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Inventory Site Record

Gunnersbury Park * (Hounslow)

Brief Description

* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens

Gunnersbury Park is a former C18th estate with formal gardens, developed by Princess Amelia in the late C18th, and extended by Baron Lionel de Rothschild and his family in the C19th and early C20th when it was renowned for its gardens. In 1925 75 hectares of the estate, including the large and small mansions and garden buildings, were purchased by the boroughs of Acton and Ealing, with assistance from the MCC. It opened to the public in May 1926 and although its horticultural features were maintained, there was increasing emphasis on sports and recreation, with facilities including a bowling green, golf course and playground. A number of earlier landscape features remain, including the Potomac Pond with Pulhamite rock work; Princess Amelia's Bath House, Japanese Garden and Italian Garden.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
Gunnersbury Park and Gunnersbury House
Site location:
Gunnersbury Avenue/Pope's Lane/Lionel Road
Postcode:
W3 8LQ
What 3 Words:
ledge.survey.flags
Type of site:
Public Park
Borough:
Hounslow
Open to public?
Yes
Opening times:
Grounds: 8am - dusk. Museum: Apr - Oct: Mon - Fri 1pm - 5pm; Sat, Sun and Bank Holidays 1pm - 6pm Nov - Mar: Mon - Sun 1pm - 4pm
Special conditions:
Facilities:
Café, Museum, shop, toilets, playgrounds, car park; football and rugby pitches, cricket square, tennis courts, athletic track, bowling greens, 9-hole golf course and children's pitch & putt.
Events:
Numerous events. Displays in Park Office
Public transport:
Tube: Acton Town (Piccadilly, District) then bus. Rail: Kew Bridge then bus. Bus: E3, H91
Research updated:
06/08/2020
Last minor changes:
19/07/2023

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.ealing.gov.uk; www.

Full Site Description

Site on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

Gunnersbury Park was once part of the Fulham estate of the Bishops of London. It was purchased in the mid-C17th by Sir John Maynard, for whom architect John Webb built a new manor house. The estate was purchased in 1739 by Henry Furness MP and it is thought that William Kent advised him on layout of the pleasure grounds. Gunnersbury was purchased in 1761 by Princess Amelia who improved and extended the estate, using it as her summer residence until her death in 1786. In 1800 it was purchased by John Morley, who demolished the house and divided the estate into 13 lots with a view to development, which led to the creation of 2 separate estates. They were eventually re-united in 1889 when the Rothschild family owned the estate. In 1802 Alexander Copland, a partner of the architect Henry Holland, purchased 10 of the lots, and Stephen Cosser purchased Lot 1. Copland eventually purchased the other 2 lots, and built Gunnersbury Park, a house now known as The Large Mansion. The Small Mansion, Gunnersbury House, was built either by Cosser or by his successor Major Alexander Morrison who purchased Cosser's property in 1807.

The Gunnersbury House estate was purchased in 1828 by Thomas Farmer, and in 1835 the Gunnersbury Park estate was purchased by Nathan Mayer Rothschild, who sought advice from John Claudius Loudon about improving the approach to the house form Pope's Lane. After Nathan Rothschild's death in 1808, the Rothschild family continued to live here until 1925, having re-united the estate with their purchase of the Gunnersbury House Estate in 1889. In c.1861 land to the south west had been added to the estate by Baron Lionel Rothschild, where he converted a former clay pit into Potomac Pond, and the former kiln into a Gothic Boathouse. Pulham & Co constructed the boathouse and rockwork on the lake for him in 1876, and there are other Pulhamite remnants around the park. In 1917 Leopold de Rothschild died and the estate was broken up and sold off.

In 1925 75 hectares of the estate, including the large and small mansions and garden buildings, were purchased by the boroughs of Acton and Ealing, with assistance from the MCC. It was opened to the public on 21 May 1926 by Neville Chamberlain MP. During WWII the playing fields were used for anti-aircraft positions. Since 1929 the Large Mansion has housed Gunnersbury Park Museum, while the Small Mansion houses an arts centre. To the north-east of the park are the pleasure gardens, which include the Italian Garden, first recorded as such c.1880, but which had been laid out in different configurations over the years, reflected by the different names it went by. To the south is the Temple overlooking the Round Pond, both thought to date from Princess Amelia's period, the building probably designed by Sir William Chambers (1723-96) and once known as The Dairy. Fine mature cedar trees are found in this area, although many were lost in the 1987 storms. In the 1920s the Pond began to be used for boating. Nearby, the former kitchen garden later became a commercial nursery. A terrace extends along the south front of both Mansions, although ornamentation and horticultural features referred to in garden magazines of the Rothschilds' time are no longer in evidence.

The former division between the two estates is marked by a line of trees and the site of a former lake made between 1741 and 1777, known as Horseshoe Pond, remains as a depression in the lawn; this lake was split in two when the estate was divided in c.1828 and only dried up in the late C20th. The west end is now a rock garden, south of which is the Orangery built in c.1836/7 by Samuel Smirke to overlook Horseshoe Pond. Elsewhere in the garden is a complex of late C18th/early C19th gothic outbuildings including a grotto shelter and Princess Amelia's Bath House, which was been restored since 1999. Gothic ruins, built for the Rothschilds in the mid C19th, are located near the Japanese Garden, which was skillfully designed by Leopold Rothschild's gardener James Hudson c.1900. The wider parkland of some c.60 hectares now contains a public golf course, sports pitches and open grassland. The Rothschilds had expanded the estate to the west and established a polo field here and used part for agriculture.

Today the park, its buildings and facilities are suffering from a long-term lack of investment, and both mansions, together with a number of listed structures in the park, are on the London Heritage at Risk Register and in need of interior and exterior repair. In March 2011 English Heritage announced £149,000 grant aid to Hounslow Council for urgent repairs to the park's listed buildings, which followed earlier funding of £30,500 in 2011 for a condition survey to identify the priority areas requiring attention. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England was established in 1984 and was commonly called English Heritage. In April 2015 it split into 2 separate entities, Historic England (HE), which continues to champion and protect the historic environment, and the English Heritage Trust, whose role is to look after the 400+ historic sites and monuments owned by the state. HE manages the National Heritage List for England (NHLE) that includes over 400,000 items ranging from prehistoric monuments to office blocks, battlefields and parks, which benefit from legal protection.

The substantial restoration programme at Gunnersbury was completed in 2018. This prompted a closer study of the landscape and a more detailed analysis of the archive acquired at its purchase as a public park in 1925. This revealed Henry Furnese's transformation of the formal mid-C17th garden into a softer arcadian landscape. This fascinating history is given in an article, 'Transforming Gunnersbury's Gardens 1660-1760' in The London Gardener, vol. 23, 2019.

Sources consulted:

See NHLE Register. David Pape, 'Nature Conservation in Hounslow' Ecology Handbook 15, London Ecology Unit, 1990. Val Bott, with James Wisdom, 'Transforming Gunnersbury's Gardens 1660-1760' in The London Gardener, vol. 23, 2019. See also https://londongardenstrust.org/features/gunnersbury.htm: 'Four Centuries of History', Report by Barbara Simms of Gunnersbury Park Study Day 9th March 2003', London Landscapes, No. 2, Summer 2002; https://londongardenstrust.org/features/gunnersbury2006.htm: ''Strategic Malaise' At Gunnersbury Park', London Landscapes, no.12, Spring 2006.

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ190792 (518760,178870)
Size in hectares:
70.96
Site ownership:
Gunnersbury Park Joint Committee (LB Ealing and LB Hounslow)
Site management:
Gunnersbury Park Joint Committee. Friends of Gunnersbury Park and Museum
Date(s):
C18th; C19th; 1925
Designer(s):
William Kent (1739-43)
Listed structures:
LBII*: Large Mansion; The Temple. LBII:Small Mansion; Main entrance on Pope's Lane; North Lodge, C19th lamp standards near Pope's Lane entrance; East Lodge; C18th archway; Orangery; Complex of gothic outbuildings to south inc, arcade, grotto shelter and Princess Amelia's Bathhouse; Stables by Japanese gardens; gothic Boathouse
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Yes
NHLE grade:
Grade II*
Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

No
Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

No

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
No
In Conservation Area:
Yes
Conservation Area name:
Gunnersbury Park
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local Importance
Green Belt:
No
Metropolitan Open Land:
Yes
Special Policy Area:
Yes - ENV12; SRB
Other LA designation:
Borough Park. Historic Parks & Gardens.
Photos

Gunnersbury Park *

Gunnersbury Park - Large Mansion - Photo: Colin Wing
Date taken: 30/08/18 09:31

Click a photo to enlarge.

More photos

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