The Restoration of Boston Manor House


The restoration of Boston Manor House has seen the rescue and redemption of a neglected Grade I-listed manor house – one of London’s true hidden gems - resulting in its triumphant removal from the Heritage at Risk Register.

Recently opened by HRH Queen Camilla and soon to welcome the public back through its doors, Boston Manor House has been transformed into a community heritage venue for the local Hounslow populace and visitors alike.
Purcell’s restoration has made possible the continuing story of a remarkable house, first built in 1622 by its remarkable first owner, Mary Reade - remarkably for the time, a single widow. Externally, it is one of the earliest examples of English Renaissance style architecture: internally, its historically significant rooms and interiors tell the many stories of those who once lived in the house.

Historical background
Like many houses of its time, it is a tale of ambition and achievement followed by gradual decline. Unlike many others, Boston Manor House has survived against all odds.

Still set in beautiful parkland, the house was built on an existing manorial estate with over 230 acres of land. After Mary Reade’s death, her house was passed down through her family until being sold to the wealthy Clitherow family in 1670 and, following various internal and external alterations, the property reached its peak during the late 18th and 19th centuries when it became a quintessential ‘Gentleman’s Estate’. As cities in England began to urbanise with Industrialisation, so the wealthy retreated to their rural properties, away from the smog and noise of city life. From this point on, Boston Manor House gradually slid into decline, and following the First World War – with no heir to maintain it – the house and parkland were sold to Brentford Urban District Council in 1924.

Despite restoration projects in 1960 and 1963, the house was placed on the Heritage at Risk Register, where it  remained for two decades until the restoration.

The London Borough of Hounslow saw an opportunity to transform the house with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and engaged Purcell as heritage and  conservation architects to turn the house into a heritage asset for the local community with renewed relevance and purpose for the 21st century.

As well as restoring the fabric of the significant suite of historic rooms and the exterior of the building, the brief also outlined a vision to provide flexible spaces for interpretation and events, improving accessibility, and sensitively restoring the service wing to provide self-contained units for local creative businesses. Visitor facilities have been relocated and upgraded and a new cafe, shop and toilet have been added, while improved access includes the provision of a new lift to allow access to all levels of the original house. The re-presentation of the historic interiors was driven by discoveries made on site, including the discovery of fragments of over forty wallpapers dating from around 1760 until the early 20th century.

Following specialist analysis of the wallpapers, we gained a wealth of knowledge on the design and social history in addition to the pigments and the technology available at the time. Paint analysis from walls, ceilings and joinery was also undertaken to analyse and understand the historic paint schemes implemented in the house over the last 400 years.

Each room in the main house was found to have huge  evidential value, sometimes thrilling surprise discoveries hidden under layers of modern plasterboard. Archival research and the Sales Catalogue from the sale of the house in 1922, also offered clues as to how the house was furnished over 300 years.

Using these exciting discoveries, the conservation philosophy evolved to incorporate the re-presentation of the different historic rooms in the house to each represent a different, and appropriate moment in time of the houses’ history.

As such, the State Bedroom has been re-presented in a 1620s scheme; the Drawing Room and Staircase have both been re-presented in their mid 18th century schemes; and the Dining Room has been re-presented in its 1840s scheme.

The two original 1620s decorative plaster work ceilings in the State Bedroom and Drawing Room were in good condition considering their age, but required removal of previous unsightly or unsound restorations, in addition to stabilisation and consolidation to water damaged areas and some additional repairs.

Specialists undertook the wider crack repairs to these ceilings in a bespoke mix of lime putty and aggregates to match the analysis of the original, and the smaller cracks were repaired in a mix of lime and marble flour.

The original decorative plaster frieze discovered in the 1960s in the State Bedroom had significantly deteriorated and a section of this on the north side required rebuilding. Specialists carried this out by remodelling in mortar to match the properties and hair proportion of the original, to enable the room to be read as it was originally intended.

The Drawing Room
The Drawing Room is the jewel of the house and retains its magnificent and finely-worked early-17th century plaster ceiling and ornate overmantle.

The decision to restore the room to its mid-18th century splendor was based on the notable change made to the size of the windows in the 1730s which would have dictated a new decorative scheme.

Research undertaken in 2019 uncovered blue silk fibers on one of the walls, suggesting that the walls had once been hung with fabric: given this evidence, and given that the family would have been at the very height of social standing in the eighteenth century, it was judged that a silk damask wall hanging would be appropriate. A specially-woven hanging, mimicking a 1730s-50s design and dyed in a contemporary blue, adorns the refurbished room as it would have during this time.


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