The Story Of Gunnersbury Park

Book by Val Bott and James Wisdom will help visitors see the buildings and landscape in a new way

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Friends of Gunnersbury Park and Museum

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A new book,which tells the story of Gunnersbury Park and Museum has been launched ready for the completion of the major restoration work. The museum is scheduled to re-open in June 2018.

Gunnersbury Park is written by well-known Chiswick residents Val Bott ( William Hogarth Trust ) and James Wisdom (Brentford & Chiswick Local History Society). Both are founder members of the Friends of Gunnersbury Park & Museum.

Gunnersbury was opened as a public park in 1926. This book marks the completion of the recent and extensive conservation programme – its 21st century transformation – in the lead-up to the Park centenary. But there have been many changes over the centuries.

The very first transformation saw the building of a huge Palladian mansion with formal gardens around 1660. After years of neglect it was reborn as a centre of Georgian society; a merchant politician and art collector and then a Hanoverian princess each softened the landscape and built follies.

In 1800 the mansion was demolished and development plots sold off; two neighbouring villas emerged which still survive. From 1835 one was home to the banking family who eventually reunited the estate, and this building is now the Gunnersbury Park Museum.

The book has been produced by a partnership of The Friends and Scala Publishers. The Friends have provided the content and also invested in the stock which will be sold on site at Gunnersbury; the work has also been partially funded by a grant from the John & Ruth Howard Charitable Trust. Scala have provided all the professional input - copy-editing, design and production, and they are promoting the book and selling it through bookshops.

It has been described as "engagingly written by local, passionate experts", and is the result of years of original historical research, encompassing local archives, objects held by the Museum, archaeological findings, oral history sources, and more. It is richly illustrated and includes maps and a fold-out cover.

This is an unusual project for the Friends of Gunnersbury Park and Museum, whose role is to raise awareness and understanding of Gunnersbury and provide funds and expertise to support special items like acquisitions for the collection. The book has been completed in advance of the re-opening of the Park and Museum. It will be sold at cost price (for stockists, see below) and all income will be available to invest in a reprint or in additional Gunnersbury-related publications.

Val Bott says: "We hope readers will enjoy discovering the story of the place and the people; throughout the narrative we have referred to things that you can still find there, like parts of the 17th century garden walls. The aim is to get people exploring, armed with this knowledge, so they see the buildings and landscape in new ways."

The book is now on sale in the new cafe and online at £6.95 a copy; after the Museum re-opens in June it will be on sale in their bookshop and at the Capel Manor Centre on open days.


April 13, 2018

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