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Bushy House

Original house was built for Edward Proger, c1663/5. From 1797 the residence of William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV) and his mistress Dora Jordan. Now part of the National Physical Laboratory. Entry: house, vinery, gardens. No pets with the exception of guide dogs.

Architect

William Samwell

Date

1663/5

National Physical Laboratory, Queens Road, Teddington TW11 0EB

Sat 10am-5pm.

Teddington

R68, 33, 281, 285

  • Toilets available

BUSHY HOUSE

Very little was written about Bushy Park until the reign of Charles I, who attempted to extend the hunting by so grandiose a scheme that it would link Bushy with Richmond Park. His plans did not come to pass but he did succeed in bringing water from the River Colne to Hampton Court through the Longford River.

During the Commonwealth, the Long Parliament made a survey in 1653 before selling off the Palace and its surroundings. At that time, Bushy Park contained 1700 deer. Parliament later made Oliver Cromwell Lord Protector and presented him with Hampton Court as a suitable palace, hurriedly buying back Bushy Park to the considerable profit of a Mr Blackwell.

Cromwell was in residence in early 1654. In the eastern part of the Park he made the ponds, which were known as ‘Oliver’s ponds’ for quite some time.

Both Charles I and Cromwell attempted to restrict public access to Bushy Park at different times, but the locals resisted and continued to poach the game.

The two principal dwellings within Bushy Park were on the sites of the present Upper Lodge and Bushy House. The Upper Lodge was for many years a Grace and Favour Residence. It became the King’s Canadian Hospital during the First World War and has been in official hands ever since.

William III made the real changes to Bushy Park; the present Chestnut Avenue and the Diana Pond, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, date from this time. Henry Wise, the King’s gardener, carried out the landscaping in 1699. He planted 274 chestnut trees and 250 lime trees along the avenue extending from the Teddington Gate to the Lion Gate – a distance of around a mile. A cataloguing of the trees in the 1960s showed that many were the originals that were planted 270 years before.

The original Bushy House was built for the Underkeeper of the ‘Middle Park’ and consisted of the present main block, but with only two main floors above the basement and an attic. The wings, attached outbuildings and top floor were all added later. It is clear that additions, including the block over the north entrance that accommodated servants, were made when Princess Adelaide moved in with the Duke of Clarence in 1818 – presumably to accommodate their increasing number of children.

Bushy House and NPL

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) was originally meant to be an extension of Kew Observatory. Inquiries were made into building new premises nearby, but local opposition at Richmond combined with the chance to use Bushy House soon put an end to the plan.

The Crown offered Bushy House to the Royal Society for the founding of NPL in 1900, and the first Director, Sir Richard Tetley Glazebrook, was able to move in two years later.

As the first building to house NPL, Bushy House was the nucleus. The Directors used the first and second floors as a private apartment, while the ground floor, basements and outlying buildings were made up of laboratories and offices.

Bushy House came with a total of 22 acres of ground, over half of which was the beautifully landscaped garden of an 18th and 19th century country house. The remainder contained the Queen’s Cottage, the Clock House, Bushy House Cottage, stables and outbuildings. The development of NPL was restricted to the northern part of the site, meaning that the garden, mainly situated to the south of the house, has been more or less preserved in its original condition.

This area was sufficient for the needs of NPL until around 1920; over the following five years the site expanded to nearly its present size. Although the major expansion of the site was made in the early 1920s, it was not built up for many years.

Continuous alterations were made to the building over the years, for example the Ducal library, from which all ferrous metal was removed to enable it to become a non-magnetic room. The low magnetic field facility is still in use.

The basement of Bushy House proved to be invaluably suitable in terms of temperature and vibrations. In 1932 the most accurate balance in the world was housed in one of these rooms.