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What Is Southside House?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 17, 2024
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Southside House is one of the most prominent British museums. Its occupants have mainly consisted of the prominent Pennington and Munthe families of England. The centuries-old structure is prized for its historical value and its antique contents. This house also serves as a residence and a gathering place for artistic endeavors.

Built in the late 17th century, Southside House has rested for centuries in Wimbledon, England. The residence was originally the home of Robert Pennington, an exile who chose Wimbledon as his home after his young son died. Pennington's daughter and wife are also immortalized in statues at the home’s main door.

Architecture for this building has changed somewhat over time. Pennington hired Dutch architects to fashion the abode in a farmhouse style. Several rooms were later added to the residence, such as the music room, designed specifically for a visiting prince. After the house suffered damage in the mid 20th century, it was restored in a William and Mary architectural style. In 2010, the residence fell victim to fire and was once again restored.

Several historical figures are associated with Southside House. The main ancestry — and house occupants — were from the Pennington, Mellor, and Munthe families. Famed Swedish author and doctor Axel Munthe introduced his family into the house’s heritage via marriage to Hilda Pennington, a great granddaughter of Robert Pennington. Their son Malcolm, injured from soldier duties during World War II, became a recluse in the residence and was responsible for much of the restoration of Southside House in the 20th century. Famous visitors to the house included the Duke of Wharton, poet Lord Byron, and a Serbian queen.

In addition to centuries of collected furniture and other artifacts, Southside House also boasts an extensive art collection featuring Van Dyck and other famed artists as well as intricate gardens. Many of the home's famous gardens are host to various edible vegetables and wildlife, and they also consist of sculptured rooms and pathways. New features have been continually added to the grounds.

Visiting museums often simply consists of supervised or unsupervised tours of various historical artifacts. While tours are a prominent aspect of Southside House, the residence is also host to various other activities courtesy of a charitable trust fund. Arts, literature, and music-based gatherings often occur on the grounds, consisting of lectures, workshops, and performing arts. The house is also a popular museum for kids, with knowledgeable employees who offer historical information and guided tours. Partial living quarters are still a feature of Southside House as well.

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