Hidden in the woods at Osborne is a little Swiss Cottage with its own gardens. The gardens were once tended by Queen Victoria's children and contain a museum filled with strange and wonderful objects from all around the world.
Discover the play area, the adventure trail and find out more about the young princes and princesses in the interactive exhibition, thanks to the funding of several sponsors including the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Garfield Weston Foundation.
What is the Swiss Cottage?
The Swiss Cottage was built by Prince Albert between 1853 and 1854 for his nine young children. Hidden in the woods on the Osborne estate it has its own gardens and a museum filled with wonderful objects and specimens from around the world. This two-story wooden chalet was the young royals’ favourite place at Osborne, along with the beach. Here they enjoyed happy times while on their holidays playing and learning new things.
What can we do there today?
Today there are still lots of fun things to do at the little cottage in the woods. Meet the royal children and join in the fun in the interactive exhibition in the cottage or go back in time to 1861 and see preparations for tea.
Outside you can follow the garden adventure trail to discover the royal Chihuahua and run around in the outdoor play area. Discover the museum in the gardens and see hundreds of jaw-dropping objects and specimens.
Have a rest in the tea garden and enjoy a cake and hot drink from the Gazelle House. Then take a walk to the beach along the Rhododendron Walk and look out for the carved wooden animals and birds along the way.
What did the royal children do here?
At Swiss Cottage the nine royal children played at being adults and learnt the skills that their father believed would make them better people and rulers. These skills included cooking, managing accounts, gardening, labouring and gardening.
The princesses learned how to bake here and would often serve tea to their parents and guests. They had a well-furnished kitchen, and ran a toy grocer's shop stocked with basics and exotic spices. They kept accounts which their father reviewed. Why not try some Victorian recipes for yourself?.
The older boys, Bertie and Alfred played an active part in laying the foundations for the cottage. Queen Victoria wrote in her journal that Prince Alfred "worked as hard and steadily as a regular labourer" and he was paid by Albert at the same rate.
The children were avid collectors too. They quickly filled up a room in the cottage with natural history specimens, fossils, antiquities and items from around the world, so a new separate museum, also in the Swiss-chalet style, was built nearby. The new museum was handed over to the children by the Queen soon after Albert's death in January 1863. The museum still remains with its contents of thousands of objects, including the first transatlantic telegraph message and a 5-legged deer.
Each child had their own garden plot where they tended fruit, vegetables and flowers using miniature tools and their own monogrammed wheelbarrows. The produce was assessed by the under-gardener, Mr Warne, and if good enough, Albert would pay market rate to the child who had grown it.
Bertie and Affie built 'a little fort' in the garden as a surprise for Victoria's birthday and four years later, Affie and Arthur added a miniature barracks with drawbridge. The princes enjoyed acting out battles here.
Even after they all grew up many of the children returned with their own children to the Swiss Cottage. Queen Victoria also continued to use the cottage and could often be found writing letters in the Queen's Room.