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A beautiful Royal private home.
Osborne House (Isle of Wight)
Member Name: garymarsh6
Osborne House (Isle of Wight)
Advantages: Beautiful insight into the homely life of Queen Victoria.
Disadvantages: Gets very crowded and never enough time to view everything.
Osborne house was the private holiday home of Queen Victoria and her family. It is at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight with superb views over the Solent and is managed and maintained by English Heritage. It was here that Queen Victoria died away from the formality of court life in London. For her and her consort, Prince Albert it was a retreat where they could go with their children to relax in relative peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings.
The house was built between 1845 and finally finished in 1851 being designed by Prince Albert and a London architect John Cubitt who also designed the front of Buckingham Palace,. The house was designed taking the form of an Italian Palace or villa. Originally on the site there was another three storied house which was demolished and the new house built for the couple and their family of 9 children. The old house was quickly razed to the ground and the new house as we see it today was built. A further wing was added in 1890-1891. In order to fund this Queen Victoria hated Brighton Pavilion which she sold off to Brighton council so some of the money she raised from the sale went towards buying the house and grounds at Osborne.
When Queen Victoria died in 1901 she left instructions in her will that Osborne House be kept by the Royal family but no one wanted it due to its isolation and King Edward VII gave the house to the nation with the exception of the upper floors which were to be accessible only by Members of the Royal family as a museum piece. All the rooms were kept exactly as they were when Queen Victoria was alive. Today the upper rooms are open to the public and are still set out as they were over 100 years ago.
Visiting Osborne house.
The visit to Osborne house follows a set route which takes you through the lower ground floor drawing rooms and dining rooms. You are also treated to the privy room where Queen Victoria would meet her privy councillors. When you reach the centre of the house you follow the route upstairs to the upper floors. The stair case is quite a challenge if you had mobility problems however there is a lift to take people up to the private appartments and rooms. Reaching the top floor of the house you come into the nursery which is quite formal but looks really nice. Although some of the décor is modern imitation it is based on how the place was from photos of the day. In the centre of the nursery is a table with several chairs around a small table where some of Queen Victorias nine children were able to play and learn. The next room contains the sleeping nursery with several little cots all lined up next to one another. There is also a larger bed for one of the nurse maids who would have watched over the children overnight. There is also a room where the governess would sleep so she was always on hand to tend for the children. The children would be brought down two at a time so that the Queen and the Prince could play with them.
After visiting the nursery you come down to the middle floor via a grand staircase which is right in the centre of the house to the living quarters of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. Passing through dressing rooms and bathrooms and the bedrooms finally arriving in Queen Victoria's bedroom where she died. The room is quite morbid and dark and not bright and cheerful as you would expect. There are numerous pieces of art around the walls and the main feature is her bed. Above the left hand pillow is a picture of Prince Albert. Beside the bed are two chairs on one sat Prince Edward and the other her grandson Emperor Wilhelm II who were present at the time of her death. The private sitting rooms of Queen Victoria were laid out with mementos and photos of her children and grandchildren. It was here that the Queen would sit with Prince Albert reading papers and signing state papers. They worked well together. With advancement of age and increasing mobility problems a small lift was installed so that Queen Victoria could go up to her apartment as she was unable to mount the stairs.
Returning down the stairs to the ground floor you are directed to the table dresser quarters in the basement of the house. There are a couple of rooms in the basement where the table dressers would organise the dining table for the meals that day. There would be a list of diners in a book and then seating plans would be recorded, they would choose which dining set to use and which silver. Beside the table dressers room is a small antechamber holding the household silver including urns vases and sliver cutlery. Flower arrangements would be set down here then taken up to the dining room and placed on the tables.
Most of the ground floor is taken up with grand formal state rooms where court and state occasions were held and although the ground floor state rooms were quite large and formal there is still a homely feel to the rooms. There are many unusual pieces of art dotted around the rooms some pieces of porcelain are really fine, delicate and intricately designed. For example there are two large vases on the mantel piece they have hundreds of very tiny flowers on all over them. It must have taken months to make these exquisite pieces. There are also displays of china and silver wear and curios from that time.
Queen Victoria was declared Empress of India in 1877 by her then Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. She took an interest in many things from India including having a man servant Abdul Karin of whom she was very fond. He was despised by her family and the Royal household they got rid of him soon after she died sending him back to India along with the other Indian servants. She learnt to speak Hindi being taught by him and learnt how to write in Urdu. A grand banqueting room was transformed and called the Durbar room which designed in the Indian style. The room is magnificent and there is much white plaster work typical of the décor of some Indian palace rooms.Many gifts for her Golden and Diamond jubilee from India furnish this room including large vases, urns, paintings and other grand gifts. These rooms are very grand and are magnificent as one would expect of a Royal residence including formal drawing rooms and the Queens dining room. Along the corridors leading to the Durbar room are paintings and portraits of different Indians including paintings of villagers going about their daily work routines.
The upper floors were private and more homely accommodation where the family had their private quarters including a wing where the children lived, a nursery where the children stayed until they were six years old before moving into their own room. The Queen had her own bedroom and dressing rooms here and a private sitting room where she spent most of her life following her husband's death. She went into mourning following his death and was renowned for spending the rest of her life pining for her husband. Once her husband had died she mostly dressed in black lace with her small white bonnet and a mini coronet which was the fashion of the time as an outward expression of widowhood. Above the Durbar room the wing eventually became the private quarters of Princess Beatrice and her family, the Queens youngest daughter.
The house is filled with paintings and drawings not only by appointed artists of the day but also by the Royal family themselves alongside gifts presented to the Queen. Queen Victoria loved to paint and would often be found sitting in the grounds painting with watercolours some of which are on display at Osborne. A special arbour was built for the Queen to nestle in to paint by water colour. She would ride down to the arbour in a carriage where she alighted and spent many hours in peace and quiet overlooking the Solent. There are several arbours dotted around the grounds of Osborne.
The grounds were also designed and planted by Prince Albert who took a great interest in planting trees and laying out the formal gardens. Directly in front of the house are formal terraces laid out in the French style of boxed hedges and symmetrical flower beds. There are fountains on the parterre and at the beginning of the long walk down to the seashore. Along one part of the garden walls are laurel which was planted and has been used in every royal wedding bouquet. The grounds are quite extensive and stretch right down to the shore and the Solent. The queen had a private beach here which has only recently been opened to the public in the last couple of years. It was here that the queen bathed for the first time. A special bathing machine was made for the Queen. Inside the cart like structure which was on wheels she was able to change into her bathing costume. Once she had done so the cart was wheeled into the sea pulled by servants. On the front of the bathing machine was a canopy where a cover would have been hung so that the Queen could walk down the steps into the water without being seen by anyone. Recently the bathing machine has been restored and is stationed at the beach area next to the café.
It took us about half an hour to amble down from the house to the shoreline. Fortunately it was downhill and incredibly hot passing fields and forests. We caught a free lift back to the house in the little coach that drives down to the beach and back. Many of the trees were planted by Prince Albert. He would mark out the spot where he thought the tree should go then returned to the house where he would climb the stairs to one of the towers to check out the markers. Sometimes the children would accompany him to plant a tree but Queen Victoria quipped that they thought they were helping but were in fact hindering the planting of the trees!
Swiss Chalet, museum and Fort.
Within the grounds there is also a Swiss chalet which Prince Albert had built for the Royal Children. Beside the Chalet are 9 neatly laid out vegetable beds, one for each of the children who were encouraged to tend to and plant their own vegetables they were able to then sell their vegetables to their father at the going market rate giving them a valuable lesson in commerce and trade. There is also a free mini bus to take you to the Swiss chalet. It would take about 15 minutes to walk to the Swiss Chalet. Beside the little gardens is a store where there were nine little wheelbarrows with the names of the children printed on them the garden implements were also stored here.
Behind the Swiss Chalet is another similar building although less grand housing curiosities collected from around the world. There were stuffed animals and many different types of precious and semi-precious stones. There were clothes from the two Rumanian orphan boys the Queen took under her wing and paid for them to be schooled and later joined the Royal Navy. Behind this little mini museum is a small fort that was built for the children to play war games with small canons placed around the fort.
Overall I really enjoyed my visit to Osborne house and could have spent much longer there had we had the time but we had a busy schedule ahead of us. Although we were there for about four and a half hours to really do it justice I would have loved to have spent at least another two or three hours there. After visiting other Royal residences I think that this house is probably one of the best. It is really quite homely and the grounds are superb. The Queen and Prince Albert certainly left their mark on the house and it really is an exquisitely furnished residence and I am pleased that it is open to the public. I have waited a couple of years to get to visit the house as in the past I just have not had the time to visit so I am more than happy to have finally got there and no doubt I will return one day to visit. English Heritage are doing a splendid job of maintaining the building and grounds just as it were in the days when the Queen and her family lived here. I would definitely recommend a visit to Osborne house it is simply beautiful. It is possible to stay at Osborne house in the cricket pavilion which has been converted into a small cottage. Details are available from English Heritage. Rentals are available for 3,4 or 7 days. This allows you access to the grounds outside opening times.
During the summer months
10:00 to 18:00
Winter months October to March
10:00 to 17:00
You should check with English heritage on the dates you wish to visit in case the house is closed.
English Heritage members admitted free.
You are given a small leaflet that contains a map of the grounds and where the most interesting places are. You have free reign to walk around the beautiful grounds. There is also a guide book available for £4.99 which is full of photos and details about the house. It is well worth investing in one of these.
Toilets are available at various places throughout the grounds.
There is a shop at the entrance to the grounds selling tickets, English Heritage membership, souvenirs, books, potted jams, chutneys, wines and flowers. There is also a small shop selling ice cream and tea down by the shore line on the beach. There is also a terrace restaurant just off the terrace although we did not eat here the menu looked quite enticing but it was far too hot that day plus we were time restricted.
There is a large car park. I would advise getting there as early as possible before the coaches turn up. We practically had the place to ourselves until the coach loads turned up then it was just crazy with the amount of people visiting. Fortunately they are on whistle stop visits so are quite quick going in and out.
My main disappointment was that you were not allowed to take photos inside the house. You can take as many as you like outside in the grounds however. I really enjoyed my visit to Osborne house and anyone with an interest in the big houses in the UK would enjoy this too.
Summary: A beautiful private house on the Isle of Wight.