Guide to Chiswick House Gardens
Come and escape the hustle and bustle of London with a gentle stroll around Chiswick House Gardens.
Chiswick resident and local historian Gillian Clegg guides you through the most beautiful and interesting features of this serene oasis.
Just off the path leading to the Rustic House is a bowling green, a rare survival from the early 18th century, surrounded by venerable sweet chestnut trees.
One of the later additions to Lord Burlington’s garden, erected about 1738, the Cascade, an entrancing waterfall descending a series of rock steps through three archways, was probably designed by William Kent and inspired by designs Burlington and Kent had seen in Italian Renaissance gardens. With the help of a major donation the setting and the appearance of the Cascade has been restored to its former 18th century splendour.
The elegant stone bridge, which replaced a wooden bridge over the lake, was built for the 5th Duke of Devonshire in 1774 and its design is attributed to James Wyatt.
Conservatory and Camellias
After the 6th Duke of Devonshire purchased the estate next door, he commissioned Samuel Ware to design a large conservatory on his new land. Completed in 1813, the conservatory was the longest ever built at 302ft (96m) and was the forerunner of several large glasshouses, culminating in the magnificent Crystal Palace in Sydenham, London.
The Conservatory is famous for its large collection of camellias, some surviving from those planted in 1828. This is thought to be the oldest camellia collection in England and perhaps outside China and Japan and includes what is thought to be one of only two surviving ‘Middlemist Reds’ in the world.
Cricket pitch and pavilion
The cricket pitch was formed in the 1890s by the doctors Tuke, who ran a mental asylum at Chiswick House between 1892 and 1928. The Tukes were keen cricketers themselves and encouraged their patients to play against outside teams. From 1946 until 1992 the Turnham Green Cricket Club played on the pitch at weekends. Celebrity cricket matches were a regular feature in the 40s and 50s in which famous cricketers like Denis Compton and Bill Edrich took part. The cricket pavilion was built around 1956 and remains a popular venue for cricketers.
Lord Burlington maintained a small deer enclosure, separated from the garden by a ha ha, a sunken fence, with a Deer House, probably for sheltering deer overnight. This was designed by Lord Burlington in about 1720. After 1727 the deer park was removed to the other side of the lake and an Orangery was erected on its site.
Thought to have been designed by Lord Burlington in about 1720, the Doric Column used to be surmounted with a copy of the famous statue of Venus de Medici from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. In 1736, it was the focus of a small triangular area of dense planting, with six straight paths or ‘allées’ radiating out from it. This was replaced by a rose garden, laid out by the fifth Duke of Devonshire and first recorded in 1811. The rose garden has been replanted as part of the restoration project and a new carved statue of Venus de Medici now graces the column.
By 1745 the western half of the Grove had been felled and a large lawn created, lined by alternating cypresses and stone urns and closed at the northern end by a semicircular hedge known as the Exedra, a dark yew hedge which formed a dramatic backdrop to Burlington’s collection of 18th century sculpture.
The statues of three figures are copies of antique statues said to represent Caesar, Pompey and Cicero. They were brought back from Rome by Lord Burlington and the originals are now in Chiswick House. The statues of the lion and lioness, completed about 1733 were probably sculpted by Pieter Scheemakers.
Inigo Jones Gateway
The gateway was designed by the architect Inigo Jones for Beaufort House in Chelsea in 1621 and acquired by Lord Burlington in 1738 when his friend Hans Sloane was demolishing Beaufort House. A poem, probably written by William Kent, describes how it came to Chiswick. The Inigo Jones Gate replaced a pedimented door, an ornately framed door, which now stands at the entrance to the Sports Field.
This semi-circular garden, bordered with evergreens, with geometric flower beds cut in grass was designed by Lewis Kennedy and laid out in 1812 for the 6th Duke of Devonshire. It became an example of the massed bedding system and 19th century experiments into colour theory. The garden has been beautifully restored and provides an elegant setting to the 6th Duke’s Conservatory.
The lake was originally a stream called the Bollo Brook which formed the boundary of Lord Burlington’s estate. After the estate was extended by the purchase of land the other side of the water in 1726-7, the Brook was widened and canalised and, in 1737, ‘naturalised’ by landscaping its edges to give the illusion of a river. The Bollo Brook itself is carried in a pipe underneath the lake.
Obelisk (by Burlington Gate)
Erected in 1732, the Obelisk has built into its base an ancient Hellenistic sculpture of a man and a woman which had been given to the young Burlington in 1712. This was replaced with a copy in 2006, and the original is now on display in Chiswick House. The original sculpture was once part of a large collection of Classical statuary assembled by the Earl of Arundel in the 17th century. Imposing straight avenues radiate out from the Obelisk, leading to the Classic Bridge and the Ionic Temple.
Orange Tree Garden
This garden in the shape of an amphitheatre surrounds a circular pool with an obelisk in the centre, and an Ionic Temple behind. The garden was created in around 1726 and at the time, orange trees in tubs were planted on the garden terraces. To the right of the garden is a tomb with a Latin inscription, the translation of which begins: ‘Under this stone lies Lilly, my dear hound…’. It is thought that the dog may have belonged to Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
Patte d’oie, French for ‘goose-foot’, is one of the key features of Burlington’s garden and denotes three radiating avenues, like the webbed foot of a goose, each terminating in a small building. It was one of the earliest changes to the garden, being laid out from about 1716, and the design was thought to reproduce the kind of layout found in an ancient Roman garden.
The left hand avenue led to the ‘Bagnio’ (bath-house) or ‘Cassina’ (little house), designed by Lord Burlington in 1717, ‘the first design of his lordship’s happy invention’. Burlington used the Bagnio as his drawing office which was demolished in 1778. The central avenue avenue led to the Domed Building, akin to a temple or Pantheon it was designed by James Gibbs, in around1716. It was demolished in 1784 and the avenue, now much truncated, contains a Venetian window from one of the demolished wings of Chiswick House, put up as an eyecatcher in 1970. The right hand avenue, the only one to survive, leads to the Rustic House.
The ‘Raised Terrace’ was constructed from the soil excavated when the lake was deepened, widened and the edges made less regular. The terrace was planted with all manner of sweet shrubs including roses and honeysuckle, and afforded visitors spectacular views across the meadows, over the Thames, to the pagoda in Kew Gardens.
The only remaining original building in the Patte d’oie, the Rustic House was probably designed by Lord Burlington in about 1719. From the late 18th century, the Rustic House, contained a bust of the Emperor Napoleon (now in Chiswick House), acquired by Georgiana, wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, and the avenue leading to the Rustic House became known as Napoleon’s Walk.
Lord Burlington had many statues although some, including a boar and a wolf, were removed to Chatsworth in the late 19th century. Apart from the statues in the Exedra and the statues of Inigo Jones and Andrea Palladio outside the entrance to the house, urns line the main avenue in the garden. The two urns now inside the Conservatory are copies of celebrated ancient vases. Terms, stone pillars ending in a sculpted human face, can now be seen in the forecourt, the main lawn, the Exedra and the Italian Garden. There are several sphinxes in the grounds which were unusual garden ornaments in the early 18th century. The sphinxes on the gate piers in the forecourt are copies placed there in 2006, the originals are to be found in Green Park.
Trees and shrubs
Visitors to Chiswick House in the 18th and 19th centuries frequently commented on the size and splendour of the Cedars of Lebanon. Since felled and replaced, there were originally eight in the forecourt ‘the beautiful dark teint of the solemn evergreens affording a pleasant contrast to the whiteness of the building…’ On the lawn at the back of the house, was a magnificent avenue of cedars, combined with cypresses and urns, the branches of the cedars sweeping down to the ground. Other trees mentioned by visitors were the pleached lime avenues, cork trees, Judas trees, a Luccombe oak and a 100ft tall plane tree. Royalty and other distinguished people commemorated their visits to Chiswick House by planting trees. They included General Garibaldi, Queen Victoria, the Emperor of Russia, the Shah of Persia and the King and Queen of Hellenes. Many of the rhododendron varieties on the far side of the lake were planted by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in the 1820s, as were the camellias in the Conservatory.
The Walled Garden was originally the kitchen garden for Moreton Hall, a mansion built in 1682-4, and bought by the 6th Duke of Devonshire in 1812 when the house was demolished and its garden added to Chiswick House. In 1821, after the 6th Duke of Devonshire had leased 33 acres of his park to the Horticultural Society (later the Royal Horticultural Society) for its experimental gardens, he created a private entrance to the gardens through the kitchen garden. Today the restored walled garden is used for community gardening involving
volunteers and school groups. It is open to the public for special events and
Site Plan for Visitors
A downloadable map and site plan showing some of the main features around Chiswick House Gardens
Map of Chiswick House Gardens
A visitor map of Chiswick House and Gardens
Chiswick House Gardens
Description and map for a 1.5mile walk around Chiswick House Gardens