Mar 11 2011 By Eddie Menday
A home for heroes the Royal Star and Garter Home has been a landmark on Richmond Hill for almost 90 years. Eddie Menday traces the history of the building and the remarkable work that has taken place.
THE good folk of Richmond must be rather sad that one of their celebrated institutions is leaving its iconic building on top of the famous hill.
I refer to the Royal Star and Garter Home, which is moving to new premises in Surbiton.
The site became the Star and Garter Hotel in 1906 with its fine views over the Thames Valley, and was taken over as temporary accommodation for troops in the First World War.
Training took place here before the young men were sent to the trenches in France and Belgium to face the horrors of the battlefield.
The casualties were high and hospitals soon filled with the wounded. The British Red Cross appealed for a home to treat the severely wounded troops.
In 1915 it was decided to purchase the old hotel, and an appeal was set up and many generous donations were received.
The deeds of the building were handed over to Queen Mary, who entrusted the building to the British Red Cross to establish a suitable home for the disabled.
The Queen also agreed to be the first patron and suggested that the name should remain, with its suggestion of the Order of the Garter, and granted it the Royal title.
There has always been a royal patron of the organisation and one regular visitor was the late Queen Mother.
Some 65 men were the first to move in, several returning to their own homes after convalescence, others so severely wounded that they had to spend the rest of their lives in care.
Eventually it was decided that a new building was needed to deal with the various treatments for the patients, and the old hotel was demolished.
George Gilbert Scott, the celebrated architect often referred to as 'Great' Scott, agreed to design a new building, for which he waived his fees.
And so rose on the hill the iconic building that can still be seen for miles. It was funded by the Women's Hospital Committee and opened in 1924.
It was built as a home for heroes, with its columns and marble floors, and wonderful views of the area.
The Second World War brought in more severely wounded men and Dr Ludwig Guttman helped set up a paraplegic ward, which was the first of its kind.
I well remember going to the home with our little concert party many years ago to give an entertainment to the patients.
The staff made us so welcome and brought the men in their beds to an area where we were to perform. The patients who were unable to applaud with their hands nodded in appreciation. We were all quite moved.
The home has been part of the Richmond scene for all these years, but now the building is unable to cope with modern nursing requirements.
It was through the Royal Star and Garter's encouragement of the severely handicapped that paraplegic sport has now become an important part of the Olympic movement.
The building is listed and I understand will again become a hotel.