Dawn of a new era for Chiswick House?

Chief Executive of English Heritage says millions could be available to stem the decline of the house and grounds

Simon Thurley described the House as "Lord Burlington's exquisite jewel"
© English Heritage

There was renewed optimism over the future of Chiswick House and its surrounding grounds this week as the Chief Executive of English Heritage spoke of millions being available for the regeneration. Simon Thurley was speaking at a buffet dinner at the House this week and revealed that as well as a six figure sum from an anonymous donor there was the strong possibility of money from the National Lottery.

Earlier the same day Mr. Thurley had written in the Financial Times on the subject of heritage and singled out Chiswick House for specific mention saying, "It is a challenge we are facing, for example, at Chiswick House in west London. Lord Burlington's exquisite jewel of a house, designed as a temple of the arts, an icon of the ideal aristocratic life, is set in a landscape that symbolised the relationship between man and nature. It is an extraordinarily significant building"

He went on to add that the gardens were, if anything, even more seminal than the House saying, "It is at least arguable that here, in the lawns that run down from the house to the lake, is the earliest example of the naturalistic English style that is still one of the liveliest traditions in landscape design throughout the world."

He stressed that the most important objective was to give as many people as possible the opportunity to enjoy the house and grounds.

A spokesperson for Chiswick House friends said, "Simon is, quite simply, giving Chiswick House and Grounds their proper level of importance in the architectural heritage of this country. He is also underlining the challenge to make this jewel accessible to the maximum number of people."

As well as Simon Thurley, the meeting at Chiswick House heard from two English Heritage employees responsible for major projects at Kenwood and Eltham Palace. The emphasis was on the role that volunteers could play in helping maintain major heritage properties. Chiswick House grounds have seen substantial decline over the last few years as the paltry maintenance budget of only £155,000 has proven inadequate to turn the tide of vandalism and general deterioration.

The comment from the Friends was, "We need to find the most appropriate ways to mobilise the energy and enthusiasm of locals to share the load and to convert our mutual love of the place into productive action. London Borough of Hounslow, CIP, English Heritage & CHF (the Friends) need to put their heads together and move forward quickly. But this is a community and we do want community involvement with ideas and help and support."

If you want to find out more about the activities of the Friends of Chiswick House or to become a member visit their website.

Chiswick Police also run a scheme call Parkwatch in which members of the public can help with the effort to reduce crime in the grounds. They are currently looking for more participation from local people.

February 12, 2003

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