Friday, November 27, 2009

Walpole House - a little slice in time

Here is Walpole House, one time home of Thomas Walpole, nephew of Sir Robert Walpole who was the first effective Prime Minister of Britain between about 1721 and 1742 and responsible for the growth of the Whigs into a major political force in the 18th century.

Robert Walpole is one of those English politicians who crammed so much into his short life he puts us all to shame.

He coined some marvellous phrases including my favourite 'every man has his price'.

And for those too numerous to count people who seem to think that what we are living through now is new and unique, bear witness to Sir Robert's investment in the South Sea Company (and the consequential South Sea Bubble in 1720). This was a plan whereby the Company would assume the entire debt of the government of Great Britain in exchange for the issue of lucrative bonds. People invested madly, and Sir Robert was only saved when a banker advised him to sell his shares before the company collapsed. (Helpful really, as he was also first Secretary of the Treasury at the time so at least his interest was not too personal).

He was also impeached by the Tory House of Lords, jailed for 6 months in the Tower of London and expelled from Parliament. The old Parliaments were great guardians of representative democracy (if you accept that those being represented were a tiny percentage of men in England at the time), weren't they?

The house was also the setting for Miss Pinkerton's Academy for Girls in Vanity Fair, thanks to William Thackeray who lived in it as a schoolboy.

It was also the home of Barbara Palmer, First Duchess of Cleveland and mistress of King Charles II until her death in 1709.

(by John Michael Wright c. 1670)

And in one of those aberrations of history, it is not known as Becky Sharp's House, or Barbara Palmer's House, but Walpole House, even though he only lived there for 5 years.

I wonder how Thomas Walpole would have felt about the Jasper Conran 2008 renovation of his home which is located in Chiswick Mall and looks out over the Thames.

I suspect he would have liked it.

I saw this in World of Interiors, and have not seen it anywhere else. Hence the scanned images.

I know I am a Georgian lass (preferably of the aristocratic, auburn haired, violet eyed kind) at heart but I really love these interiors

So many many things to love not least a very disciplined minimalism which is hard in such large spaces.

Rush matting in the living room which needs to be watered, yes watered, to keep it preserved. And how about the very plain cotton white sofa covers? It must have been tempting to upholster these in something else.

It's a not easy to make out but the smaller dining room has De Gournay wallpaper and an 18th century Murano chandelier.

Lovely Elizabethan portraits (oh that, that's just a family portrait)

Not one but two gilty mirrors in the bathroom.

Incredible Princess and the Pea style tester beds with coverings in hand woven mohair and wool custom fabric.

Authentic old basement kitchen.

Incredible wrought iron chandeliers which I wrote about here.

And just a little while after this house was featured, Mr Conran up and sold it for record price (only 2 years after purchase).

I hope the new owner preserves it.


Mise said...

This is simply beautiful, and what I'd like my house to be. My issue with most houses decorated in the old/classical style is that they lack freshness, but this one has grace and dignity and the elusive sense of cool serenity. As you point out, the white sofa covers are inspired, as is the painted kitchen and the imposing simplicity of the bathroom. I'm writing this comment with a mild sense of yearning.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Oh, the good old South Sea Bubble, Jane. I remember cramming all about Walpole for my G.C.E. exams many moons ago. Such a beautiful house. Georgian houses are so beautiful in their simplicity and this one is no exception. I love the English house style. It never dates and always looks stylish and beautiful. XXXX

Millie said...

A truly beautiful & restrained restoration Jane. The Dining Room is my very favourite room, with the panelling on the walls, just scrumptious.
Millie ^_^

Lee said...

Jane - you always seem to bring a new bit of knowledge to my addled brain. I love this bit of history. And I think you're right - Walpole would approve of Mr Conran's 'renovation'. Have a lovely weekend. Lee :)

P.S. Are you going to the Magnolia Square market at Malvern Town Hall this weekend. I am - I'm hoping to do a bit of Christmas shopping.

Laura said...

I absolutely love the idea of such ornate mirrors in an otherwise pristine bathroom! And I am coveting that heavy wooden kitchen table intensely. I recall reading about the business with the bonds in Niall Ferguson's book and being quite fascinated by it wonderful to see the home the man inhabited!

koralee said...

What a beautiful home...thank you for sharing and thank you for visiting me. Happy Sunday to you!

Janet said...

I LOVED this house when I saw it. Love the mix of colors and textures.

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