Essential Architecture-  London

Chiswick House


Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, better known as Lord Burlington


Chiswick, west London




Palladian, Late English Renaissance




Chiswick House is a Palladian villa in Burlington Lane, Chiswick, London W4, England.

The house belonged to Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, better known as Lord Burlington, whose taste and skill as an architect have been frequently recorded. The "architect earl" designed it in 1729, with garden design input from William Kent. Burlington's daughter Charlotte married William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire, and the house and gardens passed to that family after her early death.

The octagonal domed Palladian villa is inspired by the Villa Capra "La Rotonda" near Vicenza and at the same time a fine example of 18th-century architecture, with its colonnaded portico on the upper storey, the frescoed ceilings, the velvet rooms and the stone rooms. It differs from the Villa Capra in having three different designs to the facades (front, back, and two matching sides) rather than being symmetrical all the way round. There is also a superb collection of paintings and palladian furnishings.

Burlington was a widower with one daughter and Chiswick was not his only or his largest house, so he had no need to attempt to incorporate all the accommodation normally found in a country house. Nonetheless, the villa was connected to other buildings which contained some additional family rooms and service quarters.

The gateway was originally designed by Inigo Jones in 1621 and removed and rebuilt by Burlington at Chiswick House in 1738.

In the 1750s Chiswick passed by marriage to the 4th Duke of Devonshire, who was the widower of Burlington's daughter. The house was used occasionally by the Devonshires, who had many other residences, and they added two small wings to the villa to increase the amount of accommodation. These were in a sympathetic style, but inimicable to the concept of the house as a compact perfectly formed villa, and have now been removed.

The 9th Duke of Devonshire sold Chiswick to Brentford Council in 1929. The House and gardens are in the care of English Heritage, and the garden is open to the public without charge.

Italian Garden
The remnants of the original Italian gardens occupy an open area at the north of the house. Several magnificent cedars (Cedrus libani Barrel.) guard the perimeter of the semicircle enclosing the facade of the house. These trees sprouted from the seeds of one or several of the four ones planted in 1683 in the Chelsea Physic Garden, in London. The last Chelsea cedar died in 1904.

The presence of other Mediterranean plants like several cypreses and the geometrical layout of the Italian garden offer a stark contrast to the rest of the landscaped design of the estate.