Kneller Hall is a stately home in Whitton, in west London, and takes its name from Sir Godfrey Kneller, court painter to British monarchs from Charles II to George I. Today it houses the Royal Military School of Music, training musicians for the British Army’s 22 military bands, having been acquired by the Army in the mid-19th century.
The current building is the third house constructed on this site. The first was built by Edmund Cooke between 1635 and 1646 and in 1664 was the fourth largest house in Twickenham.
After being purchased by Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1709, the first house was demolished and replaced by a new building (reputedly designed by Sir Christopher Wren). Originally known as Whitton Hall, it was renamed Kneller Hall by Kneller’s widow after his death.
In 1757, Kneller Hall was sold to Sir Samuel Prime, a prominent London lawyer, who, with his son of the same name, extended the house significantly and landscaped the surrounding grounds. After Samuel Prime junior died in 1813, the hall was sold to Charles Calvert, Whig Member of Parliament for Southwark from 1812–1832. He further expanded the house (to designs by architect Philip Hardwick), adding drawing rooms at the east and west ends of the building.
Calvert died of cholera in 1832, but his widow continued to live at the Hall until her death around 1845. The hall was then acquired by the UK government as a teacher training college, but needed substantial reconstruction work. Between 1847 and 1850, much of the original Kneller house was found to be dilapidated and was demolished. The Calvert additions formed the wings of the new house, designed by George Mair.
The teacher training college, headed by Frederick Temple, was not a success – it closed in 1856, after which it was taken over by the War Office as the base for a school for army bandsmen, being officially opened on 3 March 1857. For its history from this point, see Royal Military School of Music.