Originally known simply as The Friends , the organisation was formed in 1969 but had its roots in an earlier association formed in 1896. John Betjamin was the first President and the Friends worked closely with the Victorian Society.
The Friends original aims were clear. To publicise and promote the House and its collections and in so doing encourage interest in Leighton and Victorian art. To raise funds for renovations and requisitions and to organise a regular programme of events including study days, concerts, visits and receptions. These remain every bit as relevant to the organisation today.
Sir Hugh Casson became President in 1984. Richard Ormond CBE, former director of the National Maritime Museum and world renowned authority on John Singer Sargent is Honorary President, having been associated with the Friends since its inception. In 2003 the organisation became known as Friends of Leighton House and Linley Sambourne House (18 Stafford Terrace below).
About Leighton House
Leighton House Museum is the former home of the Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). The only purpose-built studio-house open to the public in the United Kingdom, it is one of the most remarkable buildings of the nineteenth century, containing a fascinating collection of paintings and sculpture by Leighton and his contemporaries.
Built to Leighton’s precise requirements, the house was extended and embellished over the 30 years that he lived in it. From modest beginnings it grew into a ‘private palace of art’ featuring the extraordinary Arab Hall with its golden dome, intricate mosaics and walls lined with beautiful Islamic tiles. Upstairs, Leighton’s vast painting studio was one of the sights of London, filled with paintings in different stages of completion, the walls hung with examples of his work and lit by a great north window. Many of the most prominent figures of the Victorian age were entertained in this room; including Queen Victoria herself who called on Leighton in 1859. But Leighton lived alone in his palace, occupying the house’s only bedroom on the first floor.
Leighton House Museum is surrounded by a group of other studio-houses, all of which were built during the second half of the nineteenth century. This group provides a unique insight into the wealth, status and taste of successful artists in the late-Victorian period. To find out more please visit The Holland Park Circle.
About 18 Stafford Terrace
The Sambourne Family Home
From 1875, 18 Stafford Terrace was the home of Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne, his wife Marion, their two children and their live-in servants. The house gives an insight into the personal lives of the Sambourne family, and also provides a rare example of what was known as an ‘Aesthetic interior’ or ‘House Beautiful’ style. The Aesthetic Movement of the late nineteenth century advocated the use of foreign or ‘exotic’ influences in the decoration of the home. This can be seen by the various Japanese, Middle-Eastern and Chinese objects throughout the Sambournes’ home. After the deaths of Linley and Marion Sambourne, the house was preserved by their descendants. In 1980 it was opened to the public by the Victorian Society. This organisation had been inaugurated at 18 Stafford Terrace in 1958 by the Sambourne’s grand-daughter, Anne, 6th Countess of Rosse. In 1989, its ownership passed to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.