The house in Gunnersbury Park which was home to the Rothschild family in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was reopened to the public this weekend. £26 million has been spent on returning the mansion to its former glory and it has been done beautifully.
The museum is light and airy and easy to get around with some rooms unfurnished, leaving it to your imagination what life would have been like at the big house, and others full of artefacts and photographs and an interactive video screening on the walls with actors playing the roles of the Rothschilds’ servants and family members.
Curator Julia Tubman told me the part of the museum she is most proud of is the new display about west London. The ‘villages’ of Hounslow and Ealing boroughs are each represented by a famous resident, including mathematician Ada Lovelace for Ealing, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury for Feltham and theatre, opera and film director Peter Brook for Chiswick.
Julia, pictured here showing visitors the museum’s Stanhope printing press, studied archaeology at university and worked as a conservator at the Arizona State Museum, the British Museum and the National Museum of Iceland before taking the job of curator at Gunnersbury four years ago. She plans to take conducted tours around the museum once a month.
There is also a fantastic programme of events all summer, with lots of activities for young children, ‘little flamingos’ (so-called because the Rothschilds used to have flamingos roaming about the grounds), events for older children such as ‘Meet the Victorian Servants’, wood carving and print making, and workshops, talks, tours and special exhibitions for adults to enjoy. There are nature walks through the gardens, talks by the head gardener and teddy bears’ picnics in recognition of the Acton based Farnell Toy Factory, whose cuddly bears inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories.
There’s more about Gunnersbury Museum and Gunnersbury Park in the This Is Chiswick pages of The Chiswick Calendar website.