Sunday

Open Houses with a Georgian connection - FREE access to eighteenth century buildings in September

Open House London is a free event once a year in September when hundreds of properties open their doors to the public.

With over 850 sites listed, there's a phenomenal number of buildings and public spaces to choose from, let alone go to in one weekend.

So, to help bring a few to the foreground I've chosen my top pick of eighteenth century properties that would be worth a London jaunt.



Benjamin Franklin House
36 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NF
By Architect Patrick Dillon
Year Built 1732/2006


This Grade I listed Georgian house was home to Benjamin Franklin, who among other things discovered the positive and negative charge of electricity, invented a 24-hour clock for navigation, watertight bulkheads for ships, equipment to measure sea water temperatures at different depths, and improved bifocal glasses.

It's the world's only remaining home of Benjamin Franklin – scientist, inventor, writer and one of the greatest political figures of the 18th century.

It retains many of its original features, including central staircase, lathing, 18th century panelling, stoves, windows, fittings and beams. In his parlour Franklin frequently received friends such as William Pitt the Elder (Earl of Chatham), Edmund Burke, David Hartley, James Boswell, Adam Smith, Bishop Jonathan Shipley, Sir Francis Dashwood and Thomas Paine.  

Franklin lived and worked there for nearly sixteen years on the eve of the American Revolution, 1757-1775. It also became the first de facto US Embassy and still holds a special place in Anglo-American history.

Also interestingly, an anatomy school was also run from this site by the landlady's son-in-law, William Hewson. Centuries later, bones were found, beneath the Seminar Room's floor, remnants from this time. 


Though built as a lodging house (Franklin was the tenant of Margaret Stevenson), it was said that during his long tenure he was seen less as a lodger and more as head of the household. By the end of 20th century, when the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House were granted the freehold from the British Government, the property was in a dire condition.

Craven Street has the longest stretch of 18th century housing of any street south of the Strand. Like most of the turnings on the south side of the Strand, Craven Street, originally called Spur Alley, was originally approached through an archway and this continued to be the case long after the street was rebuilt and re-named.


Hogarth's House
Hogarth Lane, Great West Road, London W4 2QN
Year Built c 1715

An early 18th century timber-framed, red brick house, it was home to artist William Hogarth who extended it significantly around the years 1749-1764. It contains a delightful walled garden with an ancient mulberry tree in it and is considered an unique oasis in modern West London.



Hogarth's House is a tiny building beside the Great West Road beyond the Hogarth Roundabout. Built in the early 1700s it was the country home of painter, engraver and satirist William Hogarth for the last 15 years of his life.

Following a period of neglect, and after a public appeal to save the house in 1900 failed, a local benefactor decided to restore and open it to the public two years later. The museum remained open until serious damage by bombing in 1940 caused it to close. It was reopened again after restoration in 1951 and finally underwent further restoration with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to mark the 300th anniversary of Hogarth's birth.

Rooms are furnished in the style of Hogarth's time and it contains displays about his life and work as well as many of his famous prints, including the well-known 'Moral' series: A Harlot's Progress, An Election and Marriage a la Mode.

The Hurlingham Club
Ranelagh Gardens, London SW6 3PR
Architect Dr William Cadogan / George Byfield
Year Built 1760/1797-8

Known as last of the grand 18th century mansions that once fronted the part of the river by Putney, it has both magnificent interiors and extensive grounds to marvel at.





The only survivor of the many late Georgian mansions in the local vicinity, Hurlingham House (since 1869 the home of the Hurlingham Club) dates back to 1760 when Dr. William Cadogan, a fashionable physician, acquired a 9 acre site from the then Bishop of London’s Fulham Palace estate and built a plain three bay, three storey house in brown brick which is still recognisable as the core of the present building.

Dr. Cadogan’s successor was one John Ellis, brother of the head of London’s West Indian sugar interest. In 1797 Ellis incorporated Cadogan’s villa into a new, much larger neo-classical style mansion.

The new house’s dominant feature is the stucco faced garden facade in the new grand "John Nash" style of the period, complete with a giant pedimented Corinthian portico with flanking Corinthian pilasters. Inside Byfield created a matching suite of ample "grand manner" style reception rooms (drawing room and dining room) linked by an oval ante room retained from the earlier house (and which, against all the rules of classical decorum, projects into the central portico).

After Ellis, Hurlingham had several well known occupiers including a "mad" Archbishop of Dublin, the Duke of Wellington’s brother and various City bankers. Becoming the Hurlingham Club (originally dedicated to the sport of pigeon shooting) in 1869, it later became the national centre for polo. Forty acres remain (part of the original beautifully landscaped Humphrey Repton Park). "for the use and enjoyment of the (6,000) members and their families and friends".


White Lodge
Richmond Park (nearest gate Sheen Gate), TW10 5HR
Architect Roger Morris
Year Built 1727-30

Commissioned as a royal hunting residence, White Lodge is a Grade I listed English Palladian villa, inspired by the high renaissance design principles of Palladio and the neo-classical interiors of Inigo Jones. It houses a museum that explores the principles of classicism, embodied by the building of White Lodge and is also now home to students of The Royal Ballet School.

White Lodge was commissioned in 1727 as a hunting lodge for George I. Completed in 1730, the Lodge became a favoured retreat of the new monarch George II and his consort, Queen Caroline.
In 1837 Queen Victoria granted White Lodge to her favourite aunt, Mary, Duchess of Gloucester.
From 1869 the Queen’s cousin Princess Mary Adelaide and her husband the Duke of Teck resided at White Lodge. Their daughter Princess ‘May’ married the future George V in 1893, becoming Queen Mary. Her son Edward VIII was born at White Lodge on Midsummer’s Eve 1894 and his Christening took place in the Salon. In 1923 the Duke of York, the future George VI and his bride Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon made their home at White Lodge. The grand stairway leading up to the Salon was added. The birth certificate of Queen Elizabeth II gives White Lodge as her parents’ address.

In 1954 a 50 year lease of White Lodge was acquired for The Royal Ballet School. Half a century later the Crown granted a further 100 year lease to the School. In 2004 an ambitious redevelopment of White Lodge commenced, including the addition of new accommodation, dance studios and study facilities. The new buildings were designed by BHandM Architects, and were completed in 2009.


Asia House
63 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7LP
Architect John Johnson
Year Built 18th century

This Grade II* listed town house originally planned by Robert and James Adam, has an interior designed by John Gregory in the 1770s and library book shelves designed by Sir John Soane. The interior of the rooms are Adamesque with filigree plasterwork, inset with classical paintings and elaborate marble chimney pieces.

In the 1770s, Number 63 New Cavendish Street, along with its surrounding area was part of the Duke of Portland’s Marylebone estate. It is now Asia House, a charity, covering a geographical remit from the Gulf in the West to Indonesia in the East, click on the link to find out more Asia House.

To find out what other buildings are included in the line up click on this link to Open-City.

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