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Thursday, 2 April 2015

Osterley Park - a Robert Adam showpiece - a Regency History guide

Osterley Park from across the lake
Osterley Park House from across the lake
Where is it?

Osterley Park is a Neo-classical mansion in Isleworth, Middlesex.

Early history

Sir Thomas Gresham, a merchant and financier, built a Tudor manor house at Osterley in the 1570s. In the late 17th century, the property was owned by Nicholas Barbon, an economist and financial speculator who was involved in the development of fire insurance. On Barbon’s death in 1698, there was an outstanding mortgage on the house owing to Child’s Bank.

Front of the house, Osterley Park
Front of the house, Osterley Park
Sir Francis Child of Child’s Bank

Sir Francis Child the Elder (1642-1713) started out as an apprentice goldsmith and rose to become a partner in the firm, which by then was concentrating on its banking activities. He married his employer’s daughter and inherited the whole business in 1681.

In 1713, Osterley Park passed to Sir Francis Child the Elder in settlement of Barbon's debt to the bank. It was an early case of bank repossession!

Detail from View of Temple Bar attributed to John Collett  The premises of Child & Co are immediately to the left   of Temple Bar
Detail from View of Temple Bar attributed to John Collett
The premises of Child & Co are immediately to the left
 of Temple Bar
Neo-classical redevelopment

In 1761, Sir Francis Child the Elder’s grandson, also called Francis (1735-63), commissioned Robert Adam to redevelop the house at Osterley in the Neo-classical style. Francis died suddenly two years later and his brother Robert Child (1739-82) further commissioned Adam to design Neo-classical interiors for the house. Osterley Park is one of the best examples of Robert Adam’s work.

Francis Child (1735-1763) by Allan Ramsay
Francis Child (1735-1763) by Allan Ramsay
Adam was responsible for the total design of Osterley – from the magnificent portico to the patterns on the ceilings and the designs for the furniture. He also designed garden buildings such as the Garden House, the Orangery (no longer standing) and the Temple of Pan. Adam’s work at Osterley spanned from 1761 to 1779 and many of his designs have been preserved at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.

Inside the Temple of Pan in the garden, Osterley Park
Inside the Temple of Pan in the garden, Osterley Park
The runaway bride

Robert Child and his wife Sarah Jodrell were extremely wealthy. As well as Osterley, they had a house in Berkeley Square in London and a hunting lodge in Warwickshire. They lived in their Neo-classical show home at Osterley Park from May to November. They had one child, a daughter Sarah Anne (1764-1793).

John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland, asked to marry Sarah Anne, but Robert refused. Robert wanted his heir to take the Child name and also feared that his fortune would be squandered by the Earl who was known as ‘Rapid Westmorland’ because of his gambling habit. The Earl of Westmorland took matters into his own hands and eloped with Sarah Anne. They were married on 20 May 1782 at Gretna Green.

Robert Child was so angry that he cut his daughter out of his will, leaving Osterley Park and his entire fortune to Sarah Anne’s second son or eldest daughter provided that they took the name Child.

Robert and Sarah Child and their daughter Sarah   Anne by Margaret Battine after Daniel Gardner  Portrait originally created in 1781
Robert and Sarah Child and their daughter Sarah
 Anne by Margaret Battine after Daniel Gardner
Portrait originally created in 1781
Lady Jersey

Sarah Anne had only one surviving son and so Robert Child’s fortune passed to her eldest daughter, Sarah Sophia Fane, who married George Villiers, later 5th Earl of Jersey. Lady Jersey was a leading figure in Regency society and was a patroness of Almack's Assembly Rooms. The Earl of Jersey added the name Child to his own in 1819.

Sarah Sophia Fane - Countess of Jersey
Sarah Sophia Fane - Countess of Jersey
Given to the National Trust

Osterley Park proved expensive to maintain, but it stayed in the family until 1949 when the 9th Earl of Jersey gave the house and grounds to the National Trust.

A tour of Osterley Park

Adam’s Neo-classical façade

Front of the house, Osterley Park
Front of the house, Osterley Park
Adam's magnificent portico

Front entrance of the house, Osterley Park
Front entrance of the house, Osterley Park
The ceiling of Adam's pillared portico, Osterley Park
The ceiling of Adam's pillared portico, Osterley
The Entrance Hall

The panels in the alcoves look three-dimensional, but they are in fact just paintings – a convincing example of trompe-l’œil. The fireplaces are made of Portland stone and display the Child family crest of an eagle with an adder in its mouth.

The entrance hall, Osterley Park House
The Entrance Hall, Osterley
The entrance hall, Osterley Park House
The Entrance Hall, Osterley
The Eating Room

Gate-leg tables were kept in the adjacent corridors and brought in as required for mealtimes. The pedestals on either side of the sideboard open and could be used to hide away a chamber pot.

The Eating Room, Osterley Park
The Eating Room, Osterley
The Eating Room, Osterley
The Eating Room, Osterley
One of the pedestals in the Eating Room, Osterley
One of the pedestals in the Eating Room, Osterley
Detail of one of the pedestals
in the Eating Room, Osterley
The Long Gallery

The Long Gallery, Osterley
The Long Gallery, Osterley
The Long Gallery, Osterley
The Long Gallery, Osterley
The Drawing Room
 
The ceiling in the Drawing Room, Osterley
The ceiling in the Drawing Room, Osterley
The ceiling design is cleverly reflected in the carpet.

The Drawing Room, Osterley
The Drawing Room, Osterley
The Tapestry Room

The chairs were upholstered to match the tapestries.

The Tapestry Room, Osterley
The Tapestry Room, Osterley
The State Bedchamber

This bed was designed to impress rather than to be slept in. It is an eight-poster bed; there are two posts at each corner. The domed roof of the bed is beautifully decorated, both inside and out.

The State Bedchamber, Osterley
The State Bedchamber, Osterley
View inside the canopy above the state bed
in the State Bedchamber, Osterley
The Etruscan Dressing Room

Adam’s inspiration for this room came from Sir William Hamilton’s collection of Etruscan vases.

The Etruscan Dressing Room, Osterley
The Etruscan Dressing Room, Osterley

The ceiling of the Etruscan Dressing Room, Osterley
The ceiling of the Etruscan Dressing Room, Osterley
The Library

The books in the library are representative rather than belonging to the family. Francis Child’s book collection had to be sold in the late 19th century in order to pay for repairs to the house.

The Library, Osterley
The Library, Osterley
The Library, Osterley
The Library, Osterley
The Great Stair


The Great Stair, Osterley
The Great Stair, Osterley
Detail from one of the pillars of the Great Stair, Osterley
Detail from one of the pillars of the Great Stair, Osterley
 Mr Child's Bedchamber

The room used by Robert and Sarah Child when they lived at Osterley.

Mr Child's Bechamber, Osterley
Mr Child's Bechamber, Osterley
Mr Child's Dressing Room

Mr Child's Dressing Room, Osterley
Mr Child's Dressing Room, Osterley
 Mrs Child's Dressing Room

Mrs Child's Dressing Room, Osterley
Mrs Child's Dressing Room, Osterley
The Yellow Taffeta Bedchamber

The Yellow Taffeta Bedchamber, Osterley
The Yellow Taffeta Bedchamber, Osterley
The Steward’s Room

The Steward's Room  Displayed as left by the Earl of Jersey in the 1970s
The Steward's Room
As left by the Earl of Jersey in the 1970s
Mrs Bunce’s Room

Mr Bunce was the steward at Osterley in the late 18th century and he was assisted by his wife, Mrs Bunce. The photograph shows the safe which was installed in the 19th century.

Mrs Bunce's Room, Osterley
Mrs Bunce's Room, Osterley
The Sun Room

I have called this little room the sun room, but it is not listed in my guidebook. It is decorated in the Etruscan style and could be accessed through the house downstairs when I visited in August 2014.

The Sun Room, Osterley
The Sun Room, Osterley
The rear view of the house

The rear view of the house, Osterley
The rear view of the house, Osterley
The rear view of the house, Osterley
The rear view of the house, Osterley
The back door of the house, Osterley
The back door of the house, Osterley
The Garden Room

The Garden Room in the gardens at Osterley
The Garden Room in the gardens at Osterley
The Temple of Pan
The Temple of Pan in the gardens at Osterley
The Temple of Pan in the gardens at Osterley
Visited August 2014 and March 2015.

Sources used include:
Evans, Sian, Osterley Park and House (National Trust 2009)

All photos © Andrew Knowles - more of Andrew's photos of Osterley on Flickr.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Rachel! I knew that Osterley belonged to Lady Jersey; the history is fascinating and the pictures are wonderful.

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