T: 020 8994 2677
website: Chiswick House and Garden Trust
Open: 1st April-30th September Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 6pm
October Wednesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm
Closed: November to March
Chiswick House Grounds open all day from 8am to dusk.
History: Chiswick House is one of the earliest and most important neo-Palladian villas in England. It was designed by its owner, the 3rd Earl of Burlington, with advice from his friend and protÃ©gÃ©, William Kent, and built between 1726 and 1729. Burlington, known as `the architect earlâ€™ ,was influenced by the buildings of Classical Rome and the drawings of Andrea Palladio and Inigo Jones. The villa, though, was not intended as house to live in but as an adjunct to the larger Jacobean Chiswick House that stood next door. Burlington left no record of his intentions in building the villa perhaps it was just somewhere to display his paintings and sculpture and to entertain company â€“ a temple of the arts. The ground floor is devoid of much decoration and connected to the upper floor only by narrow spiral staircases. Burlington had his library here, also probably offices and there may have been some bedrooms. Guests would have entered the villa by the outside staircase leading to the upper floor with its splendid octagon-domed hall, long gallery and six lavishly-decorated rooms of different geometric shapes.
In the grounds, Burlington and Kent attempted to create the type of garden that would have been found in ancient Rome â€“ lots of greenery and water, interspersed with statues and architecture. The elegant stone bridge replaced a wooden bridge in 1774 and the conservatory and Italian Garden were constructed after 1812 when the 6th Duke of Devonshire acquired Moreton Hall , the house next door.
After Burlingtonâ€™s death Chiswick house was inherited by his daughter who married the 4th Duke of Devonshire and the house remained in the family of the dukes of Devonshire until 1929. The 5th Duke and his charismatic wife, Georgiana, made the house a centre of Whig society and it was at Chiswick House that Charles James Fox died in 1806 while Foreign Secretary. The Duke demolished the Jacobean house in 1788 and added two wings to the villa. These contained kitchens and living accommodation, so transforming Chiswick House into a proper country mansion. When The 6th Duke of Devonshire inherited the house in 1811 he bought more land, re-routed Burlington Lane further away from his property and constructed Dukeâ€™s Avenue as a private road to his mansion. Known as `the bachelor Dukeâ€™ he laid on lavish entertainments, attended by many distinguished visitors. These were no doubt enlivened by the presence of the Dukeâ€™s large menagerie of exotic animals which included giraffes, elephants, kangaroos and emus. After his death, the house was inherited by his sister and then let out to tenants, including the future King Edward VII and to the Tuke family who ran a mental home at Chiswick House. In 1929 it was acquired by Middlesex County Council. The grounds were opened to the public and the house was given a ten-year restoration (the two wings were demolished). It opened to the public in 1958 and is now in the care of English Heritage with the London Borough of Hounslow responsible for the grounds (management of the house and grounds will be transferred to the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust once Phase I of the regeneration project is completed).