Review of "Clarence House, London"

published 16/03/2017 | Essexgirl2006
Member since : 07/02/2006
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Super
Pro Interesting tour and rooms
Cons No Facilities.
exceptional
Prices
Is it worth visiting?
Transport links
Family Friendly

"Hobnobbing With Chas and Cammy"

From the guide book

From the guide book

CLARENCE HOUSE


Introduction

Clarence house is the home of Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall . Price Harry also lived here until recently. It is used for official receptions and other events. It is open to the public through guided tours usually in the month of August and I visited on the last August bank holiday 2016. It is managed by the Royal Collection Trust which is a registered charity entrusted with numerous art objects. The Queen does not own them as a private individual but is a trustee. The RCT receives its income from the opening of the palaces to the public and gift shop sales and its aims are “care and conservation of the Royal Collection and the promotion of public access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities” (according to their website).

History of the House

Much of the history of the house is covered in the tour and I have ‘topped up’ my memories and fact checked by referring to the guide book that I purchased when I visited.

The house was built between 1825-7 and was designed by John Nash for the then William, Duke of Clarence (hence the name) and was part of St James’s Palace. Nash also designed Brighton Pavilion and did a lot of remodelling of Buckingham Palace. The Clarence House project did go massively over-budget but forms the basis for the house there today, the man difference being the entrance was on a different side, on Stable Yard Road which ran at right angles to the Mall, and was west facing.

Inside the house was more modest than many other palaces, especially during George IV’s time, and the Duke remained here even once he was King (William IV). The gardens, at the now front, were added later when another building was demolished. The main entrance was changed to face towards The Mall (and gardens) by Queen Victoria’s Mother (the Duchess of Kent) in the 1840s, and a porch added. This was further developed and the old West entrance closed and extended to be attached to St James’s Palace in the 1870s when Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and son of Queen Victoria, married the daughter of a Russian Tsar who was used to grander things. The inside was also remodelled and modernised. Our tour guide pointed out the architectural changes.

Other notable occupants included the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh before the succeeded the throne in 1947 and was the main home for the Queen Mother after her daughter succeeded the throne. She made some minor changes and the decoration was done to her taste. Apparently Price Charles has kept much of the style as a tribute to her. More information on the occupants is in the Guide Book

Booking

I booked online via the Royal Collection Trust website. As I recall it was £10 to visit, which lasts about an hour including an escorted guided tour. I believe they do a £35 ‘exclusive’ version too. It was a quick and painless process, offering discount to under 17 and disabled (but not pensioners strangely). Upon leaving you can get your ticket validated as a one year pass, meaning you can return within the year to see it again, but as it is open such a short time this is unlikely to happen.
How to Get Here

Clarence House is situated on the Mall just down from Buckingham Palace opposite St James’ Park and around the corner from Green Park which are nice routes to take on a fine day. Both have tube stations nearby and it took me less than 10 mins from Green Park tube (Jubilee and Victoria lines) to get here. It isn’t clear from the road where it is, so you just have to keep an eye out as you walk up The Mall away from the Palace.

Victoria mainline station is about 15 mins walk away and buses 8, 9, 14, 19, 22 and 38 stop at Green park tube.
Arrival

Show your tickets (or arrange for collection) and you will need you bag and body to go through airport style security. Then you are invited to sit on a bench and wait until your tour starts. You cannot take in certain items or large bags, there is no smoking, eating or drinking or photography. You can buy a colour guide book for £4.95.

Before your tour starts you will be given a preliminary briefing about what you can and can’t do. Inside the House you visit just five rooms (and the hall) and must stay on the beige carpet to protect the valuable rugs underneath. Areas are roped off so you can’t wander freely.
The Tour

Our very informative tour guide is a member of staff here (and his name escapes me). He had worked here for many years and plainly thought very highly of his employers.

We are shown a very limited section of the gardens outside the front entrance. I am sure there are more elsewhere as they are quite small. I don’t really see Camilla, in a swimsuit, on a deckchair out here. ..

You go in through the hall and visit the rooms off of it, but are told more about it at the end. Don’t ignore items here as there are some interesting artworks and small sculptures. Off of here is the Horse Corridor so named for the collection of horse pictures and bronzes collected by the Queen Mother, who was an avid horse-racing fan and horse owner.

The first room you see is the Lancaster Room which is a waiting room if you are here on official business, perhaps as a representative of one of the charities the royal couple support. There are a number of artworks in here, including watercolours of Windsor Castle painted from every conceivable direction. Next is the Morning Room. It had quite a few architectural changes in its lifetime but the room we see is very much how the Queen Mother left it. Prince Charles left it much the same in tribute to her (it looks like it has had a lick of paint since then). It is a very elegant duck-egg blue room.

I was rather fond of the Library. It was the Entrance Hall originally, when the house faced west, but now has a modest selection of books. Our guide told us this room is where a Christmas Tree is every year, and it only decorated at the top. On the table nearby would be other decorations and any younger guest (through on of the Duchess of Cornwall’s charities) is invited to ‘help’ by picking a decoration and hanging it on the lower branches (presumably they can’t reach the top). I thought this was a nice story. The Library leads into the Dining Room which I believe is only used for formal occasions and is set up to entertain guests such as international visitors or fundraisers.

The Garden Room is another room I really liked, it was formerly two rooms knocked into one and is a lovely light room and despite the massive paintings, tapestries and antiques seemed really welcoming. Our guide told us that this is a sitting room where the Prince and Duchess entertain visitors after dinner, but it still seems quite informal. I believe they have a private lounge elsewhere in the house. Instead of a coffee table there is a large upholstered table seat so that you can chat to people on the sofas surrounding it, for easy and intimate conversations. I have already decided which seat I would like in the unlikely event I ever get invited here (one facing the garden, but at the fireplace end as these big, high-ceilinged houses may get chilly).
Facilities

Facilities are limited. There are no lavatories or baby changing facilities, for this you must go to the public conveniences in St James’ Park. I understand that they are quite clean but incur a small charge.

There is no café, again there are stalls selling drinks and snacks in the parks, but we elected to walk towards Victoria where we had better options for a late lunch.
There is a gift shop here, it is only small but sells a variety of high end gifts such as china, scarves, jewellery and cuddly toy corgis. I think you can get a pencil for £2.95.
My thoughts/Conclusion

This isn’t a cheap attraction of course, but I really enjoyed it. You don’t have to be a huge fan of the royal family to enjoy the house, I think it would appeal to any fans of history or art due to the huge personal collection of art and objects here (and just a selection on display). It makes the collections of some of the famous art galleries look lacking! Whilst not all the art is to my taste, and there are few too many horse paintings, it is worth going for the other objects and furniture as much as anything (if that is your thing).

I gather the tour visits the same rooms each year, but your experience may vary depending on your guide. Mine was very interesting and experienced, so I am sure all meet a similar standard.

As you are not allowed to take photos and the front façade of Clarence House isn’t visible from the street due to a high wall, it isn’t as famous, so I have taken a picture from my guidebook for you to see.


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Comments on this review

  • afy9mab published 23/06/2017
    Nicely done.
  • Violet1278 published 11/05/2017
    A brilliant review. E from me.
  • siberian-queen published 08/05/2017
    fab review
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Product Information : Clarence House, London

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Castle/Historic House

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Country: England

Type: Castle/Historic House

City: London

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