Sandycombe Lodge Lovingly Restored

Artists celebrate the opening of the garden at Turnerís House

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Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets. Twickenham TW1 2LR is open from Wednesday-Sunday: 10-4pm turnershouse.org.

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Two of Britain’s most eminent artists celebrated the end of a major restoration project at Turner’s House in Twickenham, London on Saturday April 14th.

Christopher Le Brun PRA, the renowned painter, sculptor, and printmaker and Professor Ken Howard OBE RA, the distinguished artist and author of Ken Howard's Switzerland, In the Footsteps of Turner, both Patrons of Turner’s House Trust, officially opened the newly designed garden, marking the completion of the site’s restoration project.

Other guests included Charlotte Verity, artist and former Artist in Residence at the Garden Museum, London and Andrew Wilton leading scholar in the field of Turner studies and former curator of the Turner Collection in the Clore Gallery.

The event took place in the house of the great British landscape artist JMW Turner. He designed it for himself and his father with the aid of his great friend, the architect John Soane whose influence is clear in external details and in the beautiful (if small) arched hall and soaring top lit staircase.

The house, which gives a unique perspective on Turner as it was both his 3D artwork and his peaceful, rural retreat, has now undergone extensive restoration and is open to the public. Built in 1813, Sandycombe stands close to the Thames, a source of inspiration for many of Turner’s most beautiful paintings.

In his teens Turner took lessons in architectural draughtsmanship, and once said that if he could have had his time again, he would have been an architect. Sandycombe Lodge represents the realisation of his ambition and has recently been restored to his original design thanks to Heritage Lottery and other funding.

The shadow of JMW Turner's father lives on in the newly restored house Turner designed for him and Old William in Twickenham

The shadow of JMW Turner's father lives on in the newly restored house Turner designed for him and Old William in Twickenham. Picture by Frank Noon

Christopher Le Brun, President of the Royal Academy, thanked the Trust and restoration team for their work on the house and garden and described Turner as a “towering genius.”

Professor Ken Howard RA agreed, “These days the word genius is used a lot. I use the term very, very rarely. The man who built this house was, I think, the British genius.”

Turner catapulted from humble beginnings to become a celebrated artist and distinguished member of the Royal Academy. In 1789, Turner gained admission to the Royal Academy Schools at the age of 14, but swiftly made his mark and in 1807 was elevated to the position of Professor of Perspective, the year he bought the land on which his house still stands in Twickenham.

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Left to right Andrew Wilton (Turner expert) Ken Howard RA and Christopher Le Brun PRA at Turner's House celebrating the house and garden restoration. Picture by Frank Noon

Recognising the importance of the house, the new garden layout acts as a frame for views of the lodge, both from the street and from the garden.

Although the garden is much smaller than in Turner’s day, the design has been informed by a drawing made by William Havell in 1814 shortly after the house was built, showing an informal scheme of cottage garden plants close to the house, with a sunlit lawn sloping eastwards. There are nearly 150 different species of plants in the garden, including the wildflower lawn with 33 different flowers.

Turner made his own sketches of the site and his ideas, which followed the Regency fashion of integrating the lodge with its landscape. Just as the design of his home was influenced by his friend John Soane’s country villa of Pitzhanger Manor, so the replanting was also informed by Soane’s garden. The planting scheme has been a careful balancing act considering both historical precedent and current horticultural conditions, and promises to give colour and interest all year round.

Turner owned the land from until 1826, when it was surrounded by woodland and fields. His sketches show the lane to the front edged with hedgerows and the whole plot surrounded by a low picket fence, which has been reinstated at the front. The landscaped gardens, which were once tended by his father, gave Turner a sanctuary from the hurly burly of London life and it is known that he enjoyed picnicking and writing poetry there.

The view of his garden and the wider landscape – he would have been able to see the Thames from his bedroom window - would have been a decisive factor in his buying the original plot. The river was a favourite theme for his paintings, especially from Richmond Hill. Now the garden is designed to direct long views eastwards from the house to promote a sense of being in a wider landscape, in spite of the plot now being diminished in size and surrounded by suburban development.

Although the distant view of the Thames and Richmond Hill, is now obstructed by houses and trees, the line of his long triangular plot is still visible in the back gardens of large Victorian and Edwardian houses. And the restored house offers visitors an ingenious telescope in the artist’s bedroom that effects the view Turner would have had of the river. Another device to transport visitors back to Regency Twickenham, is a digitally recreated artist’s impression of the garden as Turner would have seen it in the Little Parlour downstairs.

Rachel Hasted, Member of the Heritage Lottery Fund London Committee, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, JWM Turner’s beautiful historic house and gardens are being saved, restored and opened up for people of all ages to enjoy. I’m delighted to celebrate the opening of the gardens – just in time for spring!”

Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge, 40 Sandycoombe Road, St Margarets. Twickenham TW1 2LR is open from Wednesday-Sunday: 10-4pm turnershouse.org.

@TurnersHouse  Facebook Instagram

 

April 17, 2018

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