York House, Twickenham

York House is a historic stately home in Twickenham, England, and currently serves as the Town Hall of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is situated in Richmond Road, near the centre of Twickenham, close to St Mary's Church. It is a Grade II* listed building[1] which is situated in a large park, which is also listed.[2]

York House
York House (rear view from sunken lawn)
LocationRichmond, London
Coordinates51°26′52″N 0°19′28″W / 51.44778°N 0.32444°W / 51.44778; -0.32444
Listed Building – Grade II*
Designated2 September 1952
Reference no.1263365
York House, Twickenham is located in London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
York House, Twickenham
Shown in Richmond upon Thames



Early history


Unlike several other UK buildings also called York House, the Twickenham building did not take its name from being a residence of a Duke of York. The central portion of York House dates to the 1630s and derives its name from the Yorke family, owners of farming land in the area. It was built for Andrew Pitcarne, a courtier of King Charles I. When Pitcarne died in 1640, the house was sold to Edward Montagu, 2nd Earl of Manchester, in 1656, and then re-sold in 1661 for £3,500 to Henry Hyde,[3] the son of Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, the Lord Chancellor.[4]

It then passed through several owners, including (in the late 18th century) Count Ludwig von Starhemberg (1762–1833), the Austrian ambassador to London.[3] He accumulated debt and in 1817 the house was sold to Mrs Anne Seymour Damer (1748–1828),[3] a sculptor and close friend of Horace Walpole, after whom the house passed to linguist Sir Alexander Johnston (1775–1849), a former Chief Justice of Ceylon, founder of the Royal Asiatic Society and a Privy Councillor. Members of the Johnston family continued to live in the house until 1863, intermixed with tenants such as the Dowager Duchess of Roxburghe (widow of the 5th Duke) until 1837, and William Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale (1757–1844).[5]

Fleur de lis detail on loggia marks an extension made by the Orleanist pretender.

In 1864 the property was acquired by two directors of Coutts Bank on behalf of the Orleans Pretender, Philippe, comte de Paris. Three of his four children were born in York House. He and his family returned to France following the defeat and fall of Napoleon III as a result of the Franco-Prussian War of 1869–71.[6]

The house then remained empty until 1876 when it was bought by Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone Grant Duff (1829–1906), a Scottish MP, junior minister in Gladstone's first government, and from 1881 to 1887 Governor of Madras. A notable guest, Laurence Oliphant, died at York House on 23 December 1888.[7]

The link with the Orleanists was renewed for a decade from 1896 to 1906 when the then Orleanist pretender Philippe, duc d'Orléans, reacquired the house he'd been born in.[6]

Sir Ratan Tata


The last private owner was Sir Ratan Tata (1871–1918),[3] a Parsi and a major industrialist in India. After acquiring the house in 1906 he had the riverside section of the gardens largely laid to lawn as an Italian style garden; which was a setting for garden parties and to show off a set of statues that he'd bought. A generous donor to charities, he entertained widely until 1914, when he returned to India. In 1917, on his way back to England, his ship was sunk in the Mediterranean. Now a sick man, he survived, only to die in 1918.[8]

Twickenham Council

Front of York House

York House was acquired in 1923 by Twickenham Urban District Council and after major alterations became the council's offices.[3] The new council chamber was formally opened by the then Duke of York (later King George VI) in 1926, the same year that the urban district became a municipal borough.[9]

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames


Since 1965 York House has been the municipal offices of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.[10] In 1990 the council moved most of its offices to a new purpose-built Civic Centre at 44 York Street, immediately west of York House.[11] The Civic Centre was partly built behind the retained Victorian façade of a parade of shops at the corner of York Street and Church Street.[12][13] Council meetings continue to be held in York House.[14]

York House provided the setting for the sanitarium scenes in the film Alfie starring Michael Caine filmed in 1966.[15]

It was also the location for the video for The Cure's The Hanging Garden (song) single.[16]


The Naked Ladies dominate the riverside lawns.[17]

The front gardens are largely a public car park and tennis courts. The rear gardens are bisected by a public road but run to the River Thames and are open to the public, with the sunken lawn sometimes used for open-air theatre in the summer. A stone footbridge connects the two halves of the gardens.[2]


  1. ^ Historic England. "York House, garden walls wrought-iron gates and boundary walls along Sion Road on the east side and Riverside on the south (1263365)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  2. ^ a b Historic England (6 August 2001). "York House, Park and Garden (1001548)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Weinreb, Ben; Hibbert, Christopher (1993). The London Encyclopaedia. London: PaperMac. p. 1004. ISBN 0333576888. OCLC 28963301.
  4. ^ "Hyde, Henry (1638-1709)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  5. ^ "The 1st Earl of Lonsdale". Twickenham Museum. Retrieved 19 December 2006.
  6. ^ a b "Residences of the French Royal House of Orleans" (PDF). London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  7. ^   This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain"Oliphant, Laurence (1829-1888)". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  8. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Tata, Sir Ratan" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 32 (12th ed.). London & New York: The Encyclopædia Britannica Company. p. 698.
  9. ^ "London's New Borough". British Film Institute. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  10. ^ "50 years of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames". Heritage Fund. 9 July 2015. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  11. ^ "Richmond Council office moves update". Richmond Informer. 13 April 1990. p. 18. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  12. ^ "Bank backs civic centre: Work starts soon on council offices". Richmond Informer. 18 June 1987. p. 1. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  13. ^ "Contacting the Council". London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Calendar". Richmond Council. Retrieved 27 April 2024.
  15. ^ "Alfie (1966)". Movie Locations. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  16. ^ "IMDB entry". IMDb. Retrieved 18 February 2023.
  17. ^ "Navajbai Tata". Tata Central Archives. Archived from the original on 31 December 2012. Retrieved 5 July 2009. In 1906, Sir Ratan Tata purchased York House in Twickenham. During his stay he made several alterations to the house, its grounds, including the installation of the large Italianate fountain and statuary which dominates the riverside portion of the garden.