Just off the busy and usually bumper-to-bumper traffic of the inner city A4 that runs through Chiswick lies Hogarth’s House, a historical home that provides a definitive look at Georgian-era London and the life of one of its most famed artists. While it is right next to one of London’s main vehicular arteries, Hogarth’s House is protected from the noise and hubbub of the motorway by a large brick wall, and once you walk in, you’ll be amazed by the calm, quietude to be found there.
The home’s most famous resident was William Hogarth, an esteemed English satirical painter and engraver whose scathing wit and social criticism made him one of Georgian England’s (American Revolutionary War era for readers across the pond) most important artists. While William Hogarth is certainly billed as the main attraction of the home, he is not the only one.
The historians and researchers behind this project have produced an incredibly thorough treatment of the home and its gardens, making this an absolute must-see for anyone interested in the period’s architecture, art, political scene, or (of course) the life of William Hogarth and his family.
The Nitty Gritty
Hogarth’s House is open from Noon to 5 pm on Tuesday through to Sunday and on Bank Holiday Mondays. It is completely free to enter, and there are no fees whatsoever, although donations are certainly always appreciated.
The House is closed on the following holidays: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
If you or someone you’re with has reduced mobility or additional access needs, there is step-free access to the House available via the new extension. The ground floor and the exhibition room can be accessed via wheelchair, as can the virtual tour stations on the ground floor, which cover the whole home. The first floor of the House can only be accessed via the 12-step staircase, which has a railing. There is a fully equipped accessible toilet located in the lobby.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can always phone the staff, who are absolutely phenomenal at 020 8994 6757, and they’ll be happy to help out.
If you’re part of a large group and would like to visit the house, again, it’s worth giving the reception a call, as they are happy to provide access to the building outside of opening hours, which gives bigger tour groups an opportunity to have exclusive access to the space with a dedicated staff member on hand to answer any questions. If you can’t come outside of visiting hours, they’ll also let you know if other groups are due that day, so they can avoid scheduling too many people at once.
If you do end up booking a group visit outside of opening hours, you’ll need a group of more than six people and you’ll have to pay £7.50 per person.
Because of the fairly small size of the house and its rooms, Hogarth’s House does not give tours.
You can get to Hogarth House by public transport. The closest stop is the 190 bus, which runs between Hammersmith and Richmond stations and stops on Burlington lane, which is about a 5-minute walk away from Hogarth’s House. Train and tube stations are a bit of a hike, unfortunately, though there is connecting bus service.
Turnham Green station, which is on the District Line, is about a 20-minute walk. Chiswick Station, which is operated by South West Trains, is about 25 minutes away.
If you’re driving, there is free (but ticketed) parking space available along the A4 boundary as well as next to the house in the nearby Chiswick Gate estate. You’ll need to pop into the reception to collect your free parking ticket, which will secure you space for 2 hours. If those are somehow full, there is also pretty cheap parking available at Chiswick House (another great historic house visit) about 200 m down the road.
If you decide to cycle to Hogarth’s House (like I did), you’re in for a bit tougher of a time. While Hogarth’s House has stated that they intend to install bike racks on the premises soon, it hasn’t happened yet. I found a lamp post in a residential area nearby, but there are also dedicated cycle racks at Chiswick House down the road.
Going with Kids
Hogarth’s House was nominated in 2020 for the Kids in Museums, Family Friendly Award for engaging families with great museum content from home during the Covid 19 lockdown. The new Weston Wing of the museum has dedicated learning spaces, but because of how historically dense and ‘reader heavy’ this museum is, I’d recommend going on checking out the website to see when there are activities for younger kids available so that you can visit without having your young ones losing their minds while you spend multiple minutes looking at a single one of Hogarth’s detailed prints.
This August, they have a dropoff camp every Tuesday of the month, with a different theme each time. Check out hogarthshouse.org to see what’s on when you’re scheduling your visit.
An Introduction to the Home
Hogarth House is an over 300-year-old home located in Chiswick, in South West London. The building itself was built over the course of five years, starting in 1713, by James Downes, a landowner who had inherited the pace from his mother. Prior to the home being built on it, the land was used as an orchard, and the garden continued to be used in that capacity for years to come (but more on that later).
If you look at the brickwork to the right of the white-painted addition (known as an Oriel window), you’ll notice there is a line in the brickwork. This demarcates the borders of what would have been the original home. Everything to the left of this was the original home built in 1717.
The Hogarth family took on the home in 1749, at which point the home was valued at a whopping £7 pounds sterling. After buying it, they extended the home by one room on each floor, which raised the value of the building in the parish books to £10 by the next available census in 1751.
Mrs. Hogarth added a kitchen wing to the south side of the building in 1769, which increased the valuation to £15. It would seem that there has been some minor inflation since then…In 2020 another addition, the Weston studio, was made, which provided ample visitor facilities as well as a learning space, event space, and room for activities and other functions.
The Orchard and Garden
The garden at Hogarth house is situated on about a half acre of land. It was originally part of the Chiswick common, a field that is next to it but was enclosed and amalgamated as part of the house by previous owners (the Downes family) in the 1670s.
There is a mulberry tree in the garden, which dates back to their tenancy on the land, at which time the garden served as a mixed orchard. Even a century after they lived here, cherry, crab apple, walnut, and apricot trees lined the path to the home.
Here you can see a view of the garden from the vantage point of the Oriel window. At the end of the garden, there used to be a small stable and storage for a small horse-drawn carriage or coach. Hogarth ended up converting the hayloft in the stables into a studio workspace, where he would be able to concentrate on his work away from the noise and hubbub in the house.
When he and his family lived here, Hogarth’s garden would have been a main provider of food for the family and other residents of the home. It also served as a play area for Hogarth’s children, their pet dogs, and the Foundling Hospital Children (orphans) who would come to stay with them during the summer months. This garden was redesigned and replaned in 2020, incorporating a number of archaeologically informed decisions to make a modern but historically reflective space.
This new shed was built as part of the garden extension built in 2020. It serves as the gardeners’ storage and nursery.
Inside the House
Unlike some of the other historic homes to be found in the area, like Syon House or Chiswick House, Hogarth’s House was a commoner home and, as a result, can afford to be much more focused on educating its visitors about what real-life was like, as opposed to wowing guests with resplendent rooms full of oil paintings. That said, it’s worth noting that a self-guided tour of Hogarth’s House will be best enjoyed by people who are avid readers.
The rooms are full of extremely interesting textual descriptions and imagistic depictions of what life for the residents of this home would have been like over the course of its 300-year history. The scope of the historian’s work is really amazing, and the museum gives visitors a great sense of what the neighborhood would have been like as well.
There is an amazing collection of bills, letters, advertisements, and promotional material dating back to the Hogarth family’s tenancy here. Above you can see a catalog of Hogarth’s prints that were for sale, with a discount to buyers that bought the whole lot.
Hogarth found a great deal of success by running a subscription model with his prints, which allowed him to live a pretty comfortable and financially predictable life, unlike that of his father, who spent years in the debtors’ prison on Fleet Street when Hogarth was a young boy.
Above is a hand-colored cardboard model theatre that was made by Horatio Blood (a dramaturgical historian from the modern era, despite his somewhat Victorian-sounding name). It represents the type of toy that could be commonly found in the 1820s, and the entire thing has been designed to reflect the life and career of Newton Treen Hicks, who was a resident of the home.
Visitors are invited to play with it and try out their own performances, which I thought was a lovely touch.
Even the chairs have history. Hogarth’s House has been a museum for over a century since 1904, to be exact. A campaign was run in 1901 by a number of local artists and writers who intended to purchase it, but they were simply unable to raise enough money.
However, Lieutenant Colonel Shipway, a resident of Grove House, bought the home in an auction after being encouraged by his wife to do so and went to extensive lengths to make it a museum dedicated to Hogarth.
He paid for a restoration of the home, bought prints from various sources to put on display, and even had replicas of period-accurate furniture, such as those pictured above, made by the Chiswick Art Workers’ Guild. He donated the House and collection to the council in 1909, and in 1965 it passed into the care of the new London Borough of Hounslow.
The real highlight of the self-guided tour is Hogarth’s engravings themselves. One of Hogarth’s contemporaries, the essayist and poet Charles Lamb, described Hogarth’s images as books full of “the teeming, fruitful suggestive meaning of words. Other pictures we look at”, he wrote, “his we read.”
Hogarth lived in an era when the artwork was becoming increasingly commercialized, and printworks had swung into full gear. The idea of the novel had just begun to pick up steam, and people were hungry for more popular forms of content. Hogarth’s engravings draw upon the moralizing Protestant tradition as well as the tradition of vicious satirizing that was common in English broadsheets and tabloids of the time.
Original prints of moralistic masterpieces like ‘Beer Street and Gin Lane’ hang all over the home, and I found myself getting completely sucked into them, easily spending 10 minutes looking at all of the detail that he managed to stuff into these incredible images.
The unbelievable nature of that detail really comes into focus when you get to see the tools that he would use to actually produce these engravings and the plates that needed to be made (in a mirrored state) for printings.
Seeing the amount of painstaking detail that would have needed to be etched into copper for each engraving is really something that needs to be appreciated firsthand.
Hopefully, I’ve been able to give you a pretty good idea of what to expect from your visit to Hogarth’s House and Gardens. Fittingly, for an article about a famous engraver, I have but scratched the surface here, I assure you.
Hogarth’s House is a phenomenal tribute to one of England’s most important artists and a triumph of historical research. It isn’t very large, and the main portion of the exhibit I saw only spanned over 6 or 7 rooms, but what is it is incredibly dense, and I found it easy to spend almost 2 hours in there taking it all in.