Hidden Gem to National Treasure: Opening Up Leighton
Leighton House Museum is currently
undergoing a major restoration and refurbishment project due to be
completed in spring 2021. This is the third phase of an
award-winning master plan that commenced in 2008, aimed at
reinstating the house interiors as Leighton knew them. It focusses
on the two unsympathetic additions made to the east end of the
house in the twentieth century, long after Leighton’s death.
Learn more about the project
and how to donate.
Refurbishing the forecourt
In 1944, a Second World War bomb fell just outside
Leighton House, demolishing the original gates, a section of the
boundary wall and leaving a gaping hole where the front steps into
the house had been. The damage was repaired but the original stone
steps were rebuilt to a different configuration. A wooden
trellis that originally separated the front entrance from the
servants’ entrance was lost and the two original gates, designed by
the architect of the house, George Aitchison, were replaced by
standard iron gates. The present iron gates and railings were
installed in the early 1990s.
The construction works of our Hidden
Gem to National Treasure project present the perfect
opportunity to reinstate the gates and trellis and rebuild the
damaged front steps to conform to the surviving photographs of the
original arrangements. Doing so will complete the restoration of
the street façade of the house and greatly enhance the environment
of the museum, replacing the ‘institutional’ feel of the forecourt
with the original domestic character that Leighton knew. The
Friends have now raised £10,000 towards the costs of this project,
but they still need your help to reach their £35,000 target.
Previous fundraising campaigns
Acquisition of Leighton's Interior
of the Cappella Palatina
‘Interior of the Cappella
Palatina’, a previously untraced painting by Leighton, was
probably painted in the 1870s, and depicts the interior of the
Cappella Palatina in Palermo, Sicily. The Cappella Palatina
was built in the first half of the 12th century by the Norman king,
Roger II, and is famous for the luminous gold Byzantine mosaics
that line its walls.
Thanks to the unprecedented response to the
Public Appeal campaign launched in September 2015, Leighton’s
painting ‘Interior of the Cappella Palatina’ was acquired for the
Museum’s permanent collections. We are grateful to everyone who
donated, to the Arts Council England / Victoria and Albert Museum
Purchase Grand Fund, the Friends of Leighton House and to Rupert
Maas for his assistance in making the purchase possible.
Finishing the finial
On top of the dome of the Arab Hall is an iron
finial featuring a modified symbol of a crescent moon. During the
restoration of the museum in 2009-10 it was discovered that this
finial, currently painted white, was original gilded. The
finial is now once more gleaming above the dome of the Arab
Leighton's cabinet, around the world in 115 years. This cabinet
has recently returned to the museum to stand in the precise spot it
occupied up until 1896. The cabinet is now secured and a
part of the permanent collections at Leighton House.