Southside House: it’s not about the architecture (SW London)

I talked of how difficult it is to take attractive photographs of certain houses – in that case Ightam Mote (on a steep hill) and Knole (rambling).

I also said that my trip to Ightam Mote & Knole by bike was my only “long distance country house by bike” visit of 2015.

I didn’t count this other trip by bicycle last year because I don’t think I can justify the train to Wimbledon and then up the hill to Southside House before poddling back to Central London on two wheels (nor do I count Syon House via Osterley Park, a trip I made in October), especially as these two trips were made on George, my everyday single gear bike.

Entry to Southside House is by tour and there were three of us on our tour.  I’m glad the other couple turned up!

The host (who is the curator) asked us what we were interested in.  I said the architectural history and was told that a trip to Southside House is not about that; and indeed it is not, I just didn’t know until I’d been.

It is an historic house (17th century core, Georgian rear facade and other “wrappers” and “patches” in and around and post-WW2) that became a home with a story due to the colour and complexity of the family that occupied it, as many smaller historic houses inevitably are.  Here we have love affairs, Scandinavia, France and an ex-WW2 war veteran who curated his home as we see it today.

Parts of the staircase is formed of wood and concrete, fashioned by the family.

Outside there is a formal garden that is purposefully (I think) frothy around the edges.

These are the only photos that I kept and processed.  Photos are not allowed inside.  However, I don’t think they’d mind me sharing a picture of the lounge, where concerts are often held.

Source: Visit London

Inside has a good collection of van Dycks (I was interested in the unusual spelling of his signature on some), and you might recall that in 2010, a fire ravaged the house.  The house was repaired and so I visited when the pieces had been put back together and even, as part of the restoration process, new once forgotten storage places were discovered.  You can read about the contents here.


What I discovered on my visit was the true meaning of the powder room: a small room off the entrance hall.  A small (usually) boy would sit inside and within the walls of the entrance hall would be a space into which visitors could tip their heads back, to have their wigs powdered.  Southside House still has its power room.

It also has an interesting collection of objects.  I think though I might have to make a return visit for another tour in order to remember the detail of the owners’ somewhat reclusive existence and their story that led to the current curation of the interior of the house.

In the meantime you can read about the house’s history here.

I realise, writing this on 15 May 2016, that it is a year since I visited.   And it truly is a good time to be out on a bicycle.  Yesterday I cycled to Greenwich and back because “why not”?  I explored the back streets via a new quietway that runs from Waterloo to Greenwich and then ambled back along Cycle Route 4, coasting along the Thames path and taking in the “flat land” of the late 1990s onwards that occupies the stretch from Greenwich to Shad Thames.

When visited: May 2015


While I was waiting for my tour of Southside House I walked into a nearby park.  What lovely rhododendrons I saw:

One thought on “Southside House: it’s not about the architecture (SW London)

  1. I am jealous! I want to know how one family managed to gather a good collection of van Dycks. Since van Dyck was always admired (opposed to say El Greco who went up and down in popularity), his paintings would have always been expensive, rare and carefully hidden.

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