The ‘villa district’ of Richmond

John Boughton writes on his Municipal Dreams blog:

“…Meanwhile, energised by this apparently unlikely success in a ‘villa district’ such as Richmond, (William) Thompson became one of the most prominent advocates of housing reform of his day – a founding member and chair of the National Housing Reform Council, a member of the International Housing Congress, a vice-president of the Co-Partnership Tenants’ Housing Council and a member of the Garden Cities Association.

And in a series of scrupulously argued and detailed publications (which remain the best available record of early municipal endeavours), he outlined a powerful case for council housing.

He left teaching in 1903 to act, first, as a Liberal agent and, later, as managing director of the Ruislip Manor Estate Company, intending to develop a garden city in the suburb as part of a comprehensive town planning initiative adopted by the urban district council – one of the first in the country.

His political career continued – with some ups and downs. Elected an alderman in 1897, he was removed from the bench by his fellow-councillors as too turbulent a presence two years later, only to be promptly and resoundingly re-elected to the council by the borough’s voters. For all his zealotry, his undeniable drive and talents seem to have been finally recognised by the council in 1908 when he was elected mayor.

Thompson cancelled his inaugural banquet due to prevailing distress in the borough. And he was presumably a driving force behind another smaller municipal housing scheme off Red Lion Street in central Richmond. Artichoke Alley was cleared. In its place, completed in 1909, arose Victoria Place (see image) – an attractive red-brick and rendered tenement development, housing 100.

William Thompson died suddenly, aged just 51, in May 1914…”

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