Support Sought for Definitive History of Chiswick House

Dr David Jacques has been amassing information since the eighties

A view of the back of the House by Donowell (1753)


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A former Chiswick House Trustee has written the definitive story of the place and is now seeking support for publication. It unravels, for the first time, the full story of Lord Burlington’s changes and why they were so admired in his day. It describes how his grandson, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, his wife Georgiana, and the 6th Duke, brought in French-inspired design when we were supposed to have been at war with France, how Chiswick became the garden party capital of West London, and the reasoning behind restorations in the 1950s and again in the 2000s.

Dr David Jacques first became involved with the house in 1982 when he carried out a survey of the grounds and compiled a new history for the Department of the Environment. Since then he continued as consultant, became the Inspector an English Heritage responsible for the grounds, went back into consultancy, and then became a Trustee in 2005. He left the Trustees in 2019 at the end of his term of office. During all that time, despite a varied career, he kept returning to Chiswick and amassed a huge amount of information on the history of Chiswick House and its grounds which he has turned into his authoritative history.

His book was going to be published by Historic England, the Government body responsible for the built heritage, but then in 2019, because of financial stringency, it closed its publication arm and transferred its book list to Liverpool University Press. All went well, with the ‘readers’ recommending publication, but then came the question of publication costs. The Press is not-for-profit, which encourages it to focus on covering its costs. It wanted to see pre-publication sales. That is quite an old-fashioned idea: open any architectural book from the eighteenth century and you will find a list of subscribers who had paid up-front.

Dr Jacques thought how best to achieve pre-publication sales, and the obvious route was some form of crowd-funding. He opened an appeal through the largest crowd-funding site, GoFundMe, and he is on his way to meeting his goal. He still needs to raise more, though, and asks that you visit his fundraising page. The donation requested is £30, but more would be welcome. Just like the earlier subscribers, donors will receive a free copy of the book and have their names listed within the book.

The cascade in Chiswick House Gardens viewed from the villa
The cascade in Chiswick House Gardens viewed from the villa

Chiswick House was the out-of-town villa for Lord Burlington and the Dukes for 180 years, and most of the more interesting changes were at their behest. Did you know, for example, that the scandalous Duchess Georgiana was the first to make a rose garden inspired by the Empress Josephine’s Malmaison, full of the new French rose varieties? But one should not overlook the story of how house and grounds came into the ownership of London County Council and the strenuous efforts made by the Ministry of Works in the 1950s to reverse a long period of decay; that was when the house was reduced back to the villa we see today. Now should the 25-year long period of restoration planning, culminating in the building of the new café and the refurbishment of the grounds, be overlooked.

For those who know the grounds at Chiswick, this book will add layers of interest and add to their appreciation, and give insights into the work of its modern masters, the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust.

Dr Jacques will be giving an online talk entitled Creation and Re-creation: 300 Years at Chiswick from 6.30-7.30pm. You can book tickets here.

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March 7, 2021

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