Osterley House

Osterley is a place few people seem to know about, though many pass through its station on the Picadilly Line between Central London and Heathrow or drive past it on the Great West Road. It’s place where few actually live, a handful of streets to the north of that road along with a huge estate of Osterley Park House and an even vaster area of Green Belt with sports areas and a golf club between Southall, Heston, Hanwell, Isleworth and Brentford, whose football club have a training site there. Now the M25 runs through the northern part, cutting it off even more.

I knew it from my early years, an easy bike ride from my home in a densely built up part of Hounslow, with a grand avenue of Sweet Chestnuts where you could rummage through the grass to pick up chestnuts to take home and roast in the oven. Doubtless in earlier years one might have been transported to Australia for such theft, but things were easier in the 1950s.

Later I ran through the ‘Hole in the Wall’ into the fields of Osterley Park on cross-country runs from my secondary school – at least until we learned to disappear into Jersey Gardens on the way there, hiding out enjoying a few fags until the mud-spattered runners came past on their way to the finish a few hundred yards away, coming in respectfully down the field.

Osterley was a country house for two of the wealthiest of English Bankers, the first house built here for Sir Thomas Gresham in 1576.  Sir Francis Child acquired it after a mortgage default and his two grandsons had Robert Adam do a much more fashionable makeover in the 1760s. The stable block survived and now contains the shop and tea-room.

On the death of his brother the property as a whole passed to his younger brother Robert Child; when his only child, a daughter eloped with the Earl of Westmoreland the enraged father changed his will leaving the property in trust to his as yet unborn first granchild. She was born a couple of years later and went on to marry George Villiers, the 5th Earl of Jersey (later he got a royal licence to change his surname to Child Villiers) which explains why Osterley’s main road along which you approach the estate is Jersey Road.

The house was first opened to the public briefly by the 9th Earl in 1939, before becoming a Home Guard training establishment. After the war he moved to Jersey selling the furniture to the V&A and giving the house and park to the National Trust – who handed it over to the Ministry of Works and the V&A for restoration. There was some limited opening of the house to the public and I remember going there when quite young, but it was only in 1991 that it was handed back to the National Trust.

Our visit to Osterley was a short one, and I didn’t have time to go around the house but after a meal in the stables (not hay, but I don’t recommend it) did go into the gardens. Although the wider park is free to the public, there is a charge for the house and gardens, but free entry for members of the National Trust and the Art Fund.

More pictures at Osterley Park.
Images taken on National Trust property are copyright but not available for reproduction or sale.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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