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“If you're stuck in Kensington with little else to do...”

18 Stafford Terrace - The Sambourne Family Home
Ranked #381 of 1,728 things to do in London
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Reviewed 27 January 2013 via mobile

I took the guided tour provided by "the maid" who was an excellent actress. However, to be honest, I found the house to be rather dull and the tour overly long. It's basically a very dark, upper middle class house jammed with Victorian bric-a-brac. There were definitely some interesting details, like how the owners stretched their wallpaper budget by not papering the walls behind the many wall hangings, but there are so many more interesting things to see in London than this.

4  Thank nycsmf
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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69 - 73 of 101 reviews

Reviewed 15 January 2013

At 18 Stafford Terrace, 2 streets north of Kensington High Street, there is a magic portal which whisks you back to the London of the1890s. The house belonged to Edward Linley Sambourne, a regular contributor to "Punch", the popular satirical magazine, for whom he became chief cartoonist in 1901 on the death of John Tenniel (original llustrator of the Alice books).

He lived there with his wife Marion and their children from 1875 onwards and the house, now belonging to the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is open to any visitors who, for a few pounds, are keen to be guided round a house decorated and furnished in the high victorian
style.

Having booked in advance for a specified tour, our group went in via the servants' entrance, down the area steps, through what would have been the kitchen, and were shown a very useful 10 minute film about the family.

Following this we went back to the street and up the steps to the front door, which was opened by ...... Mrs Sambourne, in full bustled dress, flustered and apologetic at having to open the door herself. "I don't know what the maids are up to; I've rung and rung but there's absolutely no sign of them," she said in evident distress.

She then invited us into the dining room, explaining that there had been eight of them to dinner the night before ("Mr Sambourne acquired some very useful panels so that the table, normally seating no more than six as you can see, can, if needed, accommodate up to 12 people
comfortably"). She explained that the maids had served at dinner and might still be asleep, their having retired much later than usual ("though we bring in two men servants when really important people come to dine").

In each of the rooms to which we were taken, the lady of the house pointed out the stained glass windows ("all designed by Mr Sambourne") and the wallpaper ("bought from William Morris at first, though we buy more modern paper now") as well as their collections of oriental porcelain, English delftware and furniture from the likes of Heals and Liberty. ("We were among the first to adopt the Aesthetic approach to decoration"). We agreed with her that this new electric light was much, much dimmer than good old gas, and was probably just a passing fad.

(At this point, one of our party, noticing a radiator, commented on the fact that they appeared to have something called "central heating", which rather flustered our hostess for the moment).

One floor up, with evident pride, she ushered us into the main drawing room, the lightest and largest room in the house, since it had been made from what had been two rooms, giving light from both north and south. ("Most days I receive visitors in the morning room on the ground floor, but this is where, on Tuesdays, I am AT HOME!"), adding that she and her particular friends had worked things out so that there would be no clash. ("Mrs Alma-Tadema receives on Mondays, Mrs Rider Haggard on Wednesdays, Mrs George du Maurier on Thursdays").

"Ah, so you know the du Mauriers", I interjected, referring to her husband's colleague at Punch and his wife. "Yes indeed" was her retort. "You know them too, I assume", she added, to which I replied that my wife and I had indeed been to their place in Hampstead on a number of Sundays (the day when the du Mauriers held open house for lunch), adding that we were acquaintances rather than friends. I went on to say that I had been gratified to meet du Maurier's special friend Mr Henry James, the great American writer, but found those Sundays rather taxing, since du Maurier always insisted on people joining him and his dog for a long walk on the Heath, rather trying after a copious lunch. Mrs Sambourne agreed whole-heartedly, before the discussion became more general.

It seemed that her husband used to work at the far, south-facing end of the drawing broom, but had taken over the room of his late mother on the floor above, which was much better for all concerned. ("We might just go up and I will see, assuming he is not too busy, if he will allow you to have a quick look at his studio"). Surprisingly, Mr Sambourne appeared to have popped out ("possibly to smoke a cigar in the garden") and we were, to our great pleasure, allowed into his
sanctum.

This was north-facing, but a skylight had been set into the roof to help him with his work, the studio containing numerous examples of his cartoons and other illustrations for Punch, as well as a caricature of the man himself drawn by 'Spy' for 'Vanity Fair'. Pride of place in the room, however, went to his camera. Mr Sambourne, it appeared took many photographs of himself and others, which formed the basis of much of his work, a few of which were also to be seen in the room (for one of which - depicting as it did a lightly clad young woman - our hostess felt the need to apologise).

As indeed she did for the two or three photographs of actresses in the room of their son Roy, currently studying at Oxford, drawing our attention away from these, in my opinion rather innocent, examples of the photographer's art, to a copy of 'The Water Babies' laid out on the bed. This was open to an illustration featuring not only her son but also her daughter Maud who "did some pretty illustrations for 'Punch' herself, but she no longer does that kind of thing since her
marriage, of course".

By now we were at the top of the house, and we were allowed to look inside the attic room occupied by the maids (who also seemed, mysteriously, to have popped out). Someone wondered how they both managed to sleep in the extremely narrow single iron bed, but Mrs
Sambourne blithely explained that Annie slept with her head at the top and Mary with her head at the bottom, so that was all right then.

This left just one more room, the bathroom where Mr Sambourne developed his photographs. Our group was packed in rather tightly, while our hostess pointed out the left-hand wall which was completely covered with photographs mostly of her husband in various exotic costumes. We, meanwhile, were transfixed by what was on the wall behind her until she turned round and, with an audible gasp, ushered us out of the room and off down the stairs.


But to find out what so shocked Mrs Sambourne you will have to visit the Linley Sambourne house yourselves.

14  Thank eddiebrylcreem
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 29 December 2012

I love this museum so much that I went twice during 2012. My daughter was studying for the semester in London and discovered the Sambourne House. It is a unique experience—part theatre, part history lesson, part architecture/design. Linley Sambourne was chief cartoonist for Punch in the Victorian era. The Sambournes traveled in the artistic and business circles of the time. The tour is conducted by Mrs. Sambourne herself (I absolutely believe it was Mrs. Sambourne!) and she has an exhaustive knowledge of the house and the family. Her interaction with the “guests” on the tour is priceless and makes each tour unique. Educational and entertaining! I recommend this amazing tour to anyone visiting London!

2  Thank RecentTravel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 November 2012

Take the steps to the basement entrance of 18 Stafford Terrace where you are received. You then get to see a short video about the house and its inhabitants before moving upstairs to be met by the lady of the house. The actress who plays Marion Linley was dressed in period outfit and with her quaint 19th century way we were given a guided tour through the house to be told about each room and life in the days of former Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne. The tours are by appointment only so ring ahead first to book.

1  Thank Swedishtomcat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 November 2012

Loved my visit to 18 Stafford Terrace! first a short film about the house then you are taken to the front of the house to knock at the door, Mrs Sanbourne answers completely in character and then shows you around her home, she talks about her family and daily life and encourages you to ask any questions which she will happily answer. The pictures all over the house that were drawn by Mr Sanbourne (the punch cartoonist) were amazing! Mrs Sanbourne was really funny and kept us all interested for about an hour.
I think my only critisicm is that there were a bit too many booked on the tour which made getting in the rooms a bit of a crush!
There is a little bookshop, I bought Mrs Sanbournes Diaries and Im really enjoying reading it.
A lovely visit that brought history to life, loved it!

2  Thank Helen503775
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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