The other day, a few expats and I spent some time at the Wallace Collection located in the Hertford House at Manchester Square in Marylebone, London.
First off, the house itself is gorgeous! I was overwhelmed upon walking in (there are three floors and twenty-nine galleries), and after a light lunch in the museum cafe, we went on a tour with an engaging and informative guide. She has a passion for the Wallace Collection but specifically paintings and furniture from France.
Although the 3rd and 4th Marquesses of Hertford and Sir Richard Wallace (illegitimate son of the 4th Marquess) were instrumental in acquiring the vast collection, it was the 4th Marquess who is considered one the greatest collectors of the 19th century. When his son, Richard Wallace died in 1890, his widow lived at Hertford house until her death in 1897. In her will, and at the bequest of her late husband, the collection and house was converted into a public museum. It opened to the public in 1900.
According to our tour guide, the stipulation in the will regarding the collection is it must stay “as is” ~ nothing added, nothing removed. None of the items can be loaned to other museums, this is the only place you’ll see it. They must have a vast storage area because the galleries change out periodically for certain events and specific tours. For example each month, a great work is highlighted as the “treasure of the month” and there are scheduled talks about the piece.
The museum also has scheduled Exhibitions, Conservation Displays, Special Talks, Study Events, Adult Art Classes, Youth Activities & Family Workshops. I’m bummed I missed out on the French Wine Tasting event which was in September but plan to make up for loss time with as many other events as I can. I am completely amazed by the sheer size of the collection and can imagine I’ll be spending many rainy days exploring the galleries.
For any one with children, there’s a “Takeover Day” on 23 November 2012 (Friday) ~ students from St Vincent’s Primary school will take charge of the museum, from the front of the house to leading groups on an interactive tour. I think visiting children would find it more interesting coming from their peers.
On a side note, I saw a photo of the museum art pieces being evacuated before the Blitz and, thankfully, the house itself was spared during the bombing of London. Whew…
If you decide to visit, the museum entrance is free of charge as are the daily tours. There are fees and reservations required for certain events and talks. The museum is open everyday except 24, 25 and 26 December. For more specific information, click here.
If you go, look for me there since I plan to spend a lot of time in the galleries while living here. How could I not, it’s an easy 10 minute walk from our flat.