- Original design
- Lord Burlington, William Kent, 1727
- Caruso St John, 2010
The 2017 programme is now past. We will be launching the 2018 programme in July.
The history of the house and gardens at Chiswick is long and complex, with successive owners adding their own architectural chapters to its story.
The third Earl of Burlington (1694-1753) designed the elegant Classical villa seen today, drawing inspiration from his 'grand tours' of Italy. It was originally located in a modest estate purchased by his grandfather, next to an existing Jacobean house.
The villa reflected the influence of the Italian architect Andrea Palladio and his English follower Inigo Jones, and its 'neo-Palladian' style soon spread across Europe and America.
The villa itself was more a showcase for the arts rather than a home, and it provided a spectacular venue for entertaining. During his travels Burlington met the architect William Kent and invited him to collaborate on the design of the villa. No expense or creativity was spared on the interior and Kent designed the luxurious and colourful velvet rooms with red, green and blue velvet walls, that interconnect with a magnificent domed central saloon.
Today, the Blue Velvet room and Upper Tribunal have been expertly restored and a future phase of the restoration programme will see the other main rooms returned to their original splendour.
William Kent also designed the gardens and started the influential 'English Landscape Movement'.
By the 1770s Chiswick had passed to the fifth Duke of Devonshire who initiated a series of major changes to both house and garden.
These included building the stone bridge over the lake, demolishing the earlier Jacobean house and adding new wings to the villa, turning it into a substantial mansion. These were subsequently removed in the 1950s in a move to restore the villa to something approaching its original appearance.
As the home of successive members of Lord Burlington's family, including Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Chiswick House has welcomed scores of significant guests over the years, including the musician Handel, the politician Charles James Fox, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
Georgiana's son, the 'Bachelor' sixth Duke, purchased the adjoining property to the east, extending the grounds and creating an Italian garden. He also introduced some new and exotic residents including an elephant, elks, emus, kangaroos, and an Indian bull.
During the second half of the nineteenth century the house was occupied by a series of eminent tenants, including the Prince of Wales, but by 1892 the building had become a mental institution and entered a prolonged period of decline.
In the 1950s Chiswick House was passed to the Ministry of Works, via Middlesex Council, and a much needed restoration campaign was undertaken. The villa has been cared for by English Heritage since 1984, who, with the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, set up in 2005, embarked on a major restoration programme for the gardens which is now complete
The new café which opened in February 2010 was designed by award-winning architects Caruso St.John and provides a relaxing modern space for visitors to use and enjoy.
Prior to the construction of the café building archaeologists discovered the well-preserved footings of the17th century Service Building including stabling and a large brick vaulted cellar.
The new building, constructed partly of beautiful Portland Stone has large floor to ceiling windows offering views of the house and gardens throughout the changing seasons. With an outside covered terrace and sunny south facing aspect with plenty of outside table space, the cafe became instantly popular with visitors.