The Twickenham Museum
People : Royals, Peers and Courtiers

The Earl of Radnor
Collector of pictures
1686 - 1757

Radnor House in 1725. Detail from Peter Tillemans' view of Twickenham in Orleans House Gallery

Extends Radnor House and begins to collect pictures

John Robartes, 4th Earl of Radnor inherited the title from his cousin Henry in 1741. He first came to live in Cross Deep, Twickenham in 1722 taking a lease of a house built probably in 1673.

The title was accompanied by an inheritance and Radnor embarked on various extensions to the house and the land. He acquired about 7 acres across the road and built a tunnel to connect them with his house.

He also began to collect pictures. Among these was Canaletto's painting The Old Horse Guards from St James's Park which he appears to have bought from Canaletto's studio in about 1749.

Garden statuary mocked as 'Mabland'

Radnor added to the house in the Gothic style in a considerable way, much to the annoyance of Walpole who may have felt he had been upstaged before he could embark on his own extensions to Strawberry Hill.

Walpole mocked Radnor on more than one occasion, referring to the adornment of the gardens with statuary as 'Mabland'.

Commissions the earliest known view of Twickenham?

It is possible that Radnor actually commissioned the earliest known view of Twickenham, A Prospect of Twickenham, painted by Peter Tillemans in about 1725. Certainly Tillemans was painting a picture in the house around that time: it was recorded by Spence that Alexander Pope had visited and added a few brushstrokes of his own. Pope would have regarded himself as competent to do this, having taken lessons from Charles Jervas.

When Radnor died in 1757, a bachelor, he left Radnor House to his Steward Frederick Atherton Hindley, and with it most of his picture collection. In his long and rambling will he left certain pictures to friends, notably the Canaletto and a Hobbema to James Harris and two Samuel Scott paintings to Richard Owen Cambridge. There was no mention of a picture by Tillemans.

Further reading:

F C Hodgson, Thames Side in the Past, George Allen, 1913
Anthony Beckles Willson, Mr Pope & Others at Cross Deep, 1996

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