27.03.2015
14:22

Danson House

Address:

Danson Park, Bexleyheath, DA6 8HL

Phone:

020-8303 6699

Website:

www.dansonhouse.org.uk

Opening times:

Open to the public from Apr-Oct, although available to hire throughout the year.

How to get there:

Station: Bexleyheath (from London Bridge or Charing Cross), then a 10-minute walk

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Danson House is an important mid-18th-century Palladian villa, recently rescued from dereliction. Set in a municipal park in suburban southeast London, it was designed from 1763–67 by Robert Taylor, architect of the Bank of the England, for Sir John Boyd, a director of the East India Company and heir to West Indian sugar plantations. The last private owner was Mr Alfred Bean, a railway entrepreneur, who sold it to Bexley Borough Council in 1921. It was taken on a long lease from the Council by English Heritage in 1995.

The architect William Chambers was involved in designing the interior, notably the marble fireplaces. In a dramatic twist to the story of the restoration of the house, the fireplaces were discovered awaiting shipment abroad, after being stolen from the semi-derelict building. They were replaced in the correct rooms thanks to a series of seven detailed mid-19th-century watercolours of the interior, done by Sarah Jane Johnson, daughter of the second owner. These paintings contributed substantially to the accuracy of the ten-year English Heritage restoration project (architects Purcell Miller Tritton). The house is now managed by the The Bexley Heritage Trust, which is undertaking the complete restoration of the service areas, kitchen, attic storey and grounds, to the original plans of the 18th-century landscape designer Nathaniel Richmond.

The restored rooms include the Dining Room, where two large gilded mirrors decorated with griffins have been recessed into the walls at each end; the Library, with verdigris wall decoration and, in pride of place, a rare late 18th-century chamber organ made by George England of Sheffield; the Octagonal Salon, where the starburst plaster ceiling has been repaired and re-gilded and—the highlight of a tour—the Grand Dining Room, complete with 19 panels painted by the French artist Charles Pavillon in 1766. Carefully restored to their original position and appearance after decades of neglect, they depict festive scenes from mythology, including the fable of Pomona and her ageing lover Vertumnus. They were commissioned by John Boyd to celebrate his recent marriage to the much younger Catherine Chapone.

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MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

Emily Barber recommends five major London museums »

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