Sitting on 200 acres of beautifully tended land eight miles west of London, Syon Park is one of the last private “country” residences in London. Owned by the hereditary Dukes of Northumberland, it has been in the family’s possession since it was acquired in 1594 by the 9th Earl of Northumberland and is now the family’s London residence. Luckily for the public, the grounds, the house and the majestic metal, stone and glass conservatory can all be toured by appointment and are available for hire to perform weddings, host parties and other functions for those looking to celebrate in the way of Britain’s noble families.
The Great Conservatory was commissioned in 1826 by Hugh Percy, 3rd Duke of Northumberland. Charles Fowler was chosen to design the conservatory, which was the first of its kind to use gunmetal, Bath stone and glass in its construction. The structure was incredibly ambitious with a total frontage of 230 feet and its glass dome an incredible 38 feet in diameter. Robert Baty, an expert on architectural paint and color, analyzed the paint on the Great Conservatory and determined that the frame of the conservatory was primed with an anti-corrosive paint and then was painted with an off-white/stone color that would have had a slight sheen under the English sun.
The final product would inspire architects world-wide including Joseph Paxton who would echo Syon House’s Conservatory when he designed Hyde Park’s famous Crystal Palace.
The Great Conservatory was completed in 1830 and originally served to house the Duke of Northumberland’s rare tropical plant collection. Though the purpose of the Conservatory has changed, it is still a working conservatory, housing an impressive display of exotic trees and flowers.
Syon House has a royal heritage. The third Duchess of Northumberland was named the governess to the young Princess Victoria. From 1831 until Victoria’s ascension as Queen in 1837, the young royal was a frequent resident at the house and would have been familiar with the newly built Great Conservatory as well as the vast gardens surrounding the house. Even today, Victoria’s bedroom has been preserved with its original bed and the room bears her name.
Even before the house of Northumberland took possession of the estate, the land had a rich history — from its earliest days as the site of the medieval Syon Abbey. After the abbey was dissolved in 1539 by King Henry VIII, the land passed into Crown possession and then given to the 1st Duke of Somerset who built the first Syon House on the land, modeling it in the Italian Renaissance style. Syon was even briefly the home of Lady Jane Grey, the tragic nine-day Queen.
The Great Conservatory, like the rest of Syon Park, is a movie star to rival any of the biggest in Hollywood. Several films, TV specials and music videos have featured the grounds including when the conservatory stood in for Heaven in the Dudley Moore version of Bedazzled in 1967. Fashion, garden, interior design and wedding magazines are all very fond of shooting at Syon House and, of course, there is hardly a place on the grounds that is not a popular choice for wedding celebrations.
Before visiting Syon House, it is wise to check the official website. Because the estate is a working residence, availability can be somewhat erratic. Prices for tours are very reasonable and special events are often held throughout the year.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.org