Osterley Park

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Osterley Park


National Trust

Osterley Park House, London-25June2009-rc.jpg
Osterley Park
Grid reference: TQ146780
Website: Osterley Park and House

Osterley Park is a mansion set in a large park of the same name in Middlesex, a park extending between Osterley in the south and Hanwell in the north, west of Brentford, and cruelly bisected by the M4 motorway.

When the house was built it was surrounded by open countryside. It was one of a group of large houses close to London which served as country retreats for wealthy families, but were not true country houses on large agricultural estates. Other surviving country retreats of this type near London include Syon House and Chiswick House. The park is one of the largest open spaces in western Middlesex, though it is marred by the presence of the unforgiving passage of the M4 motorway through the middle of it.



The original building on this site was a manor house built in the 1570s for banker Sir Thomas Gresham, who purchased the manor of Osterley in 1562.[1] The "faire and stately brick house" was completed in 1576. It is known that Queen Elizabeth visited.[2] The stable block from this period remains at Osterley Park. Gresham was so wealthy he also bought the neighbouring Manor of Boston in 1572.

Child and Adam

A design for the Estruscan dressing room (Robert Adam)

Two hundred years later the manor house was falling into disrepair, when, as the result of a mortgage default, it came into the ownership of Sir Francis Child, the head of Child's Bank. In 1761 he employed Robert Adam, who was just emerging as one of the most fashionable architects in England, to remodel the house. When Sir Francis died in 1763, the project was taken up by his brother and heir Robert Child, for whom the interiors were created.

The house is of red brick with white stone details and is approximately square, with turrets in the four corners. Adam's design, which incorporates some of the earlier structure, is highly unusual, and differs greatly in style from the original construction. One side is left almost open and is spanned by an |Ionic pedimented screen which is approached by a broad flight of steps and leads to a central courtyard, which is at piano nobile level.

Adam's neoclassical interiors are among his most notable sequences of rooms. Horace Walpole sarcastically described the drawing room as "worthy of Eve before the fall." The rooms are characterised by elaborate but restrained plasterwork, rich, highly varied colour schemes, and a degree of coordination between decor and furnishings unusual in English neoclassical interiors. Notable rooms include the entrance hall, which has large semi-circular alcoves at each end, and the Etruscan dressing room, which Adam said was inspired by the Etruscan vases in Sir William Hamilton's collection, illustrations of which had recently been published. Adam also designed some of the furniture, including the opulent domed state bed, still in the house.

Osterley Park from the air
Garden House

After Child

Robert Child's only daughter, Sarah Anne Child, married John Fane, 10th Earl of Westmorland in 1782. When Child died two months later, his will placed his vast holdings, including Osterley, in trust for his eldest granddaughter, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, who was born in 1785. She married George Child-Villiers, 5th Earl of Jersey, and thus Osterley passed into the Jersey family.

Home Guard Training Establishment

The grounds of Osterley Park were used for the training of the first members of the Local Defence Volunteers (forerunners of the Home Guard) when the 9th Earl, a friend of publisher Lord Hulton, allowed writer and military journalist Captain Tom Wintringham to establish the first Home Guard training school (which Hulton sponsored) at the park in May/June 1940, teaching the theory and practice of modern mechanical warfare, guerilla warfare techniques and using the estate workers' homes, then scheduled for demolition, to teach street fighting techniques.[3] The painter Roland Penrose taught camouflage techniques here.[4] Maj. Wilfred Vernon taught the art of mixing home-made explosives, and his explosives store can still be seen at the rear of the house, while Canadian Bert "Yank" Levy, who had served under Wintringham in the Spanish Civil War taught knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat. Despite winning world fame in newsreels and newspaper articles around the world (particularly in the United Sates), the school was disapproved of by the War Office and Winston Churchill, and was taken over in September 1940. Closed in 1941, its staff and courses were reallocated to other newly opened WO-approved Home Guard schools.[3]

Postwar history

In 1947, a Ministry of Works team, including architect E T Spashett, converted the building for use as a convalescence home for injured airmen.[5] George Child-Villiers, 9th Earl of Jersey gave the house and much of the estate to the National Trust in 1949. It is now open to the public, and contains most of the original furniture in excellent condition.

In popular culture


  • Day of the Daleks, the 1973 Doctor Who serial did not in the event use Osterley Park but it was originally proposed as the setting and location. The name of the house in the story was changed to "Auderley" in the finished programme, and was renamed "Austerley" in the novel of the serial. The location eventually used was Dropmore Park in Buckinghamshire.
  • At Bertram's Hotel, the 2007 ITV adaptation, had the entrance hall of the house as a room in an upmarket central London hotel.
  • 'Maxwell: Inside the Empire', a 2006 TV pilot, used Osterley Park as the home of billionaire Sir Peter Maxwell
  • ChuckleVision was also filmed in Osterley Park.

The Persuaders!, the 1970s cult series which starred Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, used the house in one episode.

  • Many of the Horrible Histories 2009 television series episodes were filmed in Osterley House and Gardens.


  • The Grass Is Greener (1960; Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, and Robert Mitchum), was set and partly shot at Osterley Park House.
  • Top Secret! (1984) features Osterley as East Berlin Town Hall, when the various cultural ambassadors are presented with medals by the (bearded) East German Women's Olympic Team.
  • Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (2001) used Osterley for its garden reunion scene.
  • Osterley Park has been used for Buckingham Palace scenes, including Victoria's sitting room and anteroom, in the 2009 film The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend.
  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012 Batman film,) has the interior of Osterley Park mansion as a double for Wayne Manor.


  • The Untouchable, John Banville's novel, features Osterley Park

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Osterley Park)


  1. John Hardy and Maurice Tomlin, Osterley Park House, (Victoria and Albert Museum) 1985.
  2. Jayne Elisabeth Archer, Elizabeth Clarke, and Elizabeth Goldring, eds, John Nichols' The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth I: A New Edition of the Early Modern Sources, V: Appendices, Bibliographies, and Index. Appendix 7: Sir Thomas Gresham and Osterley Park
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tom Wintringham (History Learning Site) accessed 29 Jan 2008
  4. Newark, Tim Now you see it... Now You Don't, (March 2007) History Today
  5. Information from the archives of E.T. Spashett ARIBA (to be donated to RIBA archives in 2009 after cataloguing)