An illustration of Chiswick House, a Palladian villa, from the rear showing its three Venetian windows. The building is in Chiswick, West London Click the image to enlarge

Burlington’s was a deeply intellectual process of selection that gave Chiswick a character and quality of its own, that set it quite apart, even from any other building by other architects...

— John Harris

Learn more about Chiswick House below...

History

The 3rd Earl of Burlington, Richard Boyle, inherited Chiswick House after the death of this father in 1704, however, it was not until some 20 years later that the Villa was first built. It's been suggested that Burlington had plans in place for this house long before the fire destroyed the old Jacobean House.

In 1748, Charlotte Boyle — the daughter of Lord and Lady Burlington, married William Cavendish and the villa and gardens were passed to the Cavendish family after Lady Burlington's death in 1764. The family used the house as a venue for entertaining guests but was later rented out to a number of successive tenants.

In 1929, the house was sold to Middlesex County Council by the 9th Duke of Devonshire and it slowly fell into decline. After the building was hit by a V2 rocket during the war, the building was due to be demolished, but luckily a campaign was set up to save it and was later sold to the Ministry of Works. Today, the villa and gardens are now under the care of Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, a partnership between Hounslow Council and English Heritage.

Did you know?

The original sphinxes at the entrance gate of Chiswick House were never returned after they were sent to Green Park for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

The architecture

The House, also referred to as the Villa, was inspired by Lord Burlington's Grand Tours of Europe in 1714 and 1719. Throughout his trip he had encountered the works of many Renaissance architects, but was most taken by those created by the 16th Century Italian architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580) who had reconstructed many ancient Roman buildings and built new ones using traditional Roman principles and methods.

The influence of Palladio's work and ancient Roman culture and architecture can be seen throughout the Villa:

  • The dome from the Pantheon
  • Corinthian capitals on the portico columns from the Temple of Castor and Pollux in Naples
  • A bust of the Emperor Augustus in the Domed Hall, who in the 18th Century was often regarded as the greatest Roman Emperor
  • Statues inspired by the Roman gods and goddesses such as Terminus, Hermes, and Venus inside the Villa and Gardens
  • Chimneys disguised as obelisks
  • The use of geometric shapes such as the octagon, circle, and rectangle, for the rooms of the Villa.

The building itself is made of brick with the façade fronted in Portland stone, it measures 70 ft × 70ft × 35 ft with eight rooms in total on the ground and upper floor. With no space for a kitchen and limited space for beds, it's assumed that the building was not intended for living in but used as an art gallery to house the collection of paintings and furniture that Lord Burlington had accumulated throughout his life.

Following in the footsteps of Palladio and Inigo Jones, Lord Burlington designed Chiswick House with a plain and simple-looking exterior with Venetian or ‘Serlian’ windows (drawings of which first appeared in the books of 16th Century architect Sebastian Serlio), and the half-moon lunette windows in the dome inspired by those in the Baths of Diocletian.

Lord Burlington carried his fascination with the Classical period into the Gardens, and together with William Kent created features that were original yet echoed the design of the Villa so that the two were seen as one entity. All of the garden features contributed towards a vision; ranging from the Obelisk Pond with its classical temple to the Excedra, a semi-circular hedge with statues of Caesar, Cicero, and Pompey.

See images of Chiswick House