When completed in 1729 the purpose of Lord Burlington's villa at Chiswick confused his contemporaries (for example, Lord Harvey referred to it as "too small to live in and too large to hang to ones watch chain’’). Never designed to be a domestic residence (there were no bedrooms or kitchens) it was a structure which operated, in part, as art gallery, architectural experiment and grand garden building (or folly).

Research over the last twenty years have raised two more tantalising possibilities regarding the purpose of the villa. Firstly, the ceiling paintings within many of the rooms are so full of Masonic and Hermetic symbolism that it is argued that the villa may have functioned as a private Masonic lodge for use by Burlington and his friends to perform Masonic ritual (it is known that many of Lord Burlington's associates were Freemasons’ and Burlington and William Kent are also believed to have belonged to the Masonic fraternity). In addition, several of the interiors within the villa have proportions significant to Freemasonry, derived from buildings described in the Bible; information that would have been intelligible to Freemasons of the eighteenth-century.

The second purpose of the villa concerns Lord Burlington's political loyalties. Traditionally viewed as a Whig peer in support of the newly installed Hanoverian monarchy, recent research has suggested that Lord Burlington’s true, but hidden loyalties, lay with the deposed House of Stuart who were known as 'the Kings over the Water'. The existence of Jacobite (the name given to the supporters of the exiled Stuarts) symbolism within the architecture  and art of Chiswick House gives legitimacy to these findings. With regard to these political leanings Chiswick House has been argued to be a symbolic palace awaiting the envisaged return of the House of Stuart.

The secret symbols tour will examine both of these themes and explore the Masonic, Hermetic, Cabalistic and Jacobite symbolism that pervades the decorations and room proportions within the villa. The tour will explain how the villa may have functioned as a sacred space defined as a Masonic lodge (or Temple) for Lord Burlington and his friends and it will examine the presence of early astrological Holy Royal Arch Masonic symbolism in the Red Velvet Room ceiling, together with some of the earliest evidence of the most important Masonic legend of all-  the third degree, the murder of Hiram Abiff, the 'Master Mason Slain'.

The tour will then progress into the gardens and examine the Masonic and political symbolism encoded within the surrounding landscape. Such allusions would have been understood by Freemasons in Lord Burlington’s circle.

Secret symbolism tours are suitable for groups interested in symbolism, Freemasonry, Jacobite history, Masonic lodges and groups interested in eighteenth century interior design.

A group is classed as between 11 and 25 people and is charged at £15.00 per person  To book this tour please email me at the email address below and I will email you a booking form (this price includes admission to the house and the guided tour of house and gardens).

See examples of past events which I have guided:

Top- Johann Martin Bernigeroth (engraver), plate IV of a series entitled Assemble de Francs-Macons pour la Reception des Maitres, around 1745.  The men under sheets on the right are awaiting to be ‘resurrected’ by the light of Masonic initiation.

Above- Frontispiece to Batty Langley’s The Builder’s Jewel (1757 edition) which displays a wealth of Masonic symbolism also found in the decoration of Chiswick House. The clock hands are placed at midday, the time of the murder of Hiram Abiff at the Western entrance of the Solomon’s Temple. The number 15 on the brow of the hill refers to the 15 masons sent by Solomon who found the body of Hiram Abiff on the 15th day and marked his place of  burial with a sprig of acacia.


Secret Symbolism Tour of Chiswick House and Gardens