Discover the private lives of Chiswick House

Ahead of the London Luminaries this autumn we meet Nadege Forde-Vidal who will be hosting our lecture on The Private Life of Chiswick House.

Tell us about yourself and your role at Chiswick House

A mother of four, my first job in heritage was in 2001 as a volunteer at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology UCL. I helped to catalogue and digitise over 80,000 objects whilst studying a BA in Ancient History and an MA in Egyptian Archaeology. I returned to UCL in 2018 to do an MA in Museum Studies and began working at Chiswick House in April 2019 as a Visitor Services Assistant.

I started researching the site’s history and collection initially to improve my personal knowledge. I was encouraged to put together stories for a series of short talks and new interpretation and worked closely with our archivist and other English Heritage curators.

What is the London Luminaries series and how did you get involved?

London Luminaries is a collaboration between heritage properties connected by the Thames to share and celebrate our history through virtual lectures.

My lecture, on 28 October is on ‘The Private Life of Chiswick House’. It will give the audience a sneak preview into what we have uncovered so far of the hidden histories of less known individuals connected to the House.

Who are some of the intriguing figures you will be discussing?

I will be looking into the personal letters and records of the Burlingtons and Devonshires to see what they can tell us about individuals like Joseph Casar – Lady Burlingtons Black footman; and an unnamed black baby girl offered to Lady Burlington in 1739 and Edward Blackmore, a tailor at Chiswick in 1781/2.

Are there particular characters you relate to?

Unlike most of us, these characters have all battled against adversity and demonstrated titanic courage just to survive. Rather than being able to relate to their harrowing histories, it’s enough to ensure they are heard.

They are also just the tip of the iceberg. Ongoing research through our Black Chiswick through History project, assisted by our volunteers, will hopefully uncover much more detail about the lived experience of the unfree servants that lived and worked here, alongside African and Asian displaced princes, painters, players and poets we may find.

What’s your favourite place at Chiswick House and why?

Upper Tribune as I love the light, the sculpture and the grandeur.

Nadege’s 20-minute lecture plus Q&A will be delivered using Zoom at 7pm on 28 October. The lecture and the Q&A will be chaired by Professor Judith Hawley from the Department of English, Royal Holloway University of London. Tickets are free but we encourage you to make a £5 donation.
Find out more and book a free place on Nadege’s London Luminaries lecture: