For years, I have been checking out the new plantings at Kew Gardens. I enjoy the glass palm houses and the gardens around Kew Palace. Last year I wandered through the acres of land Queen Victoria gave Kew Gardens on the occasion of her Jubilee. She wanted it to remain native and uncultivated. As I was wandering by the river, I looked over the Thames and beyond to Syon House, the residence of the Duke of Northumberland. That big lion atop the building has always amused me.
Let me tell you about my visit to Syon House. First, I have to say I was really delighted with the house and Park. I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND A DAY OUT OF LONDON AT SYON PARK. The house is open April – October, Wednesday-Thursday-Sunday, 11:00 – 5:00 pm and the gardens daily from 10:30 am – 5:30 pm 3.75 pounds entrance.
From the rather plain castellated exterior, you’d never guess that SYON HOUSE contains the most opulent eighteenth-century interiors in the whole of London. The splendor of Robert Adam’s refurbishment is immediately revealed in the magnificent GREAT HALL, an apsed double cube with a screen of Doric columns at one end and classical statuary dotted around the edges. There are several more Adam-designed rooms to admire in the house, plus several works by Van Dyck, Lely, Gainsborough, and Reynolds.
While Adam beautified Syon House, Capability Brown laid out its gardens around an artificial lake, surrounding it with oaks, beeches, limes, and cedars. The gardens’s chief focus now, however, is the crescent-shaped GREAT CONSERVATORY, and early nineteenth-century addition which is said to have inspired JOSEPH PAXTON, architect of the CRYSTAL PALACE.
Syon House is a Percy family home. They are the Dukes of Northumberland. The Percy Lion sits on top of the house; he was originally on the family’s London home. After an argument with the King, probably George IV, the Duke turned the Lion so his hind end faced the King’s home. Now, the lion faces London.
When the house was a convent during Tudor times, King Henry VIII’s body rested here on its way to burial in Windsor Castle. History records that the King’s body burst in his casket and blood was licked by the family dogs, fulfilling a prophesy by a Franciscan monk that dogs would lick his blood because the King had disolved the monastery.
The Duke of Northumberland was one of Robert Adams’ chief patrons, and the house is one of his first projects. He remodeled it in 1761 in the Italian style. The Red Drawing Room has a great collection of Stuart family portraits. The Long Gallery is a remnant of the Tudor house and filled with Percy family pictures.
A Hilton Hotel has been built in the grounds–I suppose it is progress these days when houses like Syon House must adapt to survive.
The house is beautiful, filled with exquisite works of art, and a wonderful visit from central London.
If you have been to Windsor, perhaps Syon House might be the beautiful house to visit near London. It is across the river from Kew Gardens; perhaps two attractions might be combined into a full day out of the city.