|Bushy House (National Physical Laboratory) *||Richmond|
* on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens
Originally called Lower or Great Lodge, Bushy House was built in 1664-65 as the official residence of the Ranger of Middle Park, which was by then enclosed as part of the royal deer park, one of three enclosures that were later amalgamated to form Bushy Park. It remains set in its own grounds, which contain elements dating from the C17th and C19th and some fine mature trees. Since 1902 house and grounds have been occupied by the National Physical Laboratory, undertaking pioneering testing and research. An apple tree planted in 1953 has a plaque recalling Sir Isaac Newton's discovery of the law of gravity in 1665/6. The conservatory has an ancient vine.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/09/2011
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Bushy House (National Physical Laboratory), May 2002. Photo S Williams
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Site included in Bushy Park on The National Heritage List for England, Parks & Gardens, for Register Entry see https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list
Lower or Great Lodge, later to be called Bushy House, was built in 1663-65 for Edward Proger (1621-1713) when he was made Keeper of Middle Park as a reward for his loyalty to Charles II. The King had ordered him to build 'a Lodge for Our Service in one of Our Parks at Hampton Court called North Parke'. The house may have been on the site of an earlier lodge; it was probably designed by William Samwell, and it cost Proger £4,000 to build. He lived here until his death in 1713. The origins of the deer park here date from 1491 when Giles D'Aubrey enclosed 162 hectares of Middle Park's farmland. By 1504 Cardinal Wolsey, then at Hampton Court, had enclosed three areas of farmland of Bushy Park, Middle Park and Hare Warren and also the Home Park of Hampton Court Palace (q.v.). When Henry VIII acquired Hampton Court in 1529 he formed his royal deer park from these enclosed lands. Bushy Park was further extended by James I in 1629. In 1708 Charles Montagu (1661-1715), Earl of Halifax, a Treasury Lord and later first Chancellor of the Exchequer, purchased the keepership of the three parks from Charles II's former mistress the Duchess of Cleveland. As a result the distinction between Bushy Park, Middle Park and Hare Warren was lost and all became known as Bushy Park.
Lord Halifax undertook repairs and rebuilding at Bushy House, possibly adding the corner pavilions, although he lived in the Upper Lodge in Bushy Park until 1713. After his death in 1715, his nephew George Montagu (1684-1739) inherited and continued work on Bushy House, where he also spent part of his time. He was followed by his son George Montagu Dunk (1716-1771), who became First Lord of the Admiralty. After his death Lord North came to Bushy House, where he lived after his resignation as Prime Minister until his death in 1792, his wife living here until her own death in 1797. The house, which had been remodelled for Lord Halifax in c.1720, was again remodelled in 1820 when it was occupied by Prince William, the 3rd son of George III and the future William IV. He had been given Bushy House by the king in 1797 and lived here with his mistress, the actress Mrs Dorothea Jordan, who he had met in c.1790 and with whom he had 10 children. He undertook some woodland clearance in the park as a source of income, letting the land to tenant farmers, and also built a temple in the grounds in honour of Lord Nelson, who he had met when he was in the Royal Navy, which he had joined as a midshipman at the age of 13 in 1779. His career in the navy ceased when he was made Duke of Clarence in 1789. While at Bushy House, he tended his gardens, which had flowers and peach trees, and he also kept dairy cattle and other animals. Mrs Jordan left Bushy in 1812 when their relationship broke down and William later married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen in 1818. They continued to live at Bushy House, and it was here that the Duke learned of the death of his brother the King and that he was the new king. After his death in 1837 Bushy House became his widow Adelaide's official residence until her death in 1849. The last private occupant was the Duc de Nemours (1814-1896), 2nd son of Louis-Philippe of France, who was offered Bushy House in 1865 when he was in exile following the revolution of 1848. Bushy House was returned to the Crown after the Duc's death in 1896.
Since 1902 Bushy House and grounds have been occupied by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). At the end of the C19th the Royal Society was proposing to set up a National Standards Laboratory and in 1900 established the NPL, appointing Richard Tetley Glazebrook as its Director. Various sites were being considered, including Kew Observatory and the Old Deer Park (q.v.) and at the end of 1900 Queen Victoria granted Bushy House and Grounds for the use of the Laboratory under the direction of the Royal Society. The ground floor and basement were converted into a physics laboratory in 1901, and temporary laboratories were created for electrical, magnetic and thermometric work, as well as metallurgical and chemical research. The upper floors were to be used for the Director's residence. The NPL was formally opened on 19 March 1902, the ceremony performed by the Prince of Wales. In his speech the Prince said that it demonstrated 'in a very practical way that the nation is beginning to realise that if its commercial supremacy is to be maintained, greater facilities must be given for furthering the application of science to commerce and industry'. The NPL went on to undertake pioneering research and testing, an early project being the study of wind forces on structures such as bridges and roofs, later applied in the study of flight. The work has had an impact in myriad fields, such as the design of aircraft, ships, electronic apparatus, and it was here that the bouncing bomb was tested in 1942, made famous by 'The Dam Busters', part of which was actually filmed at NPL. By the late C20th the NPL comprised nearly 50 buildings, but all but four have now been replaced by a new laboratory complex, with Bushy House used as a conference facility.
Bushy House remains within Bushy Park in its own grounds, which contain elements dating from the C17th and C19th, including a clock house of c.1700 or earlier within a walled garden to the north; a small pavilion with an octagonal cupola built for a walled Dutch garden c.1660; an early C19th Garden House in the form of a rotunda with six plain Doric columns; an Orangery of c.1830; and a late C17th brew house. To the south-east of the house the curving approach drive leads to twin lodges. Within the grounds are some fine mature trees, including a very old Spanish chestnut, and a wooded area has good displays of bluebells. The conservatory has an ancient vine. A lawn to the south of the house overlooks Bushy Park and to the south and west are playing fields, cricket pitches and a pavilion. An apple tree near the house has a plaque recalling the fact that it was the falling of an apple from a tree in his garden that is said to have led to Sir Isaac Newton's discovery of the law of gravity in 1665/6. Planted in 1953, the tree was presented by Sir Edward Salisbury, Director of Kew Gardens, and is said to derive from a graft from a tree in the garden of Newton's mother in Woolsthorpe near Grantham, Lincolnshire.
Bridget Cherry & Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London 2: South (Penguin) 1999. (See EH list for Bushy Park entry); 'The Story of Bushy House' and 'The History of the National Physical Laboratory' on NPL website.