Originally called Danson Hill, the Palladian villa was designed by leading architect Sir Robert Taylor (architect of the Bank of England), and constructed c.1766 for sugar merchant and vice-chairman of the British East India Company, Sir John Boyd, son of the St Kitts planter and slaveholder Augustus Boyd. It stood in over 600 acres (2.4 km²) of pleasure grounds and agricultural estate - over 200 acres (0.8 km²) of which today form Danson Park, the largest public park in the London Borough of Bexley. The landscape was designed and laid out by Nathaniel Richmond, assistant to Capability Brown from 1761 to 1763. At its centre is a large and picturesque 12 acre (49,000 m²) lake to the south of the house.
19th and 20th Century
After Sir John died in January 1800 (being buried in St Mary's churchyard, Lewisham), his son demolished the imposing wings containing kitchens and stables, and built the present stable block (design attributed to George Dance the Younger). He sold the estate in 1807 to a retired army captain John Johnston. In 1829, it passed to Johnston's son Hugh. Hugh's daughter Sarah painted a number of watercolours of the interior in the 1860s with exceptional detail (these watercolours were later invaluable in restoring the interior). Hugh Johnston sold Danson to railway engineer Alfred Bean in 1863. Bean was the driving force behind the Bexleyheath Railway Company and chairman of Bexley Local Board, and envisaged transforming the 582 acre (2.4 km²) estate into a residential suburb. Outlying areas were gradually developed but the central area of the estate remained in Bean's family after his death in 1890 until it was acquired by Bexley Urban District Council for £16,000 in 1924 on the death of his widow. The park was opened to the public in 1925, while the house was used for civil defence purposes during World War Two.
When the house was acquired by English Heritage in 1995, it was in a dangerously dilapidated condition, having been uninhabited since 1923. It was painstakingly restored in a lengthy £4.5m project by Purcell Miller Tritton architects. Bexley Heritage Trust, a local heritage charity, has been involved in partnership with English Heritage since 2000 and has completed the interior furnishing and fitting-out of the house prior to reopening by HM The Queen in Spring 2005, and it now manages the building as a publicly accessible venue and visitor attraction (the Trust is also responsible for Hall Place, east of Bexleyheath).
The house is currently used for public functions and is opened to the public on certain open days. The estate's stable block is now a public house, the Danson Stables.
- "Landscape with Waterfall and Figures". The Walters Art Museum.