The classical villa was originally built by the third Earl of Burlington (1694-1753) in grounds purchased by his grandfather. Influenced by the Italian architect Andrea Palladio, and his follower, Inigo Jones, the house was constructed in the neo Palladian style and, rather than being an actual home, was used as a venue for lavish parties as well as being a showcase for valuable art and furniture collected on the continent.
Together with William Kent, the earl – who was known by Horace Walpole as the ‘Apollo of the Arts' - transformed the gardens with new designs based on romantic Italian landscape paintings and houses that he had visited when travelling on the Grand Tour. Departing to Chiswick in the heat of summer, leaving the stink of London behind, guests could hide in the ha-ha, or wander across the stone bridge and look into the lake, or wander beside the artificial river – then quite a revolutionary affect – and all surrounded by informal planting, the lushness of which was balanced by formal architectural details such as classical statues, Doric columns and an Ionic temple.
Often visited by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the house went on to play host to such luminaries as Handel, Sir Walter Scott, and – here’s some Victorian reference! – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
The VV recommends a visit to Chiswick House. Click here for The official site which is excellent. And when you are footsore and weary from strolling around the house and grounds you will find a lovely cafe in which to rest and drink some tea. You won’t be disappointed.