Featured in many TV and film dramas this is a fine example of an Adams house. The original building on this site was a manor house built in the 1570s for banker Sir Thomas Gresham, who purchased the manor of Osterley in 1562. The "faire and stately brick house" was completed in 1576. It is known that Queen Elizabeth visited. The stable block from this period remains at Osterley Park. Gresham was so wealthy he also bought the neighbouring Manor of Boston in 1572. Two hundred years later the manor house was falling into disrepair, when, as the result of a mortgage default, it came into the ownership of Sir Francis Child, the head of Child's Bank (bankers did well in those days as well). In 1761 he employed Robert Adam, who was just emerging as one of the most fashionable architects in England, to remodel the house. When Sir Francis died in 1763, the project was taken up by his brother and heir Robert Child, for whom the interiors were created. The house is of red brick with white stone details and is approximately square, with turrets in the four corners. Adam's design, which incorporates some of the earlier structure, is highly unusual, and differs greatly in style from the original construction. One side is left almost open and is spanned by an Ionic pedimented screen which is approached by a broad flight of steps and leads to a central courtyard, which is at piano nobile level. Adam's neoclassical interiors are among his most notable sequences of rooms. Horace Walpole sarcastically described the drawing room as "worthy of Eve before the fall." The rooms are characterised by elaborate but restrained plasterwork, rich, highly varied colour schemes, and a degree of coordination between decor and furnishings unusual in English neoclassical interiors. Notable rooms include the entrance hall, which has large semi-circular alcoves at each end, and the Etruscan dressing room, which Adam said was inspired by the Etruscan vases in Sir William Hamilton's collection, illustrations of which had recently been published. Adam also designed some of the furniture, including the opulent domed state bed, still in the house.
The grounds of Osterley Park were used for the training of the first members of the Local Defence Volunteers (forerunners of the Home Guard) when the 9th Earl, a friend of publisher Lord Hulton, allowed writer and military journalist Captain Tom Wintringham to establish the first Home Guard training school (which Hulton sponsored) at the park in May/June 1940, teaching the theory and practice of modern mechanical warfare, guerilla warfare techniques and using the estate workers' homes, then scheduled for demolition, to teach street fighting techniques. The painter Roland Penrose taught camouflage techniques here, attempting to disguise the obvious charms of a naked Lee Miller. Maj. Wilfred Vernon taught the art of mixing home-made explosives, and his explosives store can still be seen at the rear of the house, while Canadian Bert "Yank" Levy, who had served under Wintringham in the Spanish Civil War taught knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat. Despite winning world fame in newsreels and newspaper articles around the world (particularly in the US), the school was disapproved of by the War Office and Winston Churchill, and was taken over in September 1940. Closed in 1941, its staff and courses were reallocated to other newly opened WO-approved Home Guard schools. The gardens are open year round but the house will re-open on Saturday 27th February. Garden paths level, compacted gravel. Some uneven and muddy paths, slopes, some cobbles. Accessible grounds route. Outdoor wheelchairs. Volunteer run PMV service sometimes available. Please ask on arrival, no advance booking. Adapted toilet close to stableyard. Wheelchair available in house for ground and principal floors. Braille and large print guides available. Parking drop-off. Free downloadable app available from Itunes store. Hand held audio guides avaiable, except on bank holidays or event days. Induction loop available for audio guide.
Location : Jersey Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 4RB
Transport: Osterley (Piccadilly Line) 1 mile distant. London Buses routes H28 and H91 stop within 1 mile.
Opening Times: Monday to Sunday 11:00 to 17:00.
Garden: Monday to Sunday 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £10.40 Children £5.20.
Garden Only : Adults £6.40 Children £3.10.
Tel: 0208 232 5050