Join me on a tour of Turner’s House London. JMW Turner was a watercolour painter. Not your nice genteel watercolours but swirling, expressive, explosions of feeling. He was a Londoner, born in Covent Garden the son of a barber and wig maker. Once he had made money he fancied a country retreat, so bought a large plot of land and set about building Sandycombe Lodge.
TOUR OF TURNER’S HOUSE LONDON
You know you’ve arrived at Turner’s House, just a short walk away from St Margaret’s train station, because it is the one with the blue plaque. It is also a lot smaller that the spacious Victorian villas that surround it. When Turner came here it was all open fields and river views and no convenient railway line.
The house itself is small, one big bedroom, one tiny bedroom, three modest reception rooms and a kitchen. Truly a country retreat and not a grand residence to impress. Turner designed the house himself, he had trained as an architectural draughtsman before turning to painting. His good friend Sir John Soane kept a close eye on the designs. You can see Soane’s influence in the graceful arches and light wells.
Once upon a time the views from the windows would have been rural, not suburban. In one of the sitting rooms that view has been recreated. For a minute you can forget that you are surrounded by houses as far as the eye can see!
INSIDE TURNER’S HOUSE
Sandycombe Lodge might be small but it has a magnificent staircase. I confess that I (and my camera) loved looking up to lantern designed by Turner.
And looking down with the rather wonderful carpet curving round.
Upstairs in Turner’s bedroom is a telescope. Turner liked to look out down to the river. Maybe he was watching for the approach of his friends who lived nearby. Alexander Pope had a house on the river, Henrietta Howard lived at Marble Hill House and Horace Walpole was a skip away at Strawberry Hill House.
To help you imagine that rural idyll that Turner would have looked on the Turner House Trust have cleverly made the view that you see through the telescope similar to the one that Turner would have seen.
STORY OF SANDYCOMBE LODGE
Turner purchased two plots of land in 1807 and set about designing the house. In 1813 the small house, surrounded by a large garden was ready to move into. Turner already had two houses in the centre of London one in Cheyenne Walk and the other in Marylebone, so Sandycombe Lodge was more of a weekend cottage for him.
Turner’s father, William, however moved into the house and lived there permanently acting as a housekeeper. You can see his shadow and hear his story in the kitchen. Why the kitchen? The house is beautiful but cold and so William probably spent most of his time here in the warmest room, sleeping as well cooking.
Turner sold the house in 1828 (although he cannily kept some of the land, which he sold later at a great profit as the new railway pushed up land values). The next owner extended the house. As part of the restoration these additions have been removed and original brickwork and ‘penny line’ pointing revealed.
In the early twentieth century the house was purchased by Professor Livermore. The Professor knew of the house’s history and ensured that house was listed as Grade II*. When he died Sandycombe Lodge was left to the Turner’s House Trust who embarked on a £2.4 million restoration.
VISITING TURNER’S HOUSE
Thanks to railway visiting Turner’s House, London is easy. It is four minute walk from St Margarets station, which is in turn 30 minutes away from London Waterloo. You could drive, but parking would be tricky. The house too small to allow for a cafe but there are several to be found near the train station.
- Self guided tours Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 1pm
- Guided tours Wednesday – Sunday 1pm – 4pm
- Admission: Adults £6, children £3
- Winter closing 15 December 2018 – 1 February 2019
- Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets , Twickenham TW1 2LR
If your appetite for historic houses is whetted check out my post about more Historic London Houses to visit.
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