Europe, London, Travel

The fascinating history of Syon House

After my visit to Strawberry Hill House I took a short bus ride over to Syon Park. I’ve been there a couple of times before, staying overnight at the Hilton hotel on the grounds, but this was my first time stepping foot inside Syon House. If I’d know how beautiful the house was inside, I think I’d have tried to visit sooner!

Syon House is owned by the Duke of Northumberland, who also happens to own Alnwick Castle – the Hogwarts filming location in the first two Harry Potter movies. While Syon House itself doesn’t have any wizarding heritage it does have it’s own unique history.

Syon House got it’s name from Syon Abbey, a medieval Bridgettine monastery. In 1431 the abbey moved to the site where Syon House now stands. It was closed in 1539 after Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries, shutting down Catholic religious establishments across England, Wales and Ireland. After that it became property of the Crown and Henry VIII’s fifth wife Catherine Howard was imprisoned at Syon for five months before her execution.

Five years later when Henry VIII died, his body was transported for burial from Whitehall to Windsor, making an overnight stop at Syon along the way. During the night, the coffin mysteriously burst open and the following morning dogs were found licking at the king’s remains. People believed it could have been divine judgement after Henry VIII’s dissolution of the abbey and his ordered execution of Catherine.

That same year the property was leased to the 1st Duke of Somerset. He had the site rebuilt as Syon House, in the Italian Renaissance style. In 1594 the house was passed by marriage to Henry Percy, the 9th Earl of Northumberland, and it has stayed in the family ever since.

The rooms were designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam. He was commissioned by the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland to create a series of striking classical interiors, filled with antiquities shipped from Italy.

One of the rooms in Syon House is called Princess Victoria’s Bedroom. The 3rd Duchess at Syon Park was the princess’ official governess, helping to prepare her for her future role as Queen. The young princess and her mother stayed at Syon House many times over a six year period and the rooms remain just as they left them, including the original beds.

Outside the house you will find the Great Conservatory, with its huge iron and glass dome. It was the first large building of metal and glass ever built in the country, designed to show off the Duke’s collection of exotic plants.

Visitor information

  • Syon House is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays from March – October. This year it is open until 29th October so you’ve still got time to visit before it closes for winter.
  • Tickets to Syon House, Garden and Great Conservatory costs Β£12.50 for adults. Historic Houses Association members can visit for free.
  • The nearest tube station is Gunnersbury. From there you can take the 237 or 267 bus to Brentlea Gate bus stop. Alternatively, you can come by car as there is plenty of free parking available.
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