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Marble Hill House (London)

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Address: Richmond Road / TW1 2NL / Tel: 020 8892 5115 / House built for the mistress of King George II, Henrietta Howard

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      31.08.2010 10:49
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      Georgian Heritage Property

      Marble Hill House is a Georgian Palladian style house near Richmond, South West of London. It is currently managed by English Heritage. It was built for Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffolk. In a loveless marriage, Henrietta became mistress to King George II. She separated from her husband and upon leaving the services of the King she received a handsome financial settlement which she used to purchase land by the Thames and had the house built in the late 1720s. It was designed by Roger Morris in the new Italian influenced Palladian style. By all accounts Henrietta (who remarried after her husband died, the son of the Earl of Berkeley) was a popular hostess who entertained her many friends here including Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels), the poet Alexander Pope and many Earls and other titled guests.

      The house is situated in Marble Hill Park between Richmond and Twickenham and can be a long, slow drive down the High Street if there is a rugby match on at Twickenham. There is a car park which costs £1 (this is refundable if you visit the house), and if the weather is nice there are plenty of grounds, a children's play area and a café to visit. The house is a few minutes walk from the car park, it is flat but not tarmacked. You enter via the gift shop and admission for adults is £5. If you are an English Heritage member then it is free. You can purchase a guide book but this is not necessary I think, unless you have a particular passion for this period or style of house. Within the house, on each floor, there are free (returnable) printout that you can pick up and walk around with, which list the background to the furniture and art. There is also a short (no more than 10 minutes maximum) video showing the story of Henrietta and the house, which is quite interesting and worth a watch for the background information.

      Expect to see lots of paintings, some have been tracked down to have been owned by Henrietta such as original Roman landscapes by Pannini and many items of Chinese pottery and a Chinese screen. Some items cannot be tracked down from the inventory of the house made upon Henrietta's death in 1767, but are true to the period or considered similar. There are a lot of portraits, some featuring Henrietta, others just typical of the era. The printouts are clear as to the origin of each item. The Ground Floor is disabled friendly, but you need to climb the wide staircase to the First Floor, after this a staff member will open the access the Second Floor staircase for you. It is a narrow, windy one and I assume this is for health and safely reasons as it would be difficult to pass someone on them. At the end you can just walk down the smaller staircase to the Ground Floor where there are toilets (including disabled) and the Gift Shop and exit. I used the Ladies' lavatories and found them satisfactory, with adequate soap and toilet paper etc,

      I have always found the staff helpful at English Heritage properties, as well as in the gift shop/ticket desk, you will find a staff member on every floor should you have any questions. Photography is not allowed inside unfortunately. The Gift Shop sells a number of books on the Georgian period, as well as other similarly themed gifts and guide books to other nearby properties as well as generic gifts, plants and luxury food gifts. I do recommend visiting if you are in the area, particularly if you have an interest in Georgian history or art, or just heritage properties generally. Allow 45 minutes to an hour.

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