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