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What Is Chiswick House?

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  • Written By: Rebecca Cartwright
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2014
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Chiswick House is an historic building in the Houghton Borough of London, England. Built in the early 1700s, it was the first example of the Palladian architectural style in England. The house was not originally designed to be a residence but was used as a setting for entertaining and as a showcase for art collections. Chiswick House has been under public ownership since 1929 and has been restored as a museum.

The third Earl of Burlington, born in 1694, was a leading figure in the arts field in England. He was particularly interested in architecture and in the early 1720s he began design of a building to be set on his property in the community of Chiswick, near London. The Earl planned a structure in the style of Andrea Palladio, an Italian architect of the 1500s, who drew on ancient Greek and Roman design ideas.

Initial work on Chiswick House was completed between 1726 and 1729. The building as it then stood had no accommodations for cooking or maintaining a household. There was also an older house on the property in which the Earl lived when in residence.

The building as initially conceived and built had clean classical lines resembling those of Greek and Roman temples. It included a portico with Corinthian columns and an exterior grand staircase. The central space inside had a domed ceiling and was used to display art.

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By 1733 Burlington had linked the old and new houses with a central building called the Link Building. He used the resulting large house as his main residence until his death in 1753. Although this linkage altered the original appearance of Chiswick House the building continued to draw attention, not only for its own style but for the gardens surrounding it.

The gardens at Chiswick house were principally designed by William Kent, a British artist, architect and designer. He altered the original formal gardens into a more natural looking setting with curving paths, large lawns and areas of trees meant to mimic naturally occurring landscapes. It is now considered the first example of the Landscape Gardening style which became the leading style of landscaping during the following two centuries.

Chiswick House and Gardens passed into the ownership of the Middlesex County Council in 1929 and to the National Ministry of works in 1948. The linking building and the original residence were removed to once again reveal the Palladium style building as designed. In 2005 the Gardens were restored. The building is now a museum and the grounds are a public park.

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