Period drama and royal fans should add Syon Park to their list of places to visit in the Greater London Area. Syon Park encompasses Syon House, the grand London residence of the Duke of Northumberland; the early 19th Century Great Conservatory; and the Gardens (and 100-acre Parkland).
Syon, a variation of Zion (which refers to the Holy City of David in Jerusalem), had been a Medieval monastery of the Brigettine Order and was the wealthiest in England at the time of dissolution. After dissolution, a mansion was built over the demolished abbey in the 16th Century by Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset (the oldest brother of Jane Seymour, 3rd wife of Henry VIII). (Visitors can see the Crypt downstairs although it looks more like an exhibition room with artefacts in glass cases.) Although the exterior of the House was built in 1547, the House’s current interiors were designed by Robert Adam.
Notable guests at Syon House include Catherine Howard (imprisoned from 1541-2 before she was taken to the Tower of London), Henry VIII (the coffin of his rotting corpse was briefly at Syon before being buried in Windsor), Lady Jane Grey (she was offered the crown here), Queen Anne (before she became queen; sister of Mary II), and Princess Victoria (later Queen Victoria).
Syon Park has been a popular film location for many period dramas, a list of which can be found on imdb. In this post, I will point out which rooms were used in some of the period dramas.
Although you can’t tell in the photo below of Pip and Estelle dancing in BBC’s Great Expectations (2011), a blogger captured a screenshot taken from above which shows the fireplace and the statues.
As Kenwood House was undergoing refurbishment at the time, part of Syon House was used for the interiors of Dido’s childhood home. In this room (shot from the side where a couple has walked into my photo above), we see Dido’s father bring little Dido Belle to her great uncle’s home (Lord Mansfield).
This red drawing room, we were told, is where the gentlemen would go after dinner. If you look up, you can admire the beautifully painted ceiling of heavenly and earthly figures by Cipriano. The lovely carpet you see below was woven in 1769 and still looks new! The room also has a collection of the Stuart royalty and the Percy family.
We see the Red Drawing Room in Emma (1996), where Emma greets Mr Elton. You can also see a bit of the Red Drawing Room in BBC’s Great Expectations (2011), before Estelle goes through the door into the State Dining Room.
The beautiful Long Gallery was used by the ladies. There were two secret turret rooms where ladies could gossip or confide in complete privacy. They had a view of the Thames River, and just across from the river is Kew Gardens.
This popular room was featured in at least four period dramas:
- BBC’s Daniel Deronda (2002) – Syon House’s interior was used for Henleigh Grandcourt’s estate.
- Miss Austen Regrets (2008) – Here, Jane wanders in the library of the Prince Regent’s mansion.
- BBC’s Great Expectations (2011) – This was Pip’s London social club.
- Belle (2013) – Part of Kenwood House. Here we see Lord and Lady Mansfield.
On your way upstairs, you’ll see a magnificent Sevres vase, which was commissioned by King Charles X of France as a gift to the 3rd Duke of Northumberland. Incroyable!
Four bedrooms upstairs were used in Gosford Park (2001), one of which was the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland’s own bedroom (not open to public)!
This room was used as Lady Sylvia McCordle’s bedroom (see the photo of her with the valet):
The Duchess of Kent’s bedroom (Queen Victoria’s mother) was used as the room for the Nesbitts. This bed dates from c. 1790 but had been heavily altered.
Across from the Duchess of Kent’s bedroom is Princess Victoria’s Bedroom. The 3rd Duchess Charlotte Florentia was Victoria’s governess from 1831 until the day Victoria became queen in 1847. This ‘Polonaise’ bed with original silk hangings was made for Victoria in 1831.
Both Victoria and her mother would have had a view of the Thames / Kew Gardens.
I could not take a closer photo as the Great Conservatory was getting ready for a wedding. This is where Lady Mary and Lord Gillingham had tea in Downton Abbey.
Keep your eyes peeled for a friendly feline named Gilly! :3
Although the Gardens are open daily from March to October, Syon House is only accessible on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays, and bank holidays during summer (March to October 2016). The Gardens open at 10:30am and the House at 11am; last entry for both is at 4pm, an hour before closing. Tickets are £12 for adults. Those taking public transport, as I did, can take the tube to Gunnersbury and continue by bus to Brentlea or Brentford Holiday Inn, both of which are within walking distance to the entrance of Syon Park. (It’s another 5 minutes before one reaches the House, on the other hand.)
I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and I encourage you to explore and learn more at Syon House!