What?: Bought and breathtakingly remastered by Sir John Soane in the early 19th century, the impossibly beautiful Pitzhanger Manor is known for being the architect’s country home; a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of Holborn where his more famous Lincoln’s Inn Fields house stood – and still stands as the Sir John Soane Museum. These days there is nothing rural about the manor’s location, just off Ealing Broadway, but that worked out pretty well for us since it’s only a 15-minute walk from the nearest Piccadilly Line station and country manors can be hard to come by in inner London.
We began our visit with a stop-off in Soane’s Kitchen, the adjoining restaurant and cafe that’s fancy enough that it feels civilised and in keeping with the feel of the manor but not so fancy you feel uncomfortable stopping for coffee and cake with a baby, a toddler and another one in-between. I actually really love pissing off snotty restaurant staff in semi-posh establishments with my snotty children and will generally take them wherever the hell I fancy, but I still sit there feeling like I want to be sick into my teacup when they run around screaming while the manager gives me side-eye. No worries here though as our waitress was adorable and even offered to cut up Babu’s croissant when I was busy feeding the baby, which is the kind of thing that can make you weep with gratitude when you’re only six weeks postpartum.
Child-friendliness seems to be a theme at Pitzhanger, extending from the cafe through the beautiful Walpole Park at the back of the manor with its lush wooden playground, through almost every room of the manor with its countless activity corners stocked with all manner of tea sets, Duplo, building blocks, dressing-up clothes and books, and – most surprisingly – into the gallery with its laid-back staff. And while it’s often the case that stately homes like Pitzhanger are geared towards little ones, whatever family facilities they provide are very often looking a bit knackered thanks to a lack of funds and a steady stream of overzealous children. Not so here, as both the house and gallery had very recently been renovated and everything felt very new and shiny indeed. The restoration is stunning and makes for an extremely photogenic backdrop, and I really appreciated the presence of the activity tables for giving me a chance to admire the internal architecture. The adjoining art gallery (previously a library) with its ever-changing exhibitions is a clever ploy to keep people coming back, though to be honest the house and park are so beautiful you don’t even really need it. We will be back whatever pops up there next.
Where?: Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery can be found on Mattock Lane, Ealing, W5 5EQ. It’s an eight-minute walk from Ealing Broadway tube/mainline station.
Best Bits: It’s all good.
Worst Bits: It’s a bit out of the way, but that keeps it nice and quiet.
Facilities: Lift (although it was out of action when we visited a month ago and still is according to the website), buggy parking at reception, on-site restaurant/cafe, baby changing.
Price: £7.70 per adult including donation, free for under-18s (and Ealing residents on Tuesdays).
Would We Come Back?: Yes. Really hoping for a return of the Little Builders under-5s session in Walpole Park.
Babu surveys her estate at Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, Ealing.