Sources for Osborne

The following lists provide a summary of the main sources of our knowledge and understanding of Osborne.

The Grand corridor at Osborne, where many pieces of outstanding sculpture collections are displayed
The Grand Corridor, where many pieces of the outstanding sculpture collection are displayed

Primary Written Sources

The National Archives, Kew

The papers (1843–1907) of the Government Office of Woods, Forests, Land Revenues, Works and Buildings and successors include many plans and drawings of building work carried out at Osborne. See for example:

  • WORK 15/122
  • WORK 37/1–216

For inventories for the Blachfords and earlier owners of Osborne see:

  • PROB 31 807/842
  • PROB 31 1154/1105 

The Royal Archives, Windsor Castle

The 19th-century Privy Purse Papers include details of works and expenditure at Osborne. There are at least 1,259 items in the main series (RA/PP/OSB/1–1259) dating to between 1844 and 1911, and further material in a new series (RA/PP/OSBNS/36–59).

Queen Victoria’s journals, also held at the Royal Archives and available online, include daily entries, many of them relating to activities at Osborne. 

The Royal Collection Trust, St James’s Palace

Several 19th-century inventories of the Osborne collection are held in the curatorial offices of the Royal Collection Trust.

Isle of Wight Record Office

Records include:

  • 19th-century papers relating to Queen Victoria’s purchase of Osborne from the Blachford family
  • Plans of estate farms
  • Abstracts of conveyance of land in Whippingham to Queen Victoria
  • Wills of the Blachford family (JER/OSBORNE/1–27)

Material Collections

Most of the original contents of the house, the Swiss Cottage and Museum remain in situ. Those items that are no longer at Osborne remain part of the Royal Collection and are now at other royal residences (principally Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Balmoral Castle). Some of Prince Albert’s 15th-century Italian and Netherlandish paintings, originally placed in his Dressing and Writing Room at Osborne, are now in the National Gallery, London.

Items from the collections are published in the following works.

Aijazaddin, FS, Sikh Portraits of European Artists (London, 1979)

Anon, Catalogue of the Paintings, Sculpture and Other Works of Art at Osborne (London, 1876)

Charlton, J, ‘Prince Albert as artist and collector’, Country Life (9 Oct 1969), 904–6

Davis, JPS, Antique Garden Ornament (London, 1991)

Lloyd, C, The Queen’s Pictures: Royal Collectors through the Centuries (London, 1991)

Lloyd, C, The Royal Collection (London, 1992)

Marsden, J (ed), Victoria and Albert: Art and Love (London, 2010) [accessed 5 March 2018]

Mathur, S, An Indian Encounter: Portraits for Queen Victoria (London, 2002)

Millar, D, The Victorian Watercolours in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen (London, 1995)

Millar, O, The Queen’s Pictures (London, 1977)

Millar, O, The Victorian Oil Paintings in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen (Cambridge, 1992)

Plumb, JH and Wheldon H, Royal Heritage: The Story of Britain’s Royal Builders and Collectors (London, 1977)

Read, B, Victorian Sculpture (New Haven and London, 1982)

Roberts, J, Royal Artists (London, 1987)

Sibbick, EA, ‘Notes on the Osborne Collection’ (unpublished catalogue)

1843 painting of Prince Albert, Princess Victoria and Eos, Price Albert's favourite greyhound at Osborne
This painting of 1843 by J Lucas of Prince Albert, Princess Victoria and Eos, the prince’s favourite greyhound, hangs in the nursery bedroom

Visual Sources

Royal Library and Print Room, Windsor Castle

The Print Room in the Royal Library holds a large collection of 19th-century watercolours depicting the exterior of Osborne and some of its interiors. Most of these were commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from James Roberts (b.1753) and William Leighton Leitch (1804–83). The collection includes a series showing Queen Victoria’s birthday tables at Osborne. There is also a large collection of watercolours by Queen Victoria and the royal children, many of them done at Osborne. 

Royal Photographic Collection, Windsor Castle

The Royal Photographic Collection holds a collection of 19th-century photographs of the exterior of Osborne and some of its interiors. Most of these were commissioned by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert from (Cornelius) Jabez Hughes (1819–84) and Gustav William Henry Mullins (1854–1921). There are also many photographs of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the royal family that were taken at Osborne.

Much of this material can be viewed on the Royal Collection website

Historic England Archives

There are over 1,000 items relating to Osborne in the Historic England Archives, including photographs, artworks, computer-generated plots, maps, measured drawings and surveys, photogrammetric surveys, sketches and tables. Items relating to Osborne include:

  • Photographs of interiors, 1900–40 (FL00949/04)
  • Photographs of the exterior of Swiss Cottage, 1900–40 (FL00949/05)
  • Architectural design drawings, 1845–51 (MP/OSH0001–0025, 0053–0057)
  • Ordnance Survey plans of the estate, 1854–79 (MP/OSH0027–0044, 0049–0051)
  • Drawings for Royal Naval College buildings, c 1904–5, 1910 (MP/OSH0119–0140, 0155–0181)

More details can be found in the online catalogue. Some material is not yet listed online, including aerial photography; for a full search, please contact the enquiry service. Copies of images and documents can be ordered through the website or by contacting the archive. For details of current charges for these services see the archives price list.

Secondary Sources


Aslet, C, ‘Osborne House, Isle of Wight’, Country Life (5 Dec 1985), 1762–7

Aslet, C, ‘Childhood at Osborne’, Country Life (1 Dec 1988), 152–7

Bennet, R, ‘Osborne reborn’, World of Interiors (June 2001), 86–95

Blachford, J, The Osborne Story: Queen Victoria’s Purchase of the Blachford Family Estate (Wimborne, 2007)

Bryant, J, ‘Royal gifts from Victorian India: the new display in the Durbar Room at Osborne House’, Collections Review, 4 (English Heritage, 2003), 116–24

Duchess of York and Stoney, B, Victoria and Albert: Life at Osborne House (London, 1991)

Girouard, M, The Victorian Country House (London and New Haven, 1971; revised edn 1979)

Glass, A, ‘Representation of the principal rooms at Osborne House Isle of Wight’, Transactions of the Association for Studies in the Conservation of Historic Buildings, 27 (2005), 18–26

Groves, FGS, ‘Osborne Isle of Wight and the families who have held it’, Hampshire Notes and Queries, 7 (1893), 139–47

Head, R, The Indian Style (London, 1986)

Hitchcock, HR, Early Victorian Architecture in Britain (London, 1951)

Hobhouse, H, Thomas Cubitt: Master Builder (revised edn, London, 1995)

Hunter, MG, ‘Sculpture conservation at Osborne House’, Collections Review, 2 (English Heritage, 1999), 96–9

Hunter, MG, ‘Faces of India at Osborne House’, Collections Review, 4 (English Heritage, 2003), 111–15

Kerr, R, The Gentleman’s House, or How to Plan English Residences from the Parsonage to the Palace (London, 1854) [accessed 6 March 2013]

Lloyd, D and Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Isle of Wight (London, 2009)

Marsden, J (ed), Victoria and Albert: Art and Love (London, 2010) [accessed 5 March 2018]

Matson, J, Dear Osborne: Queen Victoria’s Family Life in the Isle of Wight (London, 1978)

Miers, M, ‘Osborne House, Isle of Wight’, Country Life (29 March 2001), 86–91

Partridge, M, The Royal Naval College Osborne: A History, 1903–1921 (Stroud, 1999)

Shepherd, R, ‘The redisplay of the Swiss Cottage Museum’, Collections Review, 2 (English Heritage, 1999), 100–102

Shepherd, R, ‘The Table Deckers’ Rooms at Osborne House’, Collections Review, 3 (English Heritage, 2001), 100–103

Streidt, G and Feierabend, P (eds), Prussia: Art and Architecture (Cologne, 1999)

Strong, R, Royal Gardens (London, 1992)

Turner, M, ‘From Coburg to Osborne via Naples: Prince Albert and architectural inspiration at Osborne’, in Art in Britain and Germany in the Age of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, ed F Bosbach and F Buttner (Munich, 1998), 21–38

Turner, M, Osborne (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2007; 2nd revised edn 2014) [buy the guidebook]

Turner, M, ‘Osborne, Whippingham’, in The Isle of Wight: Report and Proceedings of the 152nd Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute in 2006, ed MF Gardiner and DJ Tomalin (London, 2007)

Warner, M, Queen Victoria’s Sketchbook (London, 1979)

Watkin, D and Mellinghoff, T, German Architecture and the Classical Ideal (London, 1987)

White, W, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (London, 1859)

Whittle, T, Victoria and Albert at Home (London, 1980) 


English Heritage keeps copies of some of these reports in the library at the English Heritage Archives, Swindon. The library is open to the public Tuesday–Friday 9.30–17.00;; tel (01793) 414630 or 414632. It is recommended that you contact the librarian in advance of your visit to avoid disappointment.

Beresford, C, ‘Osborne Swiss Cottage: research on the Swiss Cottage gardens – findings and proposals’ (English Heritage, 1994)

Chippindale, J and Ford, J, ‘Swiss Cottage Museum research report’ (English Heritage, undated)

Feilden and Mawson, ‘Osborne House: heating and ventilating the Pavilion’ (1988)

Gray, A, ‘The royal kitchens at Osborne House, Isle of Wight’ (2009)

Gray, A, ‘Cooking and dining at Swiss Cottage, Osborne House’, English Heritage Research Report (2013)

Hann, A, Willard-Wright, R and Kennedy, A, ‘Childhood at Osborne: the royal children, their education and the role of Prince Albert’, English Heritage Properties Historians Research Report (2012)

Hunter, MG, ‘Osborne House: occupation and use of rooms, taken from the 1900 inventory’ (English Heritage, 2006)

Hunter, MG, ‘Osborne House: John Brown’s Room’ (English Heritage, 2007)

Hunter, MG, ‘Rooms used by members of Queen Victoria's household: main wing, second floor, 1880–1900’ (English Heritage, 2007)

Hunter, MG, ‘Osborne House: contents of the service buildings’ (English Heritage, 2008)

Hunter, MG, ‘Osborne House: the service buildings’ (English Heritage, 2008)

Inskip, P and Jenkins, P, ‘Osborne House conservation plan’ (Inskip & Jenkins Architects Limited, 2000)

Munby, J and Rhodes, J, ‘Osborne House, Isle of Wight: conservation plan’ (Oxford Archaeology, 2011)

Phipps, J, ‘Royal Parks historic survey, Osborne, Isle of Wight’ (Department of the Environment, 1983)

Porter, R, ‘Swiss Cottage Quarter, Osborne House: conservation management plan’ (English Heritage, 2012)

Shepherd, R, ‘The Servery and Tabledeckers’ Rooms at Osborne House’ (English Heritage, 1998)

Sibbick, EA, ‘Catalogue of the Osborne Collection’ (c 1980)

Wells, D, ‘Wildlife statement for Osborne House, Isle of Wight’ (English Heritage, 1998)

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