diamond geezer

 Thursday, June 10, 2010

I said, when I pulled Hounslow out of my random jamjar three Novembers ago, that I'd have to come back. The borough's dripping with elegant stately homes, none of which I managed to get inside at the time because they were all closed. So, true to my word, I waited for "a warm sunny summer's day" and went back to two of them. Yes, I said Hounslow. Don't look quite so surprised.

Osterley Park
Osterley ParkFew of the National Trust's London properties are whoppers. But Osterley Park is a proper stately home of indecent size surrounded by its own farmland estate, just like you might find in the heart of Bucks, Lincs or Wilts. That'd be because its location used to be in deepest Middlesex, at least until the capital grew and swallowed the surrounding countryside whole. The house remains extremely well hidden, even from the major motorway which carves inelegantly through the remaining estate. But plenty of folk make the effort to come and enjoy, be that the mansion, the tearooms or simply the surrounding lakeside park.

Osterley Park is a large Jacobean mansion, remodelled in the late 18th century by architect Robert Adam. The National Trust have sought to recreate the interior as it was at that time, when banker Robert Child and his wife Sarah lavished their City fortune on art, furnishings and entertainment. Today's tour concentrates on the house's extravagant decor, taking in a panelled long gallery, a tapestry-walled drawing room and a dome-topped eight-poster bed. All the usual NT staples are included - including the obligatory wander round the kitchen and servant's quarters in the basement as a reminder that not everybody had it so good.

Osterley ParkVisitors get to sling a ground-breaking audiovisual guide around their neck, which not only recounts the history through headphones but also displays relevant scenes on a small colour screen. I'd not seen anything quite so hi-tech in the heritage industry before, but kept forgetting to look at the pictures because the objects were in front of me anyway. The headphones also cut me off from the NT stewards patrolling each room, who stood around looking rather more bored than usual now that no plugged-in visitor wanted to ask them any questions. Instead some moaned to one another about the lack of attention, and how badly they thought the rota had been organised, and wasn't it time for lunch yet - all under the misapprehension that I couldn't possibly be listening.

Outside, in the old stable block, are the obligatory NT cafe and shop. You can grab a nice slice of cake or a tea towel, depending on which you visit, or enjoy a jar of locally-sourced preserve in either. Close by is the entrance to the Osterley Park's enormous private garden, plus a man from whom you can hire a mobility scooter. The more formal beds are nearest the house, and emerging into a riotous blaze as summer approaches. More adventurous visitors can attempt the Long Walk - an elongated curve of woodland leading round to the Child's lakeside boathouse. Steps lead down to a gloomy tunnel quayside, from which a small private boat would once have whisked the wealthy estate owners back to their house.

Alternatively, a large chunk of parkland is available for public use for free. Just don't walk too far up to the far end of the lake, otherwise your peace and quiet may be spoilt by the M4 churning past behind a hedge. Other than that - if you've never been here, or indeed had never heard of the place before, you're missing out.
by tube: Osterley   by bus: H28, H91   Admission: £8.80

Boston Manor House
Boston Manor HouseThis Jacobean house is on a slightly smaller scale, but impressive all the same. It's Hounslow's oldest building, allegedly, which explains the near-permanent scaffolding propping up the southwest corner. They won't let you into the library any more, nor to anywhere on the top floor, but there are still some fine rooms and a historic staircase to see. All hail the volunteers who open up the building for a few hours a week, and sit around waiting for any visitors to turn up and peer inside. The ground floor room is the site of the house's finest moment, when proper royalty turned up for a meal. Householder James Clitherow was a good friend of King William IV, no less, whose visit on the evening of 23rd June 1834 was a rare honour for a mere commoner. This £50-all-in banquet being the only event of major interest in the house's 400 year history, rather too much fuss is made of it throughout.

Take the creaky stairs and you'll find some seriously old wallpaper on the half-landing. None of your Homebase stripes here, but plenty of intricate classical ruins as painted in the 18th century. The other impressive bit of interior design is the ceiling in the first floor state drawing room. Its plasterwork is assembled from various high-relief panels, each featuring some form of goddess or earthmother at its centre, and the overall effect is quite overpowering. Even older is the Cedar of Lebanon tree out on the back lawn, with reputedly the biggest girth of any tree in Greater London. And beyond that the house's estate is now a riverside park, which is as lovely as any small park can be when the M4 cuts straight through the middle on a concrete viaduct. Hounslow's such a world of contrasts. But this is one of the good bits.
by tube: Boston Manor   by bus: 195, E8   Admission: free


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream