|Marlborough House Gardens||Westminster|
Marlborough House Garden was built as a town mansion by Sir Christopher Wren, and still possesses much of the extent and layout of its original garden. It was commissioned by the first Duke of Marlborough but the idea for a town house was that of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, who secured the lease of the site from Queen Anne. The Dukes of Marlborough had the house until 1817, after which it became a royal residence, last used by Queen Mary, who had a revolving summerhouse built in the garden. The garden is largely lawn, sloping to the south and west boundary walls, with gravel paths and some formal beds; to the east is less formal shrubbery, a woodland path and pet cemetery for royal pets including Queen Alexandra's dogs.
The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/06/2005
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Photo: Gavin Gardiner
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Marlborough House Garden is a former 'town mansion and genuine `hotel particulier' of 1707-11' built to a design of Sir Christopher Wren, which still possesses much of the extent of its original garden. It was commissioned by the first Duke of Marlborough but the idea for a town house was his Duchess Sarah's. She secured the lease of the site from Queen Anne and chose Wren in preference to Sir John Vanbrugh as architect, although she fell out with Wren during construction and supervised the completion of the house herself. She laid the foundation stone in 1709 and it was completed in 1711, the actual design probably drawn by Wren's son under his father's supervision. Sarah died here in 1744, and the Dukes of Marlborough had the house until 1817, after which it was given as the London home to Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. After Charlotte's death Prince Leopold continued to use Marlborough House until he became King of the Belgians in 1831, the same year of William IV's accession to the throne, whose consort Queen Adelaide was granted the house for life in the event of widowhood.
The Queen Dowager continued to spend time here after the King's death and gave a wedding banquet for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. After Queen Adelaide's death it was settled on the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII as his residence from the age of 18. At that time it was substantially altered by Sir James Pennethorne, chief architect at the Office of Works. It continued in royal occupation into the 1950s, by the Duke of York later George V, Edward VII's widow Queen Alexandra, and finally Queen Mary on the death of George V came to Marlborough House in 1936 and died here in 1953. In 1959 Elizabeth II placed it at the disposal of the Government as a Commonwealth Centre, which it became in 1962, becoming the headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1965.
The garden appears on Horwood's plan of 1746 as divided into large rectangular garden plots; this layout was simplified by the late C18th with the creation of large round and oval shrubberies sprinkled over an extensive lawn. Today the garden is largely maintained in its C18th format with a number of large plain expanses of lawn intersected with gravel paths. At the southern and western boundaries bordering The Mall and Marlborough Road respectively, the lawns bank upwards enabling residents to see over the high boundary wall from the gravel path, against these walls are formal beds. At the eastern boundary is a less formal extensive shrubbery with a woodland path and a pet cemetery where the gravestones include Queen Alexandra's dogs Muff, Tiny and Joss and one to Benny the Bunny. In front of the east wing of the house is a revolving timber summerhouse with thatched roof that was commissioned by Queen Mary, the last royal resident of the house. In the south-east corner of the garden is a brick-built gazebo. A sheltered area of the garden is planted with shrubs from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. Trees found in the gardens include horse chestnut, sycamore, London plane, red oak, magnolia grandiflora, pin oak, evergreen oaks planted as a screen before the memorial to Queen Alexandra was sited, maidenhair tree and common lime.
The gardens are invisible to general view being protected by its high brick wall with a stone coping, surmounted with prickly spikes. The wall is site of two monuments, Sir Alfred Gilbert's Art Nouveau memorial to Queen Alexandra (opposite St James's Palace courtyard) and, on the corner, a weak plaque to Queen Mary by Sir W Reid Dick.
Marlborough House leaflet, Commonwealth Secretariat, 2004; Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993), p.498; Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England London 6: Westminster', (Yale University Press, 2003)