National Trust properties in London

You don't have to leave town to discover National Trust treasures, as the organisation has a diverse list of historic houses and gardens in London

  • National Trust properties in London

    Fenton House in Hampstead © NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

    • Photo for Osterley Park and House Osterley House remodelled by Adam

      Osterley Park and House

      Jersey Rd (off Thornbury Rd), Isleworth, Middx, TW7 4RB

      Like many open spaces in west London, Osterley Park is marred by noisy transport links, in this case the M4, which cuts a swathe through the 357-acre park. It was, of course, all fields here once, along with a paper mill, woodland, ponds and streams. A rural idyll, indeed, in which a handsome square house was built for Sir Thomas Gresham in 1576. Sir Francis Child, who made a fortune in gold, acquired the house as payment for a bad debt, and as the Child dynasty created vast wealth, Osterley House underwent costly remodelling by celebrity architect Robert Adam. The extravagant interiors survive, thanks largely to the generosity of the Earl of Jersey, who inherited the place in 1923, opened it to the public and gave it to the Trust in 1949. The showy main rooms are a perfect foil for the more fascinating below-stairs areas, especially the vast, atmospheric kitchens, which speak volumes about the lives of the servants in such flashy edifices. Osterley House is really good at looking even grander for the cameras. It stood in as Buckingham Palace for the film ‘Mrs Brown’, and its park masqueraded royally as Hyde Park for the film ‘Miss Potter’. Read more

  • Fenton House

    Hampstead Grove, Windmill Hill, London, NW3 6RT

    As the son of a master bricklayer, William Eades favoured warm red brick when he built this large country house in 1693. It earned its name a century later when James Fenton bought it, adding Regency detailing. The house and grounds served as a gracious home until it was bought by Lady Binning in 1934. She bequeathed the estate, and her collection of porcelain, to the National Trust in 1952. As well as chinaware, Fenton House is an elegant repository for the Benton Fletcher collection of early keyboard instruments. Major Benton Fletcher, who amassed the harpsichords, clavichords, virginals and spinets, bequeathed the instruments on condition they were played regularly. If you pass an audition you may be allowed a tinkle; otherwise you can attend one of the many concerts that take place throughout the year. The formal gardens, with lawns, clipped hedges and flowery bowers give way to the more practical fruit, veg and herb garden, made up of a 300-year-old orchard, a handsome glass house and a beehive. Pick up a plant and leave money in the honesty box. Read more

  • Ham House

    Ham St, Surrey, TW10 7RS

    Although built in 1610 for Sir Thomas Vavasour, Ham House is most noted for its third resident, William Murray, who, as whipping boy for the young Charles I, was required to take the lashes the princely back deserved. The strong bond of the whipping boy for his royal friend stayed with Murray, later created Earl of Dysart, into adulthood. His tastes in architecture, which came to the fore when remodelling his new home, mirrored those of Charles. The lavish red-brick mansion, sitting grandly in grounds that run into water meadows all the way to the Thames, passed down through Murray’s descendants until 1948, when the second cousin of the Ninth Earl of Dysart, who had inherited the property, gave it to the National Trust. Read more

  • Sutton House

    2-4 Homerton High St, London, E9 6JQ

    The National Trust keeps it real with Sutton House, which wears its chequered history on its ancient walls. This beautiful red-brick Tudor mansion is all the more lovely considering its location off rackety old Mare Street. It was built in 1535, of brick, when most homes around this time were built of wattle and daub. The house was built for Henry VIII’s Secretary of State Sir Ralph Sadleir. No-one called Sutton ever lived here; the house takes its name from Sutton Place, built on the site of the former home of Thomas Sutton, founder of Charterhouse School. After Sadleir, the house belonged to merchants, sea captains and Huguenot silk weavers and had a brief episode as a school. Although it was purchased by the National Trust in 1934 it served first as a Fire Warden Centre in the war, then as a union headquarters, before falling into disrepair. Its short life as a squat in the 1980s is illustrated by the elaborate graffiti on the top floor. An extremely child-friendly property, the house has touchy-feely exhibits in the kitchen, a spooky cellar with a brick exhibition, doors and panels to open as well as a rare and fascinating garderobe – London’s oldest loo. There’s a great café, too. With its strong community spirit, Sutton House is the liveliest of all National Trust’s London properties. Free drop-in activities take place for kids on the last Sunday of most months, as well as most Thursdays during the school holidays. Read more

  • 2 Willow Road

    2 Willow Rd, London, NW3 1TH

    The National Trust’s only public-access example of international modernism, Number 2 is the middle house in a terrace of three houses designed by Hungarian-born émigré architect Ernö Goldfinger. The building was completed in 1939; and Ernö and his wife Ursula stayed at Number 2 for the rest of their lives. Goldfinger’s view that ‘the most significant thing about a house is the view from within it’ springs to mind when you gaze from the huge windows on to Hampstead Heath’s south-westerly tip. His choice of location incurred the wrath of some local grandees opposed to his thoroughly modern project. Goldfinger was willing to make his terrace fit in with the Hampstead aesthetic, however, which is why, although it is made of reinforced concrete, the building is clad in red brick. The striking thing about chez Goldfinger, however, is its eminent practicality, with its easy-clean hospital floors and careful window and skylight placement for optimum natural light. Space-saving gadgets, such as fold-up beds, hidden storage and a tardis-like bathroom make this the ultimate flexible family home. Read more