Twickenham Designer Uncovers Family Connection to Turner’s House

by Lucinda MacPherson

Local designer, Paul Warrington, came across a surprising discovery whilst helping Turner’s House recently.

Despite living in Twickenham his entire life, and his design studio “The Cutting Edge” having a portfolio of heritage projects, Paul only saw inside his local house museum for the first time this year.

“It was always on my wish list,” said Paul, “I was struck by its unique feel and by how intimate and personal it was.” 

Little did Paul know, that the house had a particularly personal connection to his family dating back to the time J.M.W. Turner lived there. In the small parlour he saw an engraving of the house and garden after a painting dating back to 1814 by William Havell. 

Paul recognised the name Havell as his mother’s maiden name and on further investigation, discovered that he is related to this contemporary of Turner’s through his mother’s family. As the William Havell painting includes figures that are thought to be Turner picnicking with Havell’s wife on the lawn it appears that Paul’s ancestor knew both Turner and the house well.  Havell is also on record as being a great admirer of Turner’s work – they both showed at the Royal Academy at around the same time, considering him “superior to Claude, Poussin, or any other”.

“It has made working for this house particularly special, as I felt I was connecting to a relative,” said Paul.

Paul has been commissioned to create information panels for the house.

“We hope they will not only inform but also challenge people and encourage them to ask questions so they leave eager to learn more about Turner and his time in Twickenham,” said Paul.

The Trust have chosen a design for the panels, informed by the personality of the house and J.M.W. Turner, who created it as a rural retreat,  incorporating objects, shapes, textures and colours from Turner’s paint swatches.

The villa, dating from the early 1800s, reopened after the coronavirus lockdown this August and is now open for prebooked tours at the weekends.

New safety precautions during the coronavirus pandemic have included replacing the normal guided tours with a short introduction at the start of the visit in a canopy in the garden.

“Design is problem solving, and with COVID-19 restrictions making it impossible to have full guided tours, these new interpretation panels, will help bring the house to life with its many stories,” explained Paul. 

For more information about Turner House, please visit Turnershouse.org 

For Cutting Edge Design, please visit tcecreative.co.uk

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