Boston Manor House,

Greater London

Late Jacobean Boston Manor House in the London Borough of Hounslow is on Historic England’s list of Buildings at Risk. Repairs to the ornate stone entrance porch will be funded by the Historic Houses Foundation.


A sophisticated entrance


The porch at Boston Manor House is unusual and was considered a Victorian addition for many years. In fact, it has always been part of the sophisticated Jacobean House at Boston Manor, built by Lady Mary Reade in 1623. Evidence comes from Lilford Park in Northamptonshire, where of porch of similar date shares many features including the balustrade.  The house appears on a map of 1635 by Moses Glover which hangs at Syon Park in Middlesex and its form, in brick with three stories and two gables, can clearly be seen even though Palladian buildings of this type are usually associated with the end of the 17th century.


Lady Mary’s architectural adventure


Lady Mary Reade inherited the Boston Manor estate, then graced by an earlier house, after the death of her first husband, the elderly Sir William Reade of Osterley in 1621. She seems to have immediately set about building a new house, choosing to create one of the earliest examples of a neo-classical house of the English Renaissance. Much of her original house survives unaltered. The interior decoration of the drawing room includes a fine plaster ceiling designed by Edward Stanyon who also worked at Blickling Hall in Norfolk. Strapwork panels capture classicial figures of the Elements (after designs by Marc Gheeraerts the Younger), the Five Senses, War and Peace and Faith, Hope and Charity.


In 1625, Lady Mary married again, this time to a younger son of the Spencer family of Althorp. Her new husband, Sir Edward Spencer, was a conscientious MP who remained aloof from the turmoil of the Civil War; Lady Mary was renowned for her ‘fidelity and kindness’. She raised a curious memorial to him by Nicholas Stone, the figure of her husband popping out of an urn, in the Spencer family chapel when he died in 1655.


Renewal, requisition and restoration


After Lady Mary’s own death in 1658 the house was sold to the Clitherow family who added an additional wing in the 18th century. The house was requisitioned during the Second World War and suffered extensive damage.  Since then, it has belonged to the London Borough of Hounslow and has been successively let or partly restored and opened to the public. The current restoration, with a community programme funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, will be completed in 2121 when the house will reopen to the public.