Engraving of Marble Hill House in 1749, seen from across the River Thames

Marble Hill Revived

Marble Hill House is the last of the great Thames-side Palladian mansions. It tells the tale of its remarkable creator, Henrietta Howard, who built Marble Hill House in the 1720s as a retreat from court life and as a place to entertain her dazzling circle of friends.

Until about 150 years ago, Marble Hill’s unique gardens were just as impressive as the house itself. Now English Heritage is working with the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore elements of the lost gardens of Henrietta’s lifetime, and to improve facilities throughout the park and house.

Discover more about our plans for Marble Hill below.

Our plans for Marble Hill

Artist’s visualisation of the proposed play area

An artist’s visualisation of the proposed new children’s play area in Marble Hill Park

English Heritage aspires to make Marble Hill one of the best parks in London. We hope our planned changes will encourage people to use the park and its facilities even more than they do now. The income generated by a new café will make the running of the park more financially sustainable, and ensure that we can spend significantly more money on its annual maintenance.

As part of this process, we’ve recently submitted a Round 2 application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. If successful, this will result in over £4 million of HLF funding being invested in Marble Hill.

Artist’s visualisations of the new café and courtyard at Marble Hill

Key elements of our plans include:

  • conserving the exterior of Marble Hill House and retelling its fascinating stories inside
  • removing the admission charge to the house, and opening it to the public five days a week for seven months of the year
  • restoring elements of the gardens – particularly the former pleasure grounds between the house and river, and the Sweet Walk on the boundary with Richmond Road
  • creating an amazing new café with a wide-ranging and regularly changing menu, and a visitor hub in the Coach House (including an modern extension in the courtyard behind it)
  • installing a new themed children’s play area
  • improving habitats across the park
  • creating an additional 17.5 full-time equivalent jobs
  • making significant improvements to the sports pitches and creating refurbished, single-sex changing facilities for the first time at Marble Hill
  • expanding our programme of public events to tell Marble Hill’s story to as many people as possible.        
        

Image: Artist’s visualisation of the new café and courtyard

Project update

Following consultation between November 2016 and January 2017, when we invited local residents to express their views about the project, we have requested planning permission from the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames for the physical changes we want to make.

The consultation period has now ended, but you can view the planning application via the link below. Decisions on the application and on HLF funding will be made by the end of June.

View the planning application
Visitors and English Heritage staff at the public consultation meeting at Marble Hill in November 2016

How We’ve Listened

During the consultation period for this project, two elements of the scheme were discussed which are no longer included in the project proposals or the planning application:

  • a fenced, dog-free area between the house and river
  • a wedding marquee area with permanent fixing points.

Our consultation showed us that while local residents were broadly supportive of the proposals overall, a significant number were not convinced that these two elements were justified. As a result, English Heritage has decided not to include them in the scheme proposed in the planning application.

We plan to consult more on these two proposals before deciding whether or not to progress them any further.
     

HLF Parks for People logo

Background to the project

Henrietta Howard in about 1724, by Charles Jervas

This portrait of Henrietta Howard by Charles Jervas was painted in about 1724, when work on Marble Hill House was just beginning

Henrietta Howard and Marble Hill

Henrietta Howard (1689–1767) is best known for being the mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King George II – but that is only a part of her life story. Orphaned at the age of 12, she was married aged 16 to a drunk and a gambler, and from quite a young age was partially deaf, but she overcame these circumstances to become one of the most liked ladies of the royal court. It was during her 20 years at court that she began to build Marble Hill House at Twickenham as a retreat from court life. Later it became her main home.

Here at Marble Hill, Henrietta built friendships and networks to become central to the ‘Twickenham set’, including Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Gay and Horace Walpole, and triumphed over adversity to marry again, happily, later in life.

Thanks to many surviving letters between Henrietta and her circle, as well as a wealth of other evidence, we know a great deal about her life at Marble Hill, her family, friends, servants and gardeners. We also know that she influenced the design of both house and garden. She is a rare example of a woman architectural patron in the 18th century.   

Read more about Henrietta Howard

More about our plans

Marble Hill House seen from across the River Thames

Marble Hill House seen from across the River Thames

Recreating the Historic Landscape

Henrietta Howard’s garden is a rare surviving example of an early 18th-century villa landscape. It was designed to provide an appropriately ‘ancient’ setting for the villa itself, which was in the classically inspired Palladian style. Key figures in the history of designed landscapes, including Charles Bridgeman and the poet Alexander Pope, played a part in the garden’s creation.

Marble Hill became a public park in 1902, after a campaign to protect the land from development and save the famous view from Richmond Hill – the only English landscape view protected by Act of Parliament. Today it’s a much-loved and lively local amenity, used for sports as well as a tranquil retreat from city life.

Currently, though, the park reflects neither the landscape’s 18th-century origins, nor Henrietta’s story. English Heritage plans to restore elements of her lost garden, which lay directly between the house and the river. Key features, based on a detailed plan made in about 1752, will be recreated for the first time, including a ninepin bowling alley, flower gardens, terraces and serpentine paths.

The restoration will not only reveal the structure of the historic landscape, but also uncover the part Henrietta Howard played in its creation, and reveal how house and garden were designed as one.

A survey of Marble Hill made in about 1752. © Norfolk Record Office, MC184/10/1 (rights reserved) Plan showing proposed restoration of the garden features between Marble Hill House and the River Thames

Use the slider to reveal how our plans (right) to restore the gardens between Marble Hill House and the River Thames are based on the survey of Marble Hill made in about 1752 (left). 1752 survey plan © Norfolk Record Office, MC184/10/1 (rights reserved)

The Great Room at Marble Hill – the principal and central room of the house

The Great Room at Marble Hill – the principal and central room of the house

Restoring the House

After Henrietta’s death Marble Hill passed through many hands, and by the time the house came into public ownership in 1902, little remained of its original contents. Since its restoration in 1965 by the Greater London Council, high-quality furnishings and paintings – some original to the house – have been acquired, and some room displays have been improved in piecemeal fashion.

Our new interpretation will re-animate the house with tales of the vibrant cast of characters around Henrietta, from family members to visitors to pet dogs. We will explore the highs and lows of her sometimes turbulent life, and reveal how 18th-century Marble Hill brimmed with activity – from entertaining on a grand scale in the Great Room to intimate conversations over tea in the Breakfast Parlour.

More about Marble Hill

  • Henrietta Howard, 9th Countess of Suffolk

    Henrietta Howard

    Read more about the life of Henrietta Howard, and how she overcame personal adversity to become an extraordinary figure in Georgian court society.

  • Archaeologists Ashley Bryant and Cecilia Salkendal working in the Grotto area, revealing the features to be excavated (© Historic England)

    Uncovering the hidden garden

    In March 2017 Historic England archaeologists explored the original layout of Henrietta Howard’s garden. Find out what they discovered.

  • Statues in a Ruined Arcade by Giovanni Paolo Panini

    Marble Hill Collection Highlights

    Explore some of the key items from the collection at Marble Hill, which reveal Henrietta Howard’s taste and status.

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