White Lodge, Richmond Park

White Lodge is a Georgian house situated in Richmond Park, on the south-western outskirts of London. Formerly a royal residence, today, it houses the Royal Ballet Lower School, catering for students aged 11-16.

Early history

The house was built as a hunting lodge for George II, by the architect Roger Morris, shortly after his accession to the throne in 1727. Originally called Stone Lodge, the house was renamed New Lodge shortly afterwards to distinguish itself from a neighbouring lodge called Brown lodge.

Queen Caroline, consort of George II, stayed at the lodge frequently. On her death in 1737, the lodge passed to Robert Walpole, 1st Baron Walpole, the son of the Prime Minister. After his death, it came to Queen Caroline's daughter, Princess Amelia, in 1751. The Princess, who also became the ranger of Richmond Park, closed the entire park to the public, except to distinguished friends and those with permits, sparking public outrage. In 1758, a court case made by a local brewer against a park gatekeeper eventually overturned the Princess's order, and the park was once again opened to the public.

Princess Amelia Sophia is remembered for adding the two white wings to the main lodge, which remain to this day. The Prime Minister, the 3rd Earl of Bute, became ranger after the Princess's death, and lived at the Lodge from 1761 until his death in 1792.

It was during this tenure that the name White Lodge first appeared, in the journal of Lady Mary Coke. According to her journal, Lady Mary went to Richmond Park hoping to catch a glimpse of "their Majestys" (George III and Queen Charlotte), who did "always stay at White Lodge on a Sunday".

After restoration of the house following disrepair in the late 1700s, George III gave the house to another Prime Minister, Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth, who enclosed the lodge's first private gardens in 1805. Although the King (affectionately called "Farmer George" for his enthusiasm for farming and gardening) made himself ranger, Lord Sidmouth was made deputy ranger. Among the more famous visitors to White Lodge during this period was Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, in the month before the Battle of Trafalgar. He is said to have explained his battle plan to Lord Sidmouth by drawing lines on the table with a wine-moistened finger.

19th century

After Viscount Sidmouth died in 1844, Queen Victoria gave the house to her aunt – the last surviving daughter of George III – Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh. After her death in 1857, Prince Albert, needing a secluded location to bring his son the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII of the United Kingdom, during his education, decided on White Lodge. Although the Prince of Wales favoured stimulating company to hard study, Prince Albert kept him here in seclusion, with only five companions, two of whom were tutors. Understandably, the Prince of Wales found the few years at White Lodge boring.

After the Prince of Wales was sent to Ireland to continue his training, Queen Victoria, desperately grieving the death of her mother, the Duchess of Kent, came to White Lodge with Prince Albert, in the early months of 1861. This was only the first of two deaths that year. On December 14th, Prince Albert died of typhoid fever. The Queen was devastated, and never came out of mourning during the remaining forty years of her life.

The Teck family

The next occupants of the Lodge were Prince Francis, Duke of Teck and his wife, the former Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, who were given use of the house by the mourning Queen Victoria in 1869. Princess Mary Adelaide, a granddaughter of George III and therefore first cousin to the queen, was famous for her extravagance. Requests for a higher income from The Queen were unsuccessful. Debts were increasing, and the family fled abroad during the 1880s to escape their creditors.

In 1891, the aged Queen, anxious to find a bride for her grandson, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, settled on Princess Mary Adelaide's daughter, Victoria Mary. Following Prince Albert Victor's death a few months before the marriage in 1892, Victoria Mary married his brother, Prince George, Duke of York, the future George V in 1893.

In 1894, the Duchess of York gave birth to her first child, the future Edward VIII, at White Lodge. Queen Victoria visited the Lodge to see the Prince shortly afterwards. Three years later, the Duchess of Teck died, followed by the Duke of Teck in 1900.

20th century

After Queen Victoria's death, the Lodge was owned privately by a Ms Hartman, who was bankrupted in 1909 as a result of maintaining the property. The house returned to royal use in 1923, during the honeymoon of Prince Albert, Duke of York, the future George VI and the Duchess of York. Queen Mary, who had lived at White Lodge with her mother, Princess Mary Adelaide, insisted that they make their home at the Lodge. However, due to the vast number of sightseers, there was an extreme lack of privacy. The house was also in an inconvenient location, and the maintenance was costly. The couple vacated the property soon afterwards.

From then on, the house was occupied by various private residents, including Arthur Lee, 1st Viscount Lee of Fareham. The last private resident was Colonel James Veitch, who lived at White Lodge until 1954.

Royal Ballet School

In 1955, the Sadler's Wells Ballet School were granted the use of White Lodge on a permanent basis, later being granted a Royal Charter becoming the Royal Ballet School in 1956. It has consequently become recognised as one of the leading ballet schools in the world. In recent years, the Royal Ballet School formed the "White Lodge Redevelopment Appeal", to fund the largest re-development of the building in its history. Much of the redevelopement work is in progress.

The most significant improvements include the provision of state of the art dance and academic facilities, plus new boarding facilities for up to 125 students and residential staff. The work will ensure that the building complies with Government regulations, allowing the school to remain at the building for the foreseeable future. The total cost of the project is estimated at £22 million, of which 80% has already been raised by benefactors called The Knights of white lodge. These include people such as Lord Sainsbury etc of which he has made several donations to many nationaly important facilities e.g. The national gallery.

Support for the project has been received from:
*English Heritage
*The Crown Estate
*Royal Parks
*HRH The Prince of Wales, President of the school
*Department for Children, Schools and Families

Planning permission granted by:
*London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
*Greater London Authority]

The redevelopment plan includes:
*Refurbished King's Building, Queen's Pavilion and Windsor Pavilion
*Refurbished stable block (academic facilities)
*Refurbished science lab
*Ballet museum relocated
*New dance studios
*Extension of the Pavolva Studio
*New boarding houses
*New dining hall and kitchen
*New house for the head of the school
*New memorial garden
*New courtyard garden
*New car park
*Various new boundaries, hedges, lawns and gardens

See also

*Royal Ballet School
* [http://www.royal-ballet-school.org.uk Royal Ballet School website]

References

*"Richmond Park: The Walker's Historical Guide", David Macdowall, 1996
*"A Year in the Life of Richmond Park", Joanna Jackson, 2003
*"Richmond Park: Portrait of a Royal Playground", Pamela Fletcher Jones, 1983


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