18 Stafford Terrace - The Sambourne Family Home
Joseph Gordon Davis
- Original design
- Joseph Gordon Davis, 1871
18 Stafford Terrace is an excellent example of an original Victorian London townhouse. The house has the standard four floors above a basement.
For Open House weekend visitors will be able to access the house up to the Drawing Room only, with the ground and first floors. The third and fourth floors will be closed.
The walls are papered in a dark green which conceals the original William Morris Diaper paper of the same colour. But you can still see traces of the original paper behind the pictures. The skirting is painted to imitate marble and it is topped by a maroon dado with a Greek key ornamental border. This border design is reflected in the border of brown linoleum which is partially covered by a modern carpet.
Beyond the dimly lit hallway your eye is drawn to the garden door with its beautiful stained glass window depicting an orange tree in a blue and white bowl.
Linley and Marion Sambourne loved to entertain, hosting jovial dinner parties which lasted far into the night. The oak suite, which includes an octagonal table and eight chairs upholstered in green morocco leather, was the height of fashion in the mid 1870s. The paintwork on the dado, doors, window and fireplace is dark green and the walls are covered with William Morris Pomegranate paper, which is practically hidden by framed photographs and a bracketed overmantel containing oriental porcelain.
A high level plate shelf containing blue and white china runs around the room. It is backed by a frieze of imitation Spanish leather paper. This was originally brightly coloured and gilded but has faded to varying shades of brown.
The embossed paper on the ceiling originally had a metallic finish, but over the years it has oxidised to a dark brown. However, the cornice mouldings and ceiling rose still show traces of gold paint.
The sideboard with its painted panels of fruit, inset decorative tiles, mirrors and carved panels is a typical period piece. This style of furniture was recommended by Charles Eastlake in his book "Hints on Household Taste" published in 1867. The sideboard may be by Bruce Talbert who designed the chairs with their neat turned spindles. There is a similar detail in the front panel of the sideboard.
The drawing room occupies the whole of the first floor. Originally this room, like the dining room and morning room, had five-light gasoliers hanging from the ceiling but these were removed when electricity was installed in 1896.
At the southern end of the room, Sambourne's camera and easel mark the place where he used to work before he moved to his studio on the top floor.
The decorative scheme is similar to that used elsewhere in the house. The ceiling is papered with embossed paper and a high level plate shelf runs around the room.
The drawing room bay was made exactly the same size as the one in the morning room, with full length curtains to cut it off from the rest of the room at night. This was a sensible way of concealing the easel and Linley's untidiness when visitors came. Sambourne was obviously very proud of the striking and original stained glass. In 1888 a drawing of Sambourne posing in front of this window was published in "Kensington Picturesque and Historical".
The presence of two white marble fireplaces in the drawing room, to heat both the northern and southern ends of the room point to the traditional arrangement of two rooms on the first floor. It was a popular option with the Victorians to use the floor as one big room. Here, the party wall seems to have been knocked down before the Sambournes moved in.
A clock stands on each mantelshelf with a large mirror in an ornate gilt frame hanging behind it. There are several small tables scattered about the room containing family photographs and decorative objects.
An elaborate French boulle clock, inlaid with tortoiseshell and ormolu, occupies the centre of the west wall. A bronze figurine flanked by a fine pair of cloisonné vases stands below it on a serpentine fronted commode. The furniture in the drawing room is mostly Regency and Louis XVI and is a mixture of genuine antique and Victorian reproductions.
This room was wallpapered with a William Morris design called Larkspur. In 1887, the Sambournes wanted something more luxurious. They chose a replacement paper of dark red imitation Spanish leather, but as the walls were covered with paintings and photographs spaces behind the pictures were not papered to save expense.
Sambourne's grand-daughter Anne, Countess of Rosse, redecorated the principal bedroom in 1960. Although she used a reprint of William Morris 'Norwich' wallpaper, the colour scheme, of mushroom for the carpet and ceiling, peach for the curtains and blue details on white paint, has given the room an eighteenth century feel rather than that of the Victorian era.
Most of the original furniture remains including the brass bed and ebonised suite of wardrobe, dressing table, bedside table and towel rail. These are decorated with white painted scrolling patterns simulating inlaid ivory. A new fireplace was installed in the principal bedroom in 1887. Previously both main bedrooms had fireplaces similar to those in the dining room and morning room, but this one is in a completely different style.
Friends of the Sambournes lived in houses designed by the architect Norman Shaw which had fireplaces similar to this one in every room. It is unlikely that Sambourne would have asked Shaw for a design. He probably make a quick sketch of one while visiting his friends which he then gave to his builder to copy.
The fireplace contains antique Dutch tiles and is decorated with blue and white china and is topped with a classical bust and two small Michaelangelo reproductions of Night and Day.
In front of the fireplace there is a fan in a glass case, each leaf is decorated and signed by a well known artist of the period. These include Watts, Millais, Frith and Alma-Tadema.
This room was originally the spare room and was used by Linley Sambourne's mother when she came to stay. After her death in 1892, Roy moved from the nursery to sleep in it and it was his bedroom for the rest of his life. In 1960 it became Lord Rosse's room and the curtains and carpet are from that era. The brass bed, the floral wallpaper with traces of gilding and the furniture are original to the room.
Roy hung photographs of his favourite relatives on the walls, later adding groups of his Oxford friends and some of his father's book illustrations. He later added numerous photographs of pretty actresses, in whose company the best years of his life were passed.
This stained glass window was installed in 1887, when some parts of the house were refurbished. The pattern is quite similar to that used in the upper part of the drawing room window. It shows the setting sun with an owl and features a repeating motif of birds against rays of sunlight.