Chiswick House revisited (London)

I was travelling to Twickenham for lunch at The White Swan, a lovely pub right on the bank of the River Thames, somewhere that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of the countryside despite being moments from the A4.

The White Swan is along the lines of the triangle between Ham House, Strawberry Hill and Marble Hill House and that sounds like a perfect day’s itinerary in itself.


Start at Ham, hop over the river on the little ferry, take in a tour at Marble Hill, gobble up a scrumptious lunch at The White Swan and then cycle around to Strawberry Hill (pottering back over the footbridge if you’ve left the car at Ham).

I digress.

I didn’t visit any of those houses on this particular day.

Chiswick House

I took the train from London to Chiswick and visited Chiswick House before cycling to The White Swan for lunch and then back to Central London.

I do like Lord Burlington’s pad, all the more so because the Victorian wings were removed during its 20th century restoration (they were beyond repair and those were the day when many historical societies believed in taking a house back to its original glory rather, as is more so the case nowadays, preserving it in the state when it was last inhabited).  Personally, with 18th century gems, I prefer the earlier approach (see my comments about Llanerchaeron in Wales, a John Nash design).

The Victorian Wings that are no more

Visiting the Palladian cube of Chiswick House highlights how tricky the internal stairs are in these farmhouse designs (originally from the Vento in Italy) and how in Blightly a main external staircase (even if one would have always entered via the first floor and wouldn’t have gone downstairs?) isn’t very practical.

The particular reason I like Chiswick House and why I admire Lord Burlington is that every time “fashions change”, there has to be a group of people who popularise the new fashion and who dare move out of the comfort zone of the old.

For every time that someone tells me that we don’t live in the 18th century any more and questions why I am so interested in classical design, I remind them that the Georgians looked to Roman designs and decided to reinvent their designs regardless of what the Tudors or Stewarts had preferred.  Similarly, the Victorians returned to the Medieval Gothic (thanks Pugin!).   Why can’t I just embrace the design I like?  Lord Burlington wanted himself a Palladian farmhouse and that is what he built.

Shoot me down, but I won’t succumb to your white box, cookie cutter, mass-produced, housing estate version of poor architecture.  We Georgians are made of titanium.

When I asked why this bust was sunk into the wall the response I got was that it was so the noses of the busts in the circular and domed entrance hall all lined up.  Well, that’s one way of doing it…

The Sculpture Gallery, housing one of the Sphinxes that used to sit in the grounds

The day wasn’t really fit for garden pictures, but here is an historic etching.

When visited: August 2013


Theme tune

4 thoughts on “Chiswick House revisited (London)

  1. Clearly historical societies have a conflict. As you say they used to believe in taking a house back to its original glory whereas now they are preserving it in the state when it was last inhabited. The problem with taking a house back to its original is twofold: a] the evidence has to be rock solid before the bulldozers start taking bits of building down and b] there would be very little left since every single generation has wanted to make its own changes and expansions.

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