Osterley House
Osterley Park House, London-25June2009-rc.jpg
Coordinates51°29′21.75″N 00°21′07.14″W / 51.4893750°N 0.3519833°W / 51.4893750; -0.3519833Coordinates: 51°29′21.75″N 00°21′07.14″W / 51.4893750°N 0.3519833°W / 51.4893750; -0.3519833
AreaLondon Borough of Hounslow
ArchitectRobert Adam
OwnerNational Trust
Listed Building – Grade I
Official nameOsterley House
Designated21 May 1973
Reference no.1080308
Osterley Park is located in London Borough of Hounslow
Osterley Park
Location of Osterley House in London Borough of Hounslow

Osterley Park and House is a Georgian country estate in west London,[1] that straddles the London boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow.[2][3] Originally dating from the 1570s, the estate contains a number of Grade I and II listed buildings, with the park listed as Grade II*.[4] The main house was remodelled by Robert Adam between 1761 and 1765.[3] The National Trust took charge of Osterley in 1991 and the house and park are open to visitors.



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.[5] The "faire and stately brick house" was completed in 1576. It is known that Queen Elizabeth visited.[6] The stable block from that period remains at Osterley Park. Gresham, the founder of the Royal Exchange, also bought the neighbouring Manor of Boston in 1572.[citation needed]

Child and Adam

A design for one of the walls of the Estruscan dressing room at Osterley Park by Robert Adam.
A design for one of the walls of the Estruscan dressing room at Osterley Park by Robert Adam.
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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 founder of Child's Bank. In 1761 Sir Francis's grandsons, Francis and Robert, employed Scottish architect Robert Adam, who was just emerging as one of the most fashionable architects in Britain, to remodel the house. When 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 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 (as they were then regarded, now recognised as Greek) 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.

Osterley Park from the air
Osterley Park from the air
Garden House
Garden House

After Child

Robert Child's only daughter, Sarah Anne Child, married John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland in 1782. When Child died two months later, his will placed his vast holdings, including Osterley, in trust for any second-to-be born grandchild. This proved to be Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, who was born in 1785.

Lady Sarah Fane married George Villiers in 1804 and, having children, the estate passed into the Villiers family. In 1819, George changed his surname to Child-Villiers.

Child's will kept his property out of the hands of John Fane, his son-in-law. Under the doctrine of coverture then in force, Child had given his daughter more than a life interest in any property, Fane would have had control of it. Fane had eloped with Sarah Child to Gretna Green, as the bride's father had not consented to the marriage. Child had wished his daughter to marry someone willing to take his own surname and ensure its continuation.[7]

Later history

George Child Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey, opened Osterley to the public in 1939 after having received many requests to see its historic interior.[8] He justified his decision by saying that it was "sufficient answer that he did not live in it and that many others wished to see it". Some 12,000 people visited the house in its first month of opening.[8] Villiers staged a series of exhibitions of artworks by living artists in the top-floor rooms to contrast with the 18th-century interiors on the ground floor.[8] Though it never came to fruition, he also planned to create an arboretum in the grounds.[8]

Home Guard training establishment

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 Sir Edward 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 street fighting techniques, making use of some estate workers' houses which had been scheduled for demolition.[9] Painter Roland Penrose taught camouflaging here, an extension of work he had developed with the paintbrush in avant-garde paintings to protect the modesty of his lover, Elizabeth 'Lee' Miller (married to Aziz E. Bey).[10] 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 War Office-approved Home Guard schools.[9]

National Trust

After the Second World War, Lord Jersey approached Middlesex County Council, who had shown interest in buying the estate, but eventually decided to give the house and its park to the National Trust.[8] The furniture was sold to the Victoria & Albert Museum.[8] In 1947, Lord Jersey moved to the island of Jersey, taking with him many pictures from the collection at Osterley.[8] Some were destroyed in a warehouse fire on the island soon after.[8] He assisted the Ministry of Works and the V&A in their restoration of the house to its present late-18th-century state.[8]

The National Trust took charge of Osterley in 1991. The house enjoys loans and gifts from Lord Jersey, including items of silver, porcelain, furniture and miniatures.[8] The trust commissioned portraits of Lord Jersey and his wife by Howard J. Morgan – which hang upstairs.[8] In 2014, William Villiers, 10th Earl of Jersey, the present Earl, arranged a ten-year loan to Osterley of portraits of the Child family.[11] Portraits included in the loan include Allan Ramsay's portrait of Francis Child (1758), and George Romney's portrait of Francis's brother, Robert.[11]

The house and small formal gardens are open to the public. They account for 30,000 paying visitors per year. Many hundreds of thousands of visitors per year walk the footpaths and enjoy the woodland of the surrounding park at no cost.[12] A weekly 5k Parkrun takes place in the park.[13]

The house saw its latest restoration from 2018 to 2021. This repaired structural deterioration and discolouring of the external brickwork.[citation needed]



  1. ^ "Osterley Park and House". National Trust. National Trust. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  2. ^ Historic England. "Osterley Park (Grade II*) (1000287)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  3. ^ a b Historic England. "Osterley House (Grade I) (1080308)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  4. ^ "Historic England – Championing England's heritage | Historic England". historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 13 March 2021.
  5. ^ Hardy, John; Tomlin, Maurice (1985). Osterley Park House. London: Victoria and Albert Museum. ISBN 0948107146.
  6. ^ Nichols, John (2014). John Nichols's The progresses and public processions of Queen Elizabeth I (A new of the early modern sources ed.). Oxford, United Kingdom. ISBN 9780199551422.
  7. ^ Greeves, Lydia (2008). Houses of the National Trust : outstanding buildings of Britain. London: National Trust. ISBN 978-1-905400-66-9.: 238 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Anthea Palmer (24 August 1998). "Obituary: The Earl of Jersey". The Independent. Archived from the original on 24 May 2022. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b Tom Wintringham (History Learning Site) accessed 29 Jan 2008
  10. ^ Newark, Tim Now you see it... Now You Don't, (March 2007) History Today
  11. ^ a b Kennedy, Maev (26 February 2014). "Osterley Park welcomes home its family portraits". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  12. ^ "Strategis – Osterley". Strategis. Archived from the original on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 21 July 2014.
  13. ^ "Parkrun – Osterley". Parkrun. Retrieved 21 July 2014.