Syon Park

Syon Park, Hounslow

Syon Park fills the Thames riverside between Brentford and Isleworth and its stately home is the London address of the Duke of Northumberland

The north-east­ern part of the park was the scene of the Bat­tles of Brent­ford in 1016 and 1642. In 1431 the Eng­lish fol­low­ers of the teach­ings of St Brid­get of Swe­den moved their head­quar­ters here from Twick­en­ham and built Syon Abbey, which took its name from Mount Zion.

There are few rem­nants of the abbey but archae­o­log­i­cal sur­veys have locat­ed the sites of some for­mer out­build­ings and deter­mined that the main struc­ture may have been almost as large as Sal­is­bury Cathe­dral.

Syon House: the Great Hall’s Ante Room*

When Hen­ry VIII dis­solved the Catholic reli­gious estab­lish­ments he gave the estate to Edward Sey­mour, the uncle of his son, the future Edward VI.

Dur­ing the first part of Edward’s brief reign, while the new king was still a child, Sey­mour was made first Duke of Som­er­set and ‘Pro­tec­tor of Eng­land’, act­ing as sov­er­eign in all but name.

An admir­er of Ital­ian Renais­sance archi­tec­ture, he built Syon House in that style over the foun­da­tions of the west end of the abbey church between 1547 and his death by exe­cu­tion in 1552. The house retains the abbey’s vault­ed under­croft, below the Great Hall.

Two cen­turies lat­er Sir Hugh Smith­son, lat­er the first Duke of Northum­ber­land, inher­it­ed the estate through his wife, Eliz­a­beth Sey­mour.

The cou­ple employed Robert Adam to remod­el the inte­ri­or of the house and Capa­bil­i­ty Brown to land­scape the grounds. When it was built in the 1820s, the Great Con­ser­va­to­ry made pio­neer­ing use of glass and met­al.

The park has the only area of tall grass wash­land along the Thames in Lon­don. Tide Mead­ow has reed-grass­es and rye grass, with marsh­land plants includ­ing the very poi­so­nous hem­lock water drop­wort. Herons and flocks of win­ter­ing birds use the tidal muds.

Syon House featured in 1994’s historical drama The Madness Of King George and in The Golden Bowl (2000) and Gosford Park (2001).

Postcode area: Brentford, TW8
Website: Syon Park
Further reading: Edward A Jones, Syon Abbey 1415–2015: England’s Last Medieval Monastery, Gracewing, 2015

 

* The pictures of Syon Park on this page are modified from original photographs at Flickr, copyright Kent Wang, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence.