Pitzhanger Manor House, in Ealing (west London), was owned from 1800 to 1810 by the architect John Soane, who radically rebuilt it. Soane intended it as a country villa for entertaining and eventually for passing to his elder son. He demolished most of the existing building except the two-storey south wing built in 1768 by George Dance, who had been his first employer. In the late twentieth century, an extensive restoration returned much of the building back to Soane's design. It is now a showcase of Soane's design and also hosts exhibitions and events for visitors.
Until the eighteenth century
A large house has stood on the site at least since the late seventeenth century, at which time the smaller Pitzhanger Manor (variously spelled) stood a mile or so to its north.
Between 1664 and 1674 a Richard Slaney paid Hearth Tax on a building on the site of the present-day Pitzhanger Manor for 16 hearths. This provides a rough indication of the (considerable) size of the property as it then was.
In 1711, the occupants John and Mary Wilmer gave away their eldest daughter Grizell to be married to Johnathan Gurnell. He went on to make his fortune, first as a merchant and later as a co-founder of the city bank Gurnell, Hoare, and Harman. It was through this marriage that the house then passed to his only surviving son Thomas Gurnell, who bought Pits Hanger Manor Farm (sometimes spelt Pitts Hanger on old maps) in 1765. With the plainer 'manor house' of Pits Hanger (Farm) Manor standing near the centre of the modern Meadvale Road in the present suburb of Pitshanger (often referred to locally as Pitshanger Village), his grander existing house, a mile to the south in Ealing, became known as Pitshanger Place.
Upon the death of Thomas Gurnell, his son Johnathan II inherited the house. On his death in 1791, ownership passed to his young daughter (but was held in trust). The house was let out until 1799, and the trustees decided to sell it.
By the 1790s John Soane had a successful architectural practice in London, holding the post of architect to the Bank of England. In 1794 he, his wife and their two young sons moved into 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields (now part of Sir John Soane's Museum) in central London, which doubled as an architecture office for him and his staff.
In early 1800 Soane decided to acquire a family home to the west of London. At first he planned to have it purpose built, but on 21 July 1800 he visited Pitzhanger, which he heard was available, and seeing its potential offered the trustees £4,500 for the whole estate of 28 acres (110,000 m2). This was accepted on the first day of the following month. Soane referred to it as Pitzhanger Manor-house.
Soane worked vigorously on the designs of the new house, and over a hundred designs for it still exist and are held by Sir John Soane's Museum. He planned for the demolition of the older part of the house and many of the outbuildings; however, he retained the two-storey south wing designed by George Dance in part because of admiration for their interiors and in part in respect for Dance, his first employer. Demolition work started in 1800 and most of the rebuilding was complete by late 1803.
Completed in 1804, the central section of the house uses many typical Soane features: curved ceilings, inset mirrors, false doors, and wooden panelling with many cupboards. Soane continued the building to the east with a servants' wing (perhaps an adaptation of existing buildings) and romantic ruins. (All the buildings in this eastern part of the site were demolished in or around 1901.) The building is remarkably similar to his main London home at Lincoln's Inn Fields (now the Soane Museum). Much of his collection of paintings and classical antiquities now at the museum was housed in Pitzhanger Manor.
Soane sold the house in 1810 and it then passed through several hands until in 1843 it became home to the daughters of Britain's only assassinated Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval.
Since Soane's time, the house has been referred to variously as The Manor, or Pitshanger Manor, but has now formally reverted to the name given to it by Soane, spelt with a Z.
Ealing District Council
In 1900 the house was acquired by Ealing Urban District Council in the year before it became a Municipal Borough for a total of £40,000 pounds, a quarter of which came from the Middlesex County Council. Its new function was to serve as a Free Public Library. However, work on converting the building did not start until after the death of its last resident, Frederika Perceval in May 1901. The important part of the work was to build a ground-floor extension with a pitched slate roof, on the west of the 'Eating Room'. However, this magnificent room was all that remained of George Dance's original design. Therefore the Council had its chief surveyor Charles Jones design the extension next to the existing Breakfast Room. As Dance gave the room windows with a tall aspect, topped by semicircular bonded gauge brick arches, it made sense to remove the glazing and frames so as to open them up. This provided three large arched pedestrian openings into the newly created extension. To avoid a clash of architectural styles, Jones specified that the new extension be an almost mirror image of its neighbour, which is clearly visible through the connecting arches. With the high ceilings and matching plaster moulding and colour scheme, this helps create the illusion of one elegant, pleasantly proportioned and spacious reading area.
Finally, as access from this part of the building to the main library stock and issuing area required going up and down many steps along the passage way (which winds northward through the house), a new entrance was built out on the east-side of the breakfast room with 'Reading Room' emblazoned across its Portland stone lintel.
On the north side of the house: Jones had the servants' quarters demolished and removed some ornamental faux Roman ruins. The building to house the new lending library was constructed on the space so cleared. To complement the rest of the house it had the same arched windows. The lintel of the Portland stone surround of the portico was inscribed 'Lending Library'. It was opened to the public in April 1902.
In 1938–40 the lending library block was replaced by a new, slightly larger building.
The Library moved out in 1984 and in 1985 the restoration work began. Analysis of the structure and paint layers were used to recreate an authentic period look to the build.
|Views of Pitzhanger|
PM Gallery and House
The house opened to the public once again in January 1987 as the London Borough of Ealing's main museum, known as the PM Gallery & House. The PM Gallery is a venue for professional contemporary art exhibits. Visitors can also take audio wand guided tours of the house, which describe its history, design and architecture. There are also displays about John Soane, his other buildings, and area history and information.
The house is a Grade I listed building.
Film and television location
Because of Pitzhanger's authentic period look it has been registered as a film location and as such is available for hire. It is also only yards from Ealing Studios.
- The Importance of Being Earnest (2002) with Judi Dench, Rupert Everett and Colin Firth. The restored George Dance wing (Breakfast Room) and its Victorian extension was used.
- The Biographer (First Biography Films, 2000). Pitzhanger Manor used to double as Kensington Palace. Pitshanger Gallery doubled as The Tate in this 1990s period drama about biographer Andrew Moreton (played by Paul McGann).
- Kavanagh QC (Carlton TV, 1998). Pitzhanger Gallery doubled as a Crown Court, effectively a full set build apart from the ceiling light.
- Doctor Who: More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS (BBC, Sunday 7 November 1993). Sarah Jane Smith (played by Elisabeth Sladen) and her daughter Sadie are pursued by a Sontaran, played by Stephen Mansfield. This short shot was for a one-off anniversary program, made in the style of a documentary.
Nearest National Rail station is Ealing Broadway, which is also connected by both the District Line and the Central Line of London Underground. South Ealing tube station is the closest on the Piccadilly Line.
Buy bus: No. 65 to Ealing Green; or 83, 112, 207, 297, 427, 607, E1, E2, E7, E8, E9, E10, E11 to Ealing Broadway, then stroll 3 minutes south-west. Entrance is free to both the House, Gallery and Park.
- At his death Johnathan Gurnell made a number of charitable bequests in the area: for general purposes, to provide coal for the poor, and to provide for the education of bright but disadvantaged young people from the district. Today these bequests are administered by The Ealing and Brentford Consolidated Charity (accessed 11 May 2007).
- Ealing and Brentford: Other Estates: A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 7 Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden (1982), pp. 128–31, accessed 11 May 2007
- Ealing and Brentford: Manors: A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 7: Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden (1982), pp. 123–28, accessed 11 May 2007; Emmeline Leary Pitshanger Manor, An Introduction, p.20.
- Over a hundred designs: Leary, Pitshanger Manor, p.22.
- This price included the estate (now Walpole park), an area of some thirty-plus acres purchased from Sir Spencer Walpole (1830–1907), grandson of Spencer Perceval.
- Peter Hounsell, Ealing and Hanwell Past (London: Historical Publications, 1991; ISBN 0-948667-13-3), p.98.
- West London Film Office
- Baker, T F T, and C R Elrington (editors); Diane K Bolton, Patricia E C Croot, M A Hicks. A History of the County of Middlesex Volume 7, Acton, Chiswick, Ealing and Brentford, West Twyford, Willesden, 1982. Victoria County History. British History Online. University of London & History of Parliament Trust. (The volume completes the coverage of outer Middlesex with the five outer parishes of the Kensington division of Ossulstone hundred.) Accessed 2007-05-12
- Ewing, Heather. "Pitzhanger Manor." Pp. 142–49. In Margaret Richardson and MaryAnne Stevens, eds., John Soane, Architect: Master of Space and Light. London: Royal Academy, 1999. ISBN 0-900946-80-6 (paper); ISBN 0-300-08195-2 (hard). Catalogue of an exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1999.
- Hounsell, Peter. Ealing and Hanwell Past. London: Historical Publications, 1991. ISBN 0-948667-13-3. Pp. 24, 26, 98, 99.
- Leary, Emmeline. Pitshanger Manor: An Introduction. New ed. [Ealing, London]: Ealing Community Services, . ISBN 0-86192-090-2. The booklet now (early 2008) sold in the Manor as a guide and souvenir. Although the publication is not dated, the short introduction is dated January 1990 and is clearly written for publication.
- Neaves, Cyrill. A History of Greater Ealing. N.p. (UK): S. R. Publishers, 1971. ISBN 0-85409-679-5. Pp. 65, 76.
- Cruickshank, Dan. "Soane and the meaning of colour." Architectural Review, January 1989. (The newly restored Pitzhanger Manor-House is commented upon at length)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pitzhanger Manor.|
Neighbouring historic houses or sites
South west Boston Manor House 2.3 miles (3.7 km), (6 min driving time)
South east Chiswick House 4.2 miles 10 min driving time
South Syon House 2.8 miles 8 min driving time.