03.04.2015
12:58

Ranger’s House (English Heritage)

Address:

Chesterfield Walk, Blackheath, SE10 8QX

Phone:

020-8294 2548

Website:

www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/rangers-house-the-wernher-collection

Opening times:

Open for guided tours only. Sun-Mon-Tue-Wed: 11:00 and 14:00

How to get there:

Station: Greenwich/Blackheath (from Charing Cross/London Bridge)

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Shop

Standing between Blackheath and Greenwich Park, over which it has fine views to the Royal Observatory, Ranger’s House is a handsome mansion built in 1700–20 for Captain, later Admiral, Francis Hosier (1673–1727). Due to its proximity to the royal palace, and later to the Naval College and surrounding shipyards, it was a spot favoured by courtiers and seafaring men. The core of the house is Hosier’s, who made a fortune through the sale of ship’s cargoes. The principal entrance is on the Blackheath side of the house. The delicate but imposing wrought iron gates date from the 1770s. The fine red brick exterior has a Portland stone centrepiece, a modest Baroque flourish, with a carved mask of Neptune above the entrance door. In 1748 the house was owned by Philip, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694–1733), politician and wit, and author of the celebrated letters to his son, who built the south wing of yellow brick, containing a large Gallery probably designed by Isaac Ware (completed 1750). Chesterfield spent every summer here for the last 23 years of his life. The north wing was added by the lawyer and art collector Richard Hulse in the 1780s. In 1807 the house was leased by Augusta, Dowager Countess of Brunswick, sister of George III, and in 1815 it became the official residence of the Ranger of Greenwich Park, by now purely an honorary office. The first Ranger to take up residence was Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester (1777–1848). Other occupants of the house include the young Prince Arthur of Connaught, Queen Victoria’s third son, and Field Marshal Viscount Wolseley, who relieved General Gordon at Khartoum.

 

The House

The Entrance Hall, with its chequered black and white stone floor, dates from Hosier’s day. He furnished it with plain mahogany hall furniture but during Chesterfield’s occupation it had plaster busts displayed on wall brackets. To the right of the Hall is Hosier’s Crimson Camblet Parlour, used by Chesterfield for cards, which leads to the New Gallery, a spacious room with triple bow windows in the centre and at each end. Here Chesterfield displayed his Old Master paintings, with sculpture busts and porcelain in the niches. Hosier’s principal parlour was the Green Silk Damask Parlour, which leads to the Dining Room, where Hosier had crimson damask curtains and a suite of silvered furniture. The room was substantially altered in 1749–50 by Ware. The 1710 Oak Staircase leads up to the Long Gallery or Passage, which retains its original early 18th-century panelling. Off it Hosier had a ‘Cockloft’, a gazebo from which he could train his telescope on ships on the Thames.

 

The Wernher Collection

The house was purchased by the then London County Council in 1902 and restored in 1959–60. Until recently it displayed the important Suffolk Collection of paintings but these have now been moved to Kenwood to make way for the important Wernher Collection of pictures, jewellery and objets d’art, on permanent loan from the Wernher Foundation since 2002. Sir Julius Wernher (1850–1912) was a German diamond merchant who made his fortune (£11 million at his death) in South Africa in the 1870s when his operation merged with De Beers. He settled in England and in 1903 purchased the great Bedfordshire mansion Luton Hoo, which was redecorated in lavish style. Luton Hoo was sold in the 1990s and several key items from the collection were also auctioned, including Titian’s portrait of Giacomo di Agostino Doria, now at the Ashmolean, Oxford. What remains is nonetheless impressive. There are pictures by Joos van Cleve, Hans Memling and Gabriel Metsu; English works by Reynolds, Romney and Hoppner; 18th-century French tapestries; Renaissance bronzes, ivories and enamels; pieces by Fabergé; silver; and porcelain. The important collection of enamelled and gem-studded Renaissance jewellery is shown in the jewel vault.

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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).

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