History of the house


In 1874 Edward Linley Sambourne married Marion Herapath, the daughter of a wealthy stockbroker. Helped by Marion's father, the couple paid £2,000 for an 89-year lease on 18 Stafford Terrace. Classical Italianate in style, Stafford Terrace was built in the 1870s as part of the new developments on the Phillimore Estate. The inhabitants of Stafford Terrace, as listed in the 1871 census, were professional men including retired officers, senior civil servants, tradesmen etc.


The arrival of an artist at number 18 was a novelty. The young couple decided to furnish their home in the fashionable 'aesthetic' or artistic style of the period. They lived in the house for the next 36 years and, although they made some alterations, the basic decorative scheme remains the same today.



The Entrance Hall and Staircase

The walls are papered in a dark green which conceals the original William Morris Diaper paper of the same colour. But you can still see traces of the original paper behind the pictures. The skirting is painted to imitate marble and it is topped by a maroon dado with a Greek key ornamental border. This border design is reflected in the border of brown linoleum which is partially covered by a modern carpet. Beyond the dimly lit hallway, there is the garden door with its beautiful stained glass window depicting an orange tree in a blue and white bowl. Looking down Staircase towards the Water Garden from the landing outside the Drawing Room, the mini conservatory on the first landing was created by removing the lower part of the original window and replacing it with a cantilevered glass box.

The Water Garden

Victorian magazines were filled with ideas for home improvements. Indoor plants were very popular and grand houses had large conservatories. Here, where space was limited, the Sambourne's installed an aquarium with a fountain, filled it with shells and colourful minerals, and planted ferns and ivy around it to create a pretty water garden.

Stained Glass above mini conservatory - on first landing

A large monogram 'LMS' or Linley and Marion's initials entwined from the central panel of this stained glass window flooding coloured light into the hall over the water garden. The window cost no less than 15 guineas. The Sambourne's spared no expense in their use of stained glass as equally elaborate windows and roundels are found in nearly all the major rooms of the house. Judging from other crests and armorial windows in the drawing room and morning room, stained glass seems to have been a vehicle for the Sambourne's family pride.

The Dining Room

Linley and Marion Sambourne loved to entertain, hosting jovial dinner parties which lasted far into the night. The oak suite, which includes an octagonal table and eight chairs upholstered in green Moroccan leather, was the height of fashion in the mid 1870s. The paintwork on the dado, doors, window and fireplace is dark green and the walls are covered with William Morris Pomegranate paper.

Oriental Porcelain Collection

The William Morris Pomegranate paper is practically hidden by framed photographs and a bracketed overmantel containing oriental porcelain. A high level plate shelf containing blue and white china runs around the room. It is backed by a frieze of imitation Spanish leather paper. This was originally brightly coloured and gilded but has faded to varying shades of brown.

Ceiling Rose in the Dining Room

The embossed paper on the ceiling originally had a metallic finish, but over the years it has oxidised to a dark brown. However, the cornice mouldings and ceiling rose still show traces of gold paint.

Oak Sideboard Detail

The sideboard with its painted panels of fruit, inset decorative tiles, mirrors and carved panels is a typical period piece. This style of furniture was recommended by Charles Eastlake in his book "Hints on Household Taste" published in 1867. The sideboard may be by Bruce Talbert who designed the chairs with their neat turned spindles. There is a similar detail in the front panel of the sideboard.

The Morning Room

In this room Marion Sambourne interviewed her servants, wrote letters and entertained friends during the day. William Morris Pomegranate paper is used again, this time on a blue ground for the walls and a cream ground for the ceiling. The moulded cornice is picked out in bright colours and richly patterned oriental rugs cover the parquet floor. Most of the furniture is either genuine 18th century (the chairs are family heirloom pieces) or Victorian revival cabinets in Sheraton or Hepplewhite mode.

Bay window with stained glass

When the Sambournes bought the house they had the original window taken out and the Morning Room extended by three feet. The stained glass bay window dominates the entire south wall. The lower panes are filled with a simple repeat pattern inside coloured borders. The upper panes contain specially commissioned armorial shields. Curtains with a Jacobean-style floral pattern are looped up each side and were used to divide the window from the rest of the room.

Fireplace and overmantel

The fireplace has a small enclosed grate. This was a more efficient way of heating than the basket grate used in the dining room. The bracketed overmantel is ebonised in the Japanese manner and holds china and statuettes.

Laquer desk under bay window

During the late nineteenth century Japanese art and architecture had a huge influence on western designers. Throughout the house there are a number of examples which reflect this fascination with the Far East. The lacquer desk under the window, the embroidered fire screen and the framed Japanese prints on the east wall show how artefacts from around the world were mixed to create the typical aesthetic interior.

The Drawing Room

The drawing room occupies the whole of the first floor. Originally this room, like the Dining Room and Morning Room, had five-light gasoliers hanging from the ceiling but these were removed when electricity was installed in 1896. At the southern end of the room, Sambourne's camera and easel mark the place where he use to work before he moved to his studio on the top floor. The decorative scheme is similar to that used elsewhere in the house. The ceiling is papered with embossed paper and a high level plate shelf runs around the room.

Detail of Window in the South Wall

The Drawing Room bay was made exactly the same size as the one in the morning room, with full length curtains to cut it off from the rest of the room at night. This was a sensible way of concealing the easel and Linley's untidiness when visitors came. Sambourne was obviously very proud of the striking and original stained glass. In 1888 a drawing of Sambourne posing in front of this window was published in Kensington Picturesque and Historical.

Fireplace at the Northern end of the Drawing Room

The presence of two white marble fireplaces in the drawing room, to heat both the northern and southern ends of the room point to the traditional arrangement of two rooms on the first floor. It was a popular option with the Victorians to use the floor as one big room. Here, the party wall seems to have been knocked down before the Sambourne's moved in. A clock stands on each mantelshelf with a large mirror in an ornate gilt frame hanging behind it. There are several small tables scattered about the room containing family photographs and decorative objects.

Boulle Clock above Commode

An elaborate French Boulle clock, inlaid with tortoiseshell and ormolu, occupies the centre of the west wall. A bronze figurine flanked by a fine pair of cloisonné vases stands below it on a serpentine fronted commode.

North East Corner

The furniture in the drawing room is mostly Regency and Louis XVI and is a mixture of genuine antique and Victorian reproductions.


This room was wallpapered with a William Morris design called Larkspur. In 1887, the Sambournes wanted something more luxurious. They chose a replacement paper of dark red imitation Spanish leather, but as the walls were covered with paintings and photographs spaces behind the pictures were not papered to save expenses.

The Principal Bedroom

Sambourne's grand-daughter Anne, Countess of Rosse, redecorated the principal bedroom in 1960. Although she used a reprint of William Morris 'Norwich' wallpaper, the colour scheme, of mushroom for the carpet and ceiling, peach for the curtains and blue details on white paint, has given the room an eighteenth century feel rather than that of the Victorian era. Most of the original furniture remains including the brass bed and ebonised suite of wardrobe, dressing table, bedside table and towel rail. These are decorated with white painted scrolling patterns simulating inlaid ivory.

Norman Shaw Fireplace

A new fireplace was installed in the Principal Bedroom in 1887. Previously both main bedrooms had fireplaces similar to those in the Dining Room and Morning Room, but this one is in a completely different style. Friends of the Sambournes lived in houses designed by the architect Norman Shaw which had fireplaces similar to this one in every room. It is unlikely that Sambourne would have asked Shaw for a design. He probably made a quick sketch of one while visiting his friends which he then gave to his builder to copy. The fireplace contains antique Dutch tiles and is decorated with blue and white china and is topped with a classical bust and two small Michaelangelo reproductions of Night and Day. In front of the fireplace there is a fan in a glass case, each leaf is decorated and signed by a well known artist of the period. These include Watts, Millais, Frith and Alma Tadema.

The Spare Bedroom, later Roy's Room

This room was originally the spare room and was used by Linley Sambourne's mother when she came to stay. After her death in 1892, Roy moved from the nursery to sleep in it and it was his bedroom for the rest of his life. In 1960 it became Lord Rosse's room and the curtains and carpet are from that era. The brass bed, the floral wallpaper with traces of gilding and the furniture are original to the room. Roy hung photographs of his favourite relatives on the walls, later adding groups of his Oxford friends and some of his father's book illustrations. He later added numerous photographs of pretty actresses, in whose company the best years of his life were passed.

Detail from window

This stained glass window was installed in 1887, when some parts of the house was refurbished. The pattern is quite similar to that used in the upper part of the drawing room window. It shows the setting sun with an owl and features a repeating motif of birds against rays of sunlight.

The Bathroom

The bathroom is the only original element left in this room, which was extended as a part of the Countess of Rosse's improvements. Used by Sambourne to develop his photographs, it is fitted with a special wooden shelf for his chemicals. The decoration was introduced in the 1980s and modified as a part of the restoration work finished in 2003. The basin and lavatory put in by the Countess of Rosse were removed by the Greater London Council in the 1980s on the grounds that they were not Victorian enough and the current Victorian-style fittings introduced.

The Maid's Room

Although of a reasonable size, the maid's bedroom on the top floor was always simply and sparsely furnished. Apart from the bed it contained a washstand and painted chest of drawers. The walls were hung with a few watercolours and photographs. The present decoration using Morris 'Willow' pattern was introduced by the Countess of Rosse in the early 1960s, when she turned the room into a guest bedroom.

The Studio

The studio is the interior that has been through the greatest changes in the house. It was originally the night nursery where the children slept, with the day nursery in the opposite south-facing room. In the last years before her marriage in 1898 Maud used it as her own studio/sitting room. In the early spring of 1899, the shelving and overmantel were constructed and the room entirely redecorated as Sambourne prepared to take it over as his studio. He would work here for the last decade of his life. In the early 1960s, the Countess of Rosse converted the room into a guest bedroom, hanging it with a Morris paper and installing a hand basin and mirror to the left of the window. When the room was partially restored in the 1980s, the mirror was removed, revealing a section of Sambourne's embossed and gilded studio paper still in situ and beneath this a small section of the original nursery paper.


18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH