Bushy House: the Former Home of Actress Dora Jordan and the Duke of Clarence

Bushy House, a mansion which is set inside Bushy’s Park’s thousand acres of parkland, was also the home of Adelaide, the Duchess of Clarence from 1818. William and Adelaide ruled as King William IV and Queen Adelaide from 1830 – 1837. Dowager Queen Adelaide lived there part-time from 1837 until her death in 1849.

Bushy House is only open to the public once a year. It is in the grounds of the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, south-west London, and adjacent to Bushy Park, one of the Royal Parks of London.

I tried to find Dora Jordan Road and Bushy House, which is along Dora Jordan Road, when I was writing my post Actress, Mistress of a Royal Duke: Dora Jordan, Leading Lady of the Late Eighteenth Century. Frustratingly, I missed the open day by a couple of weeks – and I couldn’t find Dora Jordan Road. I surmised that the road had been re-named as a new development had been built nearby. Not so I found out today, I did actually walk along Dora Jordan Road last year, but from the wrong end of the street, therefore I missed the road sign.

We visited Bushy House as part of Open House London, when many historic buildings open their doors for the public to take a peek, including 10 Downing Street – which is free to view but by ticket ballot only.

Bushy House was built in 1663 for Edward Proger, who was made Keeper of Middle Park [Bushy Park] and was ordered by King Charles II to build a lodge. Three Earls of Halifax were then associated with Bushy House from 1713 – 1771. Prime Minister, Lord North, lived in the house from 1771 until his death in 1792, it remained the home of North’s wife until her death in 1797 when the house became ready for its next chapter.

In 1797, King George III, cognisant of William’s relationship and growing family with Dora, offered William the post of Ranger of Bushy Park, this role included Bushy House.  Seven of their ten children were born at Bushy. It proved the perfect family home for fifteen years.

When the Duke’s relationship with Dora Jordan ended, he set out looking for an heiress to marry without success. Then in 1817, his niece Princess Charlotte, the daughter of the Prince Regent and second-in-line to the throne, died in childbirth, causing a paradigm shift amongst the sons of George III. Suddenly middle-aged dissolute princes rose up a step in the royal pecking order and with a throne in sight, rushed to find suitable Protestant princesses in the hope that their bloodline would continue the House of Hanover for there was no legitimate grandchild of George III.

William, already with ten illegitimate children (the FitzClarences), married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, 27 years his junior, in a double ceremony with the Duke and Duchess of Kent, but the marriage failed to produce children who survived beyond infancy. On his death, William IV’s crown passed to his niece Victoria, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent.

On the death of Dowager Queen Adelaide, Bushy House was used for the exiled Duc de Nemours, the second son of the French king Louis-Phillipe.

Bushy House returned to the crown in 1896. The following year Queen Victoria gave it to the Royal Society to establish the National Physical Laboratory.

Only three ground floor rooms were open to the public during our visit, although there was scope to wander around a few corridors of the ground floor and the basement, open for toilet facilities. The Orangery was also a welcome haven on a cold and wet Sunday morning, complete with the local scouts providing much-needed refreshments.

The Conference Room was furnished with two tables displaying science experiments and was the conduit to the gardens and the Orangery. The Globe Room was furnished with a large globe and dining table with table mats depicting images of Bushy House’s past, including thermometer testing by female workers during World War One, a visit by George V in 1917 and of course its long eighteenth century royal history. The Historical Museum offered insight into the building’s history, from its association with royalty, politicians and its twentieth century role as a research facility.

Today, Bushy House is used as a conference centre after a more sophisticated centre of science was built for twenty-first century research.


Images author’s own unless stated

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