Osterley Park, An Adam Jewel

by Victoria Hinshaw
Osterley Park was once a rural retreat but today it is in Greater London, reachable by  the tube (look for the Osterley stop on the Piccadilly line).  The original Tudor mansion was built in 1575 by Sir Thomas Gresham, banker and founder of the Royal Exchange.  The old house was built of red brick around a square courtyard.  After considerable alterations in the 17th century, it was acquired by Francis Child, the immensely wealthy London banker, in 1713. His grandson Francis hired Robert Adam to transform the house in 1761 but he died before the house was finished, leaving the house to his brother Robert Child.


Adam’s work was completed in 1780. The center of the west section of the building was removed by Adam and replaced with a giant white Ionic portico.




The elegant portico opens up the courtyard.


Sarah Sophia Child Villiers, Countess of Jersey


The 5th Earl of Jersey (1773-1859) became the owner of Osterley Park by way of his marriage to Robert Child’s granddaughter, Sarah Sophia Fane, the Lady Jersey who was a patroness of Almack’s. The story of the young heiress is well known, the second elopement of a Child female.

Robert Child’s daughter (Sarah Anne Child) had eloped with John Fane, later 10th Earl of Westmorland, in 1782. Robert Child (1739-82), proud of being a prince of the merchant class and not an aristocrat, did not want his property and fortune to go to the Westmorland family. He wrote a will which left his money and property to the second child of his daughter. Sarah Sophia Fane inherited everything at age eight. In 1804, she married George Villiers, who changed his name (a necessity under Child’s will) to Child-Villiers and in time became the 5th Earl of Jersey. He was the son of that Countess of Jersey who was a mistress of the Prince Regent.

The Osterley house was rarely used by the Jerseys, who had a country estate, Middleton, in Oxfordshire in addition to a large townhouse in Berkeley Square. For decades Osterley was maintained but empty of life. The Jerseys entertained there only occassionally. Eventually it was let to Sarah’s cousin, Grace Caroline, dowager Duchess of Cleveland, a daughter of the 9th Earl of Westmorland. When she died, the 7th Earl of Jersey and his wife Margaret (1849-1945) lived and entertained there. The Lesson of the Master, a novella by Henry James, is set at Osterley.


In 1885, the famous library was sold for thirteen thousand pounds. After the 7th earl died in 1915, the tenancy of the house foundered again. For many years, it was rarely used until the 9th Earl opened it to the public on weekends. He gave it to the National Trust in 1949 and considerable restoration has taken place. It was recently used for some scenes in the film Gulliver’s Travels and has been in numerous other movies and television productions.

The rooms are arranged in a horseshoe, with the entrance hall at the top. After walking through the exterior portico, one crosses the courtyard and enters the magnificent hall, designed by Adam in 1767. The color scheme is neutral, greys and whites with stucco panels of ancient military scenes on the walls. The floor has a black pattern on white marble, a reflection of the plasterwork ceiling design.

The Breakfast Room at Osterley Park, Middlesex. The harpsichord was made for Sarah Anne Child in 1781 by Jacob Kirckman and his nephew Abraham. The lyre-back chairs are attributed to John Linnell.

The Breakfast Room has a lovely view of the park and was used as a sitting room, graced by Adam’s arched pier glasses. This room was redone in the 19th century, but the colors and some furniture is to Adam’s design. The drawing for this design is in Sir John Soane’s museum, London, as are many Adam designs. It is dated 24 April 1777. The room also contains a harpsichord of 1781, made by Jacob Kirckman and his nephew Abraham, who were well known for their instruments. It belonged to Sarah Sophia’s mother, the countess of Westmorland. After her death in 1793, her husband asked to have it sent to him as a memento of his wife; it was returned to Osterley in 1805.

The Tapestry Room was designed to hold a set of magnificent Gobelins tapestries designed by Francois Boucher depicting the Loves of the Gods. Several Adam rooms for other clients were decorated similarly, with the tapestries ordered from the Gobelins factory in Paris, which was run in the 1770’s by a Scot. The sofa and eight matching armchairs were specially created and upholstered to match the tapestries.

The magnificent ceiling is another Adam masterpiece. The central medallion shows Minerva accepting the dedication of a child. The four smaller medallions show female representations of the liberal arts. As was the usual practice, these paintings were done on paper, affixed to canvas backing and placed in stucco frames after the ceiling was painted.

Kristine, admiring and photographing the Osterley Park ceilings.


A self portrait by Angelica Kauffman. She did many paintings for Adam, often in her well-known allegorical style. In an era when most of the artists were men, Kauffman (1741-1807) excelled at portraiture and even huge historical and allegorical paintings. Born in Switzerland, she found great success in England. In 1781, she married her colleague Antonio Zucchi (1726-95) and the couple went to live in Rome. Adam had met Zucchi in Rome and persuaded him to come to England in 1766. Zucchi also executed many paintings for Adam rooms, often in ceiling medallions or above doors and fireplaces.


In the State Bedchamber stands a huge bed, made to the Adam’s design in 1776. The drawing is also in the Soane museum. Not only did Adam design the bed, he designed the hangings and embroidered silk counterpane and the interior of the dome. Included in the design are many allegorical symbols, including marigolds, the emblem of Child’s Bank. In this room is another of the exquisite ceilings by Kauffman.

The Etruscan Room Dressing Room shows Adam utilizing ancient designs discovered in Italy. At that time, the term Etruscan referred to the types of designs found on Greek vases. Horace Walpole in 1778 said the room was “painted all over like Wedgwood’s ware, with black and yellow small grotesques.” The furniture is attributed to Chippendale.
The Childs had spent a great deal of time developing the gardens and the park with lakes, wildernesses and open space.  Fortunately, these  also survive and have been restored. Under the supervision of the National Trust, the park is open to the public and is well used by hikers, strollers, bicyclists and bird watchers.
A visit to Osterley Park is on the itinerary of Number One London’s Town & Country House tour in May, 2024.  Complete itinerary and full details can be found here.

London: Where Everything Old is Sometimes New Again

London never fails to surprise me, no matter how many times I’ve visited. I always see something new. Like these folks, out for a leisurely ride. In busy Buckingham Palace Road. And, if I’m really lucky, I get to see things that are old with new eyes.

I usually stay in club rooms in Whitehall when I’m in Town. However, that area became ground zero when we were there last and Queen Elizabeth passed away. Victoria Hinshaw and I found our street barricaded at both ends, nearby old Scotland Yard was turned into a staging area for police horses and vehicles and vehicle traffic was banned in all surrounding roads. This time, we’d be in London during the run-up to the Coronation, which would also be centered around Whitehall and Westminster. I didn’t want a repeat disruption, and so I booked us into rooms at the Oriental Club, a reciprocal club off Oxford Street.

The Duke of Wellington was the Club’s first and only president – it was thereafter presided over by committee. The Oriental Club was new to me, as was the Spread Eagle pub, just over Oxford Street from us.

The Spread Eagle may be small, but the welcome was warm and the food top shelf. And it was at the Spread Eagle that I met up with my cousin, Arlene, who flew into Town after attending the Bruce Springsteen concert in Barcelona. It was her very first time in London. Whenever first timers ask me what they should see in London, I suggest that they take the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour, on which you can see all the major landmarks of London. Next day, I followed my own advice and Arlene and I set off down Regent Street in order to catch the Bus, stopping to admire the Coronation decorations along the way.

I hadn’t been on the tour bus in years and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun to sit back and take in the sights like a tourist. Below, media stands were going up ahead of the Coronation broadcasts.

My, that building looks awfully familiar . . . . .

White’s Club was all decked out for the Coronation. Having done a full circuit on the tour bus, we left at this point and went in search of oysters, which we were both hankering after. We just missed lunch service at Wilton’s, so we carried on to 45 Jermyn Street.

Afterwards, I took Arlene around the corner to Fortnum & Mason, a must see for everyone on their first visit to London. The candy section alone is worth the trip.

After browsing the candy and tea departments, we headed downstairs to the food court and wine store. We spent some time browsing the goods and Arlene did enjoy Fortnum’s, but what she was longing to see was Harrod’s, so off we went in a cab to the iconic landmark. Anyone who has been to Harrod’s has probably gotten lost at least once whilst inside. To avoid this, and to save us from wandering the floors aimlessly for hours, I suggested that we start in ladies clothing (1st floor).

And then I made the mistake of suggesting that we stop at the MAC counter on the way out, as I needed a lipstick. And then I also bought a mascara. And then the MAC lady gave me a sample of the Serumizer, to which I’m now addicted.

By this time, several hours had passed since we’d eaten the oysters, so Arlene and I strolled by a few more landmarks before meeting up with Vicky at Smith & Wollensky, just off the Strand, for dinner.

Yes, we went to an American steakhouse while in London. Andrea Stein and I had stumbled upon the place during a previous visit and we’d had a truly wonderful lunch there. This time, I had the cheeseburger and it was delicious.

And then there was the chocolate cake we split for dessert. But the sweetest treat was being able to see London as a tourist again. To have no agenda to follow, no meetings to take and no commitments. And, for a time, everything old was new again.


Recently, Victoria Hinshaw and I were fortunate enough to take in the Portraits of Dogs Exhibition at the Wallace Collection in London. From The Wallace Collection website:

“The exhibition explores our devotion to four-legged friends across the centuries. Through carefully selected paintings, sculptures, drawings, works of art and even taxidermy, the exhibition highlights the unique bond between humans and their canine companions.

“Dog portraiture developed as an artistic genre contemporaneously with its human counterpart – dogs are represented in the earliest cave paintings alongside humans – and it flourished, particularly in Britain, from the 17th century onwards. More than any other nationality perhaps, the British have both commissioned and collected portraits of dogs.”

The remarkable sculpture above is known as The Townley Greyhounds. Roman, by an unknown artist. Discovered by archaeologist Gavin Hamilton at Monte Cagnolo, outside Rome. Sold to antiquarian Charles Townley, whose decendants offered it to the British Museum in 1805.

Ah Cum, a Pekinese Dog – One of two dogs smuggled out of China in 1896 by explorer Douglas Murray, these dogs established the breed in Britain. Murray donated Ah Cum’s body after death to the Natural History Museum.

Hogarth’s dog, Trump – Produced by the Chelsea Porcelain Factory after a model by French sculptor Louis-Francois Roubiliac.

Dog of the Havana Breed by Jean Jacques Bachelier 1768. Here, the dog, obviously a favourite, seems to ask forgiveness after having played with its owner’s slippers, ribbon and coins.

Tristram and Fox by Thomas Gainesborough, circa 1775-85. While most canine portraits were produced for their owners, this is apparently a personal one, for Tristram and Fox were the artist’s own pets.

A Saluki Dog by Edwin Landseer, 1840-44. Landseer is known for his skill with canine portraits. Here, he breathes life into the subject via the dog’s curled lips and the flipped ear. It’s easy to imagine that the Saluki pounced just seconds later.

King Charles Spaniels (The Cavalier’s Pets) by Edwin Landseer 1845. Landseer painted this scene in two days for his patron, businessman Robert Vernon.

Hector, Nero and Dash with the Parrot, Lory by Landseer 1838. Here, Landseer portrays Queen Victoria’s favourite pets. The Queen pronounced the painting to be “the most beautiful thing imaginable.”

The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner by Landseer 1837. Admittedly one of two of my favourite Landseer paintings, the other being the portrait of Prince Albert’s greyhound, Eos, which was strangely missing from this exhibit. Landseer beautifully captures the collies’ heartbreak and devotion, the simple life of the shepherd is summed up in the few possessions depicted in the room. Contemporary art critic John Ruskin remarked on the painting’s “utter hopelessness.” Only the coldest heart could remain unmoved upon viewing the painting.


Doubtful Crumbs by Edwin Landseer 1858. A mastiff dozes with a bone while the terrier salivates with hunger – illustrating the Parable of Luke, in which Lazarus longed to “eat what fell from the rich man’s table.”

Laying Down the Law or Trial by Jury by Landseer c. 1840. One of the artist’s most successful works, it satirises the legal profession and its long and costly procedures. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1840, it was purchased by the 6th Duke of Devonshire, who asked Landseer to add his Blenheim spaniel, Bony, to the scene behind the greyhound on the left. Usually, visitors to Chatsworth House will see the painting hanging in the entry hall.

The Exhibition runs at the Wallace Collection, London, until 15 October 2023.


I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Windsor many times, but one of the most memorable visit was that on our 2014 Duke of Wellington Tour. As our coach drew into Windsor, our tour group was greeted by the sight of draft horses delivering beer to a nearby pub. From that moment, we knew that our visit to Windsor would be something special, and I’m glad to say that it was, indeed.

Our group stayed at the Castle Hotel, above, where Victoria and I had both stayed before and which is a personal favourite. The hotel is directly across from some of Windsor’s landmarks, including the Guildhall, below, and the Crooked House.
A wedding taking place at the Guildhall, above, a la Prince Charles and Camilla, who were married there in 2005.
Side view of the Guildhall with statue of George of Denmark, Queen Anne’s consort

Click here for a tour of the inside of the Guildhall and the history of the building, which we covered in a prior post.

Windsor’s Crooked House, built in 1592 and reputed to have a secret passage in the basement leading to Windsor Castle that facilitated trysts between Charles II and Nell Gwynn.
The statue of Queen Victoria which stands at the end of the street leading to the Castle.

It was a glorious day for our group visit to the Castle.

We even got a peek at the van belonging to “Her Majesty’s Supplier of Lighting Fittings and Allied Components.”
You can read Victoria’s prior post on the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle here. 
After our tour of the Castle, a pub lunch was enjoyed at The Horse and Groom, the very same pub that received the delivery of ale courtesy of the draft horses.

Our table afforded us a birdseye view of the Town, but unfortunately we didn’t get a glimpse of the Guard’s Band that day – these photos were taken a few days later by Victoria during our extended stay after the conclusion of the Tour.

We’ll once again be based in Windsor during Number One London’s Town & Country House tour in May, 2024. We hope you’ll consider joining us for what promises to be a truly unique experience – the tour ends with us staying at Hartwell House, a magnificent country house hotel. You’ll find the complete itinerary and further details here.



Wow. On a recent trip to Lisbon, I made a point of visiting the National Coach Museum, as I’d run out of time to do so on a prior trip. Again, wow. I knew it was one of the largest and most comprehensive coaching museums in the world, yet I was still bowled over by the massive collection. So impressed was I that I suggested to my fellow guide, Gareth Glover, that we add it to the itinerary of Number One London’s Peninsular War Tour in May 2024. And so we have.

The National Coach Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches) houses an important horse-drawn carriage collection of vehicles from the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including coaches, berlins, sedan chairs and carriages of all kinds. Over one hundred of them, in fact. The photo below will give you a rough idea of the space that houses this amazing collection and the following carriages just a taste of the vast collection that is on show.

Here is a rare example of the “Carrosse Moderne,” that appeared first in Paris. It belonged to Queen Maria Francisca of Savoy-Nemours, cousin to King Louis XIV of France. It was brought to Portugal as part of her wedding dowry in 1666.

Below, a fold out camp bed used on long journeys.

Below, a Dutch carriage commissioned by Emperor Joseph I of Austria in 1798 for the marriage of his sister, Maria Ana, to the King of Portugal D. Joao V. The carriage body is covered with fine gold leaf and decorated with crowned lions, monograms and the Portuguese Coat of Arms. The wheel spokes are shaped like sceptres.

Above and below, an Italian built coach paying homage to the maritime history of Portugal. On the rear, Apollo is flanked by two female figures representing Spring and Summer. In front, two elderly men, representing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, shake hands.

Above and below, a Portuguese procession coach built in 1729. The table inside could be used for meals during long journeys or when in procession.


Above, an Eyeglass Chaise, allowing the occupants to stay dry in wet weather.

Italian made promenade vehicles, used by the Royal Family on their estates and in the palace gardens. There is a seat at the back for the groom.

Litters, or sedan chairs.

Above, an Empire style state carriage commissioned in 1824 in London by King Joao VI. The coachman’s seat is very high and the roof displays a royal crown. Used for the coronation of King Carlos I.

An English state coach commissioned by Queen Maria II. The Portuguese Coat of Arms decorate the doors, access to the interior is made via folding steps. A rounded box sits at the rear to carry weapons.  Manufactured at J.R. Pearce’s workshop, London.

Above and below, a long distance coach built in 1854 by the Jones Freres workshop, Brussels. The body has two separate compartments for passengers and one for offical mail. Travel between Lisbon and Oporto took 34 hours, with 23 stops along the way.

Above and below, a Portuguese prisoner carriage. The metallic box body has eight fake windows surmounted by respirators. Inside are six individual cells, three on each side. Two prison guards locked the cells and remained seated at each end of the corridor, front and back. The rear fold down seat can be seen in the photo below.

If you’d like to visit Lisbon’s National Coach Museum, we hope you’ll consider joining us on Number One London’s Peninsular War Tour, May 2024. You’ll find complete itinerary and further details here.