Inventory Site Record

Orleans House Gardens and Orleans Gardens

Orleans House Gardens and Orleans Gardens (Richmond)

Brief Description

Built in the early C18th, the house was later known as Orleans House after Louis Phillippe, Duc d'Orleans who lived here in exile from France in 1800-14 and 1815-17, before he became King of France in 1830. His widow returned to Twickenham and purchased Orleans House in 1852, her son owning it until 1877. The early C18th house was demolished in 1926/7 and the only surviving buildings are stables, wings of the main house and the Octagon, a garden room of c.1720, now Orleans House Gallery, set in shady woodlands. The riverside Orleans Gardens were originally linked to Orleans House via a tunnel under the road and were purchased by Twickenham Corporation in the 1930s.

Practical Information
Previous / Other name:
The Octagon
Site location:
Richmond Road/Riverside, Twickenham
Type of site:
Public Park
Open to public?
Opening times:
Orleans Gardens: Mon-Sat 7.30am-dusk; Sun 9am-dusk. Orleans House Grounds 9am-dusk.Orleans House Gallery:
Special conditions:
Orleans House Gallery. Orleans Gardens: playground, café
Temporary exhibition programme, community/schools programme.
Public transport:
Rail: Twickenham. Rail/London Overground/Tube (District): Richmond then bus. Bus: R70, 33, H22

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/04/2015
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Full Site Description

Orleans House was named after Louis-Phillippe, Duc d'Orleans (1773-1850), who lived there when he was in exile from France in 1800-14 and 1815-17, taking a lease from the Pocock family. He later became King of France in 1830-1848, and his widow returned to Twickenham and purchased Orleans House in 1852, after which her son owned it until 1877. The house had been built in 1710 for James Johnston, Secretary of State for Scotland, on the site of a former house that he had leased in 1702. It was designed for him by John James, an assistant of Christopher Wren, who rebuilt Twickenham Parish Church of St Mary (q.v.) in 1713; after 2 centuries of private ownership the house was demolished in 1926/7.

The only surviving building is a garden room added c.1720, a 'small but splendid' baroque Octagon designed by James Gibbs who also designed St Martin-in-the-Fields (q.v.) and the villa at Sudbrook Park in Petersham, now the Richmond Golf Club (q.v.). Shortly after it was built a banquet was held in honour of Caroline, Princess of Wales and future wife of George II; Queen Victoria is also known to have visited the Octagon. The gardens in Johnston's time were described as among the finest in the country and noted for their vines. Johnston died in 1737 and was buried in Twickenham; the next owner was George Morton Pitt, MP for Pontefract, who died in 1756. In 1764 it was bought by Sir George Pocock, later Admiral and Commander-in-Chief at the capture of Havana in 1762. Pocock died in 1792 and was buried at Twickenham, but the house remained in the ownership of the family until c.1830.

From 1827-45 Alexander Murray, MP for Kirkcudbright, lived at Orleans House with his wife Lady Anne Bingham, for whom works were carried out by John Buonaretti Papworth to the vestibule that linked the Octagon and the main house, and possibly to the Octagon itself. The Earl of Kilmorey was the owner in 1846, from whom the widow of Louis-Phillippe, Countess of Neuilly, purchased the property in 1852 and from 1855-77 it was owned by her son.

The next owner was Sir John Dugdale Astley who planned to turn Orleans House into an exclusive sports and social club but the venture failed and he sold the estate to the shipping magnate William Cunard in 1882. After his death in 1906 his widow lived here until 1915 but after WWI it was empty and the estate was later sold to the Crane River Sand and Ballast Company who demolished the house and excavated over 200,000 tons of sand and gravel from the site. Furniture and fitments went for sale at auction in March 1926 and in 1927 what remained of the buildings, including the Octagon, adjoining wings of the house and the stable block, were rescued from demolition when the Hon. Mrs Nellie Levy, daughter of Lord Bearsted, purchased the property, pledging that if she decided to sell she would give first refusal to Twickenham Corporation. In 1930 she married her 2nd husband, architect Basil Ionides.

Mrs Ionides also bought the adjacent Riverside House and contributed £2,500 towards the sum of £10,000 needed by the Corporation to buy Orleans Gardens. The riverside prospect of Orleans House had been preserved under a condition of sale of the Cunard executors that prohibited building anything other than a boathouse or greenhouse between the house and river. In 1956 she made known that she would bequeath Orleans House and Riverside House to Twickenham Borough Council together with her collection of C18th and C19th pictures with the proviso that Orleans House should be used as a public art gallery. After her death in 1962, the building was converted as Orleans House Gallery, which opened in 1972 and housed the Borough art collection, which included the Ionides pictures, the Paton Bequest, and Sir Richard Burton Collection.

The Gallery is set in shady woodlands, with paths running through it and a statue. The riverside Orleans Gardens were originally linked to Orleans House via a tunnel under the road. Marble Hill Park (q.v.) adjoins the gardens to the west.

Sources consulted:

Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999; John Archer, David Curson, 'Nature Conservation in Richmond upon Thames, Ecology Handbook 21', (London Ecology Unit) 1993 p77; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993); Richmond Libraries Local Studies Collection, Local History Notes, Orleans House and The Octagon' (nd)

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ170734 (517008,173411)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
LB Richmond
Site management:
Environment Planning & Review, Parks and Open Spaces
c.1710; 1930s
Listed structures:
LBI: Orleans House Gallery
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


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:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
Twickenham Riverside
Tree Preservation Order:
Not known
Nature Conservation Area:
Yes - Local (with Marble Hill)
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - Thames Policy Area
Other LA designation:

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