Victoria, here, reporting on the day Kristine and I spent at this jewel in Robert Adam’s architectural crown. Osterley Park is managed by the National Trust and a very good job they do! I had visited the estate several years ago, and this time I was excited to learn that we could take pictures INSIDE. So, prepare yourselves for a set of interior shots of many rooms. All pictures in this post were taken by me or Kristine, unless otherwise noted.
We could not stop snapping!
Kristine leans in for a close-up
But I am getting ahead of myself! The approach to the house is suitably dramatic, viewed across a pond laced with water lilies in full bloom. Queen Elizabeth I visited the first manor house here after its completion in 1576. Thomas Gresham, a wealthy banker, built the house, Another wealthy banker, Sir Francis Child, hired Robert Adam to remodel it in 1761, and the current look – both inside and out – is very much that of the Adam period in all its glory. Adam had one section of the square house replaced with handsome Georgian columns, framing an open courtyard. The great house and estate passed down in the line of the Child banking family. Sarah Sophia Fane inherited the house from her grandfather, Robert Child; she married George Villiers (who added Child to his surname) who became the 5th Earl of Jersey. Thus the house for almost 200 years, belonged to the Earls of Jersey. The 9th earl presented it to the National Trust in the 1940’s.
We arrived in time for a curator’s tour, but we had time to take a quick look around before it began.
The Entrance hall has identical alcoves at each end with a fireplace and two classical statues in each.
The Hall was used as a saloon and reception room and occasionally for dining; Adam designed it to replace the original hall demolished for the columned entrance.
The floor of black marble on white reflects the design in the ceiling, a frequent Adam feature.
The large painting between the doors in the dining room is by Antonio Zucchi (1726-1795) entitled Figures Sporting in a ruined Roman Bath, part of a set of paintings he did, including The Four Continents, above the doors. Twelve mahogany chairs with lyre backs and two arm chairs were designed by Robert Adam and probably made by John Linnell (1729-1796) of London; Linnell executed the designs for the rest of the room’s furnishings as well. The chairs are placed around the perimeter of the room in the 18th C. manner. Tables of several sizes were kept in the servant’s passages; they could be set up when needed.
Pier table topped with antique marble mosaics, one of a pair
both topped by ornate 7-foot tall mirrors
Marble Fireplace, with Doric columns
Painting by Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727-85) An offering to Ceres
During our tour of the house, a small group gathered in the Gallery to hear the curators speak about the house, its design and its treasures, its history and the continuing restorations of various rooms both above and below stairs to their appearance when completed by Adam. We found some places to sit, but not, of course, on any of the antique furniture.
The Gallery, photo ©National Trust
The gallery is 130 feet long and faces the garden. It once housed a billiard table and a fortepiano. Henry James described the room as ‘a cheerful upholstered avenue into another century.’
Above is one of six mirrored girandoles (ornamental branched candlesticks), also made by John Linnell for Robert Adam.
Two pairs of Chinese mandarin jars date from
the reign of the Chinese emperor Qianlong (1736-95)
One of several settees, also part of Linnell’s suite of furniture made for the gallery; the matching chairs can be seen below.
The Marble Fireplace, one of two by Joseph Wilton.
A copy of the NPG painting of Robert Adam, c. 1770-75; attributed to George Willison
The frieze includes marigolds, the symbols of Childs Bank.
The model Chinese Junk is made of Ivory and bone, and comes from Guangzhou, c. 1750
The porcelain pagoda is of a similiar date.
At the conclusion of the curator’s talk, we explored the rest of the house, and what an exploration it was. Our pictures can only give a hint of what it was like, an abundance of magnificent paintings, furniture, rugs…all dazzling to us poor mortals.
Adam’s touch at the doorway of the Drawing room
Ceiling design in the Drawing Room
According to the Guidebook, this ceiling is based on the drawing of the Temple of the Sun in ancient Palmyra, adapted to the rectangular shape of the room.
The Drawing Room photo ©National Trust
The next two rooms were jaw-dropping in effect. Horace Walpole thought this room ‘the most superb and beautiful that can be imagined.’ We agreed. Adam designed the ceiling first.
Tapestry Room ceiling photo ©National Trust
The Tapestry Room
Boucher’s Tapestries were delivered to the house in 1776 from the Gobelins factory in Paris, though run by a Scot, Adam’s countryman.The four large medallions in the tapestries (two seen above) represent the elements: earth, fire, air, and water.
The tapestry medallion above the fireplace is Cupid and Psyche.
The furniture was built by Linnell and upholstered to match the deep rose background of the tapestries. Similiar tapestries in a drawing room designed by Adam can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where the Tapestry Room from Croome Court in Worcestershire now resides. Read more about this room here
. This is the ante-room to the State bedroom, which almost overwhelms the visitor. Imagine what it would be like to try to sleep in this bed.
The State Bed
Ceiling Medallion by Angelica Kauffman, Aglaia, one of the Three Graces being enslaved by Love
The Fire Board, in the Etruscan style
Black and Gold Japanned Commode, probably Chippendale
Pier Glass mirror reflecting the State Bed
Then, to add to the phenomenal variety of decorative motifs, comes the Etruscan Dressing Room, with designs drawn from ancient Etruscan vases discovered in Italy. These designs were eagerly adopted into architectural decor and into popular patterns manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood and others in the mid 18th Century.
The Etruscan Dressing Room
Ceiling of the Etruscan Dressing Room
Fire Screen designed by Adam and embroidered by Mrs. Child
View towards the windows, Etruscan Dressing Room
The crest of the pier-glass is painted to match the medallions on the walls. The japanned commode is another attributed to Chippendale.
The Great Stair
The north side of the house is less dramatic that the south side, where the State rooms are. The library looks exactly like the kind of place we need for our most capable work. What are the chances?
The painting above the mantel is by Antonio Zucchi (1726-95) Virgil reading his works to Augustus and Octavia
Think of the work you could do at this desk! What a joy.
The last room on the north side, formerly known as the Breakfast Room, was under renovation. We found it fascinating to see a work in progress.
In the room were several beautiful pieces of what appeared to me to be valuable oriental-style furniture. No explanation was given for the state of the room or the random placement of these items. Guess I’ll just have to go back and see what happened!!
Well be revisiting the splendours of Osterley Park on Number One London’s 2020 Town and Country House Tour. Complete itinerary and details will be found here
Click here to read about Victoria’s previous visit and the history of the house.
Read here about The Two Lady Jerseys.
Click here for the obituary of Lady Jersey, Almack’s patroness, in a Gentleman’s magazine of 1867.