Garden Menageries 3 … Osterley

A male gold pheasant: a bird standing on a mossy rock in profile to right, with a crest and a long dappled tail; plate for 'Birds ... from the Menagerie at Osterley Park' (1794). Hand-coloured etching © The Trustees of the British Museum

A male gold pheasant from ‘Birds … from the Menagerie at Osterley Park’ (1794). 
© The Trustees of the British Museum

Continuing with my occasional theme of menageries in the garden,  todays’s post looks at Osterley Park in west London and also reveals how garden history interacts with wider current research.  The East India Company at Home project  has been trying to put the country house and estate into its global and imperial context and has  made a special study of Osterley, in  particular looking  how its owners acquired and used exotic Asian commodities in  the 18th and 19thc. This included birds for their garden menageries.

In 1562, the manor of Osterley was acquired by Sir Thomas Gresham , a wealthy London merchant, who was given a license to empark 600 acres. He  built a large house, planted large areas of the parkland and  seems to have constructed several fishponds and a heronry (National Trust guidebook, 1980) which together form  the basis for present structure of the park.

Afer his death it frequently changed hands, being owned at one point by Nicholas Barbon, the notorious late-17thc property speculator and developer. Eventually in 1713 it passed into the hands of Sir Francis Child.  He was a goldsmith and jeweller turned banker “at the sign of the Marygold” next to Temple bar.  Lord Mayor in 1698 and Master of the Goldsmiths in 1702, Sir Francis was also on the committee of  the East India Company.

from 'An exact survey of the cities of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, with the country near ten miles round', John Rocque, 1746

from ‘An exact survey of the cities of London and Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, with the country near ten miles round’, John Rocque, 1746

His son also Sir Francis is thought to have planted the straight avenues  shown on the Rocque map which converge on the area round the house, where formal gardens were planted. A small Doric temple of Pan near the house also dates from this period, and has traditionally been ascribed to John James. (P. Ward-Jackson, Osterley Park: A Guide)

When his grandson, also named Francis, inherited the property in 1752, he brought  in Robert Adam to redesign both the fabric and the interior of the house. Although the third Sir Francis died in 1763, Adam  continued his work under the patronage of his brother and heir, Robert, until 1780.

© Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

© Copyright Colin Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The brothers’  immense wealth also allowed them to develop the gardens and park and  to create a superb collection of exotic birds at Osterley Park, Middlesex. Lady Beauchamp-Proctor visited in 1772 and  thought it: The prettiest place I ever saw, ’tis an absolute retreat, & fill’d with all sorts of curious and scarce Birds and Fowles, among the rest 2 Numidian Cranes that follow like Dogs, and a pair of Chinese teal that have only been seen in England before upon the India  paper .   (J. Hardy and M. Tomlin, Osterley Park, London, 1985, p. 105).

Chinese Wallpaper in National Trust Houses available for £9.99 from the National Trust online.

Chinese Wallpaper in National Trust Houses available for £9.99 from the National Trust online.

Her reference to India paper is almost certainly Chinese wallpaper which was very fashionable, as all things ‘oriental’ were often confused and misnamed.

If you are interested in knowing more about this then the East India Company at Home project have a case study on Chinese wallpapers available at their website [see link at the end]

The National Trust have also just completed a catalogue of the Chinese wallpapers to be found in their properties. The large majority of them of them feature avian life in all its forms indicating the popularity of exotic birds amongst the elite.

The Trust have an excellent blogpost on the subject  of Chinese wallpapers too: http://nttreasurehunt.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/chinese-wallpaper-in-national-trust-houses/

An illustration of a Chinese duck in the "Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park" by William Hayes and Family, 1794.

An illustration of a Chinese duck in the “Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park” by William Hayes and Family, 1794.

A duck shown in a section of 'India paper' (Chinese wallpaper) at Belton House, Lincolnshire. ©National Trust Picture Library/Martin Trelawny

A duck shown in a section of ‘India paper’ (Chinese wallpaper) at Belton House, Lincolnshire. ©National Trust Picture Library/Martin Trelawny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Secretary Bird, from Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park' by William Hayes, 1794.

A Secretary Bird, from Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park’ by William Hayes, 1794.

The family connection with the East India Company may explain how some of their birds were acquired. They were not only shareholders but owned ships, sometimes in partnership with others. One shipping partnership was with Charles Raymond, a fellow banker and owner of Valentines House at Ilford. He and Sir Francis Child III  co-owned the East Indiaman Osterley, th first of a line of ships with that name. They shared other interests too Raymond extended his Valentines estate and   laid out new gardens where also he kept a menagerie. A contemporary publication said of Valentines that ‘it may, with great propriety, be called a Cabinet of Curiosities’. He certainly had exotic birds bought by ships captains, including a secretary bird which arrived from the Cape in 1771. Valentines is the subject of another  case study  by The East India Company at Home project and can be found at:

http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/ghcc/research/eicah/houses/valentinesmansion/eicowners/

A Child armorial eagle perches on a balustrade on the east front of Osterley. The menagerie was situated over to the left beyond the pond. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

A Child armorial eagle perches on a balustrade on the east front of Osterley. The menagerie was situated over to the left beyond the pond. ©NTPL/Andrew Butler

The Menagerie at Osterley Park contained over 97 different species of bird, cared for  a ‘Menagerie Man’ called Jonathan Chipps who was paid £31 per year , assisted by a ‘Boy’ paid 8 shillings per week.   Robert Child’s widow, Sarah commissioned artist William Hayes and his family to paint the birds for a series of pictures which were later hung at the Menagerie, and a hundred of them were published by Hayes himself  in book form in 1794.

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The Grenadier Grosbeak from Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park’ by William Hayes, 1794.

 

Blue Jay, from Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park' by William Hayes, 1794.

Blue Jay, from Portraits of Rare and Curious Birds and their Descriptions from the Menagery of Osterley Park’ by William Hayes, 1794.

 

Sadly the collection was dispersed soon afterwards.   Like many other buildings named The  Menagerie this was not for the animals but for the visitors. It still exists but is now in private hands and  cut off  from the rest of the parkland by the M4 motorway.

The Menagerie House at Osterley, Frontispiece from 'Portraits of rare and curious birds from the menagerie at Osterley Park' by William Hayes, 1794

The Menagerie House at Osterley, Frontispiece from ‘Portraits of rare and curious birds from the menagerie at Osterley Park’ by William Hayes, 1794

 

For more about the Menagerie and the bird collection see:

http://osterleynationaltrust.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/curious-birds-in-the-trappings-of-trade/#more-450

http://nttreasurehunt.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/look-at-the-birdie/

Chimney-board in the Yellow Taffeta Bedroom at Osterley Park, decorated with a Chinese picture of birds, insects, flowers and rocks surrounded by decorative floral patterns, second half 18th century, possibly originally used as wall decoration. ©National Trust Collections

Chimney-board in the Yellow Taffeta Bedroom at Osterley Park, decorated with a Chinese picture of birds, insects, flowers and rocks surrounded by decorative floral patterns, second half 18th century, possibly originally used as wall decoration. ©National Trust Collections

There are other links to exotic birds to be found around the house, in the chinese wallpaper in particular but the National Trust conservation team at Osterley  also recommend visitors take a close look at the Tapestry Room, where  not only birds and animals can be found but, hidden away as well,  a gardening hat that belonged to one of the Child family.

Horace Walpole by George Dance, 1793, National Portrait Gallery

Horace Walpole
by George Dance, 1793, National Portrait Gallery

Horace Walpole visited Osterley in 1773 and sang its praises. It was “the palace of palaces – and yet a palace, sans crown sans coronet; but such expense! such taste! such profusion!”

The interiors were “worthy of Eve before the Fall.” and overall the house was, he thought, so improved that “all the Percies and Seymours of Sion must die of envy.”  Outside the kitchen garden costs £1400 a year and the menagerie was full of birds that come from a thousand islands which Mr Banks has not discovered.”

[Mr Banks is of course,  Sir Joseph Banks, the naturalist, botanist and patron of the natural sciences who accompanied Cook to his first voyage round the world between 1768 and 1771]

View in Osterley Park with two children, by Arthur Devis mid-18thc V&A

View in Osterley Park with two children, by Arthur Devis mid-18thc
V&A

But Walpole concluded his account saying rather harshly that “the park is the ugliest spot of ground in the universe.”  In fact, the park and gardens surrounding the house were extensively altered over the period of the rebuilding, so its difficult to know at what stage Walpole decided the parkland was so unattractive.   Certainly the formal gardens  outlined on the Rocque plan were being  replaced by an informal park recorded on an enclosure map of 1818.

Osterley Park and House at Dusk by William Hannan, undated, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/osterley-park-and-house-at-dusk-28367

Osterley Park and House at Dusk by William Hannan, undated,
from http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/osterley-park-and-house-at-dusk-28367

Portrait of Robert Child, his wife Sarah and their daughter Sarah Anne, Margaret Battine after Daniel Gardner (1750-1805), originally created 1781. ©National Trust/John Hammond

Portrait of Robert Child, his wife Sarah and their daughter Sarah Anne, Margaret Battine after Daniel Gardner (1750-1805), originally created 1781. ©National Trust/John Hammond

Most of this work was carried out by Robert Child and his wife Sarah. They  carried out a large scale tree-planting operation on the estate, inventoried in 1782,  and  created a long boundary/circuit woodland walk around a central “meadow.”

This is an idea developed by Bridgeman probably following Addison’s advice to turn the whole estate into part of the garden:  “if the natural embroidery of the Meadows were helped and improved by some small additions of art and several rows of hedges set off by trees and flowers… a man might make a pretty landskip of his own possessions…”

Marion Harney [Gardens and Landscapes in Historic Building Conservation, p.45] suggests that this might have been done on the advice of Adam who had proposed a similar idea at Kedleston, and as Brown had laid out at Croome Park.  The Great Meadow is now a very rare survival, full of wild flowers,  having never been ploughed since then.

Aerial view of the house and park. The Great Meadow can be clearly seen surrounded by woodland to the south of the house. from https://osterleyestate.wordpress.com

Aerial view of the house and park. The Great Meadow can be clearly seen surrounded by the woodland with its boundary walk  to the south of the house.
from https://osterleyestate.wordpress.com

At about the same time the road approach was made more  circuitous, and The various ponds were made into long lakes or canals, stretching round the south of the house, offered the opportunity to walk part of the circuit walk and return by boat from the southern end of the lake.

Part of the walled garden, and the rear of the stable block David Marsh, Sept 2014

Part of the walled garden, and the rear of the stable block
David Marsh, Sept 2014

There were also several other buildings from this period dotted around the landscape, including a Chinese tea-house, a windmill and an orangery. Sadly now all lost.   The 18thc changes left untouched the beautiful Tudor stable block and the walled garden behind it. These are now used for growing veg for the cafe and flowers for the house.

osterley

Osterley House – National Trust

 

Osterley Park, Osterley, 1928 http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk

Osterley Park, Osterley, 1928
http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk

In 1804 Robert Child’s granddaughter, Lady Sarah Sophia Fane, who had inherited the estate, married the fifth Earl of Jersey and thus Osterley came into the possession of the Jersey family. They had plenty of other properties and so a great deal  of the park was leased to farmers, and the kitchen-garden was let as a market-garden. Nevertheless, because of its proximity to London, they continued to  use Osterley for house parties entertaining the  great and the good of the Tory party. Henry James was also a visitor and  in the Name of the Master used Osterley as the basis for   a country house called Summersoft.

Osterley Park and grounds, Osterley Park, 1927 http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk

Osterley Park and grounds, Osterley Park, 1927
http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk

In 1949 the ninth Earl, Lord Jersey, gave the house and 57 hectares of the estate to the National Trust, and a further 77 hectares were acquired by the Trust in 1990. Osterley was the subject of the first major historical survey of a garden by the National Trust, starting in 1979. This combined archival research with detailed examination of visual sources history books,  garden archaeology and of course the surviving fabric.

2007 saw the beginning of the first phase of the garden and park restoration. The Great Meadow has been cleared of scrub and laurels and because The inventories of the 1780s identify what trees and shrubs were grown, and the National Trust have been able to use this as the basis for restoration work.

One of the the Amercian borders David Marsh Sept 21014

One of the the American borders
David Marsh Sept 21014

The American Garden has been re-instated with borders and ‘specimen’ beds where the plants can be admired in isolation.

Mrs Child's Flowr Garden David Marsh Sept 2014

Mrs Child’s Flower Garden
David Marsh Sept 2014

The Robert Adam Garden House David Marsh Sept 2014

The Robert Adam Garden House
David Marsh Sept 2014

Mrs Child’s Flower Garden around the Adam conservatory, has also been recreated again using plants from the inventory. These gardens could be seen from her rooms on the first floor of the house.

The Orangery whihc burned down during the war from  National Trust Guide Book, 2009

The Orangery whihc burned down during the war from
National Trust Guide Book, 2009

The conservatory or Garden House [as well the nearby Orangery whichwas burned down during the war] then contained “Forty five Orange and Lemon trees in tubs and twelve circular stands for ditto”, as well as grapes,pienapples and mimosa.

Inside Robert Adam's Garden House David marsh, Sept 2014

Inside Robert Adam’s Garden House
David marsh, Sept 2014

Sadly, but for obvious reasons,  there are no plans to recreate the menagerie or aviary.

The Aviary and environs, Osterley, 1951. http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk

The Aviary and environs, Osterley, 1951.
http://www.britainfromabove.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on Osterley, especially its history and contents, see the National Trust blog thread at:

See: http://nttreasurehunt.wordpress.com/category/osterley-park/

The East India Company at Home case study on Osterly can be found at:

http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/eicah/osterley-park-middlesex/

About Parks and Gardens UK

Parks & Gardens UK is the leading on-line resource for historic parks and gardens providing freely accessible, accurate and inspiring information on UK parks, gardens and designed landscapes. Email - info@parksandgardens.org. Website - www.parksandgardens.org
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