Cumbrian art lovers will need no introduction to William Hogarth (1697 –1764), whose country home in Chiswick, West London, was recently reopened after a massive restoration project that included reassembling Victorian copies of the artist’s original furniture, including
antique dining chairs and tables.
Hogarth’s beloved ‘little country box by the Thames’ reopened in November 2012 – 14 years after his tercentenary and following extensive restoration work. However, this was only the latest of several such projects, tracing 200 years of fierce, local determination.
Hogarth moved into the Queen Anne residence with his wife Jane in 1749, using it as a summer retreat until his death 15 years later. He had no children and the house finally passed out of the family’s hands in 1808, going through a number of different owners and falling into disrepair. Following restoration, it was again under threat in the late 19th Century, but following an unsuccessful campaign by Hogarth aficionados, Robert Shipway stepped in. A wealthy and prominent local figure, he restored the house as it was in Hogarth’s time, installing Victorian copies of the family’s furniture created from Chiswick Artworkers’ Guild engravings. The museum opened to the public in 1904, but by 1909 was in the hands of the local authority. Bombed in the war and rescued by the local history society in 1954, it finally came under the watchful eye of Val Bott, who masterminded the latest restoration.
Today, visitors from Cumbria will see open bookcases containing the great artist’s own volumes, which exactly replicate the 18th century shelves they once sat upon. Similarly, the Victorian dining chairs that Preston antique dealers sell often copy older designs.
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