Orleans House

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Orleans House
Orleans House Gallery - geograph.org.uk - 1179013.jpg
General information
Status Partially demolished: remaining Octagon Gallery and service wing are Grade I listed
Architectural style Palladian
Town or city Twickenham
Country England
Coordinates 51°26′50″N 0°19′08″W / 51.44731°N 0.319022°W / 51.44731; -0.319022Coordinates: 51°26′50″N 0°19′08″W / 51.44731°N 0.319022°W / 51.44731; -0.319022
Construction started 1702
Completed 1737
Demolished 1926
Client James Johnston
Design and construction
Architect John James
James Gibbs

Orleans House was a Palladian villa built by the architect John James in 1710[1] near the Thames at Twickenham, England, for the politician and diplomat James Johnston. It was subsequently named after the Duc D'Orleans who stayed there in the early 19th century. By the early 20th century it was derelict and in 1926 it was mostly demolished. However, parts of the property, including a baroque octagonal room designed by architect James Gibbs, were preserved. The octagon room and its service wing are listed Grade I by Historic England[2] and, together, with a converted stable block, are now the Orleans House Gallery, a gallery of art relating to the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and neighbouring areas of London.[3][4][5]

18th century[edit]

Johnston's Twickenham house in 1844

James Johnston settled at Twickenham at the end of his political career. Johnston had seen diplomatic service in Germany, first as King's envoy to Berlin, later working to secure the Hanoverian succession and had frequent journeys to Hanover. It was said George I "often conversed with him very familiarly" and that Johnston was "a great favourite of Queen Caroline, who was much entertained with his humour and pleasantry". It was also said "he keeps out a very great rank, and frequently has Mr. Walpool and the greatest courtiers with him at his country house near London; and the King sometimes does him the honour to dine with him".[6] The King (George I) is also recorded to have been a regular casual visitor to the house.

He was one of the first to construct a home on the Thames in Twickenham during the 18th century. He procured a lease (from the current under-lessee Mrs Davies)[note 1] and commissioned architect John James to plan and erect a mansion – a project which spanned the following 35 years. The grounds were extensive, including the area now known as the Orleans House woodlands. Johnston created a fine garden which "included canals, an icehouse, a kitchen garden, a pleasure garden, a wilderness, a grotto and a fruit garden".[7] A baroque octagonal room, designed by architect James Gibbs, was added in 1720 for entertaining George II's Queen Consort, Caroline, who regarded Johnston with great favour.

19th century[edit]

Louis-Phillippe, Duc d'Orléans, while in exile, lived in Johnston's house at Twickenham between 1813 and 1815 and the house was later named after him.

20th century[edit]

Painting of "Orleans House, Twickenham" by British artist Joseph Nickolls (1689–1789), circa 1750, held at the Yale Center for British Art
Orleans House Gallery
Visitors 56,000 annually[8]
Website www.richmond.gov.uk/orleans_house_gallery

Orleans House was demolished in 1926, and the area formerly occupied by the house used to quarry gravel throughout the 1930s.[9] The outbuildings and Octagon Room were saved by the efforts of a local figure, Hon. Nellie Levy later Hon. Mrs Ionides, who left it and her collection of 18th and 19th century pictures to the borough.[10] It became a listed building in 1952[2] and was converted into an art gallery in 1972.[11][12]

In 1973, 16 acres (6.5 ha) at the northern end of the former park were taken as the site of Orleans Park School.[13]

21st century[edit]

The buildings and site were refurbished between 2005 and 2008 by architects Patel Taylor to incorporate an education centre and a cafe.[14]

Orleans House Gallery[edit]

Orleans House Gallery, which opened in 1972,[15][16] displays material from the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames' art collection.[3] This includes a portrait of James Johnston by Thomas Gibson, paintings of Orleans House by Arthur Vickers and several other artists, and the Burton Collection, which includes artwork, personal effects and photographs of the explorer Richard Francis Burton.[5] The gallery's programme of temporary exhibitions have included watercolours and sketches by Richard Dadd[17]and, in 2003, the first major retrospective of Stephen Wiltshire's works.[18]


  1. ^ Mrs Davies was sister to the 1st Lord Berkeley of Stratton. The manor was vested in the Crown from 1541 and usually, for life, in the possession of the Queen consort. In 1675 the King granted a reversionary lease for 41 years after the death of Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705) to John Earl of Rochester. In 1702 James Johnston obtained from the Queen Dowager a lease for 13 years from 1720. By the time of his death in 1737 Johnston had much further extended the lease and (from George II) obtained yet another 13 years to commence in 1774. On Johnston's death it was sold to George Morton Pitt. Pitt obtained an extension to 1815. Pitt's only child married Brownlow Bertie but died aged 18 without surviving issue and in due course it became the residence of Pitt's wife's daughter by a prior marriage, Sophia Drake (died 1767) and her husband, Sir George Pocock (1706–1792).
    Daniel Lysons (1811). The Environs of London: Kent, Essex and Herts. London: T. Cadell and W. Davies. pp. 772–774. 


  1. ^ Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner (1983). The Buildings of England – London 2: South. London: Penguin Books. p. 541. ISBN 0 14 0710 47 7. 
  2. ^ a b "Orleans House The Octagon Room and Service Wing Adjoining". List entry. Historic England. Retrieved 20 March 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Orleans House Gallery". Your Paintings: Uncovering the nation's art collection. BBC. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  4. ^ "Orleans House Gallery collections". Orleans House Gallery. London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 6 May 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Mark De Novellis. "More about Richmond upon Thames Borough Art Collection". Your Paintings: Uncovering the nation's art collection. BBC. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  6. ^ John R. Young, "Johnston, James (1655–1737)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  7. ^ "James Johnston". London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  8. ^ "Introduction to Orleans House Gallery". Orleans House Gallery. London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  9. ^ Miranda Stearn and Mark De Novellis (November 2008). Orleans House: a history (pdf). pp. 48–72. ISBN 1-902643-09-7. 
  10. ^ Christopher Hibbert; Ben Weinreb; and others The London Encyclopaedia, third edition, London, Macmillan, 2008 ISBN 978-1-4050-4924-5
  11. ^ "Orleans House Gallery Richmond upon Thames, Surrey, Greater London". Guide to Richmond. Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "Orleans House Gallery". St Margarets community website. Retrieved 14 December 2012. 
  13. ^ "Orleans House". The Twickenham Museum. Retrieved 16 December 2012. 
  14. ^ "Orleans House Gallery". Culture 24. Retrieved 22 February 2013. 
  15. ^ Amy Dyduch (2 September 2012). "Orleans House Gallery getting ready for 40". Richmond and Twickenham Times. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  16. ^ "The Big Four-O: Highlights from the Richmond Borough Art Collection". London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  17. ^ "Richard Dadd Exhibition at Orleans House Gallery". Bethlem Blog. Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  18. ^ "Exhibition record". Stephen Wiltshire MBE – Biography. Stephen Wiltshire. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 


External links[edit]

Media related to James Johnston (Secretary of State) at Wikimedia Commons