Richmond has long been a source of inspiration for writers and directors and the borough’s many appearances in great works of literature and on the silver screen is now being celebrated in a new exhibition, writes Will Gore.

Richmond – From Page to Screen is now open at the Museum of Richmond featuring examples of writing by an array of famous authors including Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, as well as images from films, such as Alfie, that were shot on location in the borough.

According to curator Sue Barber, narrowing down the material to be featured in the exhibition was a tricky task, such is the impact Richmond has had on writers and film-makers.

“I did have to leave some things out and, as soon as I decided what to put in, I found some other great examples – it was quite annoying,” she says.

“There will be people who come in and may know of interesting quotes or films featuring Richmond that aren’t in the exhibition but, hopefully, we give a good overview.”

The section of the exhibition focusing on Richmond in literature forms the lion’s share of the exhibition, with written extracts illustrated with accompanying prints and paintings.

Extracts from letters by residents such as George Elliot and visitors to the area, including Mendelssohn, are on display alongside examples of Richmond’s cameo appearances in countless novels, with extracts from Dickens featuring prominently “Dickens has included Richmond in many of his novels,” says Barber.

“In Nicholas Nickelby there, is a duel in Petersham Fields and at the end of The Pickwick Papers one of the characters, Tracey Tupman, retires to the terrace on Richmond Hill.

“The novel was written in the late 1830s and we have a watercolour painted not long after that shows people promenading on the terrace, which is what Tupman spends his retirement doing.”

Although most of the extracts have been reproduced for the exhibition, an original letter Dickens wrote while he was living in Petersham has been borrowed from the Local Studies Library and will be on display alongside two other original letters – one by Woolf and the other by the 18th century poet James Thompson.

What does Barber think it is about Richmond that has inspired so many writers?

“When you find out all these different people wrote about Richmond, it is quite amazing really,” she says.

“There are different elements to it and the Thames is significant because it has always been a major transport route.

“It was easy for people to go down the river and stop off at places – particularly Richmond because of the beauty of the hill, the riverside, the Green and the old houses.”

Tracking down examples of Richmond on film proved a tougher task and it took plenty of research from Barber and her co-curator, Phillipa Heath.

With the help of a local film buff, Film Richmond, and the British Film Institute they compiled a list of about 50 films that were shot in the borough, including two featuring the Beatles.

“It was quite difficult and I am not saying our list is exhaustive,” says Barber.

“We are going back as far as the 60s with our list and the stills we’ve found.

“The Beatles filmed Help and A Hard Day’s Night in Twickenham Studios and they did some filming in the surrounding streets.

“A scene from Alfie was also filmed at St Margaret’s station.”

Richmond – From Page To Screen, Museum of Richmond, Old Town Hall, Whittaker Avenue, until April 17, visit museum for further information.