Chiswick House Gardens is a site of international importance both as the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement, and as the setting for one of the most beautiful houses in London. The regeneration of the gardens is a result of many years of campaigning, four years of fund-raising and two years of work on the site.
English Heritage (manager of the House) and the London Borough of Hounslow (owner of the Gardens) established The Chiswick House and Gardens Trust as an independent charity to drive forward an ambitious rescue plan for the Gardens and secure its future for the 21st century.
The garden restoration, managed by English Heritage, and supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £7.9 million, recovers the original vistas and design from decades of disrepair and underfunding, and also repairs and restores the statuary and garden buildings. The result is an inspiring balance between a historic landscape and a public park.
Highlights include the planting of over 1,600 trees, including trees propagated from the original 18th century cedars of Lebanon; the opening up of historic views from the Classic Bridge, the complete restoration of the 19th century conservatory housing a rare and internationally important collection of camellias; the planting of native trees and shrubs in the Northern Wilderness, and the restoration of the Walled Gardens, which will be open to the public on special days.
To complement the restoration, award-winning architects Caruso St John have designed a new café within the grounds, on a carefully chosen site close to Chiswick House on the east side. The new café provides indoor seating for 80 people and external seating for over 100, and forms the social hub for the park, with a newly created children’s playground beside it.
The Importance of the Garden
Chiswick House Gardens, spread over 65 acres, are known throughout the world as the birthplace of the English Landscape Movement and have inspired countless designed landscapes from Blenheim Palace in Oxford, to Central Park in New York. They were originally created by Lord Burlington and William Kent who worked on them throughout the 1720’s and 1730’s as a setting for Lord Burlington’s magnificent Chiswick House, the first and one of the finest examples of neo-Palladian design in England.
Among the many famous features of the gardens are:
- Lord Burlington and William Kent's Western Lawn linking the House and lake, dating from the 18th century.
- The Inigo Jones Gateway, acquired by Lord Burlington in 1738 from his friend Sir Hans Sloane;
- The Cascade, an Italian renaissance-style waterfall designed by Burlington and Kent dating from around 1738;
- Exedra, a lawn lined by alternating cypresses and stone urns closed by a semicircular dark yew hedge, forming a backdrop to Lord Burlington's collection of ancient Roman and 18th century sculpture;
- The Lake, crossed by an elegant stone bridge, in a design attributed to James Wyatt;
- The Raised Terrace, planted with sweet shrubs including roses and honeysuckle which offers celebrated views of the Villa;
- The Conservatory, completed in 1813, with the oldest collection of camellias outside China and Japan.
The restoration of the gardens at Chiswick was made possible by funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the London Borough of Hounslow, The Wolfson Foundation, The Garfield Weston Foundation and The Monument Trust, with additional support from many other individuals and organisations.
Chiswick House and Gardens Trust was set up in April 2005 between English Heritage and the London Borough of Hounslow under the Chairmanship of Rupert Hambro. The creation of the Trust unites the management of the site and its key role is to drive forward the improvements to Chiswick House and Gardens.
John Penrose, Tourism and Heritage Minister, said: "Chiswick House Gardens is an oasis of tranquility right in the heart of bustling London. This partnership project has secured the future of this beautiful landscape, which will bring hours of pleasure to tourists and local residents alike."
Sarah Finch Crisp, Director, Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, said: "This is a new beginning for Chiswick House and Gardens and we are grateful to so many people for their wonderful support in restoring the gardens as a national treasure and much loved local park, open for everyone to enjoy. Working with our partners, English Heritage and The London Borough of Hounslow, at last we can look forward to a secure future for the Gardens and a major step towards our next goal of re-presenting the House and rebuilding its collection."
Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "The Arcadian image of the Landscape Garden took Europe by storm in the 18th century and is one of England's greatest contributions to Western culture. Chiswick was the birthplace of this cultural revolution and we are incredibly proud that by lending our expertise, time and money, the restoration of this European masterpiece is complete.”
Cllr Jagdish Sharma, Leader of Hounslow Council: "The London Borough of Hounslow is proud to be celebrating the launch of Chiswick House Gardens which have been gloriously restored. We are delighted to have helped establish The Chiswick House and Gardens Trust as a way of ensuring the future wellbeing of this eminent public park and grateful to the many organisations and individuals who have supported this transformation."
Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "Chiswick House and Gardens is one of London's most picturesque locations combining an elegant house in a parkland setting that many people enjoy every day. The Heritage Lottery Fund is proud to have played a role in this important restoration project which has been undertaken with painstaking care and dedication by everyone involved. The result is a reinvigorated site with the welcome addition of a spacious new cafe."