Gunnersbury Park
Gunnersbury Park

Gunnersbury Park is a grand home in Regency style, once owned by the Rothschild banking family. It now houses a local history museum for the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hounslow. Included in the range of exhibits are archaeological finds from the area, the last Hansom cab to work the borough, and several coaches owned by the Rothschilds themselves.
A wing of the Small Mansion
A wing of the Small Mansion
In 1802 Alexander Copland built a large Regency mansion in neo-classical style in Gunnersbury Park. Copland was a builder, and a partner of architect Thomas Holland. The house was built on a low rise overlooking a horseshoe-shaped lake, and sumptuously furnished. It was later known as the Large Mansion, and here's why:

In 1806 Major Alexander Morrison built Gunnersbury House in the north east corner of the park. Its design echoes the design of Copland's fashionable house, with a long neo-classical front and Oriental motifs.

In 1889 the larger house was purchased by the wealthy Rothschild banking family. They also purchased the neighbouring estate of Gunnersbury House and joined the two together to form the current Gunnersbury Park. The house built by Copland became known as the Large Mansion, and Gunnersbury House became the Small Mansion. The Rothschilds used the Small Mansion as spare rooms for guests including Edward VII.

In 1925 Maria de Rothschild sold the park and mansion houses to Ealing Borough Council and Acton Borough Council for 130,000 pounds on condition that the estate be used for leisure. The estate grounds became a public park, and the Large Mansion was eventually turned into a local history and heritage museum.

A mock ruined gateway in the grounds
A mock ruined gateway
in the grounds
The Museum
The museum opened in 1928 in the Large Mansion of Gunnersbury Park, using the ornate state rooms as a setting to display objects connected with the heritage of Ealing and Hounslow. A series of changing exhibits tell the story of the people and places of the two boroughs from prehistory to the present day. The social history of the area is depicted through artwork, photographs, and objects from everyday life.

Collections cover archaeology, transport, games and toys, historic costumes, domestic equipment, communications, maps, local businesses, and wartime memories.

Some of the most popular objects on show include 17th century Hounslow Swords, a pair of early 19th century carriages owned by the Rothschild family, and a 1804 Stanhope printing press.

One unexpected collection is the South Asian Archive, with recordings of South Asian residents of the area telling their stories, plus items of clothing, photographs, and documents showing how South Asians came to Ealing and Hounslow, and how they lived. Recorded interviews cover topics like immigration, race relations, establishing places of worship, work, and local entertainment. It's a slice of living history, and part of the cultural diversity that makes the area what it is today.

Victorian Kitchens
The historic mansion itself forms part of the museum exhibits. The Victorian kitchens have been restored to show what life was like for those who worked 'below stairs' during the house's 19th century heyday. The kitchens include a pastry room, butchery, chef's office, and scullery in addition to the main kitchen area.

Elegant windows in the Small Mansion
Elegant windows in the Small Mansion
One other historic building in Gunnersby Park deserves a mention. The Doric Temple, on the edge of the Round Pond, is one of the oldest buildings in the park. It was built in the mid-18th century in the style of a Greek temple, with Doric columns supporting a large portico. It may have been built by the famed garden designer William Kent, who created the informal gardens, including the pond. The Temple has been used as a dwelling, a dairy, a billiard room, and possibly a synagogue.


Gunnersbury Park is easy to reach from Acton Town tube station (Picadilly Line). Simply turn left as you exit the station, and follow Gunnersbury Lane to its end, where it joins Gunnersbury Avenue at a set of lights. You can see the park boundary wall just across the road. Cross over, turn left, and you will see park gates immediately ahead. It should take no more than 10 minutes easy walking to reach the Park from the tube station.

As you enter the park you will catch a glimpse of the Small Mansion ahead of you through the trees. The Large Mansion is beyond it. When we visited the Large Mansion was undergoing restoration (see below) and was covered in scaffolding, so all our photos depict the Small Mansion and the grounds. As you can see from some of our photos, the Small Mansion is also in need of restoration, but once the proces is complete Gunnersbury will be a stunning historic house once again.

The main museum venue in the Large Mansion temporarily closed in late 2014 to allow for a major restoration project. The restoration is expected to be complete by 2017. In the meantime the Small Mansion will offer activities and events as well as temporary displays from the museum collection. The restoration project also takes in the Doric Temple and other follies in the park, which may result in some areas being temporarily closed off to visitors.