THE RUSSELL SCHOOL
Behind the group of deer in this postcard from the Hearsum Collection (from the 1930s) are the buildings of Russell School which was originally in Richmond Park, near Petersham Gate.
The school was founded in 1851 by Lord John Russell who had been granted the lease on Pembroke Lodge by Queen Victoria in 1847 and who died there in 1878. While living at the Lodge with his family, Russell served twice as Britain’s Prime Minister.
The school was very badly damaged by a Second World War bomb in 1943 and the building was pulled down. The school moved to a new site outside the park on the other side of Petersham Road.
When Charles I created Richmond Park in the 1630s there were several existing buildings in his new royal hunting ground. One of these was a manor house at Petersham which was renamed Petersham Lodge and became accommodation for one of the park’s Deputy Keepers, Ludovic Carlell (or Carlile), a renowned playwright in his day. His wife Joan Carlile was one of the first women in England to paint professionally. A painting attributed to her, of Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart, is on display nearby at Ham House.
Elizabeth, Countess of Dysart, and her husband Sir Lionel Tollemache, took over Petersham Lodge when they became joint Keepers of Richmond Park. After Tollemache’s death the Lodge and its surrounding land were leased in 1686 to Lawrence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, whose sister Anne was married to the new king, James II. It became a private park and was subsequently landscaped. By 1692 Rochester had demolished the Lodge and replaced it with a splendid new mansion, New Park, shown here in this colour print from the Hearsum Collection. King Henry’s Mound is also visible towards the left-hand corner.
Rochester’s magnificent home lasted less than 30 years. Destroyed by fire in 1721, it was replaced by a new Petersham Lodge, built by William, Earl of Harrington (later created Viscount Petersham) in 1733. James Thomson, who is commemorated at Poet’s Corner in the grounds of Pembroke Lodge, refers to the new lodge in “Summer”, one of a set of four poems published as The Seasons: “The pendent woods that nodding hang o’er Harrington’s retreat”.
Most of what by then had become Petersham Park remained in private hands until the 1830s, when the lodge, which by then was almost derelict, was dismantled and its grounds were returned to Richmond Park.