Displaying all the curiosities you owned was in vogue during the late 1800s. And 18 Stafford Terrace, once a family home, definitely has the Wunderkammer quality – by modern standards it is like a museum.
Paintings crowd the walls that are furnished with intricate wallpaper; exotic artefacts are exhibited on marble fireplaces; a warm glow glimmers through stained glass windows. Walking from room to room, it is easy to slip back 100 years and forget the present.
Edward Linley Sambourne, a cartoonist for the weekly satirical magazine Punch, bought the house in 1874 on an 89-year lease with his wife, Marion, for £2,000.
“This is Victorian London as you would read in Charles Dickens’ books,” said Shirley Nicholson, author of the book A Victorian Household, which is based on the diaries of Marion Sambourne.
Linley and Marion furnished the house in the fashionable “House Beautiful” style, which placed emphasis on the aesthetic experience and often advocated exotic objects from the Far East.
“It is a very good example of how people used to live 100 to 120 years ago in the area,” she said. .
Nicholson has been volunteering as a tour guide at the house since it first opened to the public in 1980.
The space and contents have largely remained unchanged since it was the Sambournes’ family home, where Linley and Marion lived with their two children and live-in servants.
Linley Sambourne’s granddaughter, Anne, the countess of Rosse, played a major role in opening the house to the public. She inherited the intact house and in 1958 founded the Victorian Society with a group of friends at 18 Stafford Terrace. The society was founded for the preservation of Victorian and Edwardian art and architecture.
The house is now accessed from the basement and is tucked away among a row of family homes in Stafford Terrace.
The Sambournes have left a wealth of knowledge and a cabinet of curiosities. Linley’s delicate pen and ink illustrations still line the walls.
It is a living piece of history – an intact insight into the everyday life of a middle-class Victorian household.
As of September 23rd, 2015, 18 Stafford Terrace is openly accessible every Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 2 to 5.30 p.m. Booking is not required for open access but advanced bookings for tours are essential.
It is a 5-minute walk from High Street Kensington tube station. For more information visit www.rbkc.gov.uk/museums