Danson House is a villa built by architect Sir Robert Taylor in 1766 for Sir John Boyd whose father became wealthy from sugar plantations. William Chambers, an architectural tutor to George III, designed fireplaces and picture frames for the house and garden buildings and landscaping for the estate. Boyd’s son had grand plans for further building but had to sell the house due to lack of funds.
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It was purchased by John Johnston, another wealthy businessman, who built a gothic thatched cottage and orangery in the grounds. In 1862 Alfred Bean bought the estate. He changed the décor to an imperial French rococo style. He also added gas lighting and hot water to the house. He sold the house to Bexley Council in 1923, and lack of maintenance caused severe deterioration. Fortunately English Heritage stepped in during the 1990s and restored it.
The house, a revival of the late 16th century Italian villa design, reflects classical mythology. The principal floor was designed to impress with its entrance hall, salon, dining room (original 18th century wall paintings have survived) and library where the original organ is still used for recitals. The elliptical staircase leads to the bedroom floor. On the ground floor the former breakfast room now houses a tea-room.
Danson Park and House
Bexley, Greater London, DA6 8HL
Tel. 020 8303 6699
Open: April-end Oct, house on Wed, Thu, Sun; during June, July and Aug also open on Tue; 11am-5pm
Small shop; café; special events; weddings
Just off the A2; by train from London to Bexley station, take taxi or bus (B13, 89, 96 or B14) to the house
Note: Docents in each room tell the house history when you visit. It is both interesting and informative. Plan a day or two in the Bexley area to take in all the attractions (Hall Place, Red House) or two days out on the commuter train from London. Danson Park is large and worth at least a half day with a picnic in the grounds.