Restoration of Sandycombe Lodge, JMW Turner’s Twickenham country villa, has now begun. With the building fully scaffolded and wrapped against noise and dirt, and a team of specialist contractors well underway, progress has reached an exciting phase.
As well as much work on the fabric of the building, some fascinating discoveries have been made. A number of items from a later occupation than Turner’s have been found in a wall space, including a boot, toys, an 1851 plant list and a tiny glove. The most exciting part of this find is a fragment of wallpaper from Turner’s time and very close to a scrap found at Jane Austen’s house, which is of a similar date to Sandycombe. It is planned that this be meticulously re-created.
Further information about paint finishes is also emerging through paint analysis. The lovely roof light on the stairwell has been removed to be carefully cleaned and conserved.
The design team, which now includes heritage consultants Annabel Westman and Dr Jacqueline Riding, is working to establish the appearance of the interior. “We want visitors to enjoy the building itself, as a work by Turner, so shall not be seeking to fill it to the brim,” explained Catherine Parry-Wingfield, chairman of Turner’s House Trust. “Accounts of Sandycombe in Turner’s time are fairly sparse, but we are supplementing this by looking at the inventory of Turner’s London house, taken after his death in 1851, and seeking out items which were old-fashioned by that date.
“We are also working with a digital interpretation team to develop sensitive ways in which modern technology can enhance the experience of 21st century visitors.”
The budget of £2.4m has been achieved by Turner’s House Trustees, thanks to substantial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, many other funding organisations and generous public donations. However, this did not cover everything and the Trustees still need to raise at least a further £100,000 to realise the full ambition of the project.