Marble Hill House
Marble Hill House
A sumptuous Palladian villa set on lawns sloping down to the Thames, Marble Hill House was built for Henrietta Howard, mistress of George II. Work began in 1724, making it one of the earliest examples of Palladian style in the country. The house was built to the designs of Roger Morris, with the gardens being the work of William Kent and Alexander Pope.
Henrietta Howard became George's mistress when he was still Prince of Wales. But she was much more than the king's mistress, she was a noted wit and society hostess, and befriended many of the most scholarly and erudite men in the country. The new house at Marble Hill was intended not simply as a romantic retreat from the hurly-burly of court, but as an Arcadian idyll, a place to entertain intimate groups of friends.

And those friends took a hand in designing Howard's new villa. Pope, a neighbour in Twickenham, helped plan the layout of the house and garden, as did other of Howard's circle of friends. The house is set in 66 acres of parkland.

The interiors of Marble Hill have been carefully restored and provide a setting for a collection of Georgian fine art. Among the rooms open to visitors is the dining parlour, with luxurious hand-painted Chinese wall paper.  This is not the original paper but has been meticulously created in the same style that Mrs Howard would have used. The centrepiece of the compact set of rooms is the Great Room on the first floor, where Mrs Howard held court to a coterie of sophisticated, witty, and learned friends.

In the early 18th century the stretch of the Thames from Richmond to Hampton Court was lined with similar villas and large houses. Marble Hill House is the last of these elegant riverside villas still standing, and a reminder of a bygone age of elegance.

The house can be visited only by guided tour. Tours are usually only offered at the weekends and last 90 minutes.

Marble Hill House from across the Thames
Marble Hill House from
across the Thames
The elegant riverside facade
The elegant riverside facade