Sandycombe Lodge in Twickenham, the sole house designed by artist JMW Turner, has reopened after a £2.4m restoration. Placed on Historic England’s Register of Buildings at Risk in 2013, the house was acquired by The Turner’s House Trust, which set about conserving the country retreat, built in 1813 for Turner and his father to escape the London art world and the hurly-burly of his own household. With many additions and alterations removed, and the original brick fabric revealed from beneath its later, white-rendered finish, the grade-two-star-listed Sandycombe Lodge now reflects Turner’s original intentions.
Gary Butler of Butler Hegarty Architects describes the process as one of “creative demolition, which has revealed clear evidence of the earlier form of the building. Varying brickwork confirmed our initial suspicion of later changes and structural addition. But the first real surprise occurred once we took down the ceiling of the rooms in the raised wings, revealing the original flank walls of the main block of the house, which had remained hidden for almost 200 years.”
“Instead of finding render or stucco, these walls were facing bricks with penny-line pointing that had been neither rendered nor painted. Later we found the same type of work behind the plaster finish of the upper rooms and wings. In addition the uncovered brickwork was consistently multi-coloured, with a predominant deep plum-coloured brick more typical of late-eighteenth century brickwork and similar to those used by Turner’s friend John Soane at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.”
Internal features have been fully restored following intensive research into the internal fabric, wall coverings and colours. Using a scrap of early wallpaper that was discovered in the house, new hand-blocked wallpaper has been designed by Robert Weston and hung in the large bedroom. Analysis by paint historian Helen Hughes determined the dining room’s original wall colouring and the painted marbling of the vestibule, corridor and staircase. Conservation of the laylight above the stairs was carried out by Holy Well Glass. The landscaping of the garden, expected to be complete in September, had no realistic possibility of restoring the original rural surroundings because of subsequent development, so the aim is to portray a ‘flavour’ of the garden that Turner and his father might have enjoyed.
In 2004 Catherine Parry-Wingfield, now chair of Turner’s House Trust, had met the house’s previous owner, Professor Harold Livermore, who had wanted to give Sandycombe Lodge to the nation, but that ‘the nation didn’t want it’. Eventually, in December 2010, the trust acquired the property through Livermore’s bequest. The restoration has been completed following a £2 million appeal, a £1.4 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a crowdfunding campaign.