Visit to Farnborough Hill August 2011
Wednesday, 24 August saw a party of Society members and guests tour Farnborough Hill. We were privileged to have as our guide, Ann Yarwood, retired librarian of the school which now occupies the property, a most pleasant and knowledgeable lady who told us many facts and stories of the history of the house and the most famous occupant; the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon lll, Emperor of France and nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The house was originally built by Thomas Longman, the publisher, and purchased by Eugenie when she left Kent following her family’s escape from France after defeat in battle against Bismark’s Prussians. The Empress herself became very good friends with Queen Victoria.
Her husband had died in Kent and later her son, the Prince Imperial, Louis, also died whilst serving in South Africa as a member of the British Army. She purchased the property in 1880 with the intention of building a memorial to her husband and son. This she did and the result can be seen as St Michael’s Abbey across the railway line at Farnborough. After viewing the front exterior of the building with the drainpipes cast with the Napoleonic N we were given an extensive tour of the ground floor rooms. Most notable was the entrance hall, library, pink parlour, lower gallery and the grand salon. The tour ended with a visit to the chapel, built by Sir Adrian Gilbert Scott, who was also responsible for the Albert Memorial.