As today was expected to be a day of uncertain weather we decided it was better to stay in London rather than spend money on train tickets and perhaps have rain spoil the trip. But where in London? We thought we’d let ourselves by inspired by London Historians and pay a visit to Chiswick House. (See their write-up at Chiswick House.) It didn’t quite work out, though, as you will see.
So, being in no need to hurry, we strolled down to Cafe Maya (one of our favourite breakfast places, as I have said before) for one of their vegetarian breakfasts with fried haloumi cheese. Delicious.
After breakfast we went across the road and caught the first of three buses to our destination. We changed at Green Park where I took a quick photo of the Park Lane Hotel (the building with flags) which, despite its name, isn’t in Park Lane. (It’s in Piccadilly.)
Near the bus stop is this structure, essentially a thick shelf supported by two metal posts. It is not a bench, being much too tall for that. It was established in the Victorian era by a philanthropic MP.
The object itself answers the question by including a bronze plate with an inscription which reads as follows: AT THE SUGGESTION OF R.A. SLANEY ESQ. WHO FOR 20 YEARS REPRESENTED SHREWSBURY IN PARLIAMENT, THIS PORTERS REST WAS ERECTED IN 1861 BY THE VESTRY OF ST. GEORGE HANOVER SQUARE FOR THE BENEFIT OF PORTERS AND OTHERS CARRYING BURDENS. AS A RELIC OF A PAST PERIOD IN LONDON’S HISTORY IT IS HOPED THAT THE PEOPLE WILL AID ITS PRESERVATION.
Two buses later (we broke our journey for coffee at Hammersmith Mall because haloumi cheese is salty and makes you thirsty!), we arrived in Alexandra Avenue in Chiswick. It was spitting with rain at this point but, fortunately, it soon cleared up.
A short walk later, we reached the gates of the Chiswick House estate in Burlington Lane. The brown sign board tells us that Hogarth’s house is near here also. (That will be a visit for another day.)
We walked to the house and approached through the sphinx gate. It was very quiet and there were people busy with various jobs. I began to suspect the house was not open for visits.
My suspicions were correct: the house was definitely closed. We should have checked first. Never mind, we could at least explore the gardens and perhaps go on to Hogarth’s house afterwards.
Sculptures of two famous architects stand on the steps that lead up to the front of the house. On the left, Andrea Palladio, whose “Palladian” style was to influence the architects coming after him, and, on the right, Inigo Jones, one of whose works stands in the grounds.
Behind the house there are pathways leading through the extensive grounds.
A broad, straight, sandy avenue leads away from the house, its perspective inviting the eye – and the foot – to follow it into the distance.
From the avenue you can look back at the house and admire its symmetry, topped off by its characteristic dome. (The yellow chair provided a resting place for a groundsman or staff member who wandered off seconds before I took the photo.)
This sphinx beside the avenue is very clean and sharply defined so I think it has been refurbished or is perhaps a modern replacement. Its partner opposite it is more eroded and marked by time.
At the end of the avenue, we met two lions, a female and a male. The male, shown above, had the saddest expression I have ever seen on the face of a sculpted lion. Whether this was deliberate on the part of the sculptor or whether erosion has emphasised the effect, I do not know.
The avenue ends on what is called a “patte d’oie”, a triple branching of the path. Off to the right (not visible in the picture) a path leads to the rose garden in which stands a Doric column. We decided to go ahead.
Let me just say at this point that I am not attempting a complete description of the grounds but my own view as we wandered at random along the paths. We missed far more than we saw and you will find a fuller description here.
We took the central path that led to what seemed to be some sort of arch. There was something in the arch that we could not quite make out. Was it a sculpture?
From closer up, the solution appeared. Someone had chosen to sit in the arch – which is known as the Eyecatcher – for a quiet read. It is said that from this viewpoint you get splendid views in all directions. We, however, continued on.
We came to an ornamental water feature and for a while watched these three young coots. They were plunging to fetch weed to eat from the bottom. Coots can be surprisingly aggressive and here, despite being sub-adult, they are chasing away a moorhen who has strayed into “their” territory.
As it was now spitting with rain, we decided to seek shelter, perhaps at Hogarth’s house. This led to another disappointment: Hogarth’s house was closed for refurbishment! We gave up at this point and took the bus (or rather, buses) homeward.
On the way we discussed plans for dinner. Should we go home or dine out? And if the latter, where?
In a previous post (see A visit to Joey’s) I mentioned this ex-pub that had become a cafe-restaurant with a French name. We had passed it often in our comings and goings and proposed trying it one day. Today was the day.
As soon as we went in and met the manager, I recognized a genuine French accent. So we spoke French throughout. It was impressive: nice decor, everything spotlessly clean, and the food… Let’s just say it was the best restaurant meal I have had for a long time. A true French bistro in every sense of the word. We shall return.