Chiswick House and Gardens, London

There is something magical in the air at Chiswick House and Gardens and this stunning neo palladian masterpiece is certainly worth a visit.

Front facade of Chiswick House
Front facade of Chiswick House

Front facade of Chiswick House

Ok, one word. Breathtaking. The gardens, the entrance, the architecture, the décor and interiors. If you have limited time in London you will want to make sure that this stunning classically inspired villa is on your list. You will certainly not be disappointed. Chiswick House is rightly considered to be one of the best examples of neo-Palladian architecture in Britain and it is one of the building that did most to usher in the incredible age of Palladian architecture in England.

It is often said to be inspired by Palladio’s Villa Capra “La Rotonda” near Vicenza however although this is clearly an influence there are several more buildings that have likely influenced the final design of the house.

Chiswick House stands in the middle of Chiswick Park and is surrounded by beautiful landscape gardens, a lake, a folly and a bridge. The effect of all the elements together is quite magical and there is a really feeling of having being transported to another age.

The house is the work of the third Earl of Burlington and William Kent. The Earl had seen examples of similar villas on his trip to Italy in the 1720s and from that time on he had determined to build one for himself. Not being able to call on Palladio himself however (the master had died in the 16th century) the Earl had instead enlisted Kent.

Kent was a true renaissance man with the ability to paint, decorate, create landscapes and design buildings. However Burlington (real name Richard Boyle) was a talented amateur architect himself and the Earl took a leading role in the design of the new house with Kent working alongside him. Kent was given full reign to reshape the Chiswick House gardens however.

Boyle, who Horace Walpole once called the “Apollo of the Arts” was a voracious collector who had amassed a breath-taking collection of art during his travels across France, Greece and Italy.

Although his intentions for Chiswick House have never been established beyond doubt it is possible that he planned to construct a home for his ever increasing collection of art. If that were the case, then Chiswick, where his family owned a summer retreat, would certainly have entered his thinking.

However the Earl clearly considered the house that stood on the property inadequate for the purpose hence the creation of Chiswick House.

Fortunately, a fire at the house in 1725 gave him the perfect opportunity to build. The work also give Boyle an opportunity to put his theories about architecture into practice.

We can only guess at some of Boyle’s influences today but the Pantheon in Rome, Vincenzo Scamozzi’s Rocca Pisana near Vicenza and the mausoleum at Diocletian’s Palace in Split, Croatia have all been commonly cited as inspiration.

Whatever the truth may be, this is one period house that is not to be missed. From the simple front with its six column portico to its beautiful venetian windows the building is a masterpiece and an absolute must see.

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