The Wallace Collection; London’s amazing hidden history.
I accidently discovered The Wallace Collection when I had an appointment in Baker Street, which runs parallel to Manchester Square, where the Wallace Collection is displayed in Hertford House.
When I saw it, my first thought was that it had something to do with Wallace Simpson.
But I was wrong. It is an amazing collection of art that was accumulated by one family; five generations, four Marquesses, and Sir Richard Wallace.
It is now a national museum with free entry, and it’s well worth a visit!
I walked from room to room, gazing at paintings, ornate chandeliers, furniture, vases, plates, and much much more, all dating from the 14th-19th centuries, when the entire collection was given to the British nation in 1897.
Everything is set out on tables, mantelpieces and walls, like in somebody’s home.
Nothing’s protected in glass cases, except in the Armoury. I wouldn’t like to even wildly guess at the value of it all!
There are paintings by Rubens, Reynolds, Velasquez, Van Dyke, Canaletto and Rembrandt, to name but a few.
A falchion; a short sword popular in the 16th century, belonged to Cosimo 1 de Medici.
An ornate black and gold shield was owned by Henri II of France in 1558. And a black and gold Partizan, which was a long-handled spear, was used as a ceremonial weapon by the bodyguards of Louis XIV.
The Armoury covers three rooms, with two and a half thousand objects! There is armour for man and horse, weapons, and lots more.
Hertford House was one of numerous properties owned by the Seymour-Conway family, (The Marquesses of Hertford) and it was bought and adapted specially to house the donated collection.
The first two Marquesses were modest collectors, but the third Marquess was the family’s greatest collector. He acquired several French collections that were being sold at low prices due to the French Revolution.
His son, the fourth Marquess, (1800-1870) lived in Paris and was a recluse. He lived for collecting, and it was an obsession with him.
Sir Richard Wallace was his illegitimate son and he brought the collection from Paris to London, which must have been hard work. I don’t think bubble wrap had been invented then!
He added the collection of arms and armour, and his French wife Amelie donated the collection to the British nation on her death in 1897.
The house is absolutely packed with things to see, and I couldn’t take it all in on one visit.
Upstairs there is a huge restaurant and café where you can relax for a while, and there are seats around the house.
I intend to go back, and spend a lot more time there. It’s an absolutely fascinating place to visit!
Hertford House is open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm.
0207 563 9500.
The Wallace Collection
London W1U 3BN.
Entry is free, but a donation of £5 is welcomed.
Photos without flash are permitted.