Orleans House

Orleans House
General information
Status Partially demolished: the octagon gallery and its service wing remain and are Grade I listed
Architectural style Palladian
Town or city Twickenham, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Country England, UK
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
Owner currently Richmond upon Thames Council
Design and construction
Architect John James
James Gibbs
Listed Building – Grade I
Official name Orleans House The Octagon Room and Service Wing Adjoining
Designated 2 September 1952
Reference no. 1250280

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

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 and 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 then 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

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.[8]

20th century

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
Established 1972
Location Riverside, Twickenham, Greater London TW1 3DJ
Visitors 56,000 annually[9]
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.[10] The outbuildings and octagon room were saved by the efforts of a local figure, the Hon. Nellie Levy, later the Hon. Mrs Ionides, who left it and her collection of 18th- and 19th-century pictures to the borough.[11] It became a listed building in 1952[2] and was converted into an art gallery in 1972.[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

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, 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]

Orleans House Gallery is also the site of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames' arts service and provides educational workshops[17] for a wide variety of ages, using the converted stables and coach house as educational spaces. The gallery can also be hired as a wedding venue and for functions.

In 2015 the gallery received £1.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards a £3.6 million project to restore the octagon room, extend the main gallery building and improve the building's accessibility.[18] The gallery is now closed, for one year from August 2016, while the work is carried out.[19]


The gallery's website includes a listing of its previous exhibitions.[20] These have included watercolours and sketches by Richard Dadd[21] and, in 2003, the first major retrospective of Stephen Wiltshire's works.[22] The gallery's exhibition Capability Now (from February to June 2016) marked the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown.[23][24]

See also


  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. 1 2 Historic England. "Orleans House The Octagon Room and Service Wing Adjoining (1250280)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 24 September 2016.
  3. "Orleans House Gallery collections". Orleans House Gallery. London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. 3 August 2009. Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  4. 1 2 "Richmond upon Thames Borough Art Collection". Art UK. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  5. John R Young (2004). "Johnston, James (1655–1737)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press.
  6. "James Johnston". London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  7. "Orleans House". Twickenham. Twickenham Museum. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  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". Local information: gallery. St Margarets community website. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  12. "Orleans House". Twickenham Museum. Retrieved 16 December 2012.
  13. "Orleans House Gallery". Culture 24. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  14. Amy Dyduch (2 September 2012). "Orleans House Gallery getting ready for 40". Richmond and Twickenham Times. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  15. "The Big Four-O: Highlights from the Richmond Borough Art Collection". London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  16. "Art and Literacy at Orleans House Gallery". News. Orleans Park School. 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  17. "Orleans House Gallery set to be transformed – thanks to £1.8m funding" (Press release). Heritage Lottery Fund. 13 July 2015. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  18. "Opening times and visitor information". Orleans House Gallery. London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  19. "Previous exhibitions". Orleans House Gallery. London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  20. "Richard Dadd Exhibition at Orleans House Gallery". Bethlem Blog. Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum. 24 May 2011. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  21. "Exhibition record". Stephen Wiltshire MBE – Biography. Stephen Wiltshire. Retrieved 15 December 2012.
  22. "Contemporary Capability Brown artworks sought for new exhibition". Capability Brown Festival. 30 November 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  23. "Capability Now". Orleans House Gallery/Gallery Exhibitions. London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Retrieved 16 March 2016.


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

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