Osterley Park is situated between A4 and M4 and is one of the last remaining family estates in the London area, so as we drove down the tree lined drive we saw fields of ripening wheat and pastures with horses, ponies and cattle grazing. There is also a vast area for sport and recreation and several lakes.
The original Manor house, bought by Sir Thomas Gresham (of the Royal Exchange and Gresham College) in 1562 is probably now the Stable block. The 3 sided, red brick block with square turrets at the corners, and central courtyard was finished in 1576 when Sir Thomas entertained Queen Elizabeth I.
Sir Francis Child of Child’s Bank, grandson of the original Francis Child who founded Child’s bank, bought the estate in 1761. He employed Robert Adam to bring the house up to date in the 18th century Neoclassical style. Adam created the impressive classical portico with Ionic columns, with stone steps leading up to it (see first picture). One then crosses the open courtyard to enter the hall . To achieve this Robert Adam had to raise the level of the original Elizabethan courtyard, so one now enters a piano nobile where all the major rooms are on the first floor. He also reinforced the corners of the Elizabethan turrets with white stone, which has a pleasing effect. Most of the interior and the furniture is still as Robert Adam designed it.
The Child’s crest of an eagle and a marigold appears in the elaborate plasterwork ceilings and carpets. The ceremonial hall has a marble floor and many original Roman statues. This is typical of Adam’s early work. He worked on this house for nineteen years. So there are designs and work in other rooms. His most ambitious design was for the state bedroom. The bed is topped by a dome representing the temple of Venus. There is so much to admire – the Gobelin tapestries, Chippendale chairs, designs on the wall of the Etruscan room, Chinese porcelain and 2 Chinese junks carved in ivory obtained by Lord Child through the East India Company.
In the grounds the semicircular garden house designed by Robert Adam for Lady Child is set in the pleasant formal garden. This was visited by some of the CADHAS members while others walked to the Lake.
Finally we adjourned to the stable block for tea and cakes.