Roehampton University - Parkstead House, Whitelands College
Sir William Chambers
Holybourne Avenue, SW15 4JD
Toilets, Parking, Partial disabled access
Beautifully sited Grade I listed neo-classical Palladian villa built for the 2nd Earl of Bessborough by the royal architect William Chambers, to house the Earl's celebrated collection of classical artefacts.
Historical Tour of the House at 10.30am, 12.30pm
Sir William Chambers,
Description of Parkstead House
Parkstead (originally written as Parksted) was designed for the second Earl of Bessborough and was one of a number of suburban villas by Sir William Chambers in the villages of London such as Roehampton, Twickenham, Richmond and Whitton. The 1750s and 1760s were a busy time for this type of development which were homes away from clients’ main estates but out of the town. The villas were part of the second generation of Palladian houses in England. Today, Parkstead is unique as it contains the most complete surviving interior by Chambers, with the exception of Somerset House.
On the main floor are a complete set of connecting rooms, each in a distinct and different style. The fine ceilings are in relief plasterwork in understated designs.
The front faces Richmond Park with a six-column Ionic portico and pediment accessed via two curving stairways. This leads to the Hall, with a stair-well behind, with four rooms of different sizes on the corners. At the back were stable buildings (now demolished) and a rear entrance.
Below the portico is a door into a vaulted passage decorated in plaster relief with curling foliage, classical medallions and arched niches. This seems to have been intended to imitate an ancient columbarium and may have linked to the seemingly lost China Room for which a ceiling design drawing exists.
The Richmond Room
In the Hall (now the Richmond Room) the plasterwork is carried onto the walls which are divided into a series of sunk panels separated by sunk laurel torus mouldings. The frieze of vases, drapes and lions’ heads reflects the neo-Palladian ideals. The neo-classical motifs are only in the ceiling but the stone chimney piece gives the whole room a neo-classical impact. This chimney piece is the earliest datable example of its type designed by Chambers and carved by Joseph Wilton. (He was the son of the builder William Wilton and often carved designs by Chambers).
The Ponsonby Room
The flat- banded ceiling of the Library (now the Ponsonby Room) has fine low relief trophies of the arts and sciences, and owls of Athena and sphinxes. The ceiling was restored during the work in 2004 with the removal of inappropriate ceiling lights.
The Bessborough Room
In the Drawing Room (now the Bessborough Room) the ceiling is decorated with reliefs of vases, scrolls and bucrania (ox skulls often used in classical decorations).
The Hopkins Room
The Bedchamber (now the Hopkins Room) has a coved ceiling, with candelabra filling the corners and a flat centre carrying a diamond form supported by husk poles, intertwined with acanthus.
The Ruskin Room
The fourth room, the Dining Room (now the Ruskin Room) has a flat ceiling with a clearly defined diamond shape in the centre surrounded by more fluid vine garlands. The centre of the garland has vases and panthers while to the outside are water-pouring female figures. Much of this design used ancient sources.
The Staircase walls are divided by banding decorated with acanthus frieze enclosing individual motifs. This type of design was used by Chambers right up to Somerset House. The iron-stair balusters are in s-form which again Chambers used in Somerset House. Originally the main staircase enclosed a smaller servants’ staircase. This was apparently destroyed by fire in the 19th century. Some minor breaks can be seen in the balustrading which indicate where the two sets of stairs may have linked.
Manresa Hall (1864) – the Jesuit Chapel
Was designed by the architect J.J.Scoles and completed after his death, in 1864, by his pupil S.I. Nicholl. The chapel is described by Pevsner as “... elaborate Italian Renaissance, with marble pilasters, barrel-vaults penetrated by clerestory windows, and arches with top-lit domes decorated by bizarre coffering in different patterns.” (Cherry & Pevsner, p.694) On the outside the niches were for statues of Saints Ignatius, Francis Xavier, Aloysius and Stanislaus. In the 1870s Henry Clutton designed the north aisle which was added to increase the capacity of the Chapel. The Chapel was deconsecrated in the early 1960s.