Syon House is a wonderful house located in London, belonging to the Duke of Northumberland. Known for the beauty of its rooms and the turbulent events that took place there, this house represents one of the finest examples of neoclassical architecture and design in England. In this article, we’ll explore the history and architecture of Syon House, with a particular focus on the work of Scottish architect and designer Robert Adam. We will also discover the treasures that this house preserves, including statues, artifacts and works of art, and how these elements helped define a style that would influence the construction of the great houses of the time.
Syon House’s history is filled with turbulent and violent events dating back to the mid-16th century. Syon Abbey was originally located here, but was closed during King Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. Richard Reynolds, spiritual adviser to the abbey, was hanged, taken and quartered for denying the sovereign’s royal supremacy. In 1541, Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, was imprisoned at Syon before her execution.
Later, the house passed into the hands of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, whose sister Jane was the third wife of King Henry VIII. Seymour had the house rebuilt around elements of the abbey, before being executed in 1552. Syon then passed to the 1st Duke of Northumberland, John Dudley, whose son Guildford married the Nine Days Queen, Lady Jane Grey. She the latter was persuaded to accept the Crown by her duke in the Long Gallery at Syon, before being executed along with her husband and father-in-law. The house was later purchased by Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, in 1594, and has remained in the family ever since.
The architecture and design of Syon House
Scottish architect and designer Robert Adam was commissioned to create a series of neoclassical interiors at Syon House in 1762. Filled with statues and artefacts shipped from Italy, this project was one of the architect and designer’s first commissions and defined a style for the new big houses being built for the rest of the century.
Adam was asked to rework a Tudor mansion that had existed since 1550, with dated and well-worn interiors, set in an unfashionable formal landscape. He was not allowed to alter the internal layout, but he did apply neoclassical decorations and clever design techniques to modernize and vary the sense of proportion of the rooms.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall was made for suggest a Roman basilica with Doric columns, black and white marble floors, and statues and busts, including Socrates and Claudius. This room is designed to impress visitors with its grand design and solemn atmosphere. From the Great Hall there is access to an internal courtyard with an Italian-style garden, which adds further beauty to the environment.
Robert Adam’s work and the elements preserved in this house, such as statues and tapestries, influenced the style of the great houses of the time and made Syon House a symbol of beauty and grandeur. The park and Great Winter Garden are further treasures that make Syon House a magical and enchanting place, inviting visitors to discover its history and immerse themselves in the beauty of its design.