It was one of those cold days, on which only dog walkers venture out, when I visited Charlton House. Most of the grounds were still covered with snow and I was the lone figure in the park. However, when I went into the Mulberry Cafe inside the house I was shocked at the number of people. There were parents and their children who had visited the Toy Library, students waiting for a Japanese lesson to begin and students from the Guildhall School of Music who would be performing a lunch time recital. The place was busy and vibrant.
Charlton House was bought in 1925 by Greenwich Council and is now a library and community centre. It is regarded as one of the best preserved Jacobean houses in London. During the First World War it was used as a hospital. The Maryon Wilson family who had owned it left at this point. Part of the former estate now forms the Maryon Wilson Park that stretches down to the Thames. During the Second World War the north wing of the house was destroyed by a bomb but has since been restored. Just outside the grounds on the Charlton Road there is a spectacular view across the river and over to the City.
At one corner of the grounds there is a Garden House which is on English Heritage’s “At Risk Register.”
Built in the mid to late C17 it is attributed to Inigo Jones. It had previously been converted to a public toilet but now looks desperate for attention and a new purpose. Close by is a Mulberry Tree which is thought to be the first in England. It was introduced by James 1st to encourage the silk trade. The walled gardens, there are two, were redesigned in 2003-4. One is a dedicated Amnesty International Peace Garden a place for quiet contemplation and reflection.
I decided to extend my visit to Charlton House by going to the performance by the Junior Guildhall String Ensemble. This took place in the Old Library which is an oak paneled and galleried room. A perfect environment to listen to an accomplished and most enjoyable concert.