Turner’s House Trust became the owners of Sandycombe Lodge in the winter of 2010, on the death of its owner, Professor Harold Livermore. Professor Livermore bequeathed it to the Trust, to realize his wish that it should become a ‘monument to Turner in Twickenham’. This wonderful bequest also included his collection of prints, largely after Turner’s own works, together with some drawings, oils and watercolours by other artists.
Safeguarding the future of Sandycombe Lodge
Over the course of the next couple of years Sandycombe suffered from increasing deterioration, due largely to ancient water drainage systems and some periods of excessively wet weather. The roots of several yew trees, planted very close to the house in the 1920s, had made their way several feet into the basement walls, bringing in damp and rot, and several sections of ceiling collapsed. Historic England placed Sandycombe Lodge on their register of Heritage at Risk in the autumn of 2013.
Clearly more than simple repairs were needed for this Grade 2* building. Gary Butler of Butler Hegarty architects was appointed to prepare a survey, and the Trust submitted an application for development funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which was awarded in the summer of 2013. This allowed us to appoint Gary Butler as conservation architect, project manager Simon Hawkins of Glevum Consulting, and landscape architect Ellen Bramhill to take our plans forward. With costings for conservation and future plans for presenting the restored house in place, an appeal for £2.4m was launched at Tate Britain in the following September.
This is not easy! An energetic fundraising campaign has been run by the Trust, with the very significant award of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s £1.4m in January 2015 giving a terrific boost to our efforts. We have also been supported with generous grants from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Challenge Foundation, the Country Houses Foundation, the Foyle Foundation, the Sackler Trust, the Mercer’s Company, the Architectural Heritage Fund and many others, with the Pilgrim Trust assisting us with urgent repairs in the early stages. Support has also been received from the Friends of Turner’s House and from many generous individual donors, and through fund-raising events, including a very successful crowdfunding campaign. In the early summer of 2016, we reached our target.
Restoration work begins
In April 2016 our specialist contractors, Fullers Builders, began work, and have made significant progress in this complex project, which needs very skillful input from the building team. As well as essential and urgent repairs to the fabric of the building, we will also remove the additional rooms, added above the wings after Turner sold the house, and return the building to Turner’s own design. This has been endorsed by English Heritage and planning permission was granted in April 2015. Interesting finds have been made, and continue to be made, as the work of conservation continues – visit News to follow developments.
The design team is working on the all-important presentation of the interior of Sandycombe, drawing on information from paint analysis, and researching contemporary accounts and records. We intend to furnish the house appropriately with furniture from the early 19th century, suitable to country use. As Sandycombe’s architectural design is the work of Turner himself, we believe that visitors will wish to enjoy the architectural space which he created and in which he and his father lived, and where friends came to dine and enjoy his once-large garden with its rural surroundings.
Planning the garden scheme is well underway, and planting will take place in the spring of 2017. Although the garden is now much reduced from its original size, we intend through imaginative and appropriate planting to bring back something of its spirit. The garden will be accessible to wheelchair users.
Professor Livermore’s bequest has been added to by some generous donations. The collection is currently being conserved and catalogued. Cataloguing is made possible by a grant from Richmond’s Civic Pride Fund.
We hope that Sandycombe restored will be ready to open its doors to visitors in the summer of 2017, and that many generations of visitors of all ages will be able to enjoy this wonderful building and learn about this little-known aspect of the life and work of JMW Turner, one of the greatest landscape painters in the history of art.
Photographs by Anne Purkiss
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