18 Stafford Terrace is a Victorian town house located in Chelsea in the borough of Kensington. Open to the public, the house has retained its late Victorian aesthetic and holds many trinkets from its previous owners, the Sambourne family. Of note in the Sambourne family is Edward Linley Sambourne, an English cartoonist and illustrator who worked for Punch magazine for more than forty years, rising to the respected level of “first cartoonist”. Any guests of the Grand Park Lancaster Gate Hotel who are interested in the rich Victorian heritage of much of London as well as any with an interest in illustration, will find this house an absorbing visit due to the plush and grand interiors and displays of Sambourne’s work.
Edward Linley Sambourne moved into Stafford Terrace in 1875, shortly after the house was built and he lived there until his death in 1910. It was here that he practiced the philosophy of Aestheticism. This is the theory that art should be “art for art’s sake” and avoid deeper meanings. Having no deeper meanings to the piece leads to more of a focus on the technical skill involved in the art and therefore a more thorough investigation of its aesthetics as opposed to any symbolism or meaning behind it. However one feels on the subject of aestheticism, it truly did wonders for Sambourne’s house which is still preserved for visitors to admire.
Edward Linley and Punch Magazine
Edward Linley Sambourne was best known for his work at Punch Magazine. Punch Magazine was a magazine running from 1841 and into the 1990’s. The magazine itself helped to term the modern idea of a “cartoon”. This was due to its use of humorous illustrations to satirise and spark the reader’s imagination.
Starting out as an apprentice at John Penn and Son marine engineering company in Greenwich, he was soon moved to the drawing department when his boss saw his aptitude for drawing. When not at work Linley would spend his time studying the works of William Hogarth and other great graphic artists. After Punch’s Editor Mark Lemon saw one of Sambourne’s sketches he employed him on a casual basis. Sambourne started as an artist for Punch as the decorator for the initial letters of articles, stories and poems which were designed in keeping with the tone of the magazine and the themes of the article. This was how Sambourne began to develop his own style and from there slowly rose to the rank of first cartoonist. Although he spent most of his time at Punch Magazine, Sambourne did take commissions as an illustrator for books and their covers.
18 Stafford Terrace
After the death of Linley, the house passed to his wife Marion and then to their son Roy. After this Roy’s sisters daughter, in the 1950’s, decided to start the Victorian Society, which aimed to preserve Victorian artefacts and landmarks. It was through this that the house was preserved and kept almost entirely how it was live din by Sambourne.
Today visitors can visit the stunning water garden which takes the form of an aquarium and fountain, jam packed with a colourful array of rocks and shells, and draped with ferns and ivy. The interiors are decked out with stained glass windows embellished beautifully with sunflower designs as well as the best in imported Chinese porcelain. Of particular note is the William Morris wallpaper, a popular brand of time.
Another highlight is the Drawing Room, which takes up the entire first floor. At one end of the room visitors can find an easel and camera which show exactly where Sambourne worked before he decided to make the top floor his studio space. The top floor was initially used as a night nursery, but then furnished as a studio in 1899.
On top of the wonderful interiors of Stafford Terrace, an archive of personal documents relating to the Sambourne family and the house can be found inside. These documents date back to 1815. Included in the collection is a variety of letters, diaries, photos, and memorabilia which give one of the best peaks into the world of not only this Victorian middle-class family, but that of many in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.