diamond geezer

 Sunday, June 15, 2014

On the border between Ealing and Hounslow, and acting as a repository for both, lies Gunnersbury Park Museum. It's a peculiar place, simultaneously very grand and rather down at heel, but it and the surrounding parkland have a fascinating past. And, if the planned Heritage Lottery grant is finally approved, a more promising future.

In 1760 a Palladian mansion set a mile back from the Thames, a little beyond Chiswick, was bought by George II for his favourite daughter Princess Amelia. She used it as her summer retreat and landscaped the estate, only for the main house to be demolished soon after her death. In its place were built the unimaginatively titled Small Mansion and Large Mansion, the second of which was purchased in 1835 by the financier Nathan Mayer Rothschild. The family lived here at Gunnersbury for the next ninety years, extending the estate and inviting the political establishment and nobility and round to grand parties. They added stables and an Orangery, built a gothic tower by the lake to act as a boathouse, and laid out Japanese and Italian gardens to impress guests. Then in 1925, after the death of the third generation, the Rothschilds moved out. They sold up to Ealing and Acton councils, which helped to protect the estate from being turned into streets of residential housing, and a 200 acre public park was created. Neville Chamberlain came to open it, and in 1929 the Large Mansion was duly reimagined as a museum. It's still going, if not still going strong, and still very much under civic control.

It must have been a grand sight in its time, rather grander than it looks now. The carriage drive out front is now a stretch of tarmac where the museum volunteers park their cars. The paint on the stucco frontage is cracked and peeling, especially on the upper storey. And the letters MUS and EUM are pasted individually in the windows on the ground floor, in case you haven't spotted them above the pillared porch above the front door - anything to encourage visitors inside.

Sorry, the upstairs rooms are all out of bounds at present, so don't try heading up there. Instead step through the arch in front, and ahead again, to read a bit about the history of the Rothschilds. The room's full of carriages, including the Victorian version of a luxury coach, and the family's in-town model for riding to Parliament, and the actual very last hansom cab to drive the streets of London. That's not a Rothschild original, but part of the collection that Ealing and Hounslow councils have stashed in the building and partly on display. If you want to see the L and Z from the Lucozade sign on the Great West Road, and a Robots of Death mask from Dr Who (as made for Ealing Studios), they're in the old Library. Or there's an exhibition elsewhere of items made in the two boroughs, of which there are a phenomenal number, from Brylcreem to Routemasters and Hoovers to Guinness. It was supposed to be a temporary exhibition, but the proposed end date rolled round in 2011 and the exhibits show no sign of replacement.

But actually, for a twin borough museum, there's not very much to see. Two other rooms are filled with general Victoriana, such as cookware and household goods, this with a general eye on educating local primary school children. Another houses two dozen information boards regarding the transformation the Friends of the Museum hope the Lottery will bring, ideally both house and grounds, and so thorough it'll take until 2026 to complete. But what you should be doing in the meantime is staring not at the contents but at the rooms themselves. They've faded a bit, but some of the ostentatious decoration shines through, for example in the painted ceilings, the gilded columns and the sort-of original wallpaper.

And there is one treat normally hidden from view, located down the servants' corridor on the other side of a keypad-locked door. You'll need to get the volunteers to open it up for you, or hope they mention to you it exists... that's the Victorian Kitchen Wing. This has survived pretty much intact because park staff used to use it for indoor maintenance, hence the tiles and shelves and grates were left pretty much alone. A good scrub-up has created a splendid set of rooms, including a 27-burner gas range which is the sort of thing you had in the 1840s if you were rich, and a scullery full of irons, mangles and washboards. Again you can see the education angle coming through strong, but the kitchens also validate a visit for adults too. Come at the weekend rather than on a weekday if you'd like to look inside.

There's a considerable amount to explore in the park outside too, including a 'temple' by a pond and several semi-ruined garden features. The far side of the park is Hounslow's answer to Hackney Marshes, with umpteen football pitches crammed in for simultaneous league matches, plus there's a nine hole pitch and putt course, which might keep many clubbers happy. If you want to wander round and discover the history by yourself, a local group have put together a 15 minute podcast which you can listen to and read about here. And whilst there's always a feeling that this once grand park is undergoing underfunded decline, there''s always hope it'll rise again, and the whole package still retains considerable charm.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
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

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards