Chiswick House & Gardens


Ornamental oasis. Mental asylum. Much-loved public park. For nearly three hundred years, Chiswick House and Gardens have had a varied and sometimes surprising existence.Largely the creation of the 18th-century aristocrat Lord Burlington, Chiswick is also a place of great significance in garden history. It was here that Lord Burlington pioneered a more natural style of gardening that was to spread worldwide. It became of one of Britains greatest contributions to European art: the English landscape garden.Today that garden has been restored, with more than 1600 new trees and shrubs planted, original walkways cleared and vistas newly opened. On this trail, youll explore the gardens by searching out the Picture in the Landscape easels, which show historic images of the gardens at different points in its history. Ten writers have used these images as inspiration for poems, short plays, and sketches. Five of the writers are winners of the Chiswick Gardens audio trail competition, held in 2010. The other five are a mixture of established and emerging writers, including Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion.


  • 1. Mind the Carriage!

    1. Mind the Carriage!

    18/03/2017 Duração: 04min

    Jacques Rigaud: (Drawing a picture) Can you see what it is yet? I’ve got the new house, dead centre. Lovely columns, pediment, Palladian front, dome worthy of the Eternal City itself, very nice. I’m putting in the old house to the side, the right-hand side there. I’m making it smaller than the new house, which it isn’t, but that’s a little bit of artistic license on my part – Lord Burlington wants a drawing of his new house, not his old one, so keep the old one in the background… I’m putting in lots of people. A couple on the left, down at the front, under the trees. There’s some sort of assignation going on there. Leave it to you to guess what’s going on. What shall I do on the other side? Put in a cow… Hmm… To be honest I’m happier drawing buildings than cows. Sometimes my cows turn out like horses, sometimes like large dogs. Tell you what, I’m going to put myself in, standing under a tree, looking at the cow and wondering how to draw him properly. Now, I’m putting three chaps leaning on the gate looking at

  • 101. About Chiswick House

    101. About Chiswick House

    18/03/2017 Duração: 02min

    NARRATOR: Lord Burlington designed the villa we know as Chiswick House in about 1725. It’s one of the most important examples of Palladian architecture in the country, a style named after the work of 16th-century Italian architect Andreas Palladio. Palladio was inspired by the classical buildings of ancient Rome and he tried to recreate the formality and proportions of those buildings in his designs. The Palladian style was later adopted in England by the celebrated architect Inigo Jones – which explains why so many older English buildings look like Roman temples. Lord Burlington, also known as the ‘Architect Earl’, was inspired to design his own building in the Palladian tradition here at Chiswick. The house was intended as both an architectural exercise and a residence – although most of its owners never lived inside. During the 18th century, it was fashionable for the wealthy to build retirement and holiday retreats on the banks of the Thames. Today’s house is the lone survivor of these retreats: it origin

  • 2. Chiswick as it Never Was?

    2. Chiswick as it Never Was?

    18/03/2017 Duração: 02min

    NARRATOR: ‘The Shadow’ by Michelle Penn, a London-based poet and fiction writer. SHADOW: (Tone: humorous jealousy) I am only her follower, her echo, barely noticeable. She flits and she flirts with the bird in her hand and she sings, she sings, tra-la-la-waltzing her way across a patch of grass, her stage, lit just for her by a gracious sun. I do my best, follow and keep up, but she’s more graceful, more subtle than I — a mere shadow. She has even dressed for the occasion, outdone me once again, her snappy white dress and hat match the house perfectly. They even match the clouds, those perfect painter’s puffs. Or no. Of course. They dressed to look like her. (Humorous, singing a little made-up song) How can the river and trees even compete when my little mistress takes to her feet? (Speaking again) Even her dog, what’s-his-name, even he can’t command attention the way she can. He simply barks his unbroken adulation, his anthem of love and she laughs, taps him playfully on the nose before joining a new duet wi

  • 102. A Revolutionary Garden

    102. A Revolutionary Garden

    18/03/2017 Duração: 01min

    NARRATOR: Chiswick was a new and revolutionary kind of garden. At the beginning of the 18th century, it was fashionable to have formal gardens, which were laid out in carefully planned geometric shapes. Lord Burlington bucked that trend, with more natural-looking stretches of water and groves, opening out into sweeping lawns which created vistas, or picturesque views. These more informal gardens gave birth to the English landscape movement and were widely copied across England, including Stourhead in Wiltshire and Stowe in Buckinghamshire. Terraces like the one you’re now walking along weren’t particularly new in garden design, but Lord Burlington set a precedent by planting his with ‘… all manner of sweet shrubs, roses and honeysuckles.’ From this terrace, visitors had spectacular views across the meadows. At its height the garden estate would have been more extensive than today. Part of the land was leased to the London Horticultural Society (later the Royal Horticultural Society) for an experimental garden

  • 3. The Artist Admires His Handiwork

    3. The Artist Admires His Handiwork

    18/03/2017 Duração: 05min

    NARRATOR: The Artist Admires His Handiwork, a.k.a. ‘It’s not Bill,’ by Under 18s competition winner Florence Read, aged 15. WILLIAM KENT:  I really do wish that they’d all stop calling me Bill. My name’s William for God’s sake. I just wish that they’d leave me be, stop questioning my methods. Just because I may not be as qualified as the next horticultural wizard doesn’t mean that I lack enough talent to see this project through. It’s pretty simple really, doesn’t take much of a mind to do; bit of shrubbery here, a tree or two there, the odd topiary duck, simple. [Pause] Or not so simple. [Pause] Insanity runs in my family I think, I think it runs deep in all those who create, who inspire. When you’re sane you have to care, only the truly insane can be carefree, or free at all. I have thought a lot over the past few months, while working in the gardens. In nature, there is nothing of the city to distract you; you are utterly alone with yourself and your thoughts. [Pause] No, not at all. [Pause] It’s laughable

  • 103. The Obelisk, Lord Burlington and William Kent

    103. The Obelisk, Lord Burlington and William Kent

    18/03/2017 Duração: 02min

    NARRATOR:  Burlington added the Obelisk to the garden in 1732. Built into its base is a classical sculpture of a man and a woman, probably carved to record a marriage. It had been given to the young Burlington in 1712 and he had it inserted into the base of the obelisk in 1728. The sculpture was replaced with a copy in 2006, and the original is now on display in Chiswick House. Lord Burlington was just 10 years old when he inherited his title from his father. His inheritance included a house here at Chiswick, vast estates in Yorkshire and Ireland, and a fine town mansion in Piccadilly — today the home of the Royal Academy of Arts. In 1719, on a tour of Italy, he met William Kent, where Kent was training as a painter. By 18th century standards, they were an unlikely match: a formal and reserved aristocrat and a warm, witty and irreverent Yorkshireman. But they formed a close lifelong friendship. In fact, when Kent died in 1748, he was buried in Lord Burlington’s family vault. Kent became one of the most influe

  • 4. The Ionic Temple

    4. The Ionic Temple

    18/03/2017 Duração: 01min

    NARRATOR:  Former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion reads his poem, ‘The Ionic Temple, Chiswick.’ SIR ANDREW MOTION:  Once upon a time it was the thimble a seamstress might wear to work for the big Classical gods. For us it more nearly resembles the domed nose of a cruise missile easing upwards from its silo. But enough of that. When we step inside it fits so snugly I might as well have discovered a way of living in your head as you now live in mine. The skylight in the centre overhead is a fontanel yet to close. We can stare straight back at the sun.

  • 104. Chiswick after Lord Burlington

    104. Chiswick after Lord Burlington

    18/03/2017 Duração: 01min

    NARRATOR:  After Lord Burlington died in 1753, Chiswick House was inherited by his daughter, Charlotte, who married the 4th Duke of Devonshire. The Devonshires were one of the richest and most powerful families in England. Under their ownership, which lasted for 140 years, Chiswick continued to change, with innovative designs that reflected cutting-edge trends. In 1788, the 5th Duke expanded the house, adding two wings that contained kitchens and living accommodation and Chiswick became a proper country mansion. The sombre Duke, who preferred dogs to people, and his wife, Georgiana, made the house a centre of political society, where they threw lavish parties. Georgiana was a fashion icon, famous for her enormous ostrich feather headdresses, her towering hair-dos, and her manner of speaking, the ‘Devonshire House Drawl’. She was equally infamous for her addictions, extramarital affairs and gambling debts. However, she loved Chiswick, calling it her ‘earthly paradise,’ her refuge. At the end of the 19th centur

  • 5. A Place of Healing

    5. A Place of Healing

    18/03/2017 Duração: 03min

    NARRATOR: ‘A Place of Healing’ by Adults competition winner Jo Thomas. Constance: Another beautiful day Lydia, and in such perfect surroundings. Lydia:  Dearest Constance, I could not agree more. When Edmund told me the rest home was in Chiswick, I was most distressed at the thought of leaving London for the country, but I am now beginning to wonder how we shall ever get used to the noise of Belgravia again! Constance:  I completely agree with you my dearest. And how kind of our husbands to arrange for this period of recuperation for us. Although, if I were to be completely honest, I am a little surprised I have not been recalled to Ebury Street by now. I was of the impression that our period of rest was for two weeks. Correct me if I am wrong Lydia, but I believe we have both been here for something closer to three months? Lydia: Dearest, that is indeed the case. And I feel sure we are now well recuperated. Which is more than one can say for some of our fellow guests. There is a clever word for people who co

  • 105. A Peaceful Asylum

    105. A Peaceful Asylum

    18/03/2017 Duração: 01min

    NARRATOR: The Tuke brothers ran their mental asylum here at Chiswick for more than 35 years. Rather than prescribing drugs, they listened and talked to their patients and were celebrated for their enlightened attitudes. Dr Thomas Seymour Tuke’s obituary described how his personal tact with patients led to them looking upon him as a trusted friend more than a doctor. Most of the patients came from the upper middle class, gentry and aristocracy. Their days were mainly spent in the gardens, walking arm in arm with nurses. They also went on escorted outings to the theatre and played cricket on a pitch here at Chiswick that the Tukes laid out in the 1890s. Cricket played a therapeutic role of sorts for patients. The doctors were keen cricketers themselves- Dr Charles Tuke played for Middlesex- and they encouraged patients to play and brought in outside teams for some healthy competition. One case note for a ‘Mr M’, who played cricket daily, reports that he ‘made a good score of 49 not out against the police’. Cric

  • 6. A Sporting Tradition

    6. A Sporting Tradition

    18/03/2017 Duração: 03min

    NARRATOR: ‘A Sporting Tradition’ by Chiswick Residents competition winner Nigel Macarthur. MALE VOICE (in a comic fashion): Our spying is top secret, We will not give our names. Inside the boundary, cricket. Outside are other games. We’re here to pass a message, When we receive our cue. The scores, appeals and all the rest, Conceal a thing or two. The match, we’re told, is choreographed, Down to the ice creams bought. We buy our raspberry ripples, When the score is two for nought. Our rivals, though, have followed. They’re very different men. One’s thickset, scruffy, tie askew. He does rough stuff, as-and-when. The other, Trevor Howard-like, Will get the ladies chatting, And try to find our movements, While the openers are batting. The pitch grows unpredictable, Thanks to the recent rain. Those pre-planned cues and signals, Begin to feel the strain. The bowler tries to slow the ball, But it swings off the seam. The bails are dancing through the air, Like an aerobatic team. We’re forced to signal much too soon

  • 106. The Classic Bridge and Orangery

    106. The Classic Bridge and Orangery

    18/03/2017 Duração: 01min

    NARRATOR:  From 1946 until 1992 the Turnham Green Cricket Club played on the pitch at weekends. Celebrity cricket matches were a regular feature in the 1940s and 50s, in which famous cricketers like Denis Compton and Colin Cowdrey took part. As you continue along the path, you will come to an elegant stone bridge, today known as the Classic Bridge. It was built for the 5th Duke of Devonshire in 1774 and was designed by the architect James Wyatt. During the Second World War, the gardens were hit by several German bombs. If you take a look closer at the bridge, you can still see shrapnel damage. Today, the artificial lake that the bridge spans is a haven for a wide variety of birds and bats, as well as a group of terrapins and a heron. As you continue further along the path, you should soon see the Ionic temple again. The towering obelisk in front of it stood at the centre of a circular pool of water, which was once surrounded by orange trees. Lord Burlington liked to grow oranges and created the garden’s orang

  • 7. An Audience of Oranges

    7. An Audience of Oranges

    18/03/2017 Duração: 02min

    NARRATOR:  ‘An Audience of Oranges,’ a.k.a. ‘Critic’s Circle’ by Adult competition winner Katharine Kavanagh. Waiting in the wings the sweet triffids, potted critics, surround the scene, ready to pass judgement. The fidgety restlessness that comes from fur, feather and feet is held in awe. An awe-dience. Who will be victorious in this battle of wills and Stillness? For there, facing down his foes, the lone stone owns the stage. The rows of green, neatly trimmed and pruned, uniform and proper, rustle gently in the breeze, but maintain their composure. ‘His poise is good,’ ‘Elegant.’ Hushed, like the slow stroke of sleepy summer butterflies, the tension of this Act leaks softly through the air with the scent of oranges. ‘It can’t last,’ ‘He has to crack,’ ‘All alone out there,’ ‘And we are many,’ ‘Many,’ ‘Many,’ ‘We are populous.’ The rings would close in if they could. ‘We will stand here,

  • 107. Goosefoot, Exedra, and Rock’n’Roll

    107. Goosefoot, Exedra, and Rock’n’Roll

    18/03/2017 Duração: 02min

    NARRATOR:  At the end of this path is one of the key features of Chiswick’s garden, a series of radiating avenues forms known as a patte d’oie, or ‘goosefoot.’ It probably dates from 1716 and has been restored to its original appearance. Each avenue ends in an ‘eye-catcher’ – an ornamental building intended to draw the eye to the end of each vista. Today, you can see a rustic house and a Doric column, although only the rustic house is original from Burlington’s time. The large lawn behind Chiswick House is closed at one end by a dramatic semi-circular hedge known as the exedra. Here, you can see a recreation of Burlington’s collection of 18th-century sculpture, including copies of antique figures said to be the ancient Roman figures of Caesar, Pompey and Cicero. They were brought back from Rome by Lord Burlington and the originals are now inside the House. The statues of the lion and lioness, completed about 1733, were probably sculpted by Flemish sculptor Pieter Scheemakers. This area of the garden also feat

  • 8. Long-Necked Visitors

    8. Long-Necked Visitors

    18/03/2017 Duração: 04min

    NARRATOR:  ‘Long Necked Visitors’ by Under 18s competition winner Lily Hewitt, aged 17. Herald:  And to welcome the Tsar of Russia to Chiswick Gardens, we have for the audience’s pleasure, four giraffes on show originally from the distant land of Africa. Giraffe:  They say I’m from Africa, but I don’t remember it now. I was just a calf when I was shipped over, rammed tight into the crates so we didn’t fall over in the storms that brewed, turning the sky into a bruised blue. I remember the colours of Africa though; the yellow brown of baked sand under the scorching sun, the green of leaves as I strained up to reach them. The sky here is grey and fat droplets of rain fall year round. I was brought from Surrey Zoo. They say that I’m long-necked, but look at them! The women crane their heads to stare while the children poke fingers against my leathery skin. As I look around at the pink blossom trees and frothy, brown evergreens it makes me smile because doesn’t every creature look for something bigger? The animal

  • 108. The Duke and his Menagerie

    108. The Duke and his Menagerie

    18/03/2017 Duração: 01min

    NARRATOR: The 6th Duke of Devonshire owned a large collection of exotic animals, among them an Indian bull, a Neapolitan pig, and a Peruvian llama. One of the star attractions was Saidi, an Indian elephant, whose tricks included using her trunk to sweep with a broom and to uncork a bottle. She also gave rides around the lawn. She was buried in the grounds in 1829, although her bones have not yet been found. The Duke may have collected animals to keep him company as despite being a very eligible bachelor, he never married. The Bachelor Duke also built the conservatory here at Chiswick, which housed his collection of camellias from the 1820s. The conservatory has now been restored and it still contains a world-famous collection of camellias. As you cross the lawn, you will soon approach another original feature of Lord Burlington’s garden: the Inigo Jones gateway.

  • 9. A Prize for the Architect Earl

    9. A Prize for the Architect Earl

    18/03/2017 Duração: 01min

    This poem, ‘HERACLES’, is by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. To look at him now, who would think he’d flayed a pelt of iron, bronze, stone from a lion, hacked its head for a helmet… held the Hydra’s hissing heads by eight throats; scarfed the Golden Hind about his own; chained, tamed, shouldered a wild boar? Or believe he, old man, had harnessed rivers; emptied the air of murderous birds, their brazen feathers; felt the mad, hot bull swoon in his arms; set four crazed mares to pulling his chariot; wooed an Amazon simply to break her heart? Who’d credit his arrow killed the dragon and giant, or bet he stole the golden apples from a god, called to heel Hell’s dog for the last of his labours? But he is the Gatekeeper; this the home of the Gods, who plucked him, favoured, from the wood and fire of his funeral pyre to place him here… and he will never let you pass.

  • 109. Inigo Jones Gateway

    109. Inigo Jones Gateway

    18/03/2017 Duração: 01min

    NARRATOR:  The gateway was designed by the celebrated architect Inigo Jones for Beaufort House in Chelsea in 1621. Lord Burlington admired Jones’s design and acquired the gateway in 1738 when his friend Hans Sloane was demolishing the house. A poem by William Kent describes how the gateway came to Chiswick: Ho! Gate, how came ye here? I came fro’ Chelsea the last yere Inigo Jones there put me together Then was I dropping by wind and weather Sir Hannes Sloane Let me alone But Burlington brought me hither This architecton-ical Gate Inigo Jon-ical Was late Hans Slon-ical And now Burlington-ical Around 200 years after the gate had been installed, Chiswick became a public park. The mental asylum that the Tukes ran here closed in 1929 and the grounds and house were bought by Chiswick and Brentford Council. That same year, His Royal Highness Prince George officially opened the site to the public to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike for relaxation and leisure.

  • 10. Parklife

    10. Parklife

    18/03/2017 Duração: 03min

    NARRATOR: ‘Parklife’ by Leah Kharibian, an audio script-writer and occasional film-maker who lives in Leicestershire. Ted  Musing to himself  Don’t know why they gave him a bike for his birthday – pointless really. He’s sat on it once this morning, and that was just to ring the bell. I told them, ‘All the lad needs is a football – an honest-to-goodness football and a bit of grass to play on, that’s all a boy his age ever needs.’ And look at him, happy as Larry. Out loud, to the boy, encouraging  That’s it, Johnny, don’t take your eyes off it! Remember you’re the hawk and that ball’s the rabbit! Haynes  To himself, sniffing for scents  Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit. Hruff, squirrel? Squirrel? [Sniffs again] Rabbit. Hruff, young rabbit. [Sighs] Old dog. Old dog, old paws. Sore paws. Ted  To the dog  Come on Haynes old boy, move it along. You’re feeling your age, aren’t you? You and me both. To himself  And losing the cup didn’t help. Sucked all the life out the summer. [Brighter] But another season, another chance, th

  • 110. A Public Park  Goodbye

    110. A Public Park & Goodbye

    18/03/2017 Duração: 03min

    NARRATOR:  Chiswick was one of the first historic parks to be taken into public ownership for use by the nation. Today, the house and gardens are run by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, supported and championed by numerous volunteer groups and societies. Local residents have a long tradition of coming to Chiswick for all sorts of recreation, from picnicking to exercise. Some have even got married here. Although the Gardens have evolved over the centuries, one thing hasn’t changed: Chiswick remains an oasis in urban west London, a place of tranquility and beauty that can now be enjoyed by all. Thank you for taking this tour of the gardens. If you’d like to visit the house, it’s open between April and October. The gardens and café are open all year round. We hope you’ll come back to Chiswick again soon. Goodbye.