* Prices may differ from that shown
So what is the Wallace collection?
The Wallace collection is a massive art and fine antiques collection amassed from 1760 to 1880 initially the collection was started by Francis Seymour-Conway The 1st Marques of Hertford then subsequently the next 3 Marquises' and finally the illegitimate son of the fourth Marques of Hertford Sir Richard Wallace ending with the death of Lady Wallace on whose death in 1897 she left the whole collection to the Nation.
She entrusted the collection to her Secretary Sir John Murray Scott who oversaw the opening of Hertford house as a museum becoming a Trustee of the collection. They also held substantial properties both in the UK but also in Paris (The Chateau de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne) and Castle House in Lisburn Ireland. The family seat being Ragley Hall in Warwickshire and Sudbourne Hall in Suffolk.
The collection of priceless art works had been obtained from all over Europe and the rest of the world. Including art works by Rembrandt, Ruben, Canaletto and Gainsborough and Hals for example. Most people would know the painting of the Laughing Cavalier which is part of the Wallace collection. There are other particularly beautiful figurines, crystal, China and porcelain, ceramics furniture and Sculptures. Part of the bequest to the Nation was that the collection the largest of its kind of fine art was not to be added to and should only be exhibited as the original collection.
Manchester house was built between 1776 and 1788 for the fourth Duke of Manchester. It was let out to the Spanish as their Embassy in London and then to the French as their Embassy in London. The fourth Marquess of Hertford lived most of the time in Paris using Manchester house as a storage facility for his art collection however during the French Revolution as the gentry and aristocrats were losing their heads he bought lots of fine pieces of art and furniture belonging to some of the richest families in the land. He moved back to London bringing his most precious collection with him from Paris. He then turned the first floor into galleries where his precious collections could be displayed. Some of the other properties the Marquess owned were sold off along with the remaining art collections in Paris and Ireland on the death of Sir John Murray Scott and these pieces can be found in museums throughout Europe and the United States and referred to as the lost collection.
The house has been open continuously since 1900 with the exception during World War I & II.
The Wallace collection is open throughout the year between 10:00 and 17:00 daily with the exception of 24th - 26th of December when it is closed. Throughout the year there are exhibitions, lectures and fun days. It is used as an educational facility for school children and art students. There is a lecture theatre where lectures take place throughout the week with specialist speakers and curators of the museum. There is always on going preservation and restoration work going on to maintain the works of art in tip top condition. Students can get a secondment or internship to work with the collection. There are art trails, audio tours and private tours are available. Maps of the museum are available from the foyer. There are some interactive displays for children throughout the museum.
The museum is excellent for people with disabilities including wheelchair access and disabled toilet facilities. All areas of the museum and exhibition galleries are wheelchair accessible and two allocated pre bookable parking spaces for blue badge holders. Those with hearing or sight impairment are also well catered for.
Other facilities include:
The Wallace Restaurant.
The Wallace Restaurant open from 10:00AM for Breakfast right up to late evening for dinner latest booking at 21:30PM. The restaurant is under glass cover in the central courtyard and is mainly a high class restaurant serving a mixture of French and English cuisine. The Set Menu 2 courses £22 or 3 Course £26. An A LA Carte menu is available with Starters from £7, Mains from £14.50 and desserts at £6.50.
The restaurant is very smart indeed with white linen table cloths over pink table cloths and the tables are set up immaculately. The glass roof lets in plenty of daylight and throughout the restaurant are some trees which make it feel as if you are eating outside.
It is quite a formal restaurant and during the afternoon you can take a Cornish Cream Tea (£12.50), Traditional English afternoon tea (£17.50) or a French based afternoon tea with French Fancies (£24). It might be a tad on the expensive side.
It is possible to hire the restaurant completely for wedding receptions or other receptions or corporate events.
Unfortunately on this visit we could only manage morning coffee as we had made plans to visit another venue for afternoon tea. However we all felt that we would like to try the menu at some time in the future. It is a delightful setting.
The Wallace collection shop.
The inevitable shop can be found on the ground floor. It stocks a good range of pocket money goods up to and including quite expensive china ware. You can also order these things on line. The shop does hold a reasonable selection of gifts and edible gifts for members of the public to purchase.
Admission is free but you are able to make a donation if you so wish in order for them to continue to provide a valuable service on behalf of the Nation.
From the outside Hertford house does not look that impressive. It is situated at the head of Manchester square. However step inside and its like Aladdins cave crammed full of precious art works by the great masters and Objects D'Art some of which were bought during the French revolution when the gentry were losing their heads. There are 16 galleries in total housing precious paintings and ornaments. There are hundreds of clocks around the building. Each room is decorated beautifully. Some of the pieces date from the 1500's. There is a massive collection of armoury and jewel encrusted guns daggers and other weapons including suits of armour and two full horse sets of armour. I am so surprised that so many people are unaware of this collection. It really is full of beautiful items and houses such paintings as the Laughing cavalier which most people would probably recognise. It really does have a wow factor and is breath taking. The long gallery upstairs houses many fine pieces of art work. There are very precious little trinkets kept under cover in display cabinets and if you lift the leather coverings which stop them being damaged by the light you are able to view them. I do not want to say too much because it will spoil things for you but it really is a national treasure which is mind boggling to visit. Due to not many people knowing about it when we visited on a Saturday we almost had the place to ourselves. It was not crowded and there was no point at which we had to queue to see anything.
Would I recommend a visit here?
I most certainly would as it is a massive museum full to the brim with beautiful artefacts and art work. It really is a worthwhile place to visit and I thoroughly recommend it. So the next time you are in London and God forbid you are wondering how to kill a couple of hours this place is definitely a must on your London things to do list.
We visited the museum on a Saturday at 10:00 and thought it would be crowded but luckily for us it was not, so we were not pressured to move on by the flowing crowds and we were able to really scrutinise interesting pieces of art work and take our time. That being said however be prepared for a lot of walking and standing so flat sensible shoes are the order of the day. In total we managed to stay for four hours and could probably have stayed a little longer there was lots of things to see and admire.
The Wallace collection can be found at:-
Telephone number :- 0207 563 9500.
Web Address:- http://www.wallacecollection.org/
Hertford house is just off Oxford Street behind Selfridges in Manchester Square. The nearest tube station is Bond Street and there is a ten minute walk to reach it.
I was invited to have afternoon tea at the Wallace collection, located in Manchester Square just behind Oxford street. Pretty house, pretty square, lots of trees etc. However I do not rate the afternoon tea at all, and very over priced.
*Cost and drinks*
The tea in April 2009 is set at £16.50 or £24 including a glass of wine. The restaurant is at the back of the house in a glass covered plaza with lots of plants, but the noise is rather echoy. I was in a party of 20 and the tables were laid and ready just a minute before our booking was due. The staff seemed rather stressed and instead of asking us what we wanted to drink, brought tea around in a thermos flask. There was one menu somewhere (which i didn't see until the end of the tea) with a choice of different teas on, so people could have chosen their tea and had their own pot, but the staff obviously wanted you to have the thermos tea. I asked straight away for a type of tea and had my own pot. The pot had obviously not been washed for a while and was quite dirty on the outskirts. No one was offered coffee.
The food was very very mediocre, 3 sandwiches, one egg, one I can't even remember and one slice of white sliced bread with salmon on. The sandwiches were not elegantly cut and had obviously been made for a while as the bread was quite stale or dried out, in one of my sandwiches I did wonder if it had been toasted (it hadn't!). They bought out plates of quiche, nothing unusual or special. The scones were heavy and very very overcooked, I wouldn't have served them at home. They did not look nice. The cake plates again were not very elegant and none of our party ate any of the cakes. 2 types of jam for the scones, blackcurrent and strawberry but the jam jar holders were dirty.
Overall the tea was very poor, the price very expensive for what it was, and the staff seemed stressed and actually arguing behind the bar. Had I not been in a group I would have complained - and to cap it all we all had to pay £2 service charge each for being in a group.
Overall it was very very disappointing and I will not be returning.
Not even ten minutes on foot away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street the connoisseur tourist finds Manchester Square with the Hartford House on one side. The building contains one of the world's finest private collections ever assembled by a single family, and since 1897 when the widow of Sir Richard Wallace died leaving to Britain its largest private bequest ever, no artefact has been taken away or added.
When I arrived there on a Sunday afternoon a free guided tour had just begun. The guide was clearly in love with the house, the art collection and the rococo period from which most artefacts come which was a good thing because her enthusiasm was infectious.
The first rooms show the portraits of the Hartford/Wallace family, but you don't want to know their history! It's rather complicated due to illegitimate children and constant country-hopping between England and France. More often France than England because of which the ambiance of the museum is predominantly French.
In the house proper the guide made us stand in front of cabinets and wardrobes and admire the material, the craftsmanship and intricate patterns. Without her I would certainly not have looked for minutes at powder-boxes, pomade pots, clothes brushes, chandeliers, mirror frames and writing tables with wood intarsia or an inkstand with delicately painted putti, rose garlands and miniature globes, surmounted by the French Royal Crown. There was a bell inside the crown once so that the princess to whom it once belonged could ring for a servant to come and fetch her letter.
From the landing to the first floor one looks at two enormous pictures by Boucher from the middle of the 18th century, "The Rising Sun" and "The Setting Sun", strange titles because what they show is rosy-fleshed nakedness in abundance, so much so that a commentator at the Salon of 1753 remarked that one shouldn't take one's wi
fe or daughter to the exhibition, the nudity was too shocking. I bet he didn't close his eyes, though, but fought heroically against the shock and went on looking!
Do pictures have an aura? Some do, I believe. When I entered a room I was magically drawn to the picture 'The Swing' painted by Jean-Honoré Fragonard in 1787 which according to an (American?) critic is 'awesome and drop-dead gorgeous'. I agree wholeheartedly.
We are in a lush green garden, a man (the husband) is somewhat hidden under a bush beside the tree onto whose main branch a swing is tied. He's got a rope in his hand with which he has set it in motion. A young woman, clad in a pink dress with several layers of petticoats, a stark contrast to the green of the background, sits laughing on the swing, she's just kicked off one of her shoes and set it flying into the air thus revealing a part of her leg at which a man (her lover) who's kneeling in front of the swing is peeping. It could be kitschy, but it isn't; if you're in a foul mood, go and look at the picture, you'll leave smiling, you've just looked at pure joy.
Rococo artists were not interested in depicting the drabness of life, the paintings are 'dream-like, escapist and untainted with the realities of everyday existence' (the same critic).
On to the gallery, a big room for the main part of the collection, meaning Rubens, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Velasquez, Van Dyck, Titian, Watteau, in the adjoining rooms there are Flemish and Italian masters, among them 20 paintings of Venice by Canaletto, and many more pictures by many other big names, one can get dizzy there.
We were in a house people lived in, yet didn't see any real living quarters, no kitchen, no bedrooms, so I asked the guide if we would get to see where the former residents slept? She thanked me for the question and told the whole group that they had s
lept on this floor. I looked at her open-mouthed, what? Stinking rich and no beds? Did they sleep on the floor to guard their pictures? After a while the penny dropped, ha! Not on 'the' floor, but on 'this' floor! Floor, one of the words with different meanings (English for beginners!), I'm sure I can use this in class one day.
The tour ended there, we were informed what else there was to see in the building, but asked to go there on our own. The collection of Armouries on the ground floor is also famous worldwide, I looked closely at the shafts of some rifles and admired the excellent craftsmanship, inlays of ivory, ebony and mother of pearl, but the whole display gave me the creeps. I find it obscene to see arms as objects of beauty and have them decorated and ornamented.
I looked briefly at the collection of majolica plates, did not go into the museum gift shop although it looked enticing and decided to call it a day, I felt I'd deserved a piece of cake in the café in the courtyard which has got a glass roof transforming it into a covered plaza. The café is run by the French company which is also responsible for the restaurant in the Louvre and the restaurant on the Eiffel Tower, but alas, it was not to be. I had stayed in the museum for too long and was asked to leave, because they were closing.
Watch out for an update on the quality of the cake in 2005!
Open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, Sunday from 12 am to 5 pm, closed on December 24, 25, 26 and January 1 and 2, good Friday and May Day Bank holiday.
It was a hot June day, the sun shining down on Oxford Street crowds, and it seemed such a waste to be stuck shopping on a day like this. I’d read that the Wallace Collection had been re-opened after extensive modernisation and I knew it was somewhere behind John Lewis, in Manchester Square, so off I went. The Square looked cool and shady in the sun and office workers and local builders were relaxing on the grass. Across the Square the pillars of Hertford House offered respite from the sun and a promise of an hour spent wandering around an interesting exhibition so in I went. I went up to the desk in the entrance and the first surprise was that there was no charge for admission. I bought a catalogue instead, and began my tour. About half way round I latched on to a guided tour and this helped me understand much more about the collection. Let me say a word or two about the catalogue. I’m currently going round all the major art galleries of Europe – sounds like fun, but its only one capital city a year at the moment. Wherever I go I buy the illustrated catalogue, and I have to say, the Wallace Collection catalogue is well worth the £6.95 and compares very well with others I’ve bought. The Wallace Collection was bequeathed to the country in 1897 by Lady Wallace, a French-woman, wife of the late Lord Wallace. The collection she left was staggering in its scale, of incalculable value and it opened to the public in 1900. A notice in the foyer says that it is now funded by the Department of Culture Media and Sport and by donations from the public. In one sense though, it is a static collection and feels more like a museum than a conventional gallery because there have been no acquisitions for over a hundred years and the collection itself feels slightly stagnant (is that the word? Probably not, but it doesn’t seem quite like a living collection which grows and evolves). However, even if th
e collection is a little bit static, the building certainly is not. It has recently been through considerable re-furbishment and one of the courtyards has been given a glass roof and now houses the extremely high quality (and not too expensive) Café Bagatelle. The collection is vast, and consists of a large amount of art work and countless items of sculpture, pottery, jewellery, furniture and silver and gold items. There is also a very large amount of armour, sword and cross-bows (not an interesting subject to me, but no doubt it has its fans). There is even a box of armour you can try on, but I can’t say this appealed to me. There is a very large collection of Cannalettos and a wide range of 18th and 19th century art. For someone like myself who likes 20th century art I found the art work collection lacking in more modern works but there is no doubt that the collection is very fine. I’ll just mention two or three items which are particularly note-worthy. Firstly, “The Swing” by Fragonnard. This world-famous work shows a young woman on a swing, being pushed by an older man (her father? her husband?) while a younger man sits beneath her looking up her skirt (which she carefully reveals by throwing of one of her shoes with an exuberant kick). Its well worth seeing this picture as it is re-produced in many books of art collections and for me it’s the high-point of the collection. Secondly, “The Laughing Cavalier” by Franz Hals. Everyone knows this picture. Its difficult for me remember where exactly I’ve seen it (Chocolate boxes? Calendars? Jigsaw puzzles?) but it’s a very striking picture when you see it for real. Thirdly, “Titus” by Rembrandt. This is one of those dark, deeply meaningful portraits so typical of Rembrandt. Titus was his son and he painted it at a time of great personal problems, as is shown in the haunted look on the subjec
t’s face. I spent an hour in the Wallace Collection and was glad I went. I wouldn’t say it compares with the great London galleries (National, Tate) but its worth a visit if you’ve got an hour or so to spare, and if you’re interested in particular items held by the collection you could happily spend a day there. If you want to get a flavour of the collection before you go, the website is very good and contains illustrations of much of the collection. It can be found at http://www.the-wallace-collection.org.uk/ . This also contains information about the special facilities for schools with many activities linked to the National Curriculum.
The Wallace Collection is one of London's best-kept secrets, in more than one sense. Situated in Manchester Square, a few minutes' walk off the north side of Oxford Street, it was formed by members of the Hertford family and bequeathed to the nation at the end of the 19th century, on condition that it should be kept on display with nothing added or removed, even on temporary loan to other exhibitions or galleries. In its own way it is a bit of a time capsule, but it is quite compact, has some superb furniture, porcelain, enamels, jewellery, clocks, bronzes and armour, and for many visitors (myself included) the main attraction is to be found in some exceptional paintings of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. All things considered, it's probably the finest in this field after the National Gallery. Under one roof you will find famous works like Hals' 'Laughing Cavalier', Rubens' 'Rainbow Landscape', Watteau's 'Les Charmes de la Vie', and Fragonard's 'The Swing'. There are also some marvellous portraits, among them Gainsborough's 'Mary (Perdita) Robinson', Reynolds' 'Nelly O'Brien', and a particular favourite of mine, Angeli's lovely head and shoulders portrait of Queen Victoria's tragic eldest daughter, the German Crown Princess. Also worth seeking out are a group of pictures by the shortlived Turner protege Bonington, and a charming Dutch landscape by Cuyp, 'The Avenue at Meerdevoort'. This is inevitably only a small personal selection, but a number of the great English, French and Flemish artists of the age are represented. If your taste in art tends towards the slightly more old-fashioned, this is well worth putting on your list after the National Gallery. It's small enough to enjoy on just one visit, though a look on the very user-friendly website to search out anything of particular interest beforehand would be time well spent.
After years living in London, I finally visited the Wallace Collection this weekend, and am really glad I did. It's just a few streets directly behind Selfridges, on a peaceful garden square. The Collection is in Hertford House, which takes up most of the north side of the square. In its small front garden is a water fountain, copy of fountains donated to Paris. This sets the tone for the slightly quirky collection inside. You can hire an audio guide, but even without this there are information sheets in each room. The art collection covers a wide range of paintings, the most famous of which is the Laughing Cavalier: one of a number of various genres and periods displayed in the Long Gallery on the first floor. This is a lovely, spacious room with plenty of seating so you can sit and appreciate the pictures at leisure. By the doors are sheets providing details of all the paintings. The collection is not just paintings: there are waxes, sculptures, furniture, majolica, etc as well as a large collection of arms and armour. In addition, the house itself is lovely. More than simply a building housing a collection, most of its rooms have their own atmosphere. The internal courtyard has a cafe: this is lovely, and flooded with light, but quite expensive. Don't overlook the basement, which has displays on the restoration of objects and some hands-on items for children. There are also rooms containing "overspill" items, and their somewhat higgledy-piggledy arrangement has its own charm. One of the best things about the Wallace Collection is that it is very quiet compared to most London galleries and museums. The contrast with nearby Oxford Street is enormous. This is a very absorbing collection as well as a retreat from the crowds of central London. There is also a shop, selling postcards, posters and books as well as some unusual gifts. Admission is free, and it's open every day from
10am to 5pm.
I love the Wallace Collection. It’s small enough to see it all in one go, diverse enough to keep your attention, close enough to the London shopping Mecca to combine the visit with other, less cultural, activities and… its free. Hiding behind the back of Selfridges, it is situated in a lovely city mansion and houses superb 18th cent. paintings, exquisite furniture and objects d’art and a collection of armour rivalled only by the Royal Armouries in Leeds. The collection was assembled by three generations of Hertford family and eventually bequeathed to the nation by the widow of Richard Wallace in 1897. The generous gift came with a sting attached to it – nothing can be added or taken away from the collection, even temporarily. This catch prevented generations of frustrated curators from staging temporary exhibitions, but as a result all the recourses were put in the upkeep of the collection itself, and it shows. Recently the Wallace got £ 10m for refurbishment, spent on a pink coffee shop in a glass-roofed inner garden and some new exhibition space in the basement. The coffee shop is still in its nappies, and on a weekend you will have to wait for ages to be served (we eventually stormed off after frustrating 30 minutes in front of an empty table), but give it time and it will become a welcome haven from the bustle of Oxford St. Unfortunately, despite all its treasures and the new refurbishments, Wallace is still a favourite mostly with blue haired old ladies and refined art connoisseurs, and shunned by the general public. It’s a damn shame. The pictures are beautiful enough to soften the heart of even the toughest modern-art-loving cynic; the armoury galleries bring back memories of childhood fairytales of knights in shiny armour (and will save you the expensive bustle of the Tower or a lengthy trip to Leeds) and if you look close enough you will see loads of tiny treasures hiding in cabinets and side rooms (look out for the
enormous baroque pearls and the glittering snuff boxes). So take a break from all that shopping and relax with a nice cup of tea and a site of something different. PS Wallace also offers a comprehensive choice of free lectures and tours of the collection. Check their site (http://www.the-wallace-collection.org.uk/) for details.
The Wallace Collection is a national art museum located in London. It was established from the private collection of Sir Richard Wallace, which was bequeathed to the UK by his widow in 1897. The museum opened to the public in 1900, in Hertford House in Manchester Square. Admission is free. The collection includes old master paintings (such as The Laughing Cavalier), fine porcelain such as Sèvres and Meissen, armour, Eighteenth Century French furniture and diverse objets d'art. A few years ago the inner courtyard was given a glass roof.