Historic Features of Putney House Set for Restoration

Published: 10/01/2023 By Allan Fuller

The sumptuous interior of a historic Putney home is set to be preserved and protected as part of re-development works now taking place at the property.

Plans for Grade II listed Thornhill House in Deodar Road have revealed the historic nature of its interior, which includes many decorative and structural elements dating back to the 17th and early 18th centuries.

The nationally-listed four-storey home was built in the 1890s and incorporates much of the original Wandsworth Manor, built on the summit of East Hill in 1670 and demolished in 1890.

It is believed to have been constructed by Samuel Dockerill, who wanted to relocate outside central London and heard about the demolition of Wandsworth Manor. He bought the house at auction in 1891 and transported most of it by barge to its new location in Deodar Road, where he built a smaller version of the original manor.

Documents submitted to Wandsworth Council as part of the planning submission reveal it was named Thornhill House in honour of the artist Sir James Thornhill (1675 – 1734), whose murals survive in the house.

He was an English painter of historical subjects working in the Italian baroque tradition and responsible for some large-scale schemes of murals, including the "Painted Hall" at the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, the paintings on the inside of the dome of St Paul's Cathedral, and works at Chatsworth House and Wimpole Hall. Thornhill was knighted by King George I – the first British artist to be knighted for his work.

The ground floor conservatory floor has the unusual addition of a cast iron pavement light, which is likely to have been salvaged - probably from a London street, possibly outside the former Tivoli Theatre in the Strand.

One of the murals at Thornill House in Deodar Road

A heritage statement presented as part of the re-development application says Thornhill House includes “very high architectural drama such as the stair compartment from ground to first floor, which is wholly unexpected and almost overwhelming in a building.”

Councillors gave permission in October for re-development work including alterations to the staircase, internal and external redecoration, the addition of two glazed window boxes, rooflights and bin stores as well as replacement of conservatories and windows.

While development work started in September, permission has recently been sought for underfloor heating as well as the installation of a mist sprinkler system in the lower and upper ground floor areas which are open to the staircase. The sprinkler system would better protect the historic property in the event of fire.

The latest application, put forward by architects Studio McCleod, also refers to the restoration or cleaning of the existing artwork. It includes a covering letter stating the developers are not decided on the level of restoration work or cleaning which will be carried out, and “may only do works to consolidate the existing artwork”.

Following a report from council Case Officer Ben Hayter, planning councillors have been recommended to only give part approval to the latest plan – covering the underfloor heating and mist sprinkler, but the artwork restoration is not covered.

The report states: “Overall the proposed underfloor heating and sprinkler system details are considered sufficient and acceptable. No method statement for the restoration and cleaning of the existing artwork has been provided and therefore the condition can only be partially discharged.”