Neither informal history nor formal guidebook, this handsome volume is the result of a protracted love-affair between its English author and the pleasant Thames-side town where she lives. Although only 15 minutes by train from London, Richmond is no ordinary suburb; it is a town in its own right, self- contained and well aware of its present charm and the centuries of history behind it. In the 11th century Edward the Confessor named the village in the curve of the Thames ""Syene"" -- ""all things bright and beautiful."" Henry I built a royal manor at ""Shene"", which in 1499 Henry VIII, the first Tudor, rebuilt but as a palace and named it Richmond. Under the Tudors Richmond knew tourneys, luxury and vast extravagances, and also scandals and treachery, but little bloodshed even under Henry VIII and Bloody Mary: ""the air sweet and soft, the gardens ablow with flowers, the sound of doves cooing"" were not made for terror. In 1603 Elizabeth I, refusing medicine to the last, died at Richmond and with her died the great days of the palace. By the 18th century it had vanished, leaving behind it pleasant lodges and smaller houses, to which royalty, great men and lovely ladies still journeyed, braving footpads; at Strawberry Hill across the Thames Horace Walpole wrote his incomparable letters and fell in love, at 72, with the young Berry sisters. Today Richmond still preserves its 18th-century atmosphere, which the author has engagingly recreated in this delightful book.