19 Princelet Street

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19 Princelet Street seems a fitting place for an immigration museum given its layers of history that follow patterns of immigration in the local area. Last week the house held two rare open days – due to its fragile nature it is not yet able to be open to the public on a more regular basis. Funding is desperately required for repairs to the Grade II listed property so that its Museum of Immigration and Diversity can be fully realised. The Londonphile attended the second opening, and the queue stretching all the way back to Wilkes Street would suggest that number 19 has a bright future.

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Originally built in 1719, this five-storey building was home to the Ogier family, French Huguenot silk weavers. A metal bobbin hangs outside the building today as a lasting reminder of the weavers’ presence in the house. After a number of years housing various workshops and lodgings, 19 Princelet Street underwent its most significant change with the building of a synagogue in 1870 by a group of mainly Polish Jews, working together under the banner of ‘Loyal United Friends Friendly Society’ to create a community centre. While the synagogue now comprises the major part of the building, this part of the structure was in fact where the Ogiers’ garden once stood.

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Metal vents in the synagogue floor allow glimpses down to the meeting room built below the synagogue – this downstairs area was also open, along with a kitchen underneath the original house. Upstairs we had access to some of the the women’s gallery in the synagogue, with its lovely views across the space. The floor above that was closed to visitors but now functions as a staff area, while the attic room of mysterious scholar/recluse David Rodinsky – made famous by artist Rachel Lichtenstein’s 1999 book Rodinsky’s Room – is well out of bounds due to structural issues. One of the volunteers told me she had been involved with the charity for ten years and still hadn’t seen it.

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Due to the property’s no-photography rule you will have to imagine the crumbling beauty of its interior for yourself. But it is beautiful, and hopefully the Spitalfields Centre charity will be able to generate the funds needed to preserve and restore this lovely building and turn it into the museum of their vision.

And the best news is that more open days are already planned for March 2013: on Sundays 17th & 24th March, 2-4pm, and what is sure to be a lovely evening opening on Thursday 21st March, 5-8pm. For more details visit 19 Princelet Street’s website.

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Turner’s House

The Londonphile has been out to Twickenham again, this time to visit Sandycoombe Lodge, the former house of Britain’s renowned landscape painter, JMW Turner. This fairly modest Regency house in St Margarets is thought to have been designed by Turner himself, with a little help from his close friend John Soane. Today, Turner’s former abode is surrounded on all sides by houses, but it once sat on a plot of land that stretched all the way to the Thames, where Turner strolled, went fishing and gained inspiration.

Turner bought the plot of land in 1807 as a country residence for himself and a permanent residence for his father, Old William, a Covent Garden barber and wigmaker who had long had a hankering to play farmer. The house itself was not built until 1812. Although his father generally maintained both the house and garden for him, it was Turner himself who snuck into Pope’s nearby derelict villa to steal a cutting of the poet’s famous willow tree for his own garden. Some lovely Soanian touches are still evident in the curved walls and decorative roof light in the stairwell.

Turner’s father also looked after his son’s West End studio – it’s not known for sure whether Turner had a studio at Sandycoombe Lodge, but at the very least he would have sketched here. Old William lived at Sandycoombe Lodge – his quarters were mainly in the basement area – until poor health forced him to return to central London. Even today the house is clearly still very damp. Interestingly, Turner’s mistress and two daughters never visited this house. After his father’s departure, Turner sold the residence in 1826 for £500.

Having served as a secret factory during the war (producing pilots’ goggles), the house was bought by one Professor Livermore in 1947, who was interested in preserving it as Turner’s former home. He certainly undertook very little modernisation during his time and the house is now awaiting a substantial restoration, overseen by Turner’s House Trust. This means that current visitors are allowed a rare opportunity to see the ‘before’ picture of what promises to be a significant project.

Sandycoombe Lodge has been open on the first Saturday of the month since April and will have its last opening of this year on the 6th of October from 10am-1pm (last entry 12:30). £4 gets you an informative guided tour of the premises. It will also be open for free guided tours as part of Open House on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd of September, from 10am-3pm both days, on a first-come, first-served basis. The Trust is still seeking donations towards restoration and maintenance so do get in touch if you can help out at all, or show your support by paying a visit.

2013 update: this year the house will be open on the first Saturday of each month from April-October. 10am-12:30pm, no booking required, and still only £4! It will also be open 10-12:30 on Saturdays June 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th as part of the Twickenham Festival.

http://www.turnerintwickenham.org.uk/

http://events.londonopenhouse.org/Building/2961

Hogarth’s House

It’s hard to believe with the traffic thundering along the six-lane dual carriageway just metres outside, but William Hogarth and family bought their Chiswick house as a country retreat. No doubt it was still considerably quieter back in the day than their London home in what is now Leicester Square. Exactly what the artist would have made of the nearby Hogarth Business Park and the chaotic Hogarth Roundabout is anybody’s guess…

Hogarth’s House must be one of London’s oldest house museums. It was first opened to the public in 1904 after one Lieutenant-Colonel Shipway purchased the property for this purpose. He also commissioned the reproduction of Georgian-style furniture for the house from the Chiswick Art-Workers’ Guild, with each piece based on a piece of furniture featured in Hogarth’s work. This furniture is still on display in the house today – along with some of Hogarth’s personal possessions, including a palette and a snuff box – and sits well with the lovingly restored Georgian interiors.

Hogarth depicted life in Georgian London (often menacing, mercenary and decadent it turns out) in his satirical illustrations and series of paintings on ‘modern moral subjects’, the latter being serialised as hugely popular prints. Copies of a number of these prints are on display in the house, including Gin Lane, Beer Street and The Four Stages of Cruelty – so if you’re looking for a a crash course in Hogarth’s work a visit to his former abode might be just the thing.

The model for Jim Mathieson’s statue of Hogarth is on display at the house.

The house itself was built around 1700 and Hogarth lived here from 1749 until his death in 1764. His wife Jane stayed on in the house after his death – apparently on the condition that she did not remarry. Jane Hogarth organised the extension of the kitchen wing on the ground floor, which is now a gallery. Currently on display is a range of historical pictures of the house and photographs documenting its recent restoration and unfortunate history of damage – it was badly bombed in the Second World War and a fire broke out in 2009 during the restoration process, delaying its re-opening until November 2011.

Hogarth’s House is open 12 noon to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays. Admission is free. The closest tube in Turnham Green – keep an eye out for the Jim Mathieson statue of Hogarth (and his pug dog) just down the road from the station, on the corner of Turnham Green Terrace and Chiswick High Road.
You could combine a trip to Hogarth’s House with a visit to Chiswick House and Gardens, which is located virtually next door.

Sutton House

If like me you have a liking for layers of history and secret things hidden behind doors and panels, then Hackney’s Sutton House is just the thing. Built in 1535 – making this National Trust property East London’s oldest domestic dwelling – it’s one of those London places you keep meaning to visit and then wonder why you’ve left it so long when you do.

The first thing that struck me about Sutton House was just how very old it felt. As a Tudor building it is of course significantly older than the many Georgian dwellings you can visit around London – and it very much feels like it. The magnificent wood panelling of the Linenfold Parlour – carved to look like draped linen – which greets you in the first room is quite stunning. It’s not surprising to learn that back in the day people often took their wood panelling with them when they moved house, as it would have also been very expensive.

Originally built as a home for courtier Ralph Sadleir, Sutton House has seen a wide variety of residents over the years, including schools, the St John’s Church Institute and a group of squatters in the 1980s. One of my favourite aspects of the house it how it still represents so many of these groups. So while many of the rooms are in the Tudor style, there is also a Georgian Parlour, a Victorian Study and a chapel in a cellar to represent the residents of those eras. Remnants of some of the other groups remain in the form of a wall mural painted by a squatter, while a 17th-century fireplace peaks out from behind a staircase. Wooden panels and doors scattered throughout the house open to reveal previous brickwork, fireplaces and doorways. The past is not lost, it’s just tucked away beneath the layers.

Sutton House is surprisingly extensive, and as well as the many period rooms there is a lovely café (housing a second-hand bookshop) to revive yourself in afterwards. As you can probably guess from the abundance of exterior shots, photography is not allowed inside for conservation reasons, so this is one property you really will have to go and see for yourself. So put off your visit no longer –  though if you do wait just a little while you should be able to enjoy a new garden and eating area that is being constructed next door on what was once a breaker’s yard. This too will contain reminders of that site’s history – and a reference to a lost waterway – and will make a visit to Sutton House an even more attractive proposition than it already is.

For opening times, check Sutton House’s website, as they can vary slightly. The house is located roughly equidistant between Hackney Central and Homerton on the London Overground. I’ll publish an update once the new garden is open.

7 Hammersmith Terrace

Seventeen houses make up the row in which Walker lived - his is the second of the taller houses.

Ever wondered exactly how William Morris and his ilk decorated their own homes? A visit to 7 Hammersmith Terrace will give you your answer, as it’s the (almost) perfect time capsule of Arts and Crafts London translated into the domestic sphere. The former home of Emery Walker – a printer who was a leading light of that particular movement and a close friend and colleague of William Morris – its interiors have been preserved from his day down. So while there are other properties that belonged to Morris and friends that you can visit, Walker’s house is truly one of a kind.

Emery Walker actually started married life down the road at number three, before relocating to number 7 in 1903. Although the house itself is a Georgian terrace (one of seventeen built along the Thames in Hammersmith in the 1750s), it is decorated in a style typical of the homes of the movement’s main proponents – right down to the William Morris lino in the hall (thought to be the only surviving in situ example of this). The eclectic style they favoured is very much on show here, with Morris’s wallpaper and hangings happily sharing space with colourful imported ceramics, seventeenth and eighteenth century furniture and metalwork.

Philip Webb – the Arts and Crafts architect – bequeathed his possessions to Walker and many of these are on display, including a rather fine wooden Regency wine cooler (cunningly disguised as an oddly-shaped side table). Your guide will also show you a poignant collection of mementoes of Morris that Walker kept, including several pairs of glasses and a lock of his hair. The dining room furnishings are a real highlight, as is the surprisingly modern suntrap conservatory, with its lovely collection of ceramics.

Walker’s daughter Dorothy inherited the house on her father’s death in 1933 and changed very little over time – the main exception being the addition of a bathroom in the back drawing room. This has now been removed, though the scars remain on the Morris wallpaper, adding yet another layer to this story. Even the garden, which backs straight onto the Thames, still retains the same layout as it did in Walker’s time. Dorothy left the house to her long-time companion Elizabeth de Haas, who – luckily for us – also maintained its original state, and was instrumental in setting up the Emery Walker Trust that has enabled the house to be preserved and opened to the public.

As photography is not permitted inside, this really is one place that you will have to visit to see for yourself. Three tours are held on Saturdays from April until the end of September, by advance booking only (see website below). They last just over an hour and cost £10.

http://emerywalker.org.uk/index.php

Nearby: William Morris fans might also like to visit his former home Kelmscott House, part of which is now home to the William Morris Society. It’s just down the road and also open on Saturday (and Thursday) afternoons (but that’s another blog post…).

The sedate Georgian exterior belies the eclectic Arts and Crafts furnishings that lie within.

The Freud Museum

Ever wondered exactly what Sigmund Freud’s famous psychoanalytic couch really looked like? Well you can see the real thing at the Freud Museum in Hampstead. This red-brick Queen Anne style building was home to Freud and family after they fled Austria in 1938. Fortunately, all of their furniture and some of Freud’s books made it over as well, so that they could re-create their home – and Freud’s study – here in London.

Freud’s extensive collection of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Oriental antiques – almost 2,000 items are rather artfully displayed in his study – is also worth seeing. Freud’s daughter Anna, herself a renowned child psychoanalyst, inherited the house on her father’s death and it was her wish that it would eventually become a museum in his honour. The room dedicated to her life and work contains a cute anecdote about local children being shown the statue of Freud located on the corner of nearby Fitzjohn’s Avenue, and expressing concerns that he must find it cold being outside all the time…

And just for the record, the famous couch is covered in a colourful Iranian rug and chenille cushions – Freud would sit out of sight of his patients in the green tub chair placed behind the headrest. It was a gift from an appreciative patient and also made its way over with the rest of the household effects from Austria. Although it’s said to be comfortable it is not long, so patients would not actually fully recline on it.

The lovely garden dates from Freud’s time, and includes some of his favourite blooms. Freud is said to have taken great delight in watching the changing scenes in the garden, having only had a courtyard apartment in Vienna. His architect son, Ernst Freud, re-designed the study area so that it commanded a view of the garden through the French windows – and it is here that Freud spent his last days. He died on 23rd September 1939.

Don’t be put off by the fact that the museum is slightly outside of central London – it’s only in zone two and easily accessible from both Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage tube stations. They also hold a series of art exhibitions, conferences and other events, so check their website to see what else is on that you may like to attend. Don’t miss the video room showing archival footage of the Freud family. The Freud Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday 12.00-17.00, admission is £6 or £3 for concessions.

http://www.freud.org.uk/

Keats House by candlelight


Regardless of how you feel about Valentine’s Day, one related event that you may wish to attend is the candlelight opening of Keats House, Every Truly Yours, on the evening of Friday 10th February. This Hampstead residence was the poet John Keats’ home from 1818-1820, and is where he met Fanny Brawne, the love of his life and (quite literally) the girl next door. These days it is a lovely house museum run by the City of London, with a strong series of events related to literature and Regency era history and culture.

Although film buffs may note that this was not the house used in Jane Campion’s Bright Star film about the ill-fated lovers (the celluloid version is predictably much larger and more grandiose), it has the immeasurable benefit of being the real deal. Attendees of Every Truly Yours can expect not only a candlelit tour of the house, but champagne and chocolate, and a creative writing challenge based on Keats’ letters to Miss Brawne. The event runs from 7-9pm, costs £10 (£8 concessions), and requires prior booking on keatshouse@cityoflondon.gov.uk or 020 7332 3868.

http://www.keatshouse.cityoflondon.gov.uk/

The Geffrye Museum of the Home

The Geffrye Museum - with installation by Kei Ito in the foreground

The Geffrye Museum is not just a museum of the home, but a sort of ultra house museum: based in eighteenth century almshouses in Hoxton, it features a series of rooms displaying domestic interiors. The focus is on the urban English middle class living room from 1600 to the 1990s, whose development you can follow right up until modern warehouse conversions (complete with mezzanine level!). I’m personally a little torn between the 1935 art deco lounge room and the very retro g-plan-esque one from 1965, but on balance I think the latter has my final vote.

The museum itself is free (some temporary exhibitions have a charge), but on certain days you can pay £2.50 to visit the restored Almshouse 14 in the building’s south-west wing, to see how London’s elderly and poor once lived. And it’s not as grim as that makes it sound! I promise.

And don’t forget to visit the gardens around the back, which are also divided into periods depicting the development of the town house garden from the seventeenth to early twentieth centuries. Although these are only open to the public from April to October, they can be glimpsed from the lovely garden reading room (and yes also from the East London overground line, right next to Hoxton Station!).

Now is a good time to visit though as the Geffrye is holding its annual Christmas Past installation, in which all the rooms are decorated in period Christmas decorations. On the afternoon of January 6th 2012 (4-5pm) they will hold that year’s traditional Farewell to Christmas burning of the holly and the ivy event in the garden. For more details visit their website:

http://www.geffrye-museum.org.uk/

Dennis Severs’ House

Dennis Severs’ magical house is one of the Londonphile’s top London picks and one of London’s most evocative little gems. American artist Dennis Severs created a mini time capsule in this listed Georgian terrace house, located near Spitalfields Market.

The ten rooms range in time periods from 1724 to 1914 and follow the varying fortunes of a family of Huguenot weavers who mysteriously appear to have always just left the room when you enter. The experience is a sensory overload, and your sense of smell will be particularly active throughout your visit as you experience the traditional smells associated with the various time periods. As Severs himself noted, “your senses are your guide” in this house.

In keeping with the eras portrayed, there is no electricity in the house and you are asked to remain silent throughout your visit, so as to help fully soak up the atmospherics (and to appreciate the creaking of authentic floorboards). Amazingly, Severs himself actually lived in the house from 1979-1999 – on his death it was opened to the public. This is truly something you have to experience for yourself, so I will keep the description to a minimum!

Check the house’s website below for details of the regular opening hours as well as the Silent Night evening visits. This year’s Christmas installation of period Christmas decorations is currently up (until 6th January 2012) and is well worth a visit even if you have already seen the house. Exclusive Silent Nights are also run in which participants can  have a drink by the fire and meet the curatorial team – this is on the Londonphile’s wish list!

http://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/

2 Willow Road

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A good place to start this blog is with one of my favourite architectural sites in London: 2 Willow Road. London is not known for its modernist architecture, and there’s even less of it than you can actually enter (especially outside the confines of the Open House weekend), but Willow Road is a happy exception to this rule.

Located in leafy Hampstead, Willow Road was designed by Erno Goldfinger (of Trellick Tower fame) and completed in 1939. It has the strong, clean lines, concrete supporting columns and window walls we would expect of a modernist house of this era, although the brickwork was a concession to not straying too far out synch with the neighbours. Goldfinger had originally designed a block of flats for the site, but after this failed to receive planning permission, he scaled the design back to this group of three ‘terrace’ houses – the Goldfingers moved into number 2 (in the centre) with separate tenants to either side in 1 and 3.

Much of the built-in furniture and door furniture was designed by Goldfinger himself. A strong feature of the house is the use of movable partitions between rooms, allowing space to be opened up or closed down when required. But life at number 2 wasn’t obsessively modern – when Goldfinger’s mother moved into the house later in her life she filled up her room with her ornate Austro-Hungarian furniture! The house was clearly designed as a place to live – it housed four generations of the family at one point – and also to work, featuring a studio (originally for Goldfinger’s wife) and study.

2 Willow Road is now run by the National Trust and open to visitors from March to November each year (in 2012 it will open from 3 March to 4 November, Wednesday to Sunday from 11am-5pm, with entry by guided tour on the hour between 11-2 and self-guided viewing from 3-5). You can also pick up a copy of a good self-guided walking tour of Hampstead’s modernist architecture on site. And keep an eye on the National Trust’s website as they also run excellent guided walking tours on this theme. I did one earlier this year and can highly recommend it – but that’s another post…

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/2willowroad

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