If we had not been staying overnight at the Hilton Hotel in the Syon Park estate, we would not have heard of Syon House and gardens, but we were advised by a friend to arrive early and visit this London home of the Duke of Northumberland. The house appears as you drive into the 200-acre park, across the Thames from Kew Gardens, square and crenellated like a child’s toy castle, and the huge glass dome of the Great Conservatory emerges above the treetops. The low-rise hotel is discreetly out of sight until the last moment, and blends beautifully with the surrounding parkland.
You have a choice of entrance ticket, house, garden, or both, and with a concession for seniors £10.20 allows you to tour the house, and explore the vast gardens and lake designed by Capability Brown The plain exterior gives no hint of the glories inside Syon House. There is little left of the medieval monastery on which it was built, and you are immediately dazzled by the perfection of Robert Adams’ work on entering the cool, elegant entrance hall, with its delicate plasterwork on walls and ceiling, marble floor and classical statues.
You are taken unawares by the brilliant colours and gilding of other rooms, especially the ornate ceilings, their designs often repeated on the floors. Beautiful rare furniture can be examined closely, and hundreds of paintings cover the walls. Every room is different, and has its own story. Amazingly we were the only visitors that Thursday afternoon in May, and had the guides to ourselves. They made our visit exceptional, and besides explaining the personal history of the house, showed us tiny hidden closets, tucked into corners of huge state rooms, where the ladies could gather to chat, and the enormous dining table, dismantled and stowed in a specially built cupboard.
Eventually we had to leave, as the house closes at 5pm, and the staff were preparing for a wedding the next day. It is impossible to describe the sheer opulence and beauty of Syon House, and photography is not allowed, but you can access dozens of images on various websites. Having discovered this hidden gem, we shall certainly return, and have already recommended it to our friends.