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Gunnersbury Park estate, Middlesex

Gunnersbury consists of two mansions, the larger of which, built by Alexander Copland, was purchased by Hannah Rothschild (1783-1850), acting on behalf of her husband Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) in 1835. Nathan died the following year, and his widow, Hannah, used it as her second home and continued with the neo-georgian alterations under the architect Sydney Smirke. Her eldest son, Lionel (1808-1879), took over the estate at her death, enlarging the park in 1861 and adding a pleasure lake and boat house, and improving the house to give it all modern conveniences, including gas lighting and water closets. The extensive kitchens reveal the importance of entertaining here, but the comparatively few bedrooms suggest that the proximity of the house to London enabled guests to return home at night. One of the most splendid functions to be held at Gunnersbury was the marriage of his eldest daughter, Leonora, to her cousin Alphonse, in 1857. 

Lionel's son Leopold (1845-1917) made significant alterations to the gardens, and when he purchased the Small Mansion in 1889, he laid out in its grounds a Japanese garden, a heath garden, ivy garden and an Italian garden. Under his management, Gunnersbury continued to be the scene of important social events, while the estate saw the building of new houses and local hospitals and schools benefited from Leopold’s noted philanthropy. In 1925, the Rothschilds sold Gunnersbury Park to the Boroughs of Ealing and Acton, for use as a public park and local history museum.

Archive sources

The Rothschild Archive London holds comparatively few papers of the Gunnersbury estate. Much of the material that the Archive holds concerns the Large Mansion, (nothing is held concerning the Small Mansion and its grounds). The primary soucresare listed below; papers relating to the purchase of Gunnersbury Park in 1835 will be found in Named Collections: The Rushbrooke Collection (000/848/34/2). These include 'Sale particulars for Gunnersbury Park', for auction by Messrs Driver 30 June 1835, including a scale plan; 'Catalogue of furniture and household effects etc., Gunnersbury Park, property of the late Alexander Copland, to be sold at auction by Mr Shuttleworth, 31 August 1835'; a letter from Henry Harrison on behalf of the executors of Alexander Copland, 1 July 1835 addressed 'Madam' confirming the acceptance of Mr Rothschild’s offer of £17,000 for the purchase of Gunnersbury Park. Photographs of the grounds and the exterior and interior of the large mansion will be found in the Ascott Collection (000/924/8/1). A watercolour view of the temple across the round pond, by H.G.Oldfield will be found in 000/211/18. A map of Gunnersbury dated 1903 will be found in Partners' Room papers of Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942). A set of reproduction photographs of the gardens at Gunnersbury, from the collections of the National Monuments Record will be found in 000/529, a collection of research papers of Miriam Rothschild concerning her book Rothschild Gardens

For inventories and schedules concerning furniture, artworks, porcelain, books and other effects at Gunnersbury, see 000/400, Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917) and Marie, Mrs Leopold de Rothschild (1862-1937): Executors' papers.

See also Named Collections: The Exbury Collection for other sundry items relating to Gunnersbury.

For papers concerning Gunnersbury Park and Museum after the estate was sold by the Rothschilds, see Papers of Institutions: Gunnersbury Park & Museum

N M Rothschild & Sons: Estates Department, Gunnersbury Park estate, receipts and invoices, 1852-1918

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Expenditure on the Gunnersbury estate, paid from New Court, was recorded in a series of receipts and invoices retained in the papers of the Estates Department of the London bank. The receipts are a rather random survival; they mainly concern domestic household and garden expenditure. Go to N M Rothschild & Sons: Estates Department »

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, copies of Census returns, 1841; 1871; 1881; 1891; 1901

000/1236, 1 file

Copies of original register and typed transcripts of Census returns: Gunnersbury, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, engraving, 1797

000/2485, 1 item

Framed original Engraving entitled ‘Gunnersbury House in Middlesex, the seat of Walter Stirling Esquire. Published as the Act directs, November 1st 1797 by W. Angus No 4 Gwynnes Buildings, Islington.’ Transferred to the Archive from the New Court vaults, it is presumed that this engraving once hung at old New Court.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, gardener’s notebook, 1893-1899

000/296, 1 volume

Leather-bound notebook which belonged to Thomas Hobbs, gardener to Leopold de Rothschild at Gunnersbury Park, recording planting, duties and garden notes, 1893-1899.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, ground rent sales, 1920-1930

000/200/3, 1 volume

Gunnersbury Estate, record of Ground Rent Sales, 1920-1930. 

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, maps, 1847

000/200/2, 1 folder

Folder of maps of Gunnersbury Park, 1847. Formerly at Ascott House. The folder contains 9 loose copies of the lithograph, 'Map of Gunnersbury Park: Geological sections and views taken on the estate, by Major E. de Kretschmar, London 1847. (by Day & Son, Lithographers to the Queen).

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, maps, 1867

000/233, 1 item

Ordnance Survey map of Acton, Gunnersbury and Ealing, 1867.

Estates: The Gunnersbury Guard Book: maps, plans and architectural drawings, 1787; 1797; 1828-1872; 1912

000/200/1, 1 volume

The Gunnersbury Guard Book: maps, plans and architectural drawings. This large volume, formerly at Ascott House contains newspaper cuttings, plans, views, maps and architectural drawings of the mansion and various buildings on the estate (some proposed but never built). The items below are listed in the order in which they are pasted into the volume:

- photographic reproduction of a portrait of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836).

- lithograph of a map, 'Gunnersbury Park: Geological sections and views taken on the estate, Major E. Kretschmar', 1847, by Day & son, lithographers to the Queen.

- photographic reproduction of a portrait bust of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836).

- coloured historical map of the parish of Ealing, showing the Gunnersbury Park estate coloured pink. Engraved by W.Haydon, London. Undated

- engraving of a view of Gunnersbury House; cutting from The Morning Chronicle, Monday 23 June 1828, advertising the sale of Gunnersbury Park; cutting from The Morning Chronicle, Friday 4 July 1828, advertising the sale of Gunnersbury Park; Cutting from The Morning Herald, Tuesday 19 May 1835, advertising the sale of Gunnersbury Park.

- cuttings from an unknown volume, c.1797: engraving of ‘Gunnersbury House in Middlesex, the seat of Walter Stirling, Esq’, together with a description of the estate.

- engraving, ‘The elevation of Gunnersbury House near Brantford [sic] in the County of Middlesex by Inigo Jones’

- cuttings from an unknown volume: engraving of a view of Gunnersbury House; engraving ‘Gunnersbury House, in Middlesex, the seat of the late Princess Amelia', 1787 , together with a description of the estate.

- plan of the first floor of Gunnersbury House; plan of the Principal floor of Gunnersbury house

- photographic reproduction of a portrait bust of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836).

- report relating to Gunnersbury Park, ‘Remarks relating to the Plan for improving the Approach to Gunnersbury Park, the residence of N.M. Rothschild Esq’, by J.C.Loudin, 1835 (8 pages, pasted into volume)

- cutting from The Morning Herald, Friday 5 August 1836, ‘The Rothschilds’, from Mr MacGregor’s new work “My Notebook”’.

- plan showing Gunnersbury house and gardens, showing proposed planting, untitled and undated

- plan showing Gunnersbury house and gardens, showing proposed planting, untitled and undated

- floor plan, ‘Gunnersbury Park: Ground plan of the House as proposed to be altered’ by Sydney Smirke, 2 September 1835.

- elevation (pencil sketch), ‘Gunnersbury Park, Garden Front’, by Sydney Smirke, 11 August 1835.

- floor plan, ‘Plan of proposed Conservatory’ by Sydney Smirke, December 1835.

- coloured elevation, ‘Elevation of the proposed Conservatory at the East End of the Music Room’, by Sydney Smirke, December 1835.

- coloured elevation and floor plan, ‘Plan and Elevation of the Lodge showing the new Porch’, by Sydney Smirke, [signed ‘S.S.’], 19 January 1836.

- coloured elevation, ‘Elevation towards the Garden of the proposed Stabling’, by Sydney Smirke, 5 November 1836.

- floor plan, ‘Gunnersbury Park: Ground plan of proposed Stabling in the Farm Yard’ by Sydney Smirke, 5 November 1836.

- floor plan, ‘Gunnersbury Park: Plan of the Lofts of the proposed Stabling’ by Sydney Smirke, 5 November 1836.

- plan, ‘Gunnersbury Park: General plan shewing [sic] the site of the proposed new Stabling’ by Sydney Smirke, 5 November 1836.

- plan, ‘Gunnersbury Park: General plan for the proposed alteration of the Kitchen Offices and stable Buildings’ by Sydney Smirke, December 1835.

- coloured floor plan, ‘Plan of the proposed Orangery, Gunnersbury Park’ by Sydney Smirke, 1 April 1839.

- colour watercolour three-quarter elevation drawing of the proposed Orangery (with mature trees and lake), Gunnersbury Park. Unsigned [presumed to be by Sydney Smirke] and undated [1839].

- pencil perspective drawing of the interior of the proposed Orangery, Gunnersbury Park, showing detail of floor and plaster acanthus ceiling decoration. Unsigned and undated [1839].

- elevation (pencil sketch), ‘Elevation of Boathouse’, by J.W.Pulham, undated.

- cutting from The Illustrated London News, 14 March 1857, with engravings of scenes from the wedding of Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905) to his cousin Leonora Rothschild (1837-1911). The wedding took place at Gunnerbsury in 1857. ‘The Rothschild Marriage: The Bridal Presents’ and ‘The Banquet’.

- coloured elevation and floor plan, ‘Orangery proposed to be erected at Gunnersbury for the Baroness de Rothschild’, by D & E Bailey, 272 Holborn, September 1843.

- coloured floor plan, ‘(No.1) Gunnersbury Park, Proposed Turkish Bath for Baron Rothschild, M.P.’ showing plan of the basement of a new bathhouse onto the existing swimming bath, by G.Somers Clarke, Architect, October 1872.

- coloured floor plan, ‘(No.2) Gunnersbury Park, Proposed Turkish Bath for Baron Rothschild, M.P.’ showing extension of new bathhouse onto the existing swimming bath, with detail of flooring, by G.Somers Clarke, Architect, October 1872.

- coloured elevation, ‘(No.3) Gunnersbury Park, Proposed Turkish Bath for Baron Rothschild, M.P.’ showing front elevation, by G.Somers Clarke, Architect, October 1872.

- coloured elevation, ‘(No.4) Gunnersbury Park, Proposed Turkish Bath for Baron Rothschild, M.P.’ showing back elevation, by G.Somers Clarke, Architect, October 1872.

- coloured elevation, ‘(No.5) Gunnersbury Park, Proposed Turkish Bath for Baron Rothschild, M.P.’ showing longitudinal section and transverse section, by G.Somers Clarke, Architect, October 1872.

- coloured floor plan, ‘(No.1) Gunnersbury Park, Proposed Turkish Bath for Baron Rothschild, M.P.’ showing plan of the ground floor of a new bathhouse onto the existing swimming bath, by G.Somers Clarke, Architect, October 1872.

- coloured elevation, ‘(No.2) Gunnersbury Park, Proposed Turkish Bath for Baron Rothschild, M.P.’ showing front elevation of a new bathhouse onto the existing swimming bath, by G.Somers Clarke, Architect, October 1872.

- coloured elevation, ‘(No.3) Gunnersbury Park, Proposed Turkish Bath for Baron Rothschild, M.P.’ showing transverse section and longitudinal section, by G.Somers Clarke, Architect, October 1872.

- coloured plan, ‘Stables for a hunting stud designed for a particular situation at Mentmore for the Baron M.A. de Rothschild, by J.C. Loudin, August 1843.

- coloured plan, ‘Plan of the range of houses for ornamental plants at Syon House in the County of Middlesex, the seat of His Grace The Duke Northumberland shewing [sic] the arrangement of the Boiler House, the Boilers and the Steam Pipes, drawn by Richard Forrest, Heathfield, Terrace, Turnham Green. Undated.

- cutting from The County of Middlesex Independent, 30 March 1912, ‘Historic Brentford’, which includes reference to the history of the Gunnersbury estate.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, photographs, c.1900

000/2414, 1 item

Small glass plate negative of a view of Gunnersbury Park mansion and park, 8 x 8 cm, c.1900. The photograph looks as if was taken by a professional photographer, rather than an amateur. It may have been a glass magic lantern slide, or part of set taken for various articles about Gunnersbury - the house and park featured in a Country Life article in 1900, although this image is not one of those printed in the article.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, photographs, 1914

000/1819, 1 item

Photograph of staff at Gunnersbury Park, November 1914.  Photographer is Wakefields of Chiswick and Brentford.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, postcards, c.1910; 1928

000/2131; 000/2415, 2 items

Two colour postcards of Gunnersbury gardens in 'Turk's Famous Old Gardens' series: The Japanese Garden, Gunnersbury Park, c.1910. The Japanese garden at Gunnersbury, opened in 1901, was designed from photographs taken by Lionel de Rothschild from Villa Melzi on Lake Como; The Round Garden, Gunnersbury Park, c.1928.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, sale papers, 1919-1928

000/288, 1 file

Correspondence and papers relating to the sale of Gunnersbury Park: details of sundry land sales from 1919-1928; solicitor’s and estate agents' charges and accounts; correspondence and maps concerning the offer and subsequent sale of Gunnersbury House and Park to the boroughs of Acton and Ealing, 1924-1925; correspondence and maps concerning sundry land sales, 1920-1928.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, secondary sources, 1900

000/2319, 1 item

Article from Country Life Illustrated, 24 November 1900, 'Gunnersbury Park & House, Middlesex, The Residences of Lord Rothschild and Mr. Leopold de Rothschild'.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, secondary sources, 1982

000/964, 1 item

Article ‘As Finely Finished As Anything’, Roger White, Country Life, 11 November 1982.

Estates: Gunnersbury Park estate, secondary sources, 1997

000/1257, 1 item

The Lost Japanese Gardens of Gunnersbury Park, West London, article by Maureen Busby, Shakkei June 1997.