Syon House (also called Zion House, historically) is the official London residence of the influential Percy family, Dukes of Northumberland.
The house and its gardens have been owned and cared for by them for over four hundred years. One of the last surviving Ducal residences complete with country estate, the house has one of the most beautiful interiors created by the brilliant 18th century architect Robert Adam in 1762. Today, Syon House is a favorite tourist destination and is open for visits, weddings and special events, and film location shooting.
Syon House is not in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, but we like it and decided to break the rules and include it on our site.
For more information about the many great historic buildings in the area, visit our page on historic houses.
Syon House was originally a religious house established in 1431 when Syon Abbey, a medieval monastery of the Bridgettine Order of nuns, moved to the location. The nunnery, one of the wealthiest in the country at the time, was where Queen Catherine Howard, Henry VIII's fifth wife was brought to from Hampton Court Palace for her long detention.
Syon House became the property of the 1st Duke of Somerset when the abbey was permanently closed. In 1594, the site was acquired by Henry Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland and had been the family's property ever since.
The building's beautiful Renaissance exterior was built by the the 1st Duke of Somerset. The famous interior of Syon House, with its magnificent State and Private Apartments filled with great paintings and furniture, was designed by renowned architect Robert Adam in 1762 commissioned by the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland.
Considered to be one of the finest examples of the much-admired 'Adam Style', it is said to be the project where Adam started to develop his eclectic signature taking inspiration from Roman antiquity, Romantic, Baroque, Mannerist, and Picturesque styles. The architect Thomas Cady, commissioned by the 3rd Duke in the 1820s, refaced the house in Bath stone and rebuilt its porch.
In the 1860s, the 4th Duke added plaster ceilings in the Renaissance style to the Family Drawing Room, Family Dining Room and Print Room.
The 55-acre gardens at Syon House sit across the Thames from Kew Gardens (another famous tourist attraction in Richmond upon Thames) and are famous for their excellent collection of more than 200 species of rare trees. Originally developed by Lancelot's Capability Brown in the 1700s, the main outdoor attractions today include the Woodland Garden, the Rose Garden, the Conservatory, and the Lakeside Walk. The Great Conservatory in the Syon House gardens was built by Charles Fowler from 1828 to 1830 and was the first conservatory in the country built from glass and metal on such a large scale.
Best time to visit is in June when the roses are in full bloom.
Syon House and its surrounding gardens sit atop an important historical and archeological site. There's actually an annual archeological dig undertaken by experts from Birkbeck College of the University of London. Some important finds from past excavations include graves, coins, pottery, and other artifacts dating back to the Roman period and earlier.