Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Osterley Park & House 30/08/13

Last Friday my lecturer took my classmates & I to Osterley Park which is located in the Western suburbs of London. Annoyingly I didn't have my camera so my dodge Blackberry photography will have to suffice.

These pictures do not do the park any justice because it was actually really lovely and even particularly so on such a sunny day. The place is used as a local park so it was really busy! It's a good long walk before you actually approach the house. Below is what you're faced with, in the centre of a carriage track that bends like a bow - so you have the whole dramatic grand entrance in your horse drawn carriage.

This picture is actually really poor - if you quickly google you'll notice that the house has two wings that extend to either side and are flanked with turrets topped by (what I find to be) extremely bizzare ogee style domes.
The house is, obviously, most notably neoclassical. The reference to the pantheon and what not is irrefutable but interestingly enough the before-mentioned odd turrets coupled with rustication where the walls meet is commonly medieval. It is a paradox that in the effort to portray the building as pure, classical and strong would be paired with the architecture that the masters of the Renaissance shunned for being the language of barbaric people.

The house is probably known best for the architect that designed most of the elements of the house that stands before us today - Robert Adam. We have him to thank for the exterior and much of the interior. Although, he did incorporate some of what stood before into his design, it is apparently very different from what it would have looked like originally.

As we finally got our lecturer to stop talking about the outside of the building (which they all do A LOT) we went inside and had this cute old man tell us all about the history of Osterley:

Originally it was built in the 1570's for a rich banker, Thomas Gresham. He wanted a house with the illusion of being in the countryside but also have access to work in the city.

The significant stuff happens only once 200 years had past and the current owner endeavoured to extend the house. This owner, as a bit of a loose cannon, got himself into a bit of debt with the mortgage after spending way beyond his means and failed to complete any work on the house (that was in a bit of a state).

The man who gave him this mortgage was called Francis Child. His dad was a goldsmith and according to what the very cute old man said to us, goldsmiths were those of whom a 17th century Englishman would trust with his valuables. Why? I'm not too sure he didn't elaborate - but maybe blacksmiths were always nice? and had a secure workshop to keep your valuable things safe? Either way, this phenomenon of trusted blacksmiths eventually led to the art of banking. Francis' Father started this off but after his death his children carried it on until Child & Co was officially formed. It is now owned by RBS and sits poshly at 1 Fleet Street.

Anyway, Francis ended up owning Osterley. He employed Robert Adam to redevelop the place. The most notable surviving element of the original house are the stables, that remain true to their Elizabethan style except they no longer house horses but an overly expensive cafĂ© and souvenir shop.

The man informed us that men that come to own Osterley experience early deaths. True to his word, Francis Child died only a few years after hiring Adam in 1761. His son, Robert, saw to the rest of the work to be carried out both at the bank and the house. The Osterley curse continued when Robert died in 1782.

Before his death however he had the pleasure to meet his daughters partner, John Fane. As an Earl, rich, respectful and from a good family, you could assume that Child was relieved that his only child had chosen someone responsible enough to carry on his family business. What was unfortunate though was that he was an avid gambler. Child was pissed off and forbade Sarah-Anne to marry him. One night, after a few too many, Fane was talking to Child after a family meal and asked something along the lines of: 'What would YOU do if your father in law wouldn't let you marry the woman you love?' His response, which I'm sure he thought was hilarious and witty, was 'I'd be on my way to Gretna Green'.........

Off they went!

What happened next was a bit of a cowboy-style chase rather than that of an 18th century English gentlemen. It included many a horse being cut free, a shot horse, a barricaded toll. After everything, Sarah-Anne and John Fane eloped.

Cut from his will, Sarah-Anne was no longer promised any of her fathers wealth. It was to be either her second surviving son or eldest daughter. When the time came, and 8 year old Lady Sarah Sophia Fane inherited the wealth of what would be a modern day billionaire. After all her grandfather's effort with good intentions, she went on to marry someone equally as bad as her dad!

ANYYYYYWAY, this is the work that took place under Robert and Francis Child, enjoy!

Above two photos are the underbelly of the portico. Adam loved a bit of symmetry.


Coffered ceiling in the entrance hall. 

The furniture is original, although in the words of one of the room volunteers they've been 'puffed up' and mended somewhat. They actually are certain that the house would have been set out like this, they also know exactly what furniture was in there, their colour, texture etc. This is due to a very thorough inventory drawn out by own of the owners in 1782.

These works are either on loan from another collection or belong to the National Trust. The original art-work that would have been in this gallery were taken with the family that left the house to the National Trust. Don't get me wrong, but if you can afford to give a house away (and buy it in the first place!) you must have been minted. So why take the paintings with? Greediness? Want to show all your friends your Rubens paintings?? SHOW OFF. Jokes on them though because in transit the box that held all the art works (that included many done by old Flemish masters) were burnt. Not good for art in general though...

My favourite roof I've seen (if you've ever heard such a boring thing). Adam's work. However, this is apparently not typical of his style, perhaps it was a trend at the time, he was far more neoclassical and plain - this is more rococococco-ish with all the pastel colours and curling leaves.


Adam was a through and through designer. When you got Adam to design your house you were in for a treat because he would also design the furniture, tables, carpet, wall, roof, mirrors!!

Another roof, unlike Adam. Everyone was hating on this, I thought it was alright. Heavy yes but I can't be the only one that is bored with the classical style?

Adam loved symmetry, as I said. Rococococococo chairs that I very much would like!

The Drawing Room. Apparently that derives from the ladies 'drawing' out from the dining hall into a small room to chat and have tea. This is a tapestry all along the walls, designed by Adam and he had a well known Italian painter paint the classical scenes in the oval roundels (can roundels be oval??)
Although you wouldn't know from this picture, the idea is actually that it is to portray the English countryside. Among all the botany is a inconspicuous rabbit, badger and some other random animals. I made that picture especially large so you could try spot the bunny!! 

Do not be fooled, the old Georgian midget beds that you see are in fact not small. They are raised so highly that it gives the illusion of being short. It's more or less normal length.

The Etruscan Room. Etruscan usually refers to the south Italian civilisation who lived alongside ancient Greece. In this instance though it refers to the style that was found in excavations at the time that this was built. I'm not sure how far off chronologically the excavations of Pompeii and the like were but that is certainly what they referred to in 'Etruscan'. The volunteer of this room was even cuter than the old man and got very excited to tell us the wall is hand painted and you can still see the compass marks and lines. I've enlarged the last pic, there is a compass mark in the middle of the flower - can you see it? not very clear.

The entrance to...the BATCAVE. never watched Batman but maybe now I will.




A reproduction on the ceiling of the staircase of one of the Rubens that was lost in the fire.


Only took a picture of this because it looks like a jug my mum has!

This room was to show all the richness that Child could import from India seeing as he was an official of the East India Company.


The bottom floor where all the servants lived. The pretty Etruscan style entrance wouldn't have been made for the servants but a remnant from before the exterior was raised. This would have been the front door before Adam built the staircase to give direct access to the 'piano nobile' (noble floor) in an effort to raise the house off of the ground like a sacred temple plotted on the top of a hill and the like.
Hope this is interesting for at least someone! and if you wanted to go see it by any chance it cost £9 to see the whole property and is open usual business hours. To get there you need to get off at Osterley train station on the train that ends at Heathrow (I'm really good at trains -obvs!!) you get out and turn left, at the end of the road turn left again and you should have it is sight shortly after!

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