|St Margaret's Estate||Richmond|
The land was once part of the extensive Twickenham Park estate, where a major house is known to have been built in 1560-61 and had fine formal gardens in the C17th and C18th. A lake remains in the grounds of St Margaret's Estate, together with remnants of planting from the C18th landscaping. Twickenham Park was broken up in the early C19th but a substantial area in the north remained intact when St Margaret's House was built, with gardens laid out between 1820-48 by Lord and Lady Ailsa. In 1851/2 the Ailsa Park lands were largely purchased by the Conservative Land Society and the St Margaret's Estate was laid out in the grounds of St Margaret House as a garden suburb. The estate was laid out around three pleasure gardens that preserved part of the old grounds lying between The Avenue and the river, and these three private gardens are little changed today.
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Twickenham Park was created from wasteland over 700 years ago and was once owned by Francis Bacon. He sold it in 1608 to the Countess of Bedford who built a new house and laid out a formal garden, possibly designed by Salomon de Caus. Glover's map of 1653 shows the formal grounds and lake, originally dug for drainage in c.1420 and which remains today in the grounds of St Margaret's Estate. In the C18th Twickenham Park was owned by a wealthy merchant, Thomas Vernon, who employed Batty Langley in the first quarter of the C18th to design the gardens. Vernon is credited with introducing the weeping willow to this country. A number of London planes planted by Langley remain near the lake. The formal layout had become more naturalised in style by the end of the C18th and after 1805 the division of the estate began with land sold off and a number of smaller houses built.
A substantial area in the north remained intact when St Margaret's House was built and its gardens were laid out between 1820-48 by Lord and Lady Ailsa, hence the earlier name for the area of Ailsa Park. In 1851/2 the Ailsa Park lands were largely purchased by the Conservative Land Society (George Morgan) and the St Margaret's Estate was laid out in the grounds of St Margaret House as a garden suburb, with a covenant that limited density. The original design of the estate had building plots for family houses costing between £50 to £475, laid out around three pleasure gardens that preserved part of the old grounds lying between The Avenue and the river. A Trust was set up in 1854 to look after the pleasure grounds and continues to do so today. The St Margaret's Estate Residents Association was founded in December 1970 with the aim of encouraging the preservation and improvement of the Estate 'in keeping with its pleasantly residential character of single family dwellings' (http://smera.moonfruit.com), but maintenance of the communal gardens remained with the Trustees of the St Margaret’s Residential Grounds.
The most picturesque and largest of the three gardens is the garden lying between St George's Road and Ailsa Road, which features the informal lake, two iron bridges with segmental arches, a mound at the south end that was clearly visible on the OS Map of 1894, and mature trees including a huge plane tree. The garden to The Avenue, St Peter's Road and St George's Road has tennis courts and games areas and the eastern garden is a grassed promenade with a number of large trees.
Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 3: North West' (Penguin, 1999 edition); p436; 'Blest Retreats' LB Richmond; St Margaret's Estate Conservation Area Study, LB Richmond, 2001; A C B Urwin, 'The Houses and Gardens of Twickenham Park 1227-1805' Twickenham Local History Society Paper 54, 1984