This England is the quarterly magazine for all who love our green and pleasant land and are unashamedly proud of their English roots. Published since 1968 the magazine has now become one of England’s best loved magazines and has a readership of over 115,000 people from around the world. As well as being popular in England it outsells all other British heritage magazines in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and is sent to readers in every country of the world. Published in Cheltenham, in the heart of picturesque Gloucestershire, the magazine is edited, printed and despatched direct from England. Subscribe today and celebrate all that is best about England and the English way of life.
Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) was not only one of Britain’s finest landscape painters but was also a talented if embryonic architect. In later life he once opined that, had he to live his life again, he would emphatically embrace an architectural career rather than that of a painter, so keen was his interest in the subject. It thus seems only fitting that the recent renovation of Sandycombe Lodge (to be known as Turner’s House) in Twickenham — which he planned to his own specification and built around 1812 — will now stand as enduring testament to his architectural ability and vision. The £2.4 million restoration funds necessary to bring Turner’s house back to life were raised due to a combination of support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, other funding bodies and generous public donations. Opened to the public in July 2017, the house, now stripped of its tall Victorian extensions and with its stucco facade restored to the original brickwork, today closely reflects how the house would have looked in Turner’s time, restored to its former simplicity. Subsequent suburban sprawl unfortunately means that Turner’s two-acre garden cannot be authentically recreated in its entirety but it is intended that a flavour of the original garden can be conveyed to contemporary visitors so planting work here has recently begun in preparation for 2018. Turner’s career was in the ascendant at the time he began seeking a country retreat in the early 19th century. He once said “I know of no genius but the genius of hard work”, and Turner’s House After a £2.4 million restoration, the country retreat of one of England’s greatest artists is now open to the public he had studiously pursued his chosen craft for many years since his early studies at the Royal Academy school. He would become renowned for elevating landscape painting to the highest echelons, a position that had been formerly reserved for historical art. “To select, combine and concentrate that which is beautiful in nature and admirable in art is as much the business of the landscape painter in his line as in other departments of art,” he once declared and his career would exemplify this belief. The affluent artist had acquired land near Twickenham riverside around 1807 and had long hoped to find some congenial spot that would offer respite from the intense demands of his London life. Owning a country retreat was also an indisputable mark of a man’s reputation and it is unlikely that Turner, a Londoner who retained the strong cockney accent of his youth, was oblivious to this. His father, formerly a Covent Garden barber, had recently retired and so the plan was for Turner and “Old Dad” as William senior was usually known, to move together to Twickenham. Their permanent base in the capital was never relinquished though and the artist would return here after Sandycombe was regretfully sold in 1826 possibly due to his father’s failing health. Turner’s keen talent for design also flourished in London as he opened a purpose-built gallery “England: Richmond Hill on the Prince Regent’s Birthday” was exhibited in 1819. 62 THIS ENGLAND, Winter, 2017
J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) , an engraving of Sandycombe Lodge in 1814, the house before and during restoration, and the main bedroom. Below: The winding staircase. specifically to display his own paintings within a congenial setting. Turner was long familiar with the area around Twickenham (and had a friend living nearby on Richmond Hill in the shape of Joshua Reynolds, the Royal Academy’s first President) and had been dismayed by the demolition of poet Alexander Pope’s villa nearby in 1808. Briefly schooled in Brentford and often renting property locally in order to sketch, the beautiful scenery around Richmond (an area perceived as culturally important and artistically inspiring) seems to have been richly stimulating as many of his famous works like the oil painting England: Richmond Hill on the Prince Regent’s Birthday date from his time in the borough. Turner’s early training as an architectural draughtsman was invaluable as he was in the fortunate position of being able to design the new dwelling himself. It would first be known as Solus Lodge, but became the more pleasingly named Sandycombe Lodge over the passage of time, perhaps paying homage to the sandy ground occupied by the house. “Old Dad” would embrace his new life enthusiastically in Twickenham, working as both its gardener and housekeeper. Sandycombe Lodge was intended as a small, straightforward dwelling, two storeys high with an unexpectedly elegantly proportioned hallway (pehaps influenced by Turner’s friend, Sir John Soane) and a winding staircase that led to the first floor overlooked by an elegant skylight. A tiny scrap of original wallpaper dating from the time of Turner’s residence was found during early excavation work on the property and has been faithfully recreated in the large upstairs bedroom which would have belonged to the painter himself, his father occupying the floor’s smaller room where recent conservation work is now documented. A telescope in Turner’s bedroom offers the visitor a beguiling glimpse of what he would have seen in his time here, a view spanning the meadows of Richmond Hill which he painted several times in his career. Today the house has been recreated to reflect Turner’s own tastes as he maintained a sparsely furnished abode, always intended as a simple, cosy retreat from the capital where he could unwind. Early 19th-century furniture has been used throughout the restored property, partially influenced by the inventory of items taken from Turner’s London home after his death in 1851. Since the intention was to authentically recapture the essence of the house in his era this uncluttered ethos has been faithfully honoured in the restoration. It is not known for sure if Turner painted in the house itself (although some sketching at least is surely likely), but he certainly kept ship models in glass-cases here as inspiration for his marine watercolours and today two such models are on display in the sitting room. The nautical influences are most appropriate, for Turner’s stout, short stature often saw him hailed as a likely sea-captain and here at Twickenham he could THIS ENGLAND, Winter, 2017 63
For all who love our green and plea
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