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Summer House at Charlton House

The Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust is about to embark on its first project in the process of rejuvenating Charlton House and its estate.

The Grade I listed Garden House, attributed to Inigo Jones, that once gave panoramic views back along the River Thames to The City of London has stood empty and unused since the public toilets within it were closed in the early nineties: It has been included in Historic England’s ‘Register of Heritage at Risk’ for many years. Thanks to a generous donation from the World Monuments Fund and subject to obtaining the necessary consents, work will start in the Spring to clear the building of the modern toilet fittings and masonry partitions to leave it open and available for a wide variety of temporary uses.

Tracy Stringfellow, Chief Executive of the Trust, said, “Charlton House is one of London’s unsung architectural gems and this work is the first step of a process to re-imagine the house and its grounds to provide enhanced facilities for visitors that befit this historically significant site. It will give the estate a ‘front-door’ where small exhibitions and other temporary events can be staged and the Trust looks forward to working with local stakeholders to begin this journey.”

Architect Charlie MacKeith, overseeing the initial project, says “it is a great privilege to be working with the Trust at the start of Charlton House’s revival. This fascinating little building, currently hidden and locked, has started revealing tantalising fragments of its history even before we’ve started to remove pre-war additions. The reopened pavilion will have a dramatic impact on the park and village”.

The Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust was set up in 2014 by the Royal Borough of Greenwich. The Trust operates independently and is a registered charity (charity number 1157164). The Trust cares for several heritage assets in the Royal Borough of Greenwich including Charlton House and its ancillary buildings; Greenwich Heritage Centre, museum and archive; Tudor Barn, Eltham; a number of war memorials across the borough.

Charlton House is described in Sir Nicolas Pevsner’s The Building of England as, “the only Jacobean mansion of the first order remaining in the precincts of London”. The Garden House at Charlton House dates from c.1630 and is contemporary with the main house which was built by Sir Adam Newton, tutor to Henry, Prince of Wales. Whilst there is no firm evidence to substantiate the claim that it can attributed to Inigo Jones, there is no doubt that its designer clearly understood the principles of Classical architectural design and proportion then beginning to dominate the design of buildings in England. The building was designed as a prospect house to enable visitors to the estate to enjoy panoramic views of the lower Thames towards the City of London. Like the House itself, the Garden House is included in Historic England’s List of buildings of special architectural interest in England at Grade I.

The Garden House was converted for use as public toilets between the First and Second World War. These were permanently closed in the early nineties and the building has stood empty ever since. It has been included in Heritage England’s Register of Heritage At Risk for many years.

This work is being carried out with the help of a generous grant from The World Monuments Fund and the Trust will be working with them and other bodies to deliver a comprehensive phased programme of works to improve the House and the estate to enable more visitors to enjoy this remarkable building.

 

You can find out more my contacting Tracy Stringfellow, CEO, on 0208 856 3951

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