Pembroke Lodge is a long, low, irregular white house on the edge of the high ground which forms the western limit of Richmond Park. Added to and altered many times, it has no unity of plan, but it has kept a character of its own, an air of cheerful seclusion and homely eighteenth-century dignity. On the eastern side it is screened from the road by shrubs and trees; on the other side, standing as it does upon the top of the steep, wooded ridge above the Thames Valley, its windows overlook a thousand fields, through which the placid river winds, now flowing between flat open banks, now past groups of trees, or by gardens where here and there the corner of an old brick house shows among cedars. The grounds are long rather than wide, and comprise the slope towards the valley and the stretch along the summit of the ridge, where beech, oak, and chestnut shade with their green and solemn presences a garden of shorn turf and border flowers. Walking beneath them, you see between their stems part of some slow-sailing cloud or glimpses of the distant plain; as you descend, the gardens, village, and river near below. There is a peculiar charm in these steep woods, where the tops of some trees are level with the eye, while the branches of others are overhead. As the paths go down the slope they lose their garden-like trimness among bracken and brambles. An oak fence separates the grounds of Pembroke Lodge from the surrounding park.
It was indeed a perfect home for a statesman. When wearied or troubled with political cares and anxieties, the fresh breezes, the natural beauties, and the peace of Pembroke Lodge often helped to bring calm and repose to his mind. What better prospect can his windows command than the valley of the Thames from Richmond Hill, the view Argyll showed Jeanie Deans, which drew from her the admission “it was braw rich feeding for the cows,” though she herself would as soon have been looking at “the craigs of Arthur’s Seat and the sea coming ayont them, as at a’ that muckle trees.” Certainly no home was ever more appreciated and loved than Pembroke Lodge, both by Lord and Lady John Russell and their children. Long afterwards Lady John wrote:
In March, 1847, the Queen offered him Pembroke Lodge for life, a deed for which we have been yearly and daily more grateful. He and I were convinced that it added years to his life, and the happiness it has given us all cannot be measured. I think it was a year or two before the Queen offered us Pembroke Lodge that we came down for a few days for a change of air for some of the children to the Star and Garter. John and I, in one of our strolls in the park, sat under a big oak-tree while the children played round us. We were at that time often in perplexity about a country home for the summer and autumn, to which we could send them before we ourselves could leave London.... From our bench under the oak we looked into the grounds of Pembroke Lodge, and we said to one another that