Linley Sambourne House

From the announcement in the Winter 2016-17 Newsletter:

This late-Victorian townhouse remains just as its owner left it on his death in 1910.

Edward Linley Sambourne, a political cartoonist for the satirical magazine Punch, lived here with his family from 1874 and the visitor has the sense of trespassing on their private domain while they, perhaps, have just popped out for a stroll in Holland Park. It is as if the clock had stopped 100 years ago and time stood still. The cluttered interior is scarcely changed, complete with books. ornaments, velvet drapes, William Morris wallpaper and a Victorian lavatory. The walls are hung with framed original Sambourne cartoons and photographs. Perhaps a love of photography was passed down in the genes. Edward’s great-grandson is Lord Snowdon, one-time husband of the late Princess Margaret.

From the Report in the Spring 2017 Newsletter:

Linley Sambourne House on 18 Stafford Terrace in London was from 1875 the home of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne, his wife Marion and their two children. While waiting, our attention was drawn to the obituary of the famous photographer Lord Snowdon, the ex-husband of Princess Margaret, who died a week before. This is the house where his great-grandparents lived.

By way of introduction Angela Bollier, our lovely guide, showed a ten minute video featuring the late Lord Snowdon explaining that the parents of his great-grandparents bought the house for £2000 as a wedding gift for their daughter and son-in-law. In 1875 his great-grandparents moved in and turned this house into an artistic house and workspace. His great-grandfather was Edward Linley Sambourne, cartoonist for the popular and prestigious weekly satirical magazine Punch (from 1867 till his death in 1910). Uniquely at that time, for his work Edward Linley Sambourne used photography. He would create posed photographs by using amateur (often his servants) and professional models which he would use to draw from; a single cartoon could potentially combine several poses.

Linley Sambourne House has been so carefully preserved by the descendants, that with its many original features it gives an insight into a Victorian family home and an artist’s studio. In addition it provides a rare example of what was known at that time as an ‘Aesthetic interior’ or ‘House Beautiful’ style. The aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century encouraged the use of foreign or ‘exotic’ influences in the decoration. This can be seen by the various Japanese, Middle-Eastern and Chinese objects throughout the house. It is also a typical artist’s house like many of the houses of the Holland Park circle.

The tour starts in the beautiful Entrance hall and Staircase, with many original items, including the William Morris wallpaper. After hitting the gong we continued to the Dinning room, where one of the most outstanding features are the many black and white framed photographs of the famous paintings covering large parts of the walls. The Sambournes loved to entertain by hosting dinner parties. As Edward Linley Sambourne saved all documents, even receipts and menus, we know that most of the furniture was bought at auction. The interior is an eclectic mix of styles with many references to the classics and the Orient.

However, the house also contains some modern details like a speaking tube to communicate with the servants, a revolving sign in the loo door and a bathroom with a bathtub in which Linley would also develop his photographs (for that reason Mrs Sambourne probably did not want to use that bathtub herself).

The Morning room, located adjacent, was used by Mrs Sambourne and was decorated like all rooms with bright colours that unfortunately have faded over the years. Two Dutch paintings, Oriental ornaments and door panels, which were hand-painted by Edward Linley Sambourne himself, were pointed out.

A unique feature of this house is that the windows at the back of the house on almost each floor are stained glass, placed to cover the view to the back house and courtyard. The lower panes of the stained glass are filled with a simple repeat pattern inside coloured borders, but the upper panes contain specially commissioned armorial shields, which seems to have been a means of expression of the Sambourne’s family pride.

The Drawing room on the first floor consists of two rooms joined into one large, covering the length of the house. This room with the piano was used for entertaining guests and to showcase the many collectables like the French clocks, Italian marble pieces and Oriental plates among others. In this room again a small piece of the original embossed wallpaper can be seen. In the back of the southern end of the room was Edward Linley’s studio. The camera and easel mark the place where he used to work before he moved his studio into the old nursery on the top floor of the house.

After visiting the bedrooms we ended our tour on the top floor to visit Edward Linley’s Studio and the Maid’s room. The Maid’s room gives a good impression of the much smaller size and simple furniture compared to the other rooms. The Studio, with the skylight, bookshelves and some props he used, was converted from the old night nursery where the children slept. In 1899, the shelving and overmantel were constructed and the room entirely redecorated. Covered with glass under the floor you can see still part of the original water draining. Edward Linley would work here for the last decade of his life.

After the tour the group headed for lunch in a pub nearby. We would like to thank Angela for guiding us around this nicely preserved historical house and Evelien for organising this interesting ‘stepping back in time’ excursion.