In about 1812, JMW Turner built a country villa near Twickenham for himself and his father. He designed it himself, possibly with input from his friend, the architect Sir John Soane. The Turners lived there until 1826, during which time Turner and other artist friends would set forth and paint pretty riverside views. Back then, the house was surrounded by open fields and woodland in all directions; today it is hemmed in on all sides by London suburbia, you’d walk right past if you weren’t actually looking for it, its blue plaque obscured by an overhanging branch.
Fast forward to 2010 and the passing of Professor Harold Livermore, who owned the house (now called Sandycombe Lodge) since 1947. Prof Livermore and his wife Ann cherished the house and its association with Turner. In 2005 he bequeathed the house to be turned into a memorial of the artist, to be enjoyed by all, under the aegis of the Sandycombe Lodge Trust.
Last Friday, I was privileged, along with Patrick Baty and others to be invited to view the house at a small celebration to mark the official start to the programme of restoration (which is well underway). There is much to be done. Applications for appropriate grants are in train and the building will require almost total restoration and probably much modification. But we’ll keep you updated on this most exciting project. If you’d like to find out more or make a donation to the trust, please visit the website here.
Update: London Historians will be having a guided tour of the house on Saturday 5 May 2012 at 10:30, followed by an English Heritage guided tour immediately afterwards of Marble Hill House nearby. Members: £11; guests and non-members: £13. Email us to book your place.