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Published June 10th 2012
Turner: A Self Portrait - Picture Courtesy of Tate Gallery Website
The artist, Joseph Mallord William Turner, was born in Covent Garden in 1775, but in 1807, five years after becoming a member of the prestigious Royal Academy, he bought a plot of land for a rural retreat in Twickenham. Two hundred years ago Twickenham was not the suburb of south west London it is now and Turner chose the location for its proximity to the river Thames, as well as to Richmond and the local countryside. Many of these vistas can be seen in his paintings. He sold the house, now known as Sandycombe Lodge, and based himself in central London in 1826.
Painting of Sandycombe Lodge as it was in Turner's Time - Picture Courtesy of the Sandycombe Lodge Website
Turner's House From the Garden as it is Today
The country villa, then known as Solus Lodge, was built by the architect Sir John Soane, and many of his trademark features are visible in the house in Sandycombe Road.
Turner started to sketch in his teens, at the age of thirteen and within two years was exhibiting at the Royal Academy, becoming a member of that institution by the time he was 27.
Sadly the Twickenham villa is in need of a huge amount of restoration and repair, and the damp that affected Turner's father is very much in evidence. The trustees are hoping to raise £2,000,000 to carry out the necessary work so that it can be refurbished to the same standards as nearby Strawberry Hill, or Hogarth's House in Chiswick.
Sandycombe Lodge is administered by the Turner's House Trust and they are opening the property for public viewing on the first Saturday morning of every month. In addition it is open every Saturday during the Twickenham Festival, and can also be opened to groups of visitors by prior arrangement.
Although there is not a great deal to see in the house in its present state, we were given a very informative guided tour by Catherine Parry-Wingfield, an art historian, who is also a member of the Trust.
On Wednesday, 13 June, BBC4 will be transmitting a programme on Turner's Thames, and this will be available for viewing for a further seven days via the BBC iPlayer. Filming was carried out at the house, as well as in the area of Richmond and Twickenham.
Sandycombe Lodge can be reached by train from Waterloo to St Margaret's Station, from where it is only a short walk.
Here are a couple of Turner's paintings of Richmond, both courtesy of the Tate's website. The view from Richmond Hill has barely changed - go and have a look for yourself.
The Thames from Richmond Hill
Richmond Hill on the Prince Regent's Birthday 1819
Tickets are available from Crusader Travel in Twickenham: 020 8744 0474, or email Bruce - Bruce@crusadertravel.com