“The original Petersham Trust web site charted the progress of the Trust from its inception in 1998 through to its handover to the National Trust in 2010 and provides a very informative history of farming activities on the meadows over the years.
Petersham Meadows were a part of the estate attached to Ham House from the early 17th Century until the latter years of the 19th Century. There have been cows grazing on Petersham Meadows from, at least, that time. The grazing herd have been featured in many of the famous paintings and photographs made of the world renowned view from Richmond Hill.
Public interest in conserving Petersham Meadows has been evident for generations. At the turn of the 20th Century there was public concern that a housing estate would be built on the Meadows. A public campaign, culminating in the 1902 Act of Parliament, has preserved the view of Petersham Meadows from Richmond Hill for posterity. The right of way across the Meadows and its close proximity to the Thames-side Petersham towpath has ensured public access to the pastoral tranquillity of the Meadows featuring its cattle herd grazing quietly on the land.
The tenancy of Petersham Farm passed through many hands until 1880 when Mr Hornby obtained the tenancy and was soon joined by Mr Clarke to found the Petersham based dairy of Hornby and Clarke. The Petersham herd supplied the milk. This business was a well-established and well-patronised feature of Richmond life until 1960 with shops selling their dairy products all over Richmond and South West London. A magnificent example of a Hornby and Clarke shop still exists in the Richmond Hill area although the shop is no longer a dairy.
The lease passed to Express Dairies. In 1982 private investors took over the lease and they intended to maintain the dairy herd. However, it was impossible to maintain a viable dairy business in the face of the changing commercial environment and EEC regulations on milk production. For some years prior to 2001, the land was let to a grazier who maintained a beef herd on the land.
The residents of Petersham and much further afield became concerned during the 1990s by the growing risk that commercial pressures would lead to valued amenity of cattle grazing on the Meadow being lost for ever. So, in the 1990s as in the 1890s the public decided action was needed to protect one of the delights of Richmond. The Petersham Trust was formed in 1998 with the aims of ensuring the cows remained on the Meadows in perpetuity and that the buildings be rebuilt and restored to allow farming activities to continue. After a long uphill struggle, a lease agreement was signed with Richmond Council on 30 October 2001 to take over the management of the Meadows.
The Trust recognised that it would be impossible to run the farm as a commercial venture due to the need for milk quotas and the high running costs associated with a small herd so a beef herd on the scale of a smallholding was chosen. One of the main fund raising objectives was to create an endowment to finance the operation.”