At the end of Syon Park, Part I, we left off in the Long Gallery, Shall we resume our tour?
At 41.3 metres long by 4.2 metres wide, one can see why it was named the Long Gallery. This magnificent room takes up the entire east front of the house, a stretch of eleven windows. Originally, it was the Tudor Long Gallery, designed to give the ladies a place to promenade in inclement weather. Going to the gym wasn’t much of a thing in Tudor times. Adam revamped the former panelled gallery by dividing the inside long wall into five bays centred on three doors and two fireplaces.
These bays were further divided into groups of four Corinthian pilasters painted by Michelangelo Pergolesi, with bookshelves set between.
That makes for sixty-two pilasters in case you’re counting. And over 3,000 books.
By stretching the pilasters right up to the diagonally patterned ceiling, the room achieves an impression of width it doesn’t otherwise deserve.
Speaking of the ceiling, let’s linger there for a moment. Le Wow.
High on the walls are landscapes, portraits of members of the Percy Family and pictures of famous architectural sites such as the Pont de Gard, in Avignon, below.
As one enters the Long Gallery from the Red Drawing Room, a false bookcase on the right hides a concealed door with steps leading to the south lawn. Don’t you love a hidden staircase?
At each end of the Gallery are small boudoirs, known as Turret Rooms. The one at this end (the south-east) is square and is hung with mirrors and silk with a chinoiserie pattern.
I was down on one knee trying to balance the camera and hold it steady enough to get a closeup of the silk in less-than-ideal light.
Then there was the almost-flat-on-my-back position as I snapped the ceiling. There’s a reason I’m always dressed in jeans and a waterproof coat on these expeditions. Often I’m crouched in a very undignified position on damp ground. People have to wonder…
The Turret Room at the opposite end could have been designed for Marie Antoinette. My little heart was going pit-a-pat with delight. From the top of the domed ceiling,..
…down the columns…
…into the alcoves…
… exquisite white plasterwork on the pale blue background, like Wedgwood Jasperware.
Accents of a deeper blue around the perimeter of the domed ceiling brought some strong visual contrast, which kept the overall effect from being too sweet.
And then there is the late 18th-century birdcage, containing a mechanical bird….
… with a clock on the bottom. It’s the perfect feminine getaway. Guys, you can keep your mancaves. I’ll settle in right here.
Back out in the main part of the Long Gallery, I took note of the urns tucked into alcoves high on the walls.
And on the fireplace mantles.
It’s easy to overlook the details if you’re not careful. This was sitting on one of the side tables.
Reluctantly we resumed our tour of the rest of the house. I could have curled up and stayed all day, but instead, pressed on to The Green Drawing Room, which is used regularly by the family.
It’s notable for the scagliola fireplace, designed by Adam for Northumberland House (since demolished) and installed here in 1924.
The ornate ceiling was created in 1863 in the style of the Italian Renaissance, consistent with many rooms at the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland’s sister property, Alnwick Castle.
On to the private dining room. Happy sigh. You will note that it contains not one, but three tables. The perfect solution to crowded holiday meals for a huge family, no?
The gilded French porcelain displayed on the table is part of a Paris Dagoty dessert service purchased by the third Duke in the 1820s.
Another intricate ceiling. And to think my kids, in their quest for the modern look of smooth, white, plaster ceilings have paid people to scrape off the plaster “popcorn”. Imagine what they’d say to this!
Next stop was the Principal Staircase, up which we tread to the upper floor. I loved the windows set above the roof level to emit such gorgeous light.
This Sevres vase was given to the 3rd Duke by French King Charles X who attended his coronation in 1825 as Great Britain’s Ambassador Extraordinary.
Good thing they have the room for it. It’s quite large, as you can see.
The Principal Staircase leads to a landing along the North Front of the House, also known as the Nursery Passage. I stopped to ogle this lovely set of French blue china in a cabinet along the hallway.
The current Duke, along with his brothers and sisters, used these rooms when the family visited Syon each year in the spring and early summer.
At the end of the corridor, you turn right into The East Front of the House, where the State bedrooms are situated. They were furnished by Robert Hughes in 1832 for the young Princess Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent. This is the Duchess of Kent’s room, right across the hall from Princess Victoria’s.
Princess Victoria’s bedroom was very cosy.
The rise of Princess Victoria to the throne was a twisted and circuitous journey and I’ll try to give the Reader’s Digest version. During Victoria’s childhood, the succession to the throne was far from settled. Victoria’s father (deceased) had been a younger brother to the current King, George IV. The King and three more brothers had no legitimate issue and were all estranged from their legal wives, several of whom were past childbearing age in any event. All the brothers (except Victoria’s father) had plenty of illegitimate children, though, having entered into morganatic marriages. and their illegitimate children were known as Fitz-fill-in-the-Royal-Duke’s-name, eg. FitzClarence.
By 1831, George IV had died, and the new king, William IV, was over 60 and still without legitimate issue. Princess Victoria became the heir presumptive. The intention was for the Duchess of Kent to be appointed regent upon Victoria’s (assumed youthful) ascension. Also in the picture was Sir John Conroy, a British Army officer who served as comptroller to the Duchess of Kent’s and Princess Victoria. Remember that women couldn’t manage their own financial affairs at that time. Together, Conroy and the Duchess of Kent were extremely controlling; Victoria was raised largely isolated from other children and prevented from meeting people whom the pair deemed undesirable, including most of her father’s family. All this was designed to ensure Victoria remained weak and dependent upon her mother and Conroy.
To give the Duchess her due, perhaps she was concerned about the loose morals which abounded in Regency society. Whatever the reason, she was insistent her daughter avoid any appearance of sexual impropriety. Victoria shared a bedroom with her mother every night, studied with private tutors, and spent her leisure time playing with her dolls and her King Charles Spaniel, Dash.
Much to The Duchess of Kent and Conroy’s chagrin, Victoria had attained her majority shortly before becoming queen and was quite determined to manage her own affairs, including her duties as Monarch. She swiftly sent Conroy and the Duchess packing, relegating the Duchess to separate accommodations, away from her own.
The PBS series Victoria does an excellent job of covering this period of history, and I’d highly recommend it for those so inclined. The costumes are spectacular.
The tie-in to Syon rests with Charlotte Florentia, the third Duchess of Northumberland. She was Princess Victoria’s official governess,
And that concludes our tour of Syon House and gardens. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.