Wild about William Morris?  A penchant for Punch cartoons? Then visiting 18 Stafford Terrace is for you.  Stepping through in the front door is like going inside a Victorian house that time has forgotten.

18 Stafford Terrace is closed for refurbishment at the moment and will reopen on 15 October 2022 and be known as Sambourne House

Take one of the side roads off High Street Kensington and you are immediately away from the bustle of an upmarket shopping street and into the hush of a monied residential street.  Tall white terraced houses rear up on either side of you, most have the latest interior decoration but one of them is unchanged since the turn of the nineteenth century.

Inside a Victorian house


We knocked on the front door and it was opened by a servant.  Mrs Reffell invited us in saying that the mistress was expecting us.  As the door shuts we leave the twenty-first century behind and enter the nineteenth century.  Mrs Reffell showed us round the house, she was full of gossip about famous visitors, Linley Sambourne’s work for Punch magazine and just how much all the fixtures and fittings cost.

Everywhere you look there are photographs, paintings and drawings on the walls.  Look very carefully and you can see William Morris wallpaper behind it.  The light fittings are far from minimal. I quite fancy this green beaded one.

Victorian lamp

As we make our way upstairs Marion Sambourne greets us.  Just in time to show us her lavish drawing room.  Unlike all the other houses in the road it has been knocked through (and you thought that knocking down partition walls in Victorian terraces started in the 1980’s) giving a large space perfect for entertaining.

Inside a Victorian House

The one room that is not festooned with stuff on the walls is the master bedroom.  What it lacks in clutter it makes up for with the grandeur of its fire place.  What looks like marble is actually a very clever paint effect and I confess that I covet those blue and white vases.

18 Stafford Terrace

Not all tours are led by people in character, some are led by knowledgeable staff dressed for modern day and you can also walk around on your own taking in the maximalist decor.   The costumed tours are led by actors with a script based on Marion Sambourne’s diaries.


Sambourne Terrace is much like hundreds of other London streets, its houses have two rooms on each floor with a small extension on the back to house bathrooms and storerooms.  The ones I have lived in have only ever had two storeys and been in less salubrious postcodes.  Here there are five and those two rooms are quite large.  In 1875 the newlywed Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne and his wife Marion Sambourne moved in and set about decorating in the latest Aesthetic or House Beautiful style.

Holland Park House interior

Think William Morris wallpaper, think dark green paint, think colourful Minton tiles, think elaborate lamps and lots and lots of stuff on the walls.  So much stuff that you have to look really really carefully to see that William Morris wallpaper.  This was the height of fashion.  The Linley Sambourne’s were friends with people like Sir Frederic Leighton  and George Frederic Watts  who lived in somewhat larger even more ornate houses just a stones throw away toward Holland Park.

In time two children, Maud and Roy, were born and raised in the house.  Roy never married and lived at 18 Stafford Terrace until his death in 1946.  Maud married a wealthy stockbroker, Leonard Messel and together they set about restoring Nymans in Sussex.  After Roy’s death Maud kept the house on fully staffed for the use of her daughter Anne.  All this time the house had never been redecorated and the family now wanted to preserve it but all things Victorian were far from fashionable in the mid twentieth century.  Anne got together a group of friends one evening at 18 Stafford Terrace, including the poet laureate John Betjeman and the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, and they founded the Victorian Society.  Eventually Anne negotiated the sale of house and contents to the Greater London Council and it opened to the public.


Kensington is known for its royal connections, it has Kensington Palace after all.  But 18 Stafford Terrace has its own connection Anne Messel, married Ronald Armstrong-Jones and they had a son Anthony.  Anthony Armstrong Jones married Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister, in 1960 and became Lord Snowdon.  When he came to choose the courtesy title he thought of his cartoonist Great Grandfather.  So the now the oldest son of the Earl of Snowdon will always be known as Viscount Linley.


  • 18 Stafford Terrace, Kensington, London, W8 7BH
  • Closed for refurbishment reopens 15 October 2022


Victorian House Kensington London

If you would like to discover more historic London houses to visit check out this post.



  1. November 8, 2017 / 3:11 pm

    Oh wow, this looks AMAZING! I had no idea it was there. Definitely going on the list of places we must visit.

    • November 8, 2017 / 3:19 pm

      Like stepping back in time!

  2. November 9, 2017 / 2:35 pm

    Such a beautiful house and I like that the tour guide dressed the part! #FarawayFiles

  3. November 10, 2017 / 5:24 pm

    You always discover the most interesting places! I could spend a month just trying to visit them all, too bad I “only” have two weeks when I’m next in town. Would love to know what your top three must see London spots are… #farawayfiles

    • November 10, 2017 / 5:28 pm

      Oooo thinking cap on, what time of year are you visiting?

      • November 10, 2017 / 5:52 pm

        I’ll be there this Christmas season for two weeks. We’ve been quite a few times before, so have done many of the larger sites already…

        • November 10, 2017 / 6:45 pm

          If you’ve seen the biggies then the Wallace Collection just behind Oxford Street, the Geffrye Museum which is dressed for Christmas and for American interest the Benjamin Franklin House just off Trafalgar Square or the Charles Dickens museum which is also dressed for Christmas…. reviews of all of them on the blog!

          • November 10, 2017 / 7:51 pm

            Thank you!!

  4. Clare Thomson
    November 10, 2017 / 6:19 pm

    I love the idea of a guided tour with a Victorian servant. How unique! This looks fascinating and I enjoyed reading about the history of the house and its owners too. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • November 10, 2017 / 6:45 pm

      It was all very atmospheric, especially in the evening

  5. bavariansojourn
    November 11, 2017 / 11:14 pm

    Oh wow, what a fascinating place! I have to take my daughter here, I know she would love it. I used to work very close to The John Soane Museum, which is obviously his old house, and I would spend many hours there in my lunchbreak! 😀 #farawayfiles

    • November 11, 2017 / 11:21 pm

      I love the John Soane Museum, so much to see and do in

  6. November 11, 2017 / 11:47 pm

    This rings a few bells with me. In the early 1990s I had a few months work in the former Express building when it was at Blackfriars bridge. It was a modern office block but part of one floor was done out like a Victorian publishing company offices. It was, in fact, the preserved and abandoned offices of Punch magazine, which had been transported into this modern building. It was extraordinary, like these men from history had just stepped out of the room for a moment. It was not open to the public. I wonder where it has all gone to now. #FarAwayFiles

    • November 11, 2017 / 11:53 pm

      Wow that is fascinating, Heading off to the deepest reaches of google to find out

  7. November 14, 2017 / 11:03 am

    Oh what a fabulously handsome place. I would love to explore here (although I might leave my toddler tied up outside!) #citytripping

    • November 14, 2017 / 11:08 am

      Maybe when she has gone to school, only a few years to wait!

  8. November 15, 2017 / 9:24 am

    What a fascinating place to visit! So much detail and history. #Citytripping

  9. November 15, 2017 / 9:07 pm

    Oh, what I find! So jealous, and I cannot believe I didn’t know about this. Fabulous stuff, althouh really I am afraid I do think the Victorians had terrible terrible taste. Still, I do like poking around houses of all kinds…

  10. pigeonpairandme
    November 15, 2017 / 10:01 pm

    I love these sorts of houses, crammed with unique and interesting artefacts! Not one for rampaging toddlers, perhaps 🙂 #citytripping

    • November 15, 2017 / 10:02 pm

      No rampaging toddlers definitely better off down the road at the Design Museum

  11. November 15, 2017 / 10:43 pm

    I think I would ONLY take the costumed character tour – how fun to really feel like you’ve stepped back in time. PS – I’m also coveting that blue and white pottery! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles.

  12. November 15, 2017 / 11:04 pm

    What a wonderful way to step back in time – I can’t believe how perfectly preserved it is, and how great to also have the diary to show how life would have been in there as well. Had never even heard about this particular gem before so thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  13. November 22, 2017 / 11:08 pm

    What an immersive experience. I would love it, the welcome at the front door is a great start to the experience. We have some William Morris paper in our house and we won’t be touching it, love it. #citytripping

    • November 22, 2017 / 11:09 pm

      Maybe you could have tours of your William Morris!

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