From the website of the London Gardens Trust:
“The Peabody Donation Fund was founded in 1862 by George Peabody (1795-1869), an American banker, diplomat and philanthropist who had moved to London in 1837. He was part of a circle of influential thinkers and social reformers that included Lord Shaftesbury, William Cobbett and Charles Dickens, and he became the first American to be awarded the Freedom of the City of London. His charitable works benefited a great many organisations, including education, music, science, banking and housing. At his funeral in 1869 Queen Victoria and Prince of Wales sent carriages to follow his coffin and William Gladstone, then Prime Minister, was one of the mourners at Westminster Abbey. Setting up his fund with a donation of £500,000, a gift that Queen Victoria described as ‘wholly without parallel’, Peabody’s aim was to tackle the poverty and poor housing that he witnessed around him in London.”
“The Star and Garter Hotel in Richmond was a hotel located in the London countryside (later suburbs) on Richmond Hill overlooking the Thames Valley, on the site later occupied by the Royal Star and Garter Home, Richmond. The first establishment on the site, an inn built in 1738, was relatively small. This was followed by several other buildings of increasing size and varied design as the site changed from family ownership to being run by a limited company. Some of the rebuilding or extension work took place following fires that by 1888 had destroyed most of the original buildings. At various times architects were commissioned to build grand new buildings or extensions to take advantage of the famed view (see image) over the river and valley below, with the largest being the 1860s chateau block by E. M. Barry.
The hotel reached the peak of its fame as Richmond itself expanded in the 19th century during the Victorian era. In the period from the 1830s to the 1890s, the hotel guests ranged from literary figures such as Charles Dickens to exiled crowned heads of Europe such as King Louis-Philippe and his wife. The hotel’s reputation spread to other countries, with guests arriving from the USA and Europe, or travelling by horse and carriage from London to visit the area and stay at the hotel. In the later years of the 19th century, the hotel and its concert hall, banquet hall, and gardens were used for public dinners, fetes and fundraising gatherings, often attended by local grandees and members of the royal family.
The Ellis family would own the hotel for over 40 years, making several enlargements to the property. It was during this time that the hotel became widely known in London as it established itself as “a fashionable resort of London society, who used to drive out from town for luncheon or dinner”.
One of those who stayed regularly at the hotel was the author Charles Dickens. He and his wife and his friend and biographer John Forster spent the day there on the Sunday in March 1838 when the first installments of Nicholas Nickleby were to be published. The occasion also coincided with the time of the year for Dickens’ birthday and marriage anniversary, and a tradition developed and continued for 20 years to celebrate these events at the Star and Garter Hotel if they were in the country at the time. The hotel was said to be a “favourite resort” of Dickens, and he would meet friends there, or recover there after strenuous bouts of writing. Other events were held by Dickens at the Star and Garter, including a dinner in 1844 to mark the birth of his third son, and a famous dinner in 1850 that celebrated the start of the publication of David Copperfield. Guests at the latter dinner included Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Thackeray.
Other dinners and meetings, held by societies and private individuals, took place at the hotel during the period of the Ellis family ownership, with some of them being reported in The Times, the leading newspaper of the day. These dinners included a banquet held in 1846 by the Irish Society to mark the Earl of Lincoln retiring from the post of Chief Secretary for Ireland, a public dinner in 1847 for The Scottish Hospital, a charity known today as the Royal Scottish Corporation, and a dinner hosted in June 1855 by the American entrepreneur and philanthropist George Peabody for Millard Fillmore, ex-President of the United States.”
Henry Voigt wrote at The American Menu on 9.1.19:
“In May 1853, Peabody held a dinner for the outgoing U.S. ambassador, Joseph R. Ingersoll, at the Star and Garter Hotel on Richmond Hill, overlooking the bucolic Thames Valley outside London. The distinguished guests included former President Martin Van Buren, an epicure who had once served as the American ambassador. The menu was printed on quarto lace paper by the stationer Dobbs, Bailey & Co.
Afterward, some of the leading opera singers of the day performed arias by Rossini, Donizetti, and Verdi.
Peabody offended many of his American guests at a similar dinner on July 4, 1854, when he toasted Queen Victoria before President Franklin Pierce. Ambassador James Buchanan, Pierce’s future successor, abruptly departed in a huff. It was during this year that Peabody took financier Junius Spencer Morgan as a partner, creating a joint business that eventually became J. P. Morgan & Co…”