The Matchless Vale celebrates the character and historical interest of Ham & Petersham area in words and pictures, including many new and historic images brought together in one book for the first time. It describes the remarkable landscape as well as many of the people who have lived here and their houses, all of which have contributed to making Ham and Petersham one of the most special and attractive areas in Greater London.
You can read more in the review and some sample pages below.
Copies are available @£20.00 each at the Open Book and Waterstones in Richmond
Review by Holly Willis
Intrigue, artists, writers and the first new age commune: there’s more to Ham and Petersham than meets the eye, as new book, The Matchless Vale, uncovers.
Even those born and bred in the green and pleasant corner of Greater London that comprises Ham and Petersham in the borough of Richmond, will uncover numerous surprises and delight in the fascinating images brought together in the new hardback book produced by the Ham and Petersham Association.
The chance to peek behind the wrought-iron gates and high old walls of the many historic and beautiful houses in the area is not to be missed. Nor are the sepia photographs, architectural drawings and oil paintings, illustrating how little Ham and Petersham has changed and why they have such an enduring appeal.
Long before pop stars and actors gravitated to the area, Charles Dickens wrote much of Nicholas Nickleby in Petersham and Constable made drawings of Ham’s trees. The area was a hotspot for political intrigue and radical thinkers as well. The word CABAL, associated with secretive clubs and shady dealings, comes from the initials of the men who met at Ham House to form a group of political advisors to the King in 1668. Equally surprising, the term ‘new age’ was first coined in Ham, to describe the ideals and lifestyle of a group of free-thinkers who formed what would now be called a commune, next to Ham Common.
Few people realise the work that has gone into protecting Ham and Petersham over the years and how different the landscape might have looked. Issues ranging from over-development to cruelty to animals have been shaped by the campaigning of local residents, past and present. In fact, the vista from Richmond Hill, looking out to the river and over Petersham, complete with cows grazing in the meadow, is so special that it is the only view protected by an act of parliament.
Along with the ancient landscape, historic houses and aristocratic early residents are the more recent buildings that are presented, rather refreshingly, as part of a living, evolving area, not a museum where everything should be preserved in aspic. These include a new HUF house in Petersham and the Parkleys development just off Ham Common. That’s not to say that all modernisation has been welcomed, with some less successful developments and poor planning decisions highlighting the need for local residents to protect the area for future generations.
Whether you’re interested in architecture, garden design, history, or just curious about this idyllic spot in a bend of the river Thames, The Matchless Vale is a joy to dip into and, with Christmas on the way, is likely to be a well received gift.
Book Review by Holly Willis