I heard about the Wallace Collection years ago but it’s one of those places I’ve never got round to visiting. There’s no excuse; it’s just north of Oxford Street from Bond Street station. And yet in the space of a month I’ve now visited twice.
Formerly the home of the first four Marquesses of Hertford, part of its charm is that it does still feel like a residence, albeit a rather grand one. The wife of the last owner bequeathed the house to the nation in 1897. With a grand portico entrance with in and out carriageway, one can really image a wealthy family living here.
Most famous for its painting of the Laughing Cavalier and some Rembrandt and Titian, it’s the ornate clocks I particularly enjoyed, many of them delicately chiming on the hour. If you like minimalism and simplicity, you might find it all a bit overwhelming, but I love the gaudy gold mirrors, the sumptuous furnishings, the ceramics, the glassware and the ostentatious decadence of the Renaissance period.
After your tour of the house, do drop in to the cafe. With a tall glass roof as high as a house, you almost feel you are outside. Tea or coffee here is relaxing and the assistants don’t whip away your empty cup as soon as you have finished. The lunch menu looked appetising and was reasonably priced.
The bookshop has silly trinkets that these places have – such as fridge magnets – that I always end up buying – as well as sensible things like art and history books and information about the house. They run interesting sounding courses here if the collection has stimulated your interest in knowing more about the items on show, how they are preserved and looked after and the history of the house, ranging from day time one-off lectures and talks to a series of evening classes around a theme.
It’s also possible to hire the venue for private evening functions from 6.30pm and guided tours may be arranged for attending guests. The venue can hold up to 400 people for a reception and up to 120 for a dinner.
Visiting the collection is free and it’s open every day from 10am to 5pm except 24 – 26 December.
Contact tel: +44 (0)207 563 9500
The Wallace Collection