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J.M.W. Turner’s paintings of the River Thames and its surrounding idyllic landscapes are renowned.
The artist loved the river from his boyhood in Brentford where he learned to row and fish, and the Thames featured throughout his life and work. While his public reputation grew and fame brought him new commissions, he returned again and again to live near the river and recreate the sense of peace and enjoyment he remembered. Turner was looking for a place where he and his father could retreat from the busy gallery in Marylebone and enjoy time together. In 1807, having lived for short periods in Sion Ferry House, Isleworth and in Hammersmith, Turner bought a 2-acre site in the country, a couple of meadows sloping down towards the river from a sandy lane in Twickenham. The perfect place to build a home for himself and his father, William.
Today, Turner’s House, Sandycombe Lodge in St Margaret’s, Twickenham, is humming with the appreciative voices of visitors keen to experience a little of Turner’s life here from 1812 to 1826. This is the only house that Turner designed and built, and the only house where he lived that is open to the public.
We owe a huge debt to Professor Harold Livermore who bought the house in 1947, and to art historian Catherine Parry-Wingfield. They met by chance in a queue at the local Post Office and set up a Trust to rescue the dilapidated house. Thanks to generous donations, fundraising events and a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Sandycombe Lodge was restored with great care and attention to detail.
Turner House Trust manages Sandycombe Lodge and stages small exhibitions of Turner’s work. In Spring 2020 there are five small oil sketches of the River Thames (on loan from the Tate) hanging in the guest bedroom. There are another 13 of these small oil paintings on mahogany panels, so future exhibitions are anticipated!
Sandycombe Lodge became a home where Turner could relax and invite friends for dinner. He would walk to the river, which he could see from his bedroom, to reach the boat that he designed for his picnics and fishing trips with friends, and for en plein air painting.