RICHMOND RINK, TWICKENHAM'S SEASONAL ICE RINK
Twenty-one years after Richmond Rink, the famous ice rink in East Twickenham, finally closed its doors, Berkley Driscoll and Teresa Read, the founders of Twickenham Alive, brought back ice skating to Twickenham - successive Council administrations had failed to do this despite many promises.
The rink was welcomed by Torvill and Dean
It took two years of research into the operation of ice rinks before setting up the first temporary ice rink - Richmond Rink - in the grounds of historic York House, the home of Richmond Council in Twickenham. This first temporary rink was supported by the then Leader of the Council, Nick True.
Following the success of Richmond Rink at York House the Director of Strawberry Hill House requested that the rink moved to the House to promote it to a wider audience - this coincided with a senior Council officer saying that the rink had made the [tennis court] land a valuable venue and this would need to be taken into account in future.
So the rink moved to Strawberry Hill House and two successful community seasons followed at Strawberry Hill and Strawberry Hill House was promoted daily for three months of each season, on social media, websites, radio, television news, online video and in magazine and newspaper advertisements - this had been the agreement with the Director. Thus, many people who had never heard of the House saw it for the first time when they came to skate.
Unfortunately the third season was plagued by problems. At the strong behest of a senior council officer, an acoustic enclosure from a commercial company was installed. Instead of being a help, it was a hindrance as it failed on many occasions. Its failure had a knock on effect causing many problems (including financial loss). This came at a time when the weather was very bad for ice rinks all over the country; many rinks closed including the famous and temporary ice rink organizations lost huge sums of money.
After the Christmas and New Year ice rink closed, the management of Strawberry Hill House changed - in more ways than one. This change was manifest at a very large summer event at Strawberry Hill House when leaflets, freely distributed, informed visitors that the ice rink was "Under New Management". This was news to Twickenham Alive (Ice Rink) Ltd - the directors had not been informed.
It then became apparent that the "Under New Management" team's idea of submitting a planning application for an ice rink at Strawberry Hill House consisted of using much of Twickenham Alive's copyright planning material. Whilst this "Under New Management" team are a commercial enterprise, they obviously didn't believe in discussing the use of plans belonging to Twickenham Alive (Ice Rink) Ltd they freely used (a serious offence as the copyright of Planning documents is protected by an Act of Parliament).
However, the "Under New Management" plan for a much larger ice rink with corporate entertainment was invalidated by the LBRuT planning department - and withdrawn by the applicant - because of lack of details and copyright issues.
So, five years of Teresa and Berkley's extremely hard work and success - for the enjoyment of the community - was undermined - including a very substantial personal financial investment in the ice rink to make up for the problems caused by the Council's "recommendation" of an acoustic enclosure and the bad weather.
Despite Richmond Rink's handicap of the faulty acoustic enclosure plans for a small community ice rink in Radnor Gardens for 2016/17 were submitted to the local planning authority. This had initially been strongly supported by the Chair of Radnor Gardens who was also a councillor.
The rink application received a lot of local support and senior Planning Officers recommended Permission. Unfortunately for skaters the councillors on the Planning Committee, who do not live locally, decided that "any"
benefits of an ice rink over the festive season were outweighed by people's "quiet enjoyment" of the Garden - the small rink would only have taken up around 5% of the Garden space.
The senior Planning Officers were certainly in favour of granting Permission and this was supported by the Planning Inspectorate who overturned the Planning Committee's decision and gave Permission for the rink to go ahead. However, "Parks" put a stop to this insisting on yet another consultation which would take many weeks and would be very expensive. There was just not enough time.
This year a new Council administration took office and we had hoped that the rink would go ahead but the wheels of "Parks" move very slowly.
It is such a shame that Richmond Rink will not come back this Christmas and New Year as we had so many talented young skaters who first learned to skate at the temporary ice rink and returned in successive years.
One young schoolboy declared "I love this place. I never want to leave".
The final word comes from one of the writers of many emails we have received expressing shock and dismay that the small community rink loved by so many local children will not be there for them this season.
Oh gosh, that is such a huge pity. How frustrating for you. I am certainly happy for you to quote how beneficial your rink was for disabled children if this helps you get permission for next year.
... And, this Christmas (2018) I am still receiving telephone calls asking why the rink is not open and can we start a petition!
, August 2016, Updated 5 December 2016, updated December 2018
OUR HERITAGE LOTTERY PROJECT: ICERINX, THE MOST FAMOUS ICE RINK IN THE WORLD
THE BOOK: THE MOST FAMOUS ICE RINK IN THE WORLD
The work on the book, The Most Famous Ice Rink in the World, started in earnest towards the end of August 2015 although it had begun as the seed of an idea a number of years before.
Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean were contacted and agreed to write the introduction. This was really appreciated as they trained in Richmond Rink in the 70s and the 80s, sometimes with Betty Callaway.
Professor Jeremy Hamilton-Miller has been researching the history of ice skating and skating in the borough for some time and he followed on with an article of the years leading up to opening of the rink in East Twickenham.
Many local residents who spent years of their lives skating at Richmond Rink added their memories from as early as the 1930s up until the rink closed in 1992; those who were children at the time, teenagers, ice hockey players and ice skating coaches. Some were members of families who had a history of two or three generations at the rink.
We also had contributions from the Honorary Historian at the National Ice Skating Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, an international judge and champion skater and two ladies who are now in their 90s.
The photographs show fantastic skating feats including those of international champions, all from the rink in East Twickenham. One photo shows a 2000lb unexploded bomb which fell on the rink during World War Two, a little known fact, as it was quickly removed and the rink opened the next day.
There are also paintings and sketches from two artists including Dennis Gilbert, a well known portrait painter and former President of the Contemporary Portrait Society, who sketched at the rink in 1956.
David Daines, a member of the ice dance club, was there to photograph the demolition of the rink and Andy Sutch, the Chair of Sport Richmond provides an account of the time leading up to the closure of the rink.
The overriding theme is that everyone loved Richmond Rink; people from all walks of life including the Queen’s children. Richmond Rink is part of ice skating history as well as Twickenham’s history. The memories live on; the names of Torvill and Dean and the legendary coaches Arnold Gerschwiler, Betty Callaway, Roy and Anne Lee are still on many people’s minds. Richmond Rink must be the most loved ice rink in the world as well as The Most Famous Ice Rink in the World.
For the last three years many of those who were associated with the ice rink in East Twickenham have come together to provide a temporary, community, ice rink in Twickenham. It is staffed by those who grew up skating in East Twickenham, managed by an international ice hockey player who has been honoured in the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame and the ice is tended by the same Zamboni operator who worked at Richmond Rink, even the well remembered ticket collector makes an occasional appearance. The temporary rink is visited by many local skaters and welcomes children who have the enthusiasm to skate just as thousands of children in Twickenham before them.
Part of a Heritage Lottery project: Icerinx
A LOSS TO TWICKENHAM
As a resident of East Twickenham I was always very aware of
Richmond Ice Rink and the numbers of young people who went
to and fro to skate. I, in common with the rest of the Borough,
took it for granted that there was an ice rink in Twickenham; it was
part of the local social fabric, and it would always be there. It was
not surprising that as a birthday treat my older daughter wanted
a skating party at the rink and following the party at the Arosa
rink she started to ask for skating lessons on a Saturday morning.
Sadly, we were too late. Suddenly the rink closed, albeit with
a promise that a new one would be built. We waited so long to find out how and where this promise would be fulfilled. Over the years, story after story appeared in the Richmond and Twickenham Times with new possible locations, and rumours were rife.There was even an Early Day Motion in Parliament at the beginning of 1995 about the failure to replace the rink.
Finally however we all gave up hoping that a new rink would
come to Twickenham. It was not until 2010 when I started working
with Berkley Driscoll organising community events as Twickenham
Alive that I finally found out the truth, namely that there
was never going to be a new rink in Twickenham.
Berkley and I have a strong interest in local history, and we try to
help recreate some of the things that Twickenham has lost, including
the ice rink. Looking into local history we came across a document
which indicated that there would not be an ice rink built in
Twickenham, or anywhere else in the borough. Thus, it seems we
had all waited in vain.
It remains very unlikely that Twickenham will ever get back a permanent
ice rink through official channels, so as Twickenham Alive
Berkley and I decided to bring a temporary ice rink to Twickenham
at Christmas. It was called Richmond Rink and staffed by
some of the people who were associated with the original rink in
East Twickenham. At the same time, we were also lucky enough
to gain a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, through a local charity (The
Richmond Environmental Information Centre, REIC) of which we
are trustees. This grant has made possible the research involved
in collecting the memories recorded in this book.
Berkley and I would like to thank all of the people who have
come together to contribute to The Most Famous Ice Rink in the
World, especially Jeremy Hamilton-Miller who is the Chairman of
the REIC. We would also like to thank Elaine Hooper of NISA,
our publisher David Lane, all the Richmond Rink staff managed by
Gary Stefan (who is in the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame) and everyone
who is named in the book and on the icerinx.com website.
Also a special thanks to Zac Goldsmith MP for Richmond Park
and North Kingston who has supported this project from the
very beginning and Fi Stephens at the Heritage Lottery. Finally, I
must not forget Jill Garrow who has always been there to give
very good advice.
Berkley and I have really enjoyed working together on this project
and we hope you will enjoy this book for years to come.
Page 104 Next to an original painting by Denis Gilbert of skaters at Richmond Rink in 1956 - A page from The Most Famous Ice Rink in the World
Memories of Twickenham Riverside - Another Twickenham Saga Spanning Four Decades