FEATURE


SUNBURY MILITARY INSTITUTION
London Illustrated News 1856
Whilst our armies were engaged in the battlefield [Crimean War 1853-1856], whilst the public at large were finding fault with the defective training of our officers, whilst commissions were appointed to inquire into the various departments of the war, Captain Lendy set quietly to work, and opened at Sunbury an institution for practical military education for the special training of candidates for commissions in both services. The locality could not have been selected in a more convenient neighbourhood. Close to and facing the Thames stands Sunbury House, a noble residence, surrounded by luxuriant grounds. In 1784 it was the property of Lord Hawke. It passed into the hands of the Rev. Mr Bishop; and since the death of the latter several years ago the estate has remained in Chancery. George IV and William IV were often its guests; and many a Royal eye has gazed upon and admired the beautiful pictures of Varreo that adorn the ceiling of the chief staircase.1936
Sunbury House at the turn of the century
1936
Sunbury House - The Military Academy
Now everything is transformed: spacious studios full of military models and magnificent maps replace the former boudoirs. Ladies no longer lounge in the green park, but manly youths are seen busily engaged in the study of the science of war. No longer the echo of music strikes the ear; it is now the report of the rifle and the sound of the pickaxe and the hammer.
The pleasure-grounds are most tastefully disposed, and the cedars, unequalled for size and age, have been spared; but the pastures of the ancient domain are now bristling with signals, profiles, and fieldworks. There the students are actively engaged under the direction of Captain Lendy: one traces a fieldwork, another limits its relief and adjusts the slips of deal destined to show to the "digging party" how to proceed. A lunette with ditch and glacis is now in progress of erection.
A little further the students make fascines and gabions to construct a battery for field-guns; it stands close to a regular trench or zigzag of approach. Further still is the rifle-ground, where the students are exercised with the new Enfield musket.
Students and professors wear a military uniform. It is the undress of the Staff, save the buttons, which bear the inscription "Practical Military Institution", and a white belt.
We understand that Captain Lendy was a pupil of the celebrated School of St.Cyr, and also of the Staff School. In the recent speeches made in the House of Commons on the subject of Military Education we find the whole subject of the remarks which he printed months ago. We invite persons anxious of acquiring a few sound hints on Military Education to call at Sunbury College. We have found Captain Lendy far from sparing in explanations; and we have derived much pleasure in being admitted into the mysteries of practical military training.
1936
The remaining wing today.


Background
Sunbury House has always had its fair share of royal visitors. Built in the mid 17th century on the site of an older building, its tranquil setting on the banks of the Thames proved a magnet to King George III, who set affairs of state aside to enjoy its seclusion on numerous occasions as did his son, the Prince Regent, who shared his attraction to the estate.
When the house became the Military Academy, it was due to the sponsorship of the duc d'Orleans - Louis Phillippe, King of France - who had fled Paris after the Revolution of 1848 and been provided shelter by Queen Victoria. Her Majesty naturally became a frequent visitor when the Orleans family were in residence. Many eminent people received their training here, including the Comte de Paris and the Duc de Chartres both graduated from the Academy, as did their sons Louis Phillipe and Henri.

Postscript
By the end of the century, the Military Academy had ceased to function and the house had been turned into flats.
On the 31st December 1915, a terrible fire raged through the property with devastating effect. The Middlesex Chronicle of 1st January 1916 gives this account:
"Yesterday afternoon Sunbury House Mansion was destroyed by fire, which broke out shortly before four o'clock and was not subdued until half-past seven. In addition to the local fire brigade, firemen from Hampton, Kingston and Surbiton and the Metropolitan Water Board attended. Despite their efforts in which they were assisted by a good supply of water from the flooded river, the historic building was completely gutted."
The centre of the building, famously decorated with carvings by Grinling Gibbons and paintings by Antonio Varrio (court painter to Charles II), was lost forever, although the two wings were repaired and became separate houses. Only one of them remains today, standing on the corner of Loudwater Close, and as a reminder of past glory it bears the proud name of Sunbury House.


HOME