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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 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.