• CONTACT US if you have any problems registering for the forums.

South East Osbourne House, Isle of Wight

Some history and background

Osbourne House on the north coast of the Isle of Wight was the summer home of queen Victoria and Prince Albert and where she spent much of the later years of her life.

After her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840, Queen Victoria felt the need for a family summer residence in the country, as an escape from the stresses of court life in London and Windsor.

Victoria had spent two holidays on the Isle of Wight as a child. The Osborne estate, then owned by Lady Isabella Blachford, was recommended to Victoria by the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. When Victoria and Albert visited in 1844, Victoria was delighted as she could ‘walk anywhere without being followed or mobbed’. The sale was completed in 1845 for around £28,000. She enthused in her journal that it was ‘quite a paradise’, in particular the extensive grounds and the way the woodland met the beach. To make the estate self sufficient, the adjacent Barton Manor was bought to serve as the Home Farm

Victoria and Albert soon realised the house was too small for their rapidly growing family and large staff. The rooms were ‘small but very nice’ but it needed a ‘few alterations and additions for the children’.

Prince Albert was heavily involved in the plans, working with the notable London builder Thomas Cubitt. He was also involved in laying out the estate, gardens and woodlands. The terraces on the north east side of the Pavilion were designed to complement the house.


The family lived in the old house while a new house was built to replace it between 1845-51. This was in the the Italian Renaissance style, complete with two belvedere towers. Bricks were made on the estate and the outside was rendered in the local Medina cement, coloured to imitate Bath stone. This glows honey gold in the sunshine. Furnishings were paid for from the sale of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton and its contents.

The central Pavilion with the private family rooms and nursery was the first to be finished and the family moved in in September 1846. A porch cochere allowed visitors to alight from their carriage under cover before entering the house.

The basement housed the service rooms for the dining room above as well as boiler and coal cellars. The ground floor rooms were the public rooms with dining rooms, salon, drawing room and billiard room. A staircase led up to the private rooms on the first floor with Albert’s room on the right and Victoria’s on the left with a shared sitting room. The nurseries were on the second floor along with accommodation for nursery staff. The tall flag tower had an observation room reached by a spiral staircase. A large bay overlooked the garden at the rear.



The Pavilion was followed by the Household Wing with another square tower, in 1848. This provided accommodation for household staff. The old house was then demolished and the Main Wing was built on the site of the old house and connected to the Household Wing by a long corridor. This included the council and audience chambers, as well as bedrooms for visitors.


The Swiss Cottage was built in 1853-4 for the royal children. The wooden chalet was dismantled and brought from Switzerland to be reassembled here.

By 1860, new stables for fifty horses and carriages had been built with the former stables being used as kitchen facilities and servant quarters.

Following Albert’s death in 1861, Victoria increasingly withdrew from public life, spending her time in Windsor Castle, Osborne House or Balmoral.

The final addition to the house was the Durbar Wing added in 1890-1, to reflect Victoria’s new status as empress of India. Thomas Cubitt had died in 1855 and the general plan was devised by John Randall Mann who had trained with Cubitt and had been Surveyor of Works at Osborne since 1857. It was supervised by Lockwood Kipling (father of Rudyard Kipling) who had been director of the Mayo school of Art at Lahore and was keen to maintain the tradition of Indian craftsmanship , along with the the Sikh architect, Bhai Ram Singh.

P3200616 copy.jpg

With its mix of mixture of Mughal and Hindu architecture, it was used for state occasions.

Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg and their family lived on the first floor on the first floor. Princes Henry (Beatrice) was Victoria’s youngest daughter and the Queen was very dependent upon her. She was only given permission to marry on the understanding she continued to live with Victoria.

Victoria also took on an increasing number of Indian servants who were housed in a specially built extension to the men servant’s block.

Victoria died at Osborne House in 1901.

Although Victoria wished for Osborne to be kept by the family, Edward VII and other members of the royal family didn’t want the responsibility for its upkeep. The land and outlying buildings were gradually sold off. Princess Beatrice and Princess Louise were granted houses on the estate.

Edward VII wanted the ‘people’ to have access to the house in memory of his mother. Part of the ground floor was opened to the public in 1904, free of charge. The royal apartments on the upper floors of the Pavilion were sealed off by iron gates and effectively became a private museum, accessible only to family.

With the rapid expansion of the navy, part of the estate became a Royal Naval College for a few years training officer cadets. Boys arrived at age 13 and stayed for two years before moving to the Royal Naval college in Dartmouth. There were 500 cadets by the time of the First World War with classrooms in the former stable block along with dormitories and officer accommodation. Both the future Edward VIII and his brother George VI attended as cadets.

After the war, cadet numbers fell and the college closed with cadets transferring to Dartmouth. Many of the buildings were demolished.

A convalescent home for Officers was opened in 1904 in part of the household and main wings. They were allowed exercise in the gardens and a pavilion was built on the beach. It later became a nursing home but this was closed in 2000 due to escalating costs.

Queen Elizabeth II gave permission for the iron gates to be unlocked in 1955 allowing the public to visit Victoria’s private rooms for the first time. In 1986, Osborne House was handed over to English Heritage who have carried out external repairs, restoration and internal decoration, gradually reopening more of the house. Albert’s plans for the gardens and estate are gradually being reinstated. Victoria’s private beach with its bathing machine was opened to the public in 2012.

The house is still very much the vision of Victoria and Albert with furniture and works of art reflecting their personal tastes. It was very much a family home. The grounds still reflect Albert’s initial planting schemes. After Prince Albert’s death, there was little change to the house apart from the building of the completely different Durbar wing.

I visited on mid March. Only the ground floor of the House was open and Swiss Cottage was also shut.


Last edited:
Visiting Osbourne House - the ground floor

Visits start in the Household and Main Wing.

Plan 1.jpg

Although this is the largest part of Osbourne House, most of the rooms are not open to visitors. When I visited, entry was into the main wing with an exhibition about Birthdays at Osbourne House. A corridor lined with paintings led round the corner into the grand corridor which links the Household and Main wings with Queen Victoria’s private apartments.

The GRAND CORRIDOR was designed to resemble a classical sculpture gallery with statues and display cabinets. High on the walls are plaster copies of friezes from the Parthenon. Queen Victoria took exercise here when bad weather stopped her going out.




Set in a gilded niche is a statue of Queen Victoria in classical costume which the Queen gave to Albert for his birthday in 1849.

IMG_6299 copy.jpg

The floor is covered by brightly coloured Minton tiles with the Arms of Great Britain as well as intertwined initials of both Victoria and Albert.



Spiral staircases lead up to the upper floor.


Only the Council Room and Audience Room are open to the public.

The COUNCIL ROOM was where Victoria used to host the privy council of government ministers several times a year, updating her on issues affecting the country. It was also used for entertaining, as a second dining room and ballroom. This was where Alexander Graham Bell in 1878 gave a demonstration of his recently invented telephone. The Queen commented ‘it is rather faint and one must hold the tube rather close to one’s ear’, but still agreed to telephones being installed at Osborne.

This is one of the most elaborate rooms with a decorative ceiling, gilded paintwork and red furnishings: a colour scheme devised by Prince Albert. The carpet is the original which has been returned here. Large mirrors make the room feel even larger.



A door leads into the smaller and more intimate AUDIENCE ROOM where Victoria would meet her ministers before the privy council meetings. Much of the furniture is the original. Hanging from the ceiling is a coloured glass and ormolu chandelier with lilies and convolvulus (Albert’s favourite flower) climbing out of a basket.




The corridor turns giving access to the Pavilion. Through a doorway can be seen another spiral staircase leading to the upper floors with the private family rooms, including Victoria and Albert’s dressing rooms, bathroom and the Queen’s bedroom. The nurseries were on the top floor.


Only the Dining Room, Drawing Room, Billiard Room and Horn Room on the ground floor were visible in Mid March.

plan 2.jpg

The DINING ROOM contains four side tables. It was also used as a breakfast room on days when it was too cold to have breakfast on the terrace.

Again it has a very elaborate ceiling and family portraits hang on the walls. Princess Alice was married in this room and Queen Victoria’s body lay in state here before being taken to Windsor




Doors lead into the DRAWING ROOM with bright yellow damask curtains and furnishings. Full length mirrors reflect the light of the chandeliers. These were converted to electricity in 1893. Marble columns separate the room into music area with a grand piano and a sitting area. This was used for music including a recital by Jenny Lind.




Round the corner is the BILLIARD ROOM. This is cleverly designed so the gentlemen could sit out of sight of the Queen, while still in her presence. The slate billiard table has enamelled legs designed to resemble marble.




Leaving the Billiard Room is another splendid staircase to the upper floors.


The final room on the ground floor is the HORN ROOM, viewed through a half glazed door to protect the C19th carpet and wallpaper. Nearly all the furniture is made from deer antlers. On the walls are pictures of Victorias’ favourite horses and dogs. It was used as a sitting room for visitors.


Last edited:
Visiting Osbourne House - The Durbar wing

The DURBAR WING, reached along a corridor from the Pavilion.

Plan 3.jpg

Durbar is derived from an Indian word meaning a state reception and the room it is held in. The ground floor is a British baronial hall complete with minstrels’ gallery and servery, but decorated with a mixture of Mughal and Hindu architecture, including domed canopies known as chattris. Above were the private apartments of the Prince and Princess of Battenburg.

Victoria was created Empress of India in 1876. Although she never visited, she quickly became enamoured of everything Indian, and a few years later she took on her first two Indian servants, Abdul Karim and Muhammad Bakhsh. A splendid livery was designed for them. Later many more Indian servants came to Osbourne, including cooks.


24 year old Adbdul taught the Queen to speak and write Urdu and was soon her favourite and most trusted servant, with a room in the house.

P3200593 copy.jpg

The DURBAR CORRIDOR contains an extensive collection of Indian portraits painted by the Austrian Rudolf Swoboda. He was commissioned by the Queen and spent two years travelling through India painting everyone from street sweepers to eminent soldiers and administrators.




The corridor opens into the DURBAR ROOM which is possibly the highlight of the tour with its elaborate plaster ceiling.


It was used for state banquets and lit by electricity. At one end is a minstrels gallery with screens passage below and the servery beyond.


At the other end is a decorative plaster wall.



Doors and the base of the walls are picked out with dark coloured teak.



The peacock design of the over mantle was the idea of Princess Louise and took the equivalent of 500 hours to make.


The room contains many display cases of gifts sent to Queen Victoria to celebrate for Golden and Diamond Jubilees. Many are address caskets, decorative boxes containing loyal greetings sent to the Queen. Coming from all parts of India, they display different forms of craftsmanship.

There are examples of raised embroidery known as zardosi work.





There are also examples of sadeli work with tiny pieces of ivory, metals and coloured woods.


This sandalwood box is overlaid with tortoiseshell and ivory. The bird on the lid is Garuda that carried the Hindu God, Vishna.


This lovely casket made of papier mache is an example of naqashi work.


There are examples of metal work like this ceremonial steel helmet with gold inlay.


The steel casket with gold inlay was designed to hold spices.


There are also examples of silver work, often inlaid with enamel.



This casket of gold, silver and ivory has a carving of Vishnu lying on a snake.


In the screen passage are two lovely models of Indian Palaces given to Edward, Prince of Wales during his eight month tour of India in 1876. This one is made of plaster which has been painted and gilded.


This one is made of wood covered with ivory.


The tour exists through a door leading onto the terraces garden

Osborne House - Grounds and Estate

The grounds of Osborne originally extended to 2,000 acres and included Barton Manor Farm which became a model farm supplying Osbourne with dairy produce. English Heritage now just own about 350 acres.

Grounds map.jpg

Albert was involved in laying out the estate, gardens and woodlands and drives and paths were carefully designed to give privacy. Now much of the estate is grassland with mature trees and woodland. The woodland was managed to produce hurdles and fencing for the estate.


The terraces on the north east side of the Pavilion were designed to complement the house. This involved massive earth moving as the valley was remodelled to create a dramatic fall to the coast with massive retaining walls and flights of steps.




There were statues, fountains and parterres with brightly coloured bedding plants.





The Shell Alcove on the Lower Terrace is set into the retaining wall of the upper terrace and is decorated with shells collected from the beach.



The VALLEY WALK leads from the house to the beach and Albert was responsible for planting the mixture of trees lining the walk. The children regularly came with their governess or parents to play on their private beach and were painted by Queen Victoria.



P3200655 copy.jpg

A sheltered arbour was built for the Queen. Made of limestone, the inside was decorated with blue Minton tiles.


Prince Albert was a great believer in the benefits of sea bathing and Victoria’s bathing machine has been carefully restored and is displayed on the beach during the summer months.

P3200660 copy.jpg

The cafe and ice cream parlour are in the Pavilion built by the convalescent home in 1901.

Well away from the house and set among the trees is SWISS COTTAGE, an Alpine style farmhouse built in 1853-4 for the royal children. As well as being a play house, it was somewhere the children could learn the rudiments of housekeeping, cookery and gardening. On the ground floor is a sitting room, kitchen, scullery and larder, complete with three-quarter size kitchen equipment. On the first floor is the room where the children would serve tea or lunch to their mother.

Each child had their own plot to grow fruit and vegetables which they ‘sold’ at a commercial rate to their father, as a practical exercise in market gardening and business. In the summer house are replicas of children’s garden tools and barrows, with their painted initials.
The large paddock beyond the Swiss Cottage has been a WILDFLOWER GARDEN for the last 100 years The historic orchard has also been reinstated with old varieties of apples, pears, cherries, plums, quince, medlar, mulberries and nuts.

The WALLED GARDENin front of the house is reached through a grand archway constructed from parts of the original house. It still has the original glass houses. Towards the end of Victoria’s life, the walled garden was mostly used as a place for growing flowers to decorate the house.

How to Find Information

Search using the search button in the upper right. Search all forums or current forum by keyword or member. Advanced search gives you more options.

Filter forum threads using the filter pulldown above the threads. Filter by prefix, member, date. Or click on a thread title prefix to see all threads with that prefix.


Booking.com Hotels in Europe
AutoEurope.com Car Rentals

Recommended Guides, Apps and Books

52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata by Valerie Fortney
Italian Food & Life Rules by Ann Reavis
Italian Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
French Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
She Left No Note, Lake Iseo Italy Mystery 1 by J L Crellina

Share this page