Osterley Park: Elizabethan Meets Neoclassical

Osterley Park: Elizabethan Meets Neoclassical

October 2, 2016

On Friday we went to see – oh! the palace of palaces! and yet a palace sans crown, sans coronet – but such expense! such taste! such profusion! ... The old house I have often seen, which was built by Thomas Gresham; but it so improved and enriched, that all the Percies and Seymours must die of envy…

Horace Walpole to Lady Ossory, 21 June 1773.

Osterley was completed in 1576 for banker Sir Thomas Gresham, who purchased the manor of Osterley in 1562.However, it wasn't until the late 18th century, when the old structure fallen into disrepair was extensively rebuilt by an emerging fashionable Scottish architect and designer Robert Adam for the Child family to entertain and impress their friends and clients. Sir Francis Child, the head of Child's Bank, employed Robert Adam to remodel the house in 1761. When Sir Francis died in 1763, the project was taken up by his brother and heir Robert Child, for whom the interiors were created.

Osterley Park, the Entrance Hall. With antique marble statues in niches, large vases on pedestals and elaborate wall and ceiling panels influenced by themes from the Classical world, the overall effect is one of restrained elegance.

Osterley Park, the Entrance Hall. The oval motif of the red and white inlaid Portland sandstone floor is echoed in the grey and white plaster ceiling.

Osterley Park, the Entrance Hall. View of the doorway and of the red and white inlaid Portland sandstone floor.

Osterley Park, the Entrance Hall. A most unusual painted bench, combining Adam's traditional ornamentation with Kentian-style legs, adorned with ram masks and hairy paw feet.

Osterley Park, the Entrance Hall. Adam's ceiling detail.

Osterley Park, the Entrance Hall. Adam's ceiling detail.

Osterley Park, the Grand Staircase. The magnificent Adam's smoke bell lanterns, with their huge tassels and just a touch of colour — the ruby band and emerald glass — to make everything pop. Note the pattern of the wrought iron balustrade, identical to the one in Kenwood House.

Osterley Park, the Eating Room.

Osterley Park, the Eating Room. Detail of Adam's marble fireplace.

Osterley Park, the Eating Room. Detail of Adam's magnificent dining chair, one of a set, apparently still retaining their original leather upholstery.



Osterley Park, the Long Gallery. Designed in the 1750's not by Robert Adam but by one Matthew Hillyard. Others later added their own distinctive touches to the Long Gallery: William Chambers designed the fine white marble fireplaces and Robert Adams chose the pea-green wallpaper and designed the pier glass mirrors on the wall. With the restrained frieze work of stylised marigolds, the emblem of the Child family, the subtle colour of the wallpaper and the unadorned ceiling and uncarpeted floor, attention is inevitably drawn to the collection of paintings and the oriental artefacts, such as the tall Chinese vases and models of a pagoda and Chinese junks.

Osterley Park, the Long Gallery.

Osterley Park, the Long Gallery. Detail of Adam's carved marble fireplace. The decoration of the pillars echoes the ornament on the legs of the armchair above and the grill below.

Osterley Park, the Long Gallery. Detail of Adam's fireplace,

Osterley Park, the Long Gallery. Detail of Adam's carved marble fireplace, combining decorative elements of three different styles: baroque, rococo and neoclassical.

Detail of a magnificent Adam's "Diana" demi-lune commode veneered with satinwood and harewood. Designed by Robert Adam for the drawing room at Osterley Park.

Osterley Park. Detail of a magnificent Adam's "Diana" commode.

Osterley Park, The Drawing Room. A view of the magnificent ornate doorway and Adam's neoclassical giltwood torchere.

Osterley Park, The Drawing Room. Robert Adam's ceiling detail. For the design of the ceiling Adam modified an illustration he had found of a sunburst decorating the marble soffits in the ancient Temple of the Sun at Palmyra. The illustration came from Robert Wood’s book “The ruins of Palmyra” in which the author meticulously documented the ruins from the Classical world in modern day Syria.

Osterley Park, The Drawing Room. Robert Adam's fireplace detail.

Osterley Park, The Tapestry Room. Detail of a magnificent Adam's sideboard.