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Osborne House Estate

The history of Osborne begins with the purchase in 1845 of the Osborne Estate from Lady Isabella Blachford. Queen Victoria's object in acquiring the Estate, which was about 1,000 acres in extent, was to build upon it a suitable residence within easy reach of the sea. The old house, which then existed, and which was known as Osborne House, was too small to accommodate the Royal Household, and designs for a new and more commodious mansion were immediately prepared by Mr. Thomas Cubitt, under the personal attention of the Prince Consort. So little time was lost that the first stone of the Pavilion Wing was laid by the Queen and the Prince Consort on the 23 June 1845. This wing, which was always in the occupation of the late Queen when Her Majesty stayed at Osborne, was completed and occupied by September in the following year.

Meanwhile the adjacent Barton Estate was acquired, together with other property in the vicinity, the area of the Royal Demesne increasing by various purchases year by year until in 1864 it comprised 2,080 acres. Similarly, though much more rapidly, the house itself grew by the addition of the Household wing in 1847-49, and the Main wing in 1849-51. The new or Durbar wing was not built until 1890-1.

Osborne House has two towers, the Flag Tower 107 feet in height, and the Clock Tower, 90 feet in height. The Clock is of interest having been originally built for King George III in 1777 and installed at Kew. It then had one dial only, but in 1849 the four dial mechanism which had been in use at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton since 1818 was adjusted for use with the Kew clock and place in the Tower at Osborne.

For many years the Royal Household was in residence annually from about the 18h July to the 23rd August, and again from about 18th December to 23rd February. Thus the Royal Family were invariably at their Osborne home during the height of the yachting season; and at Christmas, when the Queen delighted to surround herself with her children and grandchildren. The interest of the Royal Family did not cease with the death of Queen Victoria, and Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary visited Osborne each year throughout their reign during Cowes Week.

But it is not only with memories of our own Royal Family that Osborne is associated. Many are the foreign Monarchs and Princes who have been entertained within its walls. Many are the Rulers of British Dominions beyond the seas who came to Osborne to pay homage to their Empress Queen. And of necessity practically all the famous Statesmen, who were privileged to aid their Sovereign in guiding the destinies of the Nation during the latter half of the 19th century, were frequent visitors to Osborne.

The Estate was the private property of Queen Victoria, having been purchased by her, and paid for out of her private funds. After Her Majesty's death, however, King Edward VII, after consultation with his advisers and with the concurrence of King George V, then Prince of Wales, gave the Osborne Estate to the nation. The State Apartments of Osborne House and the Swiss Cottage Museum and garden were to be thrown open to the public, and the remaining portion of the House, except those Apartments which had been in the personal occupation of Queen Victoria and which were to be kept closed, was to be utilized as a Convalescent Home for Officers of the Fighting Forces.

To give effect to the King's wishes the Osborne Estates Act, 1902 (2 Edward VII, c.37), was forthwith passed. By this Act certain small portions of the Estate were reserved for the use of Members of the Royal Family, Osborne House and the surrounding grounds being placed under the management of the Commissioners of H.M.Works, while the charge of the remainder of the Estate was allotted to the Commissioners of Crown Lands (formerly H.M. Woods and Forests).

Source: Based on a written guide by the late Sir Arthur Durrant, C.B.E., M.V.O.

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:41

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