TURNER, J.M.W., R.A. (1775-1851)
Plaque erected in 1977 by Greater London Council at 40 Sandycoombe Road, Twickenham, TW1 2LR, London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames
J.M.W. TURNER R.A. 1775-1851 Painter designed and lived in this house
JMW Turner is one of Britain’s best-loved painters. He designed and built 40 Sandycoombe Road (formerly Sandycombe Lodge) in Twickenham as his country retreat. It is now his only significant residence to survive unaltered and a blue plaque commemorates the time he spent there during the years 1813–26.
Born in Covent Garden, Joseph Mallord William Turner entered the Royal Academy Schools at the age of 14, and was soon recognised as an artist of genius. In 1807, by which time he had produced acclaimed works such as The Shipwreck (1805), Turner bought a plot of land in Twickenham for £400. He worked on the design of the house – which would become 40 Sandycoombe Road – over the next five years. Construction began in 1812, under Turner’s own supervision, and was completed early the following year. The finished house featured a large sitting room overlooking the garden and was initially named Solus Lodge before it was changed to Sandycombe Lodge.
The house proved to be a place of solitude and retreat where Turner and his father could entertain selected friends. Turner also used it as a base for fishing and sketching trips. He later transformed these sketches of the Thames and the local area into oil paintings and watercolours. Sandycombe Lodge is now open to the public.
In Turner’s time, Sandycombe Lodge was far enough removed from the city to be considered a country retreat. His main base was in Marylebone but as a successful painter with a professorship at the Royal Academy he was able to afford both residences. At Sandycombe he entertained friends from the art world, while his father William (1745−1829) – with whom he shared the house – enjoyed working in the garden.
Turner painted many local scenes, most notably in the large canvas England: Richmond Hill on the Prince Regent’s Birthday (1819). Yet long tours in England and on the Continent took Turner away from Twickenham a great deal. As early as 1815, he wrote:
Sandycombe sounds just now in my ears as an act of folly, when I reflect how little I have been able to be there this year.
This and other reasons compelled Turner to sell the house in 1826
Turner died in Chelsea on 19 December 1851 at the age of 76. He is buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.