Pitzhanger Manor was a public library when I first knew it. Now it has been restored and looks as it would have done when Sir John Soane built it as a country retreat. Hard to imagine Ealing in the countryside as you walk from the train station. Once you gaze at the view over the park from the house windows it is easy to imagine you are in a rural idyll.
Pitzhanger Manor has reopened with new Covid opening hours. Pre-booking is essential even for members and Ealing residents. Soane's Kitchen is open for a restoring cup of coffee.
John Soane Architect
John Soane was a superstar architect. Well he was in 1800 but he’d started off as the son of a Berkshire bricklayer. At 15 he was apprenticed to the leading Neo Classical architect George Dance. From there he went to study at the architecture at the Royal Academy and whilst there won a scholarship that enabled him to go on a two year Grand Tour. What he saw as he meandered around Italy was to influence his for the rest of his life.
Back to 1700 when John Soane felt it was time to have a country house. He’d already had an impressive town house, that is now the Sir John Soane’s Museum that reflected his superstar status. Not too far from London. When Pitzhanger Manor to seemed as if the stars were aligning. The extension was one of his first projects when he worked for George Dance. Soane didn’t just move in, he knocked down the original building, kept the extension and built an extravagant show piece ajoining it. A little way across the lawn he built a servants wing and kitchen.
Pitzhanger Manor was part showroom and part party house. Soane would invite potential clients to Pitzhanger, see that rather fine ceiling, that will go on to inspire London’s red telephone box? I could do one of those for you.
This innovative lightwell above the staircase? Not a problem. Every home should have one.
Mirrors to reflect the light and just make everything bigger? Excellent idea, have several.
Party central at Pitzhanger was Dance wing. The upper room became a drawing room. Hung with exquisite hand painted Chinese wallpaper.
Topped with a fancy ceiling decked out in Wedgewood green and blue.
The ground floor was the eating room.
Soane had a conservatory that ran the length of the back of the house, connecting all the rooms, letting in light and giving magnificent views of his park land. That conservatory disappeared as part of the Victorian alterations and has now been restored giving fine views of Walpole Park, as Soane’s back garden has become.
As you leave, turn round and look at the house. There are big swanky gates directly in front of Pitzhanger, these were built in the early 20th century as Ealings war memorial. This smaller gate to the side is where John Soane wanted you to arrive and leave. This is the view of the house that he wanted you to have.
Hogarth: London Voices, London Lives
William Hogarth and John Soane were good friends. Sir John bought A Rake’s Progress by Hogarth in 19802 to hang at Pitzhanger. Now the Rake is back at Pitzhanger for the first time in 200 years. He is not alone but accompanied by an array of contemporary work expressing the reality of London life today.
Pitshanger Manor Cafe
Should you want to eat Pitzhanger has a brand new cafe in John Soane’s old kitchen garden, called Soane’s Kitchen. If you fancy something less formal there is the Rickyard kiosk in Walpole Park, now a park but then John Soane’s estate. As you know I love a good museum cafe, always good to have another to add to the list of London Museum Cafes.
West London is awash with the country houses of Georgian rich and famous. Soane would have been able to walk to see Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill or pop round to see his friend J M W Turner in St Margarget’s
VISITING PITZHANGER MANOR AND GALLERY
- Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery, Walpole Park, Ealing W5 5EQ
- Central and District line tube lines go to Ealing Broadway. Great Western mainline trains stop there from all points west and Paddington. When it is finished the Elizabeth Line will also stop at Ealing.
- Open: Thursday – Sunday 11am – 7pm
- Admission: £7 Under 18 and Friends go free as do Ealing residents Sunday mornings