Having an English Heritage membership card means that I can visit all EH properties for free. I took advantage of this on Sunday when I visited Ranger’s House, located in Greenwich in south east London. Ranger’s House is home to the Wernher Collection, a number of works of art originally collected by Sir Julius Wernher (1850-1912).
The house is open for guided tours only, twice a day from Wednesdays to Sundays. Booking in advance isn’t necessary, though you might wish to telephone first to make sure the house isn’t closed for an event. I took a gamble and just turned up for the 11am tour, and the gamble paid off.
The house is a Georgian villa by Greenwich Park, and has no association with the Wernher family. The collection was moved here several years ago, after the previous collection of Jacobean paintings was moved out. It is a beautiful house and is a lovely setting for the rich collection of artefacts it holds.
Wernher was a diamond magnate who made his fortune in South Africa before turning his hand to collecting. He was especially fond of medieval art, and many of the objects in the house are religious paintings or artefacts from this era, although Wernher himself did not have a particularly strong religious faith. He also collected jewellery: his knowledge of diamonds enabled him to identify and appreciate quality pieces, and there are some beautiful examples on display, including cameos and intricate lockets.
Other items included pottery, household items and general ornaments. One of my favourite objects was an owl made from a coconut, with its head, feet and wings formed of silver. Downstairs, a number of rooms were laid out in the style of the rooms of Wernher’s house Luton Hoo: they reflected the different tastes of Julius and his wife ‘Birdie’, with a bright pink sitting room where the lady of the house entertained, to a deep green study which Julius preferred.
I enjoyed my visit to the house: it was something a bit different and unusual, and the objects on display were stunning. It isn’t too badly priced either, so it’s definitely somewhere worth a visit.
Address: Chesterfield Walk, Blackheath, London, SE10 8QX
Opening Hours: Guided tours only, from March to September.
Prices: Adult £7.20, Concession £6.50, Child £4.30; under-5s free. English Heritage members free.