Sir – The Richmond, Petersham and Ham Open Spaces Act, 1902, is on the council website and in the Local Studies collection. I’ve been right through its 29 pages and checked that its name and the description given on the first page [An Act to confirm agreements for vesting common and other lands in the local authorities of the districts of Richmond, Ham and Kingston as public open spaces] are both accurate and complete. There’s nothing whatever in it about the Middlesex side. So the notion that it has some talismanic power to keep the barge shed out of Orleans Gardens seems to be wishful thinking, a fairy story for grownups.
Also in the Local Studies folder [32/03/30] are the 1902 LCC General Powers Act and a covenant. The Act is a mixed bag of powers, whose ‘Section IV Purchase of the Marble Hill Estate, Twickenham’ allows the LCC to purchase Marble Hill and adjacent land ‘to preserve the view’ – but only by agreement. Also, ominously, to provide boat houses. This power has now passed, via the GLC, to the borough council.
The covenant forbids development of the Haversham Lodge site; the council web site says: ‘a Deed of Covenant was entered into by Richmond and Twickenham Councils and Surrey, Middlesex and London County Councils in 1930. The terms of the deed were designed as far as possible to preserve the view from Richmond Hill by restricting the future development of the land to certain limited areas only. Compensation was paid to the then owners of the land for granting the right to enforce these restrictions.’
The terms of the purchase of the Gardens by the Council in 1926-7 were reported in the Times of October 29 1926. Nothing is said about further covenants for the Gardens but there were to be new ones for the House and Grounds which were to be purchased after the gravel had all been dug up by a ’lady of large means . . for her private use’ – Mrs Ionides of blessed memory – ‘to preserve the view’.
So the only special protection the Gardens have comes from the restrictive covenant imposed by the Cunard executors in 1925, described by Ron Berryman [Letters August 29]. The Council planning committee has to agree that its new barge shed counts as a boat house and is therefore to be permitted, even if it is many times larger and uglier than the Victorian original.
Christopher J Squire
See also on this website:
Sir:- The seven editions of your paper since the Gloriana imbroglio began have carried 37 letters about it. Assuming you have followed your usual practice of printing letters for and against in proportion to what you receive for and against, we can use them to estimate the state of public opinion. I make it 7 for (two from one person), (19 %), 23 against (62 %) and the rest neutral (19 %). So please lets not hear any more from Lord True’s acolytes about how everyone loves Gloriana, only a few Lib Dems opposing it for political reasons, etc.
Actually the borough’s Lib Dems have been silent on the merits of the scheme, even after Vince Cable’s letter to residents, except for Cllr Alexander Ehmann who spoke up on behalf of the residents of St Margaret’s at last month’s cabinet meeting. It was local residents who packed out the protest meeting at the Winchester Hall, as the ward councillors who turned up to claim ignorance of the scheme must have realised. It was the same local people who packed out the cabinet and council meetings. It is the same local Riverside people who are waiting for their councillor, Susan Chappell, to come clean about when she first knew about the scheme.
The strength of feeling is extraordinary, far greater than that which the Lib Dems aroused when they tried to develop the pool site, as Orleans Gardens is used every day of the year whereas no-one had seen the pool site for 30 years. It has been aroused and spread by social media: Facebook, Petitions24.com, Twitter, YouTube and local blogs, flatfooting the council’s expensive PR consultants with their glossy leaflets that no-one reads.
We must hope that the Heritage Lottery Fund, who have twice already tried to explain to the Council that a new shed for a new boat is not heritage, will next month waste no time in rejecting their bid as the embarrassing fantasy it is.
Sir: – The recent news about the threat to Orleans Gardens and Swings has really upset me. I feel so frustrated that it feels as if, despite so much opposition, this plan has been allowed to gain such momentum. Where is the simple online survey that says: ‘Do you want the Gloriana to be housed in Orleans Gardens? YES or NO’? I have yet to meet someone who wants it. But I feel compelled to write because there are letters in the paper that suggest there are people in favour. I urge those people and Lord True to come down to the swings and spend some time there.
I can’t believe that anyone who has spent time in these beautiful gardens would want to change them. I would love to join you and sit with you and explain why for so many in our community they are so important. I could bore you with my childhood memories of playing this stick game on the roundabout or when I first learnt to use a big swing on my own. I would tell you about how much fun we had as teenagers hanging about in the early evenings. My husband and I grew up in this park, we got married in the Orleans House Octagon Room and walked through the park after the ceremony.
Despite not being able to afford to live as near it as we did, we still see it as such a special place. I bring my children here now. My four year old just mastered the monkey swings after about 200 hours of trying. My dad used to bring my Gran here till she was 99 and my husband’s Gran has a bench in memory of her looking out to the river. You could rightly say these are just my memories and what right do I have to stop change.
But by now you would have been sitting with me for some time and you’ve probably started to appreciate the most important bit of all: how peaceful and tranquil the gardens are. You’ve probably noticed that the trees provide this beautiful, mottled shade and when the wind blows you can hear it through all the leaves. You can also smell the river. I didn’t realise this until I was down there savouring it last week but you can if you sit for a while.
Forget the millions of shared memories, these swings offer a sanctuary to everyone that goes there. Just look at the faces of the people there, the children, the grandparents, the dog walkers, the cousins, the aunties and teenagers. How happy and content they are to be free from health clubs and membership fees and gymborees and skinny frappuchinos and queues and traffic and ipad apps and modernisation and upgrading.
Orleans Gardens provide a place for children to be free to play and people to be present whether on their own or with others. The plans for the Gloriana would destroy this. I believe the Gloriana deserves a lovely home but please just put it somewhere else.