Boston Manor House shows off its elaborate, newly restored interiors

Image above: Boston Manor

Lucinda MacPherson has been to visit the stately home in advance of its opening to the public on Friday 7 July

Boston Manor House, a Jacobean mansion in Brentford opens to the public on Friday 7 July, showing off its elaborate interiors now restored to their blingy best after a six year, £6 million facelift.

The Grade 1 listed building set in 34 acres of parkland, dates back to 1623 when it was originally built for Lady Mary Reade, a young widow who later married Sir Edward Spencer, an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Images above: Mary Reade

Home to the upwardly mobile

In its heyday it was inhabited by upwardly mobile owners, trying out all sorts of grand designs to impress, before coming under local authority ownership in the 1920s, facing war damage, changes of use, gradual decline, dereliction then closure.

It was on the Heritage at Risk register, but thanks to support from, among others, Hounslow Council and the National Heritage Lottery Fund, visitors can now step back into a variety of times.

On the right of the entrance, a room orientates visitors by explaining the house’s 400 year history, but after this I’d recommend tracing the interiors chronologically starting in the State Bedroom on the first floor. Many of the original Jacobean features remain in the State rooms, so-called as they were the most lavishly decorated to receive honoured guests.

Image above: State Bedroom

Imagine Lady Mary conducting flirtatious tete-a-tetes

And they most definitely impress, with the State Bedroom boasting an elaborate plaster ceiling, wall hanging, and  four poster bed, complete with racy red silk drapes which remain tantalizingly closed. The temptation to draw back the damask drapes is almost overpowering, but of course, it’s a heritage site, so resist, and if you must, simply imagine Samuel Pepys, or perhaps Fielding’s Tom Jones up to shenanigans behind them.

It might seem perverse to entertain distinguished guests in your bedroom, but in the 17th century a set of state rooms usually included one, to which chairs would have been brought in, as needed. In Boston Manor House, there’s simply a bed, leaving you to imagine Lady Mary conducting flirtatious tete-a-tetes like a latter day Paula Yates on Big Breakfast.

And if all this puts you in mind to have a little lie down, that is, arguably, the best position to be in to appreciate the adjoining Drawing Room’s sumptuous ceiling,  a spectacular confection of plasterwork.

Image above: Drawing Room

The ornate design includes emblems depicting the Elements, the Five Senses, War and Peace, Tune, and Faith, Hope and Charity; and look out for Lady Mary’s  initials and the date 1623, to commemorate the completion of the first stage of the house, included in a corner.

The plaster overmantel shows Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac, but being prevented from doing so by an angel.

Images above: Drawing Room fireplace; window seat

One of the earliest examples of wallpaper in Britain

The winding Jacobean staircase is mostly original, with square carved oak newel posts supporting lions grandly displaying the heraldic shields of families connected to the house. The opposite side of the stairs are mirrored with rare examples of  Trompe l’œil balustrade.

The original hallway and staircase wallpaper, dated back to the 1750s, was one of the earliest examples in Britain. Being ahead of its time, this would have been hugely expensive when installed to impress visitors with the wealth and power of the Clitherow family who had taken over the house in 1670.

Some of the original 1750s wallpaper survives under protective glass at the top of the house, and a modern replica from Hamilton Weston, which will be available to buy,  has replaced where the original had been lost. The main entrance leads into a hallway with a carved screen added in the 19th-century flanked by decorative pillars and a frieze.

Images above: Staircase

Downstairs dining room in statement red

The gilded downstairs dining room has walls painted the statement red they would have been in the 1850s, and contains a display celebrating a royal dinner held there in June 1834 attended by King William IV, Queen Adelaide and his sister Princess Augusta.

Royal patronage continued through the ages, and now the King of Bling footwear, Mr Jimmy Choo, shoemaker to royalty and the stars, has taken over what was the service wing to establish a school. It now houses workshops and design studios with specialist fabrication tools, focused on artisan crafts, design, and accessory making.

The Jimmy Choo Academy is terrific news for Brentford as it aims to make its Boston Manor campus a destination committed to building a community of designers including students, artisans and internationally acclaimed industry professionals.

All welcome

Image above: Downstairs Dining Room

Fully accessible – and free

Boston Manor House seeks to distinguish itself from other heritage sites in West London, by offering itself as a community amenity, which will evolve according to its local community wishes.

As well as its obvious potential for lavish events in the heritage reception rooms, there are spacious conference rooms upstairs on the third floor, and a designated exhibition space on the ground floor in what was the library.

The opening exhibition will track the house’s restoration, but there are plans to celebrate local communities who have been invited to curate their own displays next year. A sign of the times is a wall of sockets in the new cafe, inviting visitors to use that space for their digital work/play.

It’s really heart-warming to see a heritage site, now fully accessible, with a lift to all floors, and committed to welcoming, educating and evolving in a way which retains its relevance to the local community and beyond. Go visit, its nearby and its free!

Opening times are Tuesday to Sunday, 12 noon to 5pm. Boston Manor House, Boston Manor Road, Brentford TW8 9JX.

Images above: Boston Manor photographs and text by Lucinda MacPherson

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