A guest post by London Historians member, Jane Young. (@sketchesbyboz on Twitter)
On Saturday last, members of London Historians paid a visit to J M W Turner’s country retreat in Twickenham. Built on a plot of land Turner purchased in 1807, Sandycombe Lodge, originally Solus Lodge, was designed by Turner, probably assisted with advice from his friend, Sir John Soane.
An unpretentious property, once in open land, now within a street of suburban villas but nonetheless enchanting and all the more interesting due to its current situation as a work in progress. London Historians embarked on a tour of the house undertaken by Catherine Parry-Wingfield whose expert knowledge of Turner and the history of Sandycombe Lodge, along with great enthusiasm for the restoration project is limitless. Fully engaging the audience with a thorough and entertaining narrative of the design of the house, the domestic arrangements of Turner and his household, continuing onto the story of the house following sale by Turner in 1826 and the subsequent campaign to preserve this lovely building for the nation by the late Professor Livermore who acquired and rescued it in the years following the Second World War.
The Sandycombe Lodge Trust acquired the house in 2010 and continues the preservation work to restore Turner’s House to its original layout as a work of art by Turner. Open the first Saturday of each month until October 2012 the house is well worth a visit to see the eclectic charms of the villa, many of which are unchanged since Turner’s time, and in doing so experience the first stage of this important work and support the charity that is endeavouring to return it to that period.
Given that London Historians do not do things by halves, we then continued up the road and across the park to Marble Hill House for our second visit of the day. In contrast to our first visit, Marble Hill House is grand and imposing standing within sixty six acres of parkland near Richmond.
Commissioned by Henrietta Howard, mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King George II, building commenced 1724 in the then new Palladian style. An immaculately restored building under the direction of English Heritage, we enjoyed a beautifully executed tour of Marble Hill by house manager Rheme Fordham.
The architectural detail and design of the property; the life and times of Henrietta Howard and her visitors, of which included Alexander Pope and Horace Walpole; the history of the furniture and contents; the acquisition of an incredible mahogany staircase almost causing war with Spain; were all chronicled with great attention to detail. An integral part of the enthralling story of Marble Hill House is a most impressive art collection, with plenty of time allowed at the end of the tour to enable visitors to browse this at leisure.
So two very different villas and, made all the more memorable by being viewed consecutively illustrating the significant contrast in architectural style, quite aside of the convenience of being very closely situated should you be in that neck of the woods.
Editor’s Note: Further images on Turner’s House in a previous post, here.