English Heritage - Osborne House
The shell alcove and terrace
Picture by Jim Holden

Queen Victoria’s Private Garden Terrace Revealed

A garden terrace where Queen Victoria sat and painted watercolours at Osborne, her Isle of Wight home, will open to the public for the very first time after a major conservation project, English Heritage announced today (Tuesday 27 June).

The terrace’s panoramic views across the Solent – compared by Prince Albert to the Bay of Naples – can now be enjoyed by the public for the first time as they would have been by the royal couple over 150 years ago. In a project worth over £600,000, the terrace’s centrepiece Andromeda fountain, bought by Queen Victoria during the Great Exhibition in 1851, has been returned to working order and the elaborate Shell Alcove, decorated with thousands of seashells from the beach below, has been painstakingly restored to its former aqua blue and vivid red glory. The public will also be able to experience the terrace’s Victorian planting scheme and the famous royal myrtle plant, given to Victoria by Prince Albert’s grandmother, up-close. The myrtle, traditionally included in royal wedding bouquets since the marriage of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, has been used by HRH Queen Elizabeth II and more recently by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.

English Heritage has also reinstated the classic ‘Osborne yellow’, inspired by the warm Italian sun, to the terrace walls which once again match the golden hue of the rest of the house and restore Victoria and Albert’s original vision.

Samantha Stones, English Heritage’s Properties Curator at Osborne, said: “Queen Victoria loved to be outside in the fresh sea air and the terrace was a place of peace. Opening up this previously closed space to visitors gives them another glimpse into the private lives of the royal couple. Our conservation project now reinstates Albert’s original vision of Osborne.

“Matching the yellow of the walls, restoring the beautifully decorated shell alcove with its aqua blue canopy, and seeing the Andromeda fountain with her surrounding sea monsters in working order has truly brought the terrace back to life.”

The Lower Terrace was designed by Prince Albert as a key part of his overall vision for the royal couple’s family home away from the hustle and bustle of court life. Dubbed ‘Albert the Creator’ by Victoria, her husband was very much at the forefront of creating their new residence, enlisting the help of his ‘Adviser in Art’ Ludwig Gruner to create the magnificent Italianate terracing as the crowning glory of their new house.

The Garden Terrace at Osborne will open to the public on Wednesday 28 Jun 

With thanks to the Friends of Osborne and an individual donor for their most generous support of this conservation project.

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For further information or images please contact:

Emma Gough, National PR Assistant at emma.gough@english-heritage.org.uk or call 020 7973 3390

Notes to editors:

Queen Victoria’s Journals

Queen Victoria often wrote about the terrace in her journals:

  • (Of the Shell Alcove) – Tuesday 3rd August 1852: There is a most charming tame magpie at Barton, which is most amusing, & has been here the last few mornings, pecking at our shoes & boots, running after us, & taking away all the shells from the workmen, who are ornamenting the Alcove below. It is most mischievous having gone into several people’s rooms & carried things away, proving itself quite a “Gazza Ladra”.

RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 3 August 1852 (Princess Beatrice’s copies)

  • Wednesday 5th December 1849: It cleared sufficiently in the afternoon, for us to take a walk, & watch the proceedings on the lower terrace, which is what is truly called “a great job”

RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 5 December 1849 (Princess Beatrice’s copies)

  • Sunday 2nd June 1850: We walked about on our 2 Terraces, & sat in the alcove, beyond the clock tower. We both said how we daily rejoiced in the purchase of this dear place, & what we had laid out upon it, for it certainly is quite perfection for us & our Children & we enjoy it more & more. This evening, after our little “tête à tête” dinner, we went out for a little on the Terrace, & nothing could have been more enchanting. — the calm sea stretched out before us, & innumerable birds singing, the only sounds to interrupt the quiet of the place.

RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 2 June 1850 (Princess Beatrice’s copies)

 Wednesday 30th July 1851: The outer wall of the terrace round the foundations of which ruins a walk, is surrounded by a bed of flowers, the greater part of which are trained up the wall & I cannot describe the brilliancy of the effect.

RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 30 July 1851 (Princess Beatrice’s copies) 

  • Sunday 17th July 1853: Everything in great beauty. The roses out in profusion on the lower Terraces. The new fountain there is beautiful. —

RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 17 July 1853 (Princess Beatrice’s copies)

  • Sunday 23rd July 1854: We afterwards spent the evening on the Lower Terrace, walking & sitting in the Alcove, the air perfumed with the smell of honey suckle, jasmin, roses, magnolias, &c. —

RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 23 July 1854 (Princess Beatrice’s copies)

  • Sunday 2nd August 1857: Sitting in the lower Alcove from 5 to 7, reading & writing. Such a glorious day & evening; the deepest blue sky & sea, the Terrace brilliant with every colour of flower, the air quite perfumed, — so enjoyable.

RA VIC/MAIN/QVJ (W) 2 August 1857 (Princess Beatrice’s copies)

Osborne is the royal family home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the Isle of Wight. Designed by Prince Albert, it reflects the couple’s passions, tastes and style. Ornate furnishings and artefacts from The Royal Collection fill rooms and corridors where Victoria entertained heads of state, inventors, princess and princesses and ruled the vast British Empire.  “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot” said Queen Victoria of Osborne and the stunning views across the Solent reminded Prince Albert of the Bay of Naples. http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/osborne/

English Heritage cares for over 400 historic monuments, buildings and sites – from world famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of empire to Cold War bunkers. Through these, we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million visitors each year.

www.english-heritage.org.uk

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