Click here to enter my other blog: Jane Austen's World.

Monday, June 21

Visit to Chiswick House in the London Borough of Hounslow

This Monday, just gone, the weather was beautiful, blue skies, the odd fluffy little white cloud and it was hot. We don’t get many days like that during the year. I thought I would cycle over to Chiswick House, the Palladian villa that was a weekend retreat for Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire. Chiswick is about four miles from where I live in the London Borough of Merton. Chiswick is in Hounslow. To get there I crossed Richmond Park, a beautiful nature reserve within the boundaries of Greater London. Massive oak trees dot it’s landscape. Some of the oaks must be three, four and five hundred years old. Charles I himself must have seen some of these very trees when out hunting deer. Richmond Park is a Royal park and has been used for hunting since before Henry VIII’s time. It is still home to two herds of deer, red deer and roe deer. It is also home to The Royal Ballet School, which uses a beautiful Georgian house in the centre of the park. The Royal Ballet School is where the fictional Billy Elliot learned his trade.

The third Earl of Burlington (1694-1753) designed the elegant Classical villa seen today, drawing inspiration from his 'grand tours' of Italy. It was originally located in a modest estate purchased by his grandfather, next to an existing Jacobean house.

The design of the house was influenced by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio and his English follower Inigo Jones (1573 – 1652). Inigo Jones was the chief architect in England before Christopher Wren, the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral and who redesigned and rebuilt London after the great fire in 1666. This neo Palladian style soon spread across Europe and America. There are buildings in the USA based on the design of Chiswick House. The Rotunda at the University of Virginia and the White House, which also has influences from The Queens House designed by Inigo Jones at Greenwich.

Chiswick House itself was more a place to present art and a weekend party venue for the Earl of Burlington and his friends.

William Kent, the 18th century garden designer designed the gardens and also many of the interiors. Kent was also a follower of Inigo Jones’s style.

By 1770 the villa at Chiswick had become the property of the notorious fifth Duke of Devonshire more renowned for his wife’s life style. She was Georgiana, The Duchess of Devonshire. A new film starring Keira Knightly portrays some of their life and life style.

The Duke of Devonshire made some extensive changes to the building and grounds adding a bridge over the lake and new wings to the villa so it could be made more habitable. These wings were later removed in the 1950’s to return it to its original Palladian style.

Georgiana’s son, the sixth Duke added an Italianate garden to the grounds.

In the 1950’s the villa was passed to the government ministry of works and then in the 1980’s English Heritage cared for it. The London Borough of Hounslow and English Heritage jointly own it and look after it today.

It has recently been refurbished. £12,500,000 was spent on the renovation of the house and grounds. The money was obtained from private benefactors, the national lottery fund, English Heritage and Hounslow Council.

The house has recently been reopened following the completion of this renovation.

When I went on Monday the grounds were open to the public but a member of English heritage stopped me from going into the house. The government minister for heritage was inside giving a press conference at the opening of the refurbished house.

I must have looked the part, with my camera slung around my neck because I was later approached and asked to show my press pass. I did get into the house for a short time before I was oyked out, as we say. That means I was politely asked to leave.

Here are the rest of my pictures.

Post and images by Tony Grant, London Calling


Jenny Girl said...

Beautiful! Oh to be rich and plenty of time for pleasurable pursuits :) Thanks for the photos.

Nonna Beach said...

A lovely place...I am so happy it has been refurbished and preserved for future generations to enjoy and marvel over !

Are there any titled family members alive now ?

Meredith R. said...

What a beautiful house. Can people visit the interior? Were you blocked from entering only because of a special event?

Southerner said...

Thanks for all your kind comments.
Nonna, the family still continue and they live, I think, at Chatsworth House.

Here's a link to the family history.

Meredith, ys you can visit Chiswick house. It was difficult for me to get in because a government minister was holding a press conference inside. It was not made clear that it was closed to the public. Poeple from English heritage kept telling me i could get in later.

here's a link to Chiswick House which might give you more details about visiting.

All the best,

Nonna Beach said...

Thanks for the added info Tony, it was a very well written post...felt as though I was visiting too !

Laurel Ann (Austenprose) said...

Absolutely beautiful picture Tony. Stunning estate. Thanks for sharing.