Syon House and its 200 acre park has been the London home of the Duke of Northumberland and his family for 400 years. Originally the site of a medieval abbey, Syon was named after Mount Zion in the Holy Land. The abbey was dedicated to the Bridgettine Order, established in the 14th century by the great Swedish mystic St Bridget. One of the last great abbeys to be built in 1415, Syon was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1539.
In 1547, King Henry VIII’s coffin was brought to Syon on its way to Windsor for burial. It burst open during the night and in the morning dogs were found licking up the bloated remains of the body! This was regarded as a divine judgement for the King’s desecration of Syon Abbey.
The gardens at Syon are renowned for their extensive collection of rare trees and plants since Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown landscaped the park in the mid 18th century. It is a registered Grade I landscape in the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Historic Importance in England.
This year’s excavation, with members of the community, produced an assortment of pottery and building material from Roman and early medieval periods but also an unexpected quantity of 18th century pottery and clay tobacco pipes. This disturbance in the ground reflects the landscaping that was being conducted during this time by Brown.
Syon House and grounds are open to the public but not every day of the week. I also highly recommend the Gardening Centre for keen gardeners and The Refectory for food, one influenced by Capability Brown, the other not influenced by King Henry VIII’s “visit”.