an animated discussion at the end of the talk. Some of the latter reflected the view that things definitely ‘ain’t what they used to be’ in the area of social housing – a concern that the standards and expectations of those early pioneers and developers have sadly given way to the demands of a private housing market which increasingly serves the interests of the very wealthy few. In fact, Paul Velluet himself left Chisholm Road some years ago and reflected that now he would no longer be able to afford to live in the area. Those who would like to know more about the social history of Richmond over the last two centuries, including the development of the Queen’s Road Estate, should look at ‘Royal Bounty - The Richmond Parish lands Charity 1786-1991’ by John Cloake. This very full account is published by the Trustees of RPLC.


Report of meeting of History Group, 11th February

Broad Leys, Windermere

Broad Leys, Windermere,
designed by Voysey

Members of the History Group enjoyed a talk from local resident, Stuart Durant on the celebrated nineteenth century architect and designer, CFA Voysey. Stuart studied architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture and has lectured at Kingston University, where he still acts as a course adviser. He has also had published a number of books on Voysey and the history of architecture and design.

The talk ranged widely, placing Voysey in a context of fascinating contemporary influences. It was most interesting, particularly as Stuart is himself a local man, currently living in King George Square in the Workhouse building. Next Meeting We next meet on Tuesday, March11th when the main theme will be the 25th anniversary exhibition - Cambrian Connections – planned for the Autumn and the group’s visit to the National Archives, booked for the 26th March.


January 2014: Do you have a story to tell?


Old Workhouse clock

The immediate focus of the Group is to produce material for an exhibition telling stories of the Queen’s Road Estate and surrounding area – its bricks and mortar and the lives of those who lived and worked there.

The exhibition - ‘Cambrian Connections’ – is planned for October, as part of a programme of events to mark the 25th anniversary of the Cambrian Community Centre’s inauguration.

Some of the topics being researched

  • History of the Queen’s Road Estate
  • St. Mary’s Grove and Pest house Common Richmond in WW1
  • History of Manning Place
  • Local Artists - e.g. Spencer Gore and Richard H. Hilditch
  • Grove Chapel
  • Richmond Workhouse and its residents
  • History of Cambrian Road

Dates for your diary Our meetings take place on the second Tuesday of the month at 11.30 am – 1.00 pm. June 10; July 8; (Aug. 12); Sept. 9 In addition a number of visits and talks will take place on the fourth Tuesday from time to time.

If you are interested, please contact Mary McDonald Centre Manager Tel: 020 8948 3351


10th September 2013: Talk on The History of the Richmond Workhouse


The Old Workhouse, as seen today

We had a good turn-out for the Workshop’s second meeting at the Centre on September 10th. Our speaker was Valerie Boyes, historian, lecturer and trustee of Richmond Museum. Her presentation gave those present a very good introduction to the history of Richmond Workhouse, placing it in the context of changing attitudes towards the poor and helpless in society.

We learnt that Richmond was considered in its time to be something of a model workhouse in its treatment of inmates. This was in sharp contrast to the horrors that existed elsewhere. One of our members, Kath Doyle, lived in what was the Richmond Workhouse building before it was transformed into private dwellings. Her husband was caretaker and she still has a plan mounted on hardboard of the old workhouse as drawn up by the surveyor, Edward Maynard, Richmond Surveyor, in October 1886. This was brought to the meeting and created some excitement. There's a photo of the plan at the end of this page.

It was the first time Valerie Boyes had seen a complete plan of the site and as such it is likely to be of considerable interest to the Richmond Museum.

It is also likely to stimulate further research into our own workhouse by members, one of whom, Jill Abbott, has already done a lot of work on its overall history.

Now the History Workshop has to decide what and how we want to proceed. With this in mind, Valerie introduced some resources which would be useful in carrying out our own lines of research. One suggestion is that we should focus on gathering oral histories where they exist relating to the local area over time. The Workhouse is long past, as are its residents and those associated with it. However, WW1 is now a distant memory and it is time to make sure that the stories and memories of those that lived through WW2 and succeeding decades are recorded.


How much do you know about the Richmond Workhouse? Try this quiz!


Detail of the Old Workhouse

For answers, look at a brief summary of its history, by Cambrian Centre trustee, Jill Abbott here or come and find the answers at our next meeting on 10th September (11 am - 1pm).

On Tuesday 16th July, a number of people met at the Centre to discuss setting up a local history workshop. Unsurprisingly, with the site of the Richmond Workhouse so close, this proved to be our jumping off point. One member actually lived in the building prior to its redevelopment in the 1980s. Her husband was the caretaker and it was fascinating to walk around the workhouse site and hear her identify features which still remain. Thanks to her, we have a plan of the building as it was in 1886 which we hope to copy and put on display in the Centre. It quickly became obvious that there is a wealth of memories available to us and some intriguing avenues for research.

Details of the next workshop will be publicised nearer the time.

Workhouse lodge

The Old Entrance Lodge

In the meantime, some of us are intending to join the Richmond Society’s Summer Walk – ‘Living and Dying in Richmond – on Wednesday, 24th July at 7.30 pm. This is a guided walk through the Queen’s Road Estate, focusing on the Richmond Old Cemetery in Grove Road and the lives of people buried there. The walk actually starts on the upper concourse of Richmond Station, but it may be possible to join it at the QRE end.

Contact Mary McDonald at the Centre if you want to know more about this event or wish to join the Local History Workshop.

Photo of the old plan of the Workhouse


This small picture doesn't show the plan particularly well, but it does give an impression of what it is like. We have now found the missing corner, and hope to get a better picture up here soon.