Orleans House Gallery

Orleans House Gallery

I’ve been meaning to visit Orleans House Gallery for some time, and the annual Heritage Open Days event provided the perfect opportunity. The Gallery is situated beside the river at Twickenham, south-west London, in beautiful grounds.

Orleans House Gallery

The Gallery is home to temporary exhibitions in both the main building and the stables. The current exhibition in the main gallery is Collection Curiosities, featuring intriguing pieces from the Richmond Borough Art Collection, and it contains many fascinating works including a picture of the ‘Hammersmith Ghost’ and a necklace of human bones. In the Stables Gallery, the current exhibition explores the work of local artist Roger Hutchins, whose varied output is well worth a look and features many local landmarks.

Stables Gallery
Stables Gallery

Upstairs, a study room hosts small permanent exhibitions on the French connection to Orleans House, the explorer Richard Burton (who grew up in the vicinity), and the local area. There are also several paintings on the wall with a local connection or theme, and visitors are invited to comment on them by writing on a luggage tag and sticking it alongside the picture. I really liked this interactive aspect and some of the comments were really amusing.

Study room
Study room

Because of the Heritage Open Day I was able to take part in a tour of the Gallery, learning about its history along the way. James Johnston, joint Secretary of State for Scotland, commissioned architect John James to build a house in 1710. Ten years later, the Baroque Octagon Room was constructed, designed by the Scottish architect James Gibbs. Both George I and George II visited, and Queen Caroline (wife of George II) and her children dined here in 1729. A dinner menu from this time is still in existence. Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orleans, lived here in exile from 1815-1817, and gave the house the name by which it is now known. He became King of France in 1830, revisiting in 1844 accompanied by Queen Victoria. Louis’s son, Henri, Duc d’Aumale, lived here for nearly two decades from 1852, building a gallery and library next to the house.

Octagon Room
Octagon Room
Octagon Room
Octagon Room

The Octagon Room has recently been restored, and along with part of the adjoining building is the only remaining part of the original structure, which was demolished in the early twentieth century. The rest of the site was saved by wealthy local Nellie Ionides, who sounds quite a character – she liked poodles and champagne, and combined her two interests by naming her pet poodles after brands of champagne. In the garden, it is possible to see markers showing where rooms of the house would originally have been located, and there is a model of the site inside.

Nellie Ionides and her poodle, Cliquot
Nellie Ionides and her poodle, Cliquot
Post marking the site of the library
Post marking the site of the library

Nowadays, Orleans House is a successful small gallery running numerous exhibitions and events, and is well worth a visit.

FACTS

Address: Riverside, Twickenham, TW1 3DJ

Website: orleanshousegallery.org

Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 10am-5pm

Prices: Free

Places of Worship – Heritage Open Days

Somehow I ended up visiting several places of worship during Heritage Open Days. It made me realise what a variety of history and culture is contained in them.

German Lutheran Church
German Lutheran Church
German Lutheran Church
German Lutheran Church

I started with a visit to St George’s German Lutheran Church in east London on the first Saturday. This church was built in 1762 for the influx of German immigrants during that time. It’s a beautiful, austere church, and there were information boards explaining the history.

St Margaret's of Lothbury
St Margaret’s of Lothbury
St Margaret Lothbury
St Margaret Lothbury

The following week I visited St Margaret Lothbury, which is found in the City. This church was built by Christopher Wren and boasts one of only two screens in the City of London made by English woodworkers.

St Alfege's Church, Greenwich
St Alfege, Greenwich

Next I headed down to Greenwich, to St Alfege’s Church. I’ve been here before to attend concerts, and in fact I got there just in time to enjoy an opera recital before my tour of the crypt – my reason for visiting.

There has been a church on this site for over a thousand years, and the current building by Nicholas Hawksmoor dates from 1718. The crypt was built beneath to store bodies. The floor is higher than it used to be because there are bodies beneath the floor, and other coffins are stored in the bricked-in parts of the crypt.

Entrance to the crypt
Entrance to the crypt

The most famous of these is probably General Wolfe, mentioned in Hamilton by Aaron Burr as the general who “took a bullet in the neck in Quebec”. During World War II, the crypt was used as an air raid shelter for Greenwich locals.

The crypt
The crypt
Vault of General Wolfe
Vault of General Wolfe

The London Fo Guang Shan Temple is not far from Oxford Street. It was established in 1992 and is also known as the International Buddhist Progress Society. It is one of two British branches of the Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Taiwan.

Fo Guang Shan Temple
Fo Guang Shan Temple

The temple is located in a former parish school and Church House of 1868–70 designed by William Butterfield, which is grade II* listed. I got to watch (and sample) a vegetarian cooking demonstration, and then got a tour of the building, including the spaces for meditation and prayer.

St Giles in the Fields
St Giles-in-the-Fields
St Giles in the Fields
St Giles-in-the-Fields

My final visit was to St Giles-in-the-Fields, also known as the Poets Church. Here there was a short theatrical performance, based on the life of Alicia, Duchess of Dudley. Distraught when her husband left her for a younger woman, she resolved to dedicate her life to good works and the education of her five daughters, one of whom is buried in the church. In real life, the Duchess was largely responsible for the rebuilding of the church.

St Giles in the Fields
St Giles-in-the-Fields
Tomb of Alice's daughter
Tomb of Alicia’s daughter

Buried here are poet Andrew Marvell (of To His Coy Mistress fame) and George Chapman, the first translator of Homer’s Iliad into English, referenced in Keats’ On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer. There is also a pulpit formerly used by Charles Wesley.

Plaque to Andrew Marvell
Plaque to Andrew Marvell
Wesley's pulpit
Wesley’s pulpit

Overall, then, a fantastically varied selection of places.

Headstone Manor Museum – Heritage Open Days

For the second day of my Heritage Open Day adventures, I headed to Headstone Manor, which is just north of where I live, for a tour and a day out.

Headstone Manor site

History

Headstone Manor & Museum is the local history museum for the London Borough of Harrow in northwest London. It was built in around 1310, and was once home to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The house is surrounded by a filled moat, the oldest in Middlesex.

Headstone Manor

After Henry VIII became the head of the Church of England, he took control of the Manor and surrounding lands, eventually selling it to a court favourite. It remained in private ownership, undergoing dramatic changes, extensions and restorations, until it fell into disrepair and was bought by Hendon Rural District Council in 1925. The site was opened as Harrow Museum in 1986, and a restoration programme began in 2004.
The Manor is Grade I listed, and is full of information on the history of Harrow: it has records dating to the year 825.

My Tour

Visitor Centre
Visitor Centre

The tour started by the visitor centre, which was built in 2017. We headed into the “Small Barn”, which has a display of rural life in the life of Headstone Manor. We were shown the “Great Barn” (often used for special events) and the 18th-century Granary (moved from a site in Pinner in 1991), before heading into the Manor itself.

Small Barn
Small Barn

Being taken around the house by a guide meant that we had various interesting things pointed out to us, including the joins where extra bits of the house had been added on, graffiti on the outside walls, and uncovered bits of wallpaper. The Great Hall originally extended out into the garden, but most of it was destroyed in a fire. The house also has various displays of historical information and objects, focusing on such varied subjects as the construction of the Metropolitan Railway into Harrow, and cookery book writer Isabella Beeton.

Headstone Manor

After the tour, I was able to take some time to wander around the house at my own pace. It is a fascinating place to visit and free to enter, so well worth the trouble.

Back of the house

FACTS

Address: Headstone Recreation Ground, Pinner View, Harrow, HA2 6PX

Website: headstonemanor.org

Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 10am-4pm

Prices: Free

The House Mill – Heritage Open Days

House Mill

As part of the annual Heritage Open Days, I headed to the House Mill, somewhere I’ve been meaning to visit for a while. The Mill has a rich history and I was able to enjoy a fascinating guided tour.

House Mill

History

The House Mill is an important but little-known Grade I listed building on the River Lea in Bromley-by-Bow, part of the Three Mills complex. The original tidal mills here date back to the Domesday book of 1086, and the present structure of the House Mill was built in 1776 by Daniel Bisson (after a fire in 1802 it was quickly rebuilt). It is the world’s largest tidal mill, with four water wheels, and was used to mill grain for gin distilleries.

Miller's House

In 1989 work began to restore the House Mill site, which included the rebuilding of the Miller’s House, which had been demolished in the late 1950s after wartime damage. The façade of the house was rebuilt to the 1763 design, and used original eighteenth-century bricks.

My Visit

I turned up in plenty of time for my tour, and we were taken into the mill by our guide. The building which is now the entrance area and cafe originally used to be the house, which is why there are fireplaces on this side, but not in the mill itself. It was very important not to risk fire with so much grain and wood around, and in fact there was actually a fire in 1802.

Inside the mill

We started at the top of the building, where bags of grain were winched up to begin their journey. The natural pressure of the grain pushed it down chutes to the next floor down, where it was ground down. Eighteenth-century machinery sits alongside nineteenth-century examples so it’s possible to see the difference in process.

Milling equipment

At the bottom of the building, we saw the original wheels used in the tidal mill, sadly falling into ruin now. The mill, as well as all other mills on this site, worked when the tide went out, so that they would all share in its power. Here it’s also possible to see the doors through which carts would drop off their sacks of grain, and the ropes that would take them up to the top of the building.

Wheel

The people who work at the House Mill are trying to raise money to restore the mill, starting with the wheels. If you happen to have a spare £500,000, do send it their way!

View from the back of the mill

FACTS

Address: The Miller’s House, Three Mill Lane, London, E3 3DU

Website: housemill.org.uk

Opening Hours: Guided tours of the mill take place every Sunday from May to October (11am-4pm) and on the first Sundays in March, April and December (11am-3.15pm)

Prices: £4

Hetton Historical Walk (Heritage Open Days)

Hetton-le-Hole Walking Map
Hetton-le-Hole Walking Map

With the onset of September it was time once again for the national Heritage Open Days, which take place each year up and down the country. This year I happened to be at home, but being too lazy to get myself to Newcastle or Durham to check out what was on offer, I ended up only attending one event. This was a historic walk around Hetton-le-Hole, where several members of my family live, grew up and are otherwise associated with.

1872 school house
1872 school house

We met at Hetton Centre, a fairly recent building that happens to be on the site of the old Hetton Hall. The exact date of the Hall’s construction is uncertain but it was built in the classical style. It had become dilapidated by the end of the nineteenth century and was demolished in 1923. We headed to the centre of Hetton, passing the old school house (opened in 1872), before stopping off at the point where the first moving locomotives ran, taking coal from Lyons Colliery to the River Wear.

Signpost towards the Wear
Signpost towards the Wear

The street is still named Railway Street, and just beyond there are still sleepers from the Hetton Railway. The line was surveyed by George Stephenson in 1822 and was supervised by his brother Robert. Our guide took us to nearby Fairy Street, and explained that it was so-called because of the large hillock here nicknamed the Fairy Cradle, which supposedly dated from the Iron Age.

Fairy Street
Fairy Street

We stopped off at the Primitive Methodist Chapel. Primitive Methodism reached Hetton in 1823 and this chapel was opened in 1858. I’ve been here plenty of times over the years for weddings and funerals, but this was the first time I had the chance to look around and take things in from a historical point of view. The church was built entirely by the miners. Interestingly, there used to be a public house attached to the church – not owned by it, just next door – somewhat ironic as Methodists are teetotal!

Primitive Methodist Chapel
Primitive Methodist Chapel
Inside the Chapel
Inside the Chapel

Heading beyond down the road we ended up in a part of town I’d never seen before, and a beautiful though rather run-down building, the former Pavilion Theatre and Cinema, built by Ralph Barton in 1909. The first manager was Linden Travers, father of the actor Bill Travers.

Pavilion Theatre and Cinema
Pavilion Theatre and Cinema

We then stopped at the site of the former Anglican church, now sadly reduced to rubble. A nearby house (Laburnum House) has a blue plaque with details about Nicholas Wood, friend and colleague of George Stephenson, co-founder of the Institute of Mining, and partner in the Hetton Coal Company from 1844, whose grave is in the nearby churchyard.

Site of Anglican Church
Site of Anglican Church
Nicholas Wood's blue plaque
Nicholas Wood’s blue plaque
Nicholas Wood's grave
Nicholas Wood’s grave

Crossing the road, we passed the Wesleyan Chapel in Front Street (built in 1824) then ventured towards the oldest part of town, taking in Hetton House, one of the oldest houses in the town, dating from approximately the 1720s and bought by the Lyon family (the Earls of Strathmore) in 1746. The house has two extensions, one dating from the 19th century and one from the 20th. It was most recently used as council offices and closed in 2010. Nearby is the former Standard Theatre, built in 1874. It was converted to a bus garage in 1916.

Wesleyan Chapel
Wesleyan Chapel
Hetton House
Hetton House

The tour ended in style as we stopped at the 18th-century Old Smithy which has recently opened up for occasional open days once again. I really enjoyed the tour and I learned a lot.

Old Smithy
Old Smithy
Old Smithy
Old Smithy
Inside the smithy
Inside the smithy