Hogarth’s House refurbishment by Val Bott

The restoration of Hogarth’s House was completed at the end of July 2009. It included structural work, careful repair and redecoration of the interior, bringing the top floor into use, replacing the double gate at the bottom of the garden and reinstating the finials, which had been found in the borders, on its gateposts. A level pathway now runs from there to the front door.

The dining room at Hogarth’s House on the day after the fire. The painted panelling was badfy scorched and melted light fittings and alarm units hang rfrom the ceiling like stalactites. Photo: Val Bott

Around 2 am on 14 August both police and the fire brigade responded to alarm calls but could find no evidence of either an intruder or a fire. They were still on site when the alarm note changed. At this point a fire which had been smouldering for some hours burst through from a cupboard under the stairs into the stairwell above and into a first floor room. It is believed to have been the result of an electrical fault in the cupboard where the electricity supply enters the House. The emergency services immediately swung into action, breaking a small first floor window pane to open the latch of the sash, and entered with hoses. Their actions saved the House. Fortunately the print collections and furniture had not been returned to the House, so these were not damaged and no-one was hurt.

The Dining Room, on the left as you enter, is severely damaged – the fire here was invisible because the newly-repaired shutters were closed. Other parts of the House have suffered water and smoke damage. Once the details had been agreed with Hounslow Council’s insurers, AcanthusLW Architects were re-engaged in January 2010 to specify the works required and oversee the application for Listed Building Consent. Additional work will be undertaken, including new lighting and heating systems and it may be possible to uncover some areas of wide floor boards from the historic structure instead of reinstating fitted carpet throughout.

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant supported a two-year contract for an Outreach Officer; John Collins took up this post a few weeks after the fire, and has been based at Gunnersbury Park Museum. The project team continues to work with him on the interpretation scheme for the House and the creation of new web pages, particularly about the Hogarth-Kirby letter which was purchased in 2008. An application for additional funding from HLF has succeeded, so this post can now continue to September 2012. It is hoped the House will be ready to re-open at the end of 2010.

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