DiCamillo Companion

Walpole House

  • House & Family History: The largest and grandest of the country villas that dot Chiswick Mall, Walpole House, which features a Tudor core, acquired most of its current look in the 17th and 18th centuries. By the late 18th century Walpole House was a boarding house, a purpose it served between 1785 and 1794. In 1799 Thomas Walpole, a nephew of Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first prime minister, purchased the house and gave it its current name. By the early 19th century Walpole House had been converted into a boys' school; its most famous pupil, William Makepeace Thackeray, very likely used Walpole House as the model for Miss Pinkerton's Academy in his 1847-48 novel, "Vanity Fair." The popular novel opens with these lines: "While the present century was in its teens, and on one sunshiny morning in June, there drove up to the great iron gate of Miss Pinkerton's academy for young ladies, on Chiswick Mall, a large family coach, with two fat horses in blazing harness, driven by a fat coachman in a three-cornered hat and wig, at the rate of four miles an hour. A black servant, who reposed on the box beside the fat coachman, uncurled his bandy legs as soon as the equipage drew up opposite Miss Pinkerton's shining brass plate, and as he pulled the bell at least a score of young heads were seen peering out of the narrow windows of the stately old brick house" (see "Images" section for an illustration of this scene). Walpole House was also the last home of Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, who died here in 1709. One of the most notorious mistresses of Charles II, she is buried nearby in the Old Chiswick Cemetery at St. Nicholas Church. In 2023 the house, together with .65 of an acre of land, was listed for sale for £16.5 million.

  • House Listed: Grade I

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • Past Seat / Home of: Barbara Villiers, Duchess of Cleveland, 1707-09. The Hon. Thomas Walpole, 1799-1803. Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, until 1917. Robert Henry "Robin" Benson, 1926-29; Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Reginald Lindsay Benson, 1929-68; Jeremy Benson, late 20th century. Walpole family, early 21st century.

    Current Ownership Type: Individual / Family Trust

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

  • House Open to Public: No

    Historic Houses Member: No